A complete guide to towing a caravan

Caravanning is not only a Great British pastime, but the perfect way to enjoy a mini-break that doesn't break the bank. 

Before you buy a caravan or plan a holiday, however, there are certain things you must know about actually towing a caravan. For instance can I tow a caravan with my licence? How do I work out the towing weight? What additional kit might I need to buy? 

There is plenty to consider so find out all you need to know in our easy-to-read guide.

Guide contents:

Arrival Breakdown Cover

Arrival is RAC’s breakdown and recovery scheme developed exclusively for members of The Camping and Caravanning Club.

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Can I actually tow a caravan?

Trailer licence

There is no such thing as a 'trailer licence' per se but dependent on the weight of the load you are towing you might need to take an additional category driving test.

From 19 January 2013 drivers passing a category B (car and small vehicle) test can tow:

  • Small trailers weighing no more than 750kg
  • A trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM)

If you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg, when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is more than 3,500kg, you’ll have to get B+E entitlement on your licence.

If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 and have an ordinary category B (car) licence, you can:

  • Drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
  • Tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg

For anything heavier you need to take a category B+E driving test.

If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997 you’re generally allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes MAM, but you should double check here what your licence allows you to tow.

Safety is also a priority and there are a few simple checks towers can complete to help avoid most common accidents according to the Highways Agency.

How to work out towing capacity

The maximum weight your car can tow (fully loaded car + fully loaded caravan/trailer) is usually listed in the handbook. However, it is not always clear. For a definitve guide, read our guide to working out towing capacity.

If you're unsure on the types of vehicles to use, you could always read our 'best cars for towing a caravan' guide for a better insight.

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Width and length rules

The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. The maximum length is 7 metres for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3,500 kilograms.

Tips for towing a caravan

Here are a few top tips for towing a caravan to help keep you and your caravan safe. There is also a more detailed video on how to tow a caravan below:

  • Tow bars must be ‘type approved’. This means it meets EU regulations and is designed for your car. This doesn’t apply to cars first used before 1 August 1998.
  • Give yourself more time and space for everything, especially taking corners.
  • Road safety group TyreSafe encourages caravan owners to check their vehicle's tyres before setting out on a trip.
  • Never exceed 50mph on single carriageways or 60mph on dual carriageways.
  • Never carry passengers in the caravan when you’re towing it.
  • Your number plate must show your car’s registration number, conform to the relevant British Standard and be illuminated at night.
  • Your rear light panel must always be working and visible so check before driving off and keep an eye out for any changes during your journey.
  • Any trailer weighing over 750 kilograms, including its load, must have a working brake system.
  • If your trailer is unbraked, the maximum you may tow is 750 kg or half the kerbside weight of the towing vehicle – whichever is the lower.
  • Try to keep the caravan as light as possible with the heavier items low down and close to the axle.
  • To prevent snaking and pitching make sure you have a well-matched car and caravan and try using stabilisers.

For more information on how to tow a caravan, see our video below which was made in collaboration with The Camping and Caravanning club:

What should I pack for my trip?

Forgetting to pack something for your holiday could range from a small annoyance to becoming majorlly detrimental to your trip.

Using our caravan trip checklist you can tick off all of the items you may need as you pack. The list includes many essentials like stabilisers and towing mirrors, and also has a few more luxury items like well-equipped picnic hampers that you might not have thought of taking on your tripto take on day trips out, you might want to check out our online shop.

Remember you will need to have good payload available (the difference between the caravan's empty weight and its quoted maximum permissible weight) to ensure you do not over-load the caravan.

Packing checklist

What to pack in the carCheckWhat to pack in the caravanCheck
European car kit Jack 
Sat nav Spare wheel/tyre 
Stabiliser Spare fuses/bulbs 
Towing mirrors Spare keys 
Towball cover Wheelclamp 
Tow rope Corner steady tool 
Tyre pressure gauge Corner steady pads 
Tyre inflators Levelling blocks 
Warning triangle Wheel chocks 
Fuel can Step 
Jump leads Spirit level 
Reflective Jacket(s)/high visibility vest(s) Nose weight gauge 
Thermal jackets Mains lead 230v 
Jack Mains adaptor lead 
Spare wheel/tyre Mains polarity tester 
Spare fuses/bulbs Battery 12v 
Spare keys Battery box 
First aid kit Battery charger 
Torch/batteries Gas cylinders 
Tools Gas regulators 
Wheelclamp Gas cylinder spanner 
Pillows/cases Gas hose - spare 
Blankets Hitch lock 
Hot water bottles Wheel lock 
  Insect screens 
  Chemical toilet 
  Toilet fluids 
  Waste water container(s) 
  Fresh water container(s) 
  Waste water hoses 
  Fresh water hoses 
  Submersible pump 
  Fire extinguisher 
  Folding table and chairs 
  Sleeping bags/duvets 

Did you know, you can get fined for moving out of the way of an ambulance?

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The Camping and Caravanning Club Ltd is an Introducer Appointed Representative of RAC Motoring Services. Provided by RAC Motoring Services Registered No 01424399 and/or RAC Insurance Ltd Registered No 2355834. Registered in England; Registered Offices: RAC House, Brockhurst Crescent, Walsall WS5 4AW. RAC Motoring Services is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. RAC Insurance Ltd is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.