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What Can You Tow with a Car?

The UK Highway Code allows drivers with a valid driving licence to tow a trailer with a car. But, they both need to be within the specified weight restrictions (maximum authorised mass).

This help guide explains what you're permitted to tow and the current limits for towing weight and width. We also highlight the law for using towing equipment, such as tow bars and mirrors.

New Rules for Towing a Trailer with a Car

The current rules about using a car to tow a trailer or a caravan took full effect on the 16th of December 2021.

As a result, the month and year when you passed your car driving test will determine what weight you can tow.

Here's the thing:

You will need to know the 'maximum authorised mass' (MAM). In other words, the exact weight of your vehicle and the trailer.

So, where can you find the MAM weight rating? You should see it stamped on a metal plate or sticker fitted to the vehicle or on the frame of your trailer. If not, the gross train weight (GTW) should be on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate (e.g. under the bonnet).

Important: Certain parts of the law for cars towing trailers or caravans, and some of the categories of licence, are different in Northern Ireland.

Did You Get Your Driver's Licence Before 1st of January 1997?

In general, you can drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg MAM (combined weight) if you got your licence before the 1st of January in 1997.

The same rules for towing trailers in the United Kingdom also permit you to drive a minibus with a trailer, as long as the combined weight is not more than 750kg MAM.

Pro Tip: Other help guides explain more about "vehicle weights" and "how to view or share your driving licence information" (e.g. to check what vehicles you can drive).

Did You Get Your Driver's Licence Since 1st of January 1997?

The current UK towing rules allow you to tow a trailer weighing up to 3,500kg MAM if you passed your car driving test on or after the 1st of January 1997.

How to Get Training to Tow a Trailer Safely

What if you'll be driving a car and trailer combination for the first time? If so, you can take part in some training from a qualified driving instructor.

The specialised training teaches you how to tow a trailer, caravan, or horsebox in a safe manner. The courses are available through:

There is more information about the national standard for driving cars and light vans (category B vehicle) on the GOV.UK website.

Rules for Towing Heavy Vehicle and Trailer Combinations

There may be situations where you want to tow a combination that is heavier than the weight limits imposed by your current driver's licence.

In this case, to drive vehicles and trailers with a combined weight of up to 12,000kg MAM, you will need to (all):

  1. Apply for a provisional HGV or bus licence (category C1+E).
  2. Successfully pass driver CPC part 1 test (theory).
  3. Successfully pass the driver CPC part 3a test (off-road exercises).

Note: You must also take extra tests (e.g. CPC) if the main part of your job involves driving the medium-sized lorry.

Weight and Width Limits for Towing

For the most part, the handbook states the maximum weight that each car can tow (MAM). In the same way, the 'gross combination weight' (GCW) refers to the total weight of a fully-loaded vehicle with a fully-loaded trailer.

You should not tow a trailer with a vehicle if the VIN plate does not show the 'gross train weight'. Either way, you must not exceed the towing weight and width limits.

Maximum Trailer Width: 2.55 Metres

Maximum Trailer Length: 7 Metres (MAM 3,500kg)

The MAM of some vehicles will be more than 3,500kg. If this is the case, the maximum trailer lengths are:

Important: These maximum trailer lengths do not include the actual A-frame (the part that connects the trailer to the back of the car).

Rules for Using Towing Equipment

Any time you use equipment for towing a trailer or a caravan, it needs to meet industry safety standards and you must use it according to the towing safety guidelines.

Important: Using a vehicle in a dangerous condition can result in a fine up to £2,500, a ban from driving, and 3 penalty points on your licence.

Type-approved Tow Bars

Unless the car was first used before the 1st of August 1998, the tow bar will need to be type-approved - with an approval number.

In other words, it must have a design that is safe for the vehicle using it, and it must meet all of the relevant EU regulations.

Suitable Towing Mirrors

The current towing rules in the United Kingdom state that the driver needs to have an adequate view of the road behind.

Hence, you should fit tow mirrors if the rear of your car is narrower than the trailer or caravan you are pulling.

Important: Towing any kind of trailer without the proper mirrors can result in a fine up to £1,000 and 3 penalty points on your licence.

Brake Systems for Trailers and Caravans

If the trailer that your car is towing weighs more than 750kg (when loaded) it will need to have a working brake system. Brakes on some smaller trailers are an optional item.

Plus, you will also need to use a breakaway cable (or some kind of secondary coupling device) in case the trailer becomes detached from the car. Another section contains a list of safety checks before you tow a trailer.

Displaying Number Plates when Towing

The number plate fixed to the trailer must be the same as the one on the vehicle towing it. Also, under the rules for displaying number plates, you must also fix the licence plate to the trailer at the back if you are towing more than one.

Rules for Towing an American Trailer or Caravan

American trailers and caravans do not always meet European safety regulations. If you want to use an American caravan or trailer in the UK or the EU, you must first check that it’s legal.

Pro Tip: You should read the American caravan and trailer safety standards about brakes and couplings before you tow an American caravan or trailer in the United Kingdom.

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