FAQs – Legal Requirements for Caravans

14 Nov 2011

Do I need a special driving licence to tow a caravan?

If you passed your driving test before 1.1.97 then you are permitted to tow a caravan under your standard licence. If you became a qualified driver after this time then certain restrictions apply on towing weights and you may need to take a special test. Full details can be found at www.direct.gov.uk.

Are there any differences in speed limit regulations when towing a caravan?

Yes there are. You cannot exceed 60 mph on dual carriageways and motorways or 50 mph on single carriageway roads. Other limits are the same as if you were driving a car. It is also worth noting that when you are towing a caravan you are not allowed into the fast/outside lane of motorways/carriageways of 3 or more lanes unless the other lanes have been blocked or closed.

Do I have to get an MoT for my caravan?

There is at present no legal requirement or standard MoT test for caravans. The subject has cropped up occasionally among those folk who make such decisions so it could change in the future. Although there is no MoT requirement you are still obliged to ensure your caravan is roadworthy and safe and failure to do so could result in prosecution should you be stopped by the police or have an accident. Having your caravan regularly serviced is highly recommended and also ensures your insurance isn’t invalidated by any negligence.

The tyres on your caravan are subject to exactly the same legal standards and requirements that other vehicle tyres are so you must check these regularly to stay safe and legal.

What is the law on carrying passengers in a towed caravan?

It is illegal to have passengers occupying a caravan while it is being towed. Strangely enough, if you wanted, you could carry a pet but it’s not recommended.

I have quite a small car – can I legally tow my caravan with this?

Although generally speaking longer wheel based cars with minimum rear overhang are best suited to towing caravans, other cars may be legally permitted to do so. The maximum recommended towing weight for any car can be found in the vehicle’s handbook or stamped on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate, typically found under the bonnet or inside the driver’s door.

These maximums are normally arrived at taking into account the towing vehicles unladen weight or ‘kerb’ weight (without luggage or passengers) and the ‘actual laden weight’ of the caravan. This means the weight of the caravan fully fitted and kitted out + any personal effects. The maximum recommended allows for the caravan’s actual laden weight to be no more than 85% of the towing vehicle’s kerb weight.

If you are stopped and your caravan weight is found to be greater than the towing vehicle you may find yourself liable for prosecution.

I have been offered a larger style American caravan – can I tow this legally?

That depends. American caravans may exceed the maximum permitted lengths and widths permissible by law in the UK. These maximums are length – 7m (excluding hitch) and width – 2.3m.

What modifications, if any, will I need to make to my car so I can tow safely and legally?

You will need to ensure your tow bar is one which is allowed and approved by current EU regulations. Tow bars of this type will have an approval number stamped or fitted on them along with details of the vehicle they are fitted to.

You are also required by law to ensure the rear of your caravan displays the following –

  • an approved number plate, which matches the towing vehicle, with number plate lights for night illumination
  • indicators which are hooked up and co-ordinated to those of the towing vehicle
  • brake lights which are hooked up and co-ordinated to those of the towing vehicle
  • at least one fog light
  • reflective light panels

You will also be required by law to fit towing mirrors to your vehicle if its width is less than the towed caravan.

I keep hearing about ‘nose weight’ restrictions – what is this?

This is an incredibly important restriction with regard to the safety aspect but also because any violations may invalidate your insurance. Too much weight in the nose of your caravan will significantly affect the steering and stability of the towing vehicle because of the downward  pressure it exerts on the tow bar.

This is actually quite a complicated subject and has become more involved as cars have typically become more lightweight. There is a good explanation and detailed advice on this at www.campingandcaravanclub.co.uk

For further information regarding legal requirements with regard to caravan ownership and towing, visit www.direct.gov.uk.

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