In this guide, we’ll explore how to know if your car can tow a caravan and the limitations of what it can safely haul.
Before working out if your car is able to safely tow a caravan or not, it is worth asking yourself, "Can I tow a caravan?" It’s important to know that while there aren’t such things as ‘trailer licenses’ (a common misconception amongst some motorists), there are additional category driving tests to take depending on the load you’re looking to tow as there are car towing weight limits.
As of January 2013, drivers who have passed a ‘car and small vehicle’ (category B) driving test are able to tow:
If you wish to tow a trailer over 750kg which would result in a combined weight of over 3,500kg, you will require a B+E entitlement on your driving license.
The date on which you passed your driving test also has some baring on the amount of total weight you are able to tow without needing a B+E entitlement on your license. Drivers who passed their driving test after 1st January 1997 and only have a standard category B driving license can:
For anything heavier you will need to take a category B+E driving test.
However, drivers who passed their driving test before 1st January 1997 are generally allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer with a combined weight of up to 8.25 tonnes.
Now we’ve covered the legal implications of towing, we can find out if your car is able to tow a caravan or a trailer and what size trailer you can tow, if any, by calculating the towing capacity of your vehicle. To work out what your car can tow, you will need two figures:
The ‘kerb weight’ of your vehicle is essentially the total weight of the car including all standard equipment, but not including any occupants, baggage or non-standard equipment. To find out how heavy a car is, you can find the kerb weight in the owner’s manual, as well as sometimes on the V5 registration document (listed as ‘G Mass in Service’) or on a plate located in the car’s door sill.
The next question to ask yourself is, "How much does a caravan weigh?" The maximum mass of the caravan (often referred to as ‘maximum technically permissible laden mass’, or ‘MTPLM’) is essentially the most a caravan should ever weight when fully-loaded, and should not weigh more than this figure during transit. This figure can be found on a plate near the caravan’s door frame; however, this figure should also be easily accessible from the manufacturer’s website or helpline.
Use a vehicle with a higher kerb weight than the maximum mass of the caravan; you may wish to purchase a more suitable vehicle if you are planning on regularly caravanning in the future, or rent a heavier vehicle temporarily until you can find a more permanent solution.
There are also some restrictions on caravan towing related to the total length and width of the trailer/caravan and vehicle used to tow it.
Combining the above measurements and considerations will allow you to easily calculate the towing capacity of your vehicle, which is especially handy if you’re currently shopping for a caravan. Be sure to keep the above calculations handy so you can quickly work out if a caravan is right for you before you buy! Calculating how much your car is worth can be just as easy too with our free car valuation calculator.
If the performance of the car is just as important as its ability to tow other vehicles then you may want to look into engine sizes. Take a look at our guide for top tips on engines.
As covered above, you can calculate the towing capacity of your vehicle using a fairly simple formula as long as you have two values: the kerb weight of your car and the maximum mass of what you’re towing. If the maximum mass of what you’re towing is 85% or less than the total kerb weight of the car, the car should tow the caravan easily.
There are several upgrades you can make in an effort to increase your vehicle’s towing capacity. Three of the most common towing upgrades are using a vehicle programmer, replacing the car’s axles, and upgrading the braking system. Bear in mind, though, that the best method to increase your vehicle’s towing capacity will vary depending on what vehicle you have and what kind of weight you’re wanting to tow.
Braked towing capacity is the maximum weight a car can tow with a braked trailer. If a trailer has brakes, it can weigh more than if it doesn’t. The heaviest unbraked trailer you can legally tow is 750kg.