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If you want to hitch a caravan to the back of your car or maybe tow a horse box or trailer, you must make sure you are operating within the law. There are strict rules that determine what you can tow, and they can be quite complicated. However, the three deciding factors are the weight of your trailer, the weight of your car and the date you passed your driving test.
Older drivers The rules for older drivers are more generous than for younger motorists. If you passed your test before January 1997, you can normally drive a vehicle and trailer with a combined weight of up to 8.25 tonnes MAM, which stands for maximum authorised mass. The MAM is the weight of a vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely when it’s on the road, and it can normally be found in the owner’s manual.
Heavier combinations Older motorists are also entitled to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM. However, if you want to tow heavier combinations, you need to pass the category C theory test and C1+E practical test. You can then drive vehicles and trailers with a combined weight of up to 12 tonnes MAM.
Trailer weight Drivers who passed their test after January 1, 1997 are allowed to drive a vehicle that weighs up to 3.5 tonnes, or 3,500 kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM. They can also tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as it is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle, with a combined total weight of 3,500kg. If you want to tow anything heavier, you have to pass a further test and gain your so-called B+E entitlement.
Rules for younger motorists The rules for younger motorists are different again. Drivers with a licence issued from January 19, 2013 can tow a small trailer that weighs no more than 750kg. They can also tow a heavier trailer, as long as the combined weight of the towing vehicle and the trailer does not exceed 3,500kg MAM. Again, anything heavier requires the B+E entitlement.
Third party cover Once you’ve got to grips within the various weight restrictions, you need to think about insurance. Most comprehensive car insurance policies cover trailers, but usually only for third party liability. In other words, you would be covered for any injury to another person or damage to their property. However, your policy would not pay out if your own trailer or caravan was damaged in an accident that was your fault. Third party cover also excludes theft and fire damage.
Trailer insurance Caravans and trailers can be expensive so many people choose to pay an extra premium to upgrade to comprehensive cover. Alternatively, you can take out separate insurance for your trailer or caravan. You would then be able to claim on your insurance if, for example, your caravan was stolen or damaged in a fire.
Small print Always read the small print carefully and bear in mind that your policy will not necessarily cover the contents of the caravan or trailer. Take particular care if you are transporting a horse in a trailer as you will almost certainly need specialist insurance.