There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about what you can and can’t tow in the UK wih a standard Driving licence. We’ve explainer the law and rules in simple terms below to help you understand what you can tow to help you stay on the right side of the law.

The main reason for the confusion is because the towing law s different depending on when you passed your driving test and got your licence.

The rules on what you can tow are different depending on when you passed your driving test.

Driving licences that were issued after 1 January 1997

Those driving licences issued for people who passed their driving test on or after 1 January 1997 can:

• Drive a car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
• Tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg
• MAM is the limit on how much the vehicle can weigh when it’s loaded.

Note that MAM is the actual weight limits of the car and trailer NOT the current weight.

If you want to tow anything heavier than this you will need to pass a separate car and trailer driving test.

Driving licences issued before 1 January 1997

For those people who passed their driving test before 1 January 1997 the rules are a little more relaxed. You are normally allowed to drive a car and trailer with a combined MAM up to maximum of 8,250kg (MAM).

You’re also allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM.

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The unbraked towing capacity of a car or vehicle is the maximum towing towing weight (the actual trailers weight plus it’s contents combined) that a car can tow using a a trailer that does not have its own braking system.

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The braked towing capacity of a vehicle is the maximum weight capacity of a trailer (actual weight of the trailer and it’s load combined) that the vehicle can tow if the trailer being tower has its own braking system.

The trailers independent braking system is normally connected to the car braking via the trailer cable.

The Braked towing capacity or braked towing weight limit is normally significantly higher than the unbraked towing capacity.

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Q. I am buying a horse trailer. How can I find out my car’s towing capacity?

A. As part of the requirements by car manufacturers, they have to provide a maximum towing capacity for the vehicle. There are various places that the maximum towing weight can be found. The most common location is on the cars chassis plate (typically under the bonnet) and in the vehicle handbook. There is no set way this information is presented tho! The easiest to understand is when towing limits for braked and unbraked trailers are provided on  the plate. On occasions you will be given a vehicles Gross Train Weight (GTW) which is a combined weight of the car’s Maximum Permitted weight (MPW) sometimes called Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) and the trailers Gross Trailer Weight. To get the towing limit simply deduct the MPW from the GTW. It is an offence to exceed the car’s towing limit.

Q. I am confused about my car’s kerb weight as the handbook says that it includes the driver. Is this correct?

A. The usual definition of kerb weight is a vehicle in its ready to use condition with all tools, spare wheel etc. and a full tank of fuel. Many vehicle manufacturers are, however, now following European Directive 95/48/EC which specifies the kerb weight as a car in ready to drive condition with the fuel tank 90% full, a driver on board weighing 68 kg and luggage of 7 kg. Any extras or accessories fitted after purchase will increase the weight and reduce both payload capacity and hence the towing limit. When looking at a car’s specification in a brochure please check the method of determining the kerb weight. If it is to the EC Directive you must allow for the weight of any other passengers and luggage and deduct that weight from the towing limit accordingly. This could easily reduce the towing limit by 250-300 kg. If in doubt please check with the car makers technical department directly. Do not rely on a car dealer’s salesman, as they are often uncertain on towing information.

Q. I have a horse trailer and whilst I can insure my horse I cannot insure the trailer. Can you help?

It has certainly been a problem getting insurance for trailers. The NTTA now have a trailer insurance policy to rectify this situation. The cost of the annual premium is one of the most completive on the market with the minimum annual premium being only £89.00 including Insurance Premium Tax at 5%. This is for a comprehensive policy with “new for old” for the first three years for new trailers, European use cover for 30 days and replacement hire. Furthermore, the annual premium is discounted by 20% if the trailer is protected by a Datatag anti-theft device. To get cover please visit our Trailer Insurance page. The NTTA website allows you to obtain an instant quotation and arrange immediate cover or if you wish ring on 0845 094 8255 to speak to one of our advisers.

Q. I have a motor home and want to tow a Fiat Seicento behind it using an A-frame. This car has a kerb weight under 750 kg so am I legal with this outfit?

Sorry no is the answer. The law regards this as an unbraked trailer and you are allowed to tow up to 750 kg Gross Trailer Weight, not a car’s kerb weight. The figure you have to use is the car’s Gross Vehicle Weight or Maximum Permitted Weight. This is usually at least 300 – 400 kg more than the kerb weight. We have no knowledge of any car sold in the UK that has a GVW under 750 kg. The only vehicle we know that is completely legal to tow with an A-frame is the French Aixam small “car”. This is a full four seater and details can be obtained from Aixam UK on 01926 886100. An A-frame or dolly can only be used to recover a broken down vehicle to a place of safety. Transporting a car is, therefore, illegal. A-frames may be offered with a braking system that applies the car’s brakes. These do not conform to the law as the car then becomes a “braked trailer” and has to conform to European Directives contained within the Construction and Use Regulations. It does not conform to the European Directive 71/320/EEC and amendments regarding braking requirements in any way. The use of this A-frame for transportation is illegal. It is still OK for use to recover a vehicle to a place of safety.

Q. What unbraked trailer can I tow?

A. You can tow a maximum of 750 Kg with an unbraked trailer but you cannot exceed half the kerb weight of the towing vehicle. You can tow a trailer with a Gross Weight higher than your car’s towing limit as long as you only load it up to that limit. It is illegal to exceed the car’s towing limit.

Q. I have bought a new caravan and when connected to my 1996 car the caravan’s fridge does not work whilst the engine is running. What is wrong?

A. For 1999 model year caravans there was a change in the wiring and pin 7 on the 12S socket is now an earth return for pin 6 – the power supply for the fridge. Your car wiring will not have pin 7 connected. You will simply require an earth connected to pin 7. Connect this earth to a separate point on the car from that used for pin 3. Under no circumstance connect the earth on pin 7 with the earth on pin 3 as you can cause a pin to burn out.

Q. I am told that I can tow 85% of my car’s kerb weight. Surely I can tow up to 100 %?

A. The 85% figure is a recommendation, not a legal limit, given by all caravan clubs to give good power to weight ratio for successful towing. You can legally tow up to the car manufacturer’s towing limit. This may be in excess of 100% but only if you passed your car driving test before January 1st 1997.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the towing weights provided on this website are accurate, we always recommend checking the vehicle log book (V5) for the official towing capacity. We accept no responsibility if the towing weights provided on this website are incorrect.

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