Keeping you on the road
Complying with the towing rules if you have a caravan does not just keep you legal and help keep your car insurance valid, it also keeps you safe.
While they can appear complex at first, the towing rules are designed to make sure that both you and your car can cope with the weight of the caravan you want to tow.
Outfit matching uses several different figures to decide if your car is up to the job of towing your caravan. The simplest rule of thumb is that the weight of your loaded caravan should not be more than the un-laden weight of your car – and most organisations recommend that it is 85% of your car’s weight, or less.
Mass in running order (MIRO) – for cars this is usually the weight of the car (this information should be in your handbook) with the weight of the driver and a 90% full fuel tank. For caravans it includes the standard equipment but no additions, such as a leisure battery, heavy security equipment or personal effects. Again, the manufacturer information should give you a figure for this.
Maximum authorised mass (MAM) – also known as the maximum technically permissible laden mass – this is the maximum your car or caravan is allowed to weigh when fully loaded.
User payload – the extras you bring with you in your caravan. Your user payload plus your MIRO should never exceed your MAM. Or, the weight of your caravan and everything in it should not be more than the weight of your car and everything in it.
Other figures you need to know are:
Gross train weight (GTW) – the combined weight of the fully loaded car and caravan
Towing limit – the maximum weight your car can pull up a 1 in 8 (12%) incline.
You can get most of these figures from your car and caravan owner handbook, or the VIN plate on your car (if no towing limit is given, your car cannot tow a caravan). To check that you have not exceeded the MAM, you can either weigh your user payload as you add it, or take your caravan to a weighbridge.
If your caravan is loaded badly, it will be hard to control as you drive. Heavy weights should be placed as close as possible to the axle, with medium weights low down and only lightweight items, such as bedding, placed in overhead lockers.
Licences issued before 1st January 1997 automatically cover you to drive a car and trailer combination up to a MAM of 8250kg. If you passed your test after this date, you can only tow a trailer or caravan of up to 750kg MAM, although you can tow a heavier trailer if the total GTW does not exceed 3500kg.
As well as weight regulations, there are also rules that apply to the size of your caravan, the speed you can drive at and the rear visibility required.
If you are towing with a car, the maximum width of caravan is 2.55m, the maximum length (excluding coupling) is 7m and the maximum MAM is 3500kg. If your caravan exceeds these limits, you will need a commercial vehicle to tow it.
The maximum speed at which you can travel is 50mph on a single carriage way and 60mph on a dual carriage way or motorway. You may not drive in the outside lane of a three or more lane dual carriageway or motorway.
You are required by law to have two functioning rear view mirrors, and to be able to see down each side of your caravan and 4m either side at 20m behind you. You will usually have to fit mirror extenders to comply with this.
Remember, your caravan and its contents will not be covered by your Octagon Insurance policy, so you will need to insure them separately. However, we will cover personal belongings in a locked car up to the value of £200.