What driving licence do you need to tow a caravan?

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Before you spend your hard-earned cash on a new touring caravan it is important that you understand the driving licence requirements for towing a caravan. What this means is that your ability to legally tow a caravan or trailer will depend on the driving licence you hold, and the category entitlement on your driving licence will determine the type of trailer that you can tow.

In the majority of cases, there is absolutely no problem and you will discover that you are completely within the law, however for those people with larger than average caravans and towing vehicles, there may be an issue, so it’s best to be fully informed right now before you discover that you are towing illegally and could invalidate your insurance.

What you need to know

If you obtained your car driving licence before 1st January 1997

All drivers who passed a car test before 1 January 1997 retain their existing entitlement to drive a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8,250kg  MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass) until their driving licence expires. This means that drivers can automatically drive a heavier car and caravan combination. 

Please note, that when a driver reaches his or her 70th birthday their licence has to be renewed, and unless the driver specifically selects to retain C1 on their licence and they pay for a medical examination every 3 years (assuming no restrictive medical conditions), the original driving licence will be downgraded. This means that the driver is limited to driving a vehicle with a MAM not exceeding 3,500kg and is able to tow a trailer up to the limit set by the manufacturer but no greater than 3,500kg; this is because category B+E is automatically retained after the 70th birthday.

If you obtained your car driving licence after 1 January 1997

From 1 January 1997 the standard licence only covers categories B and B1, meaning that you can drive a vehicle up to 3,500kg and tow a trailer up to 750kg behind it. If you have a lighter car, you can tow a heavier caravan, but the combined weight of the whole outfit cannot be more than 3,500kg. An additional driving test is required to gain entitlement to category B+E and all heavier vehicle combinations.

If you want to tow something heavier than 750kg...

Category B

Category B encompasses all vehicles up to 3,500kg MAM and with up to eight passenger seats. Category B vehicles may be coupled with a trailer up to 750kg MAM (allowing a combined weight up to 4,250kg MAM) or a trailer over 750kg MAM provided the MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle, and the combination does not exceed 3,500kg MAM.

For example:

  • a vehicle with an unladen weight of 1,300kg and a MAM of 2,000kg coupled with a trailer with a MAM of 1,300kg tonnes could be driven by the holder of a category B entitlement. This is because the MAM of the combination does not exceed 3,500kg and also the MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen weight of the drawing vehicle.

Whereas:

  • the same vehicle with an unladen weight of 1,300kg tonnes and a MAM of 2,000kg when coupled with a trailer with a MAM of 1,500kg would fall within category B+E. This is because, although the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer is within the 3,500kg MAM limit, the MAM of the trailer is more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle. This arrangement with a B+E licence is legally permissible, however The Camping and Caravanning Club (along with other organisations) strongly recommends you do not tow a trailer which is heavier than the tow car.
  • Again, the same vehicle with an unladen weight of 1,300kg and a MAM of 2,000kg when coupled with a trailer with a MAM of 1,600kg would fall within category B+E also. This is because  the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer is more than the  3,500kgs MAM limit.

Towing caravans:

  • Existing general guidance recommends that the fully laden weight of the caravan does not exceed 85 per cent of the kerbweight of the car. In the majority of cases, caravans and small trailers towed by cars should be within the new category B threshold.

Category B+E

Category B+E allows vehicles up to 3,500kg MAM to be combined with trailers in excess of 750kgs MAM, but not exceeding 3,500kg.

In order to gain this entitlement, new category B licence holders have to pass a further practical test for category B+E. There is no category B+E theory test. For driver licensing purposes there are no vehicle/trailer weight ratio limits for category B+E.

Need to upgrade - what next?

So, if you have discovered that you want to tow a heavier caravan, you will need to pass an additional driving test to add the category B+E to your licence. The test is challenging and it is recommended that people have professional tuition before attempting it. The Camping and Caravanning Club runs courses to help people reach the required standard, or local training organisations can be found through the DVLA.

And finally...

It is vitally important that you are fully covered by your driving licence for towing your caravan as your caravan insurance can be invalidated if you are not; therefore checking everything before you go away makes good sense.

The facts provided on this page are taken from the Directgov website where you can also find more information about driving licences and entitlements.