Brush up on your caravan driving skills

There are those who think that towing a caravan is easy – and there are those who have a lot of experience and know differently!

Towing myths

Many people assume that towing a caravan is easy. They assume it’s all about being careful when you go around corners and needing to ‘think differently’ when you’re reversing.

Of course, such things are important but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. There are a huge number of things that need to be considered and then mastered when you’re learning how to tow a caravan. It’s not something to be taken lightly!

However, even experienced caravan owners can sometimes find their skills challenged in particularly demanding circumstances. That might include things such as tight parking, reversing at angles or reversing around corners. Even if you mastered those techniques once upon a time, it’s a fact that you can become rusty if you haven’t practised them for a while.

That’s why, even if you’re an experienced caravan tower, it might be worth considering a brush up on your specialist techniques. Or, if you are moving up to a larger caravan, a course may give you a head start when you first take it out on the road.

Enhanced caravan towing courses

There are a number of courses geared up to meet this need, from outright beginners wanting to learn the basics, to experienced caravan owners who what to hone their skills a bit more.

For example:

There are plenty of others to choose from and there’s bound to be one being run somewhere near your home. Typically, they last around 1-1.5 days and (at the time of writing, December 2020) the price is likely to be somewhere in the region of £200 or so.

Depending on which course you attend, you may find it involves useful ‘theory’ work as well – such as knowing your towing windspeeds, safer loading and the laws affecting caravanners.

What you’ll need

The requirements may vary slightly from one course to another but generally you should assume that you’ll require:

  • two external mirrors and a spare registration plate;
  • some evidence, probably by your own personal testimony, that you have already mastered the basics of towing a caravan. If you arrive for an advanced course and it becomes clear almost immediately that you’re a complete novice, your instructor might decline to continue and request instead that you attend a basics course;
  • your car will need to be fitted with a tow bar of an approved type. All electrical connections will need to be in place. There is usually a minimum space requirement between the tow bar and your rear bumper of around 80mm. Even though these courses are usually conducted on private property, your instructor will require that your vehicle is fully road-legal and ready to tow the caravan;
  • you will need to have a full licence of the appropriate type to permit towing. If you’re in any doubt about categories, it’s a good idea to check everything in advance. Note that provisional licences typically won’t be accepted;
  • some course providers may have minimum age requirements;
  • you must have towing caravan insurance of an appropriate type. You will need to be sure that it will cover you for towing a caravan that is not your property, as some courses of this nature will provide the caravan you’ll be learning with.

Is it worth it?

It’s certainly true that many experienced and perfectly competent drivers with towed caravans have never attended a formal training course in their life. However, we’ve perhaps all seem examples of some less than inspirational techniques when on the road or watching others in caravan parks etc.

The trouble is that you don’t really know how good (or otherwise) your complicated manoeuvring skills are until you need to deploy them one day. That’s probably not the time you’ll want to discover that they’re rusty or to start wishing you’d taken that advanced or brush-up course!

Perhaps it’s a case of better safe than sorry where this sort of training is concerned.