Cover4Caravans » Resources » Making sure you and your caravan are legal

Making sure you and your caravan are legal

Towing a caravan behind your car is not especially difficult but it does require some practice and experience. More than that, there are obligations under the law which you also need to follow in order to ensure that you and your caravan remain street legal:

Your driving qualifications

  • your driving licence determines the type of trailer – your caravan in other words – which you are entitled to tow;
  • unfortunately the situation is less than crystal clear because of changes in the law, but might be summarised with reference to the rules published on the official government website;
  • quite simply, the rules have seen steadily increasing restrictions on the type of trailer you may tow behind a vehicle, although even the latest rules – allowing a combined weight of car and trailer of up to 3,500kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) is likely to include the vast majority of caravans;
  • nevertheless, the caravan must still be less than 7 metres in length (excluding the length of the tow bar) and be no more than 2.55 metres wide;
  • the authoritative Parkers Guide includes further details about your need to stay within the law when it comes to the size and weight of trailer you may tow on a standard car driver’s licence;
  • staying within the law is important, of course, not least because of any possible invalidation of your caravan insurance – an issue which you might want to check further with us here at Cover4Caravans;

The caravan

  • the basic principle is the roadworthiness of your caravan – in much the same way as the car itself, including the general state of maintenance and such details as the tread on the tyres of your trailer;

The caravan/car combination

  • perhaps one of the most widespread and significant areas for confusion or concern to those new to touring with a caravan is matching the trailer to the towing vehicle;
  • at first sight, the calculations and the plethora of technical terms describing the relevant weights might appear overwhelming – although the essential limits with respect to the caravans you may tow are in practice relatively straight forward;
  • expressed most simply, there is a maximum weight that your car is designed to tow – a weight that is typically stated in your owner’s manual or other specification;
  • if it remains unclear whether your car may legally tow your caravan, you might want to refer to the Gross Train Weight of your car and caravan combined – namely the fully laden weight of both the car and the caravan, which is typically expressed on your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate;

In Europe

  • if you are towing your caravan in Europe, there are further precautions you may need to take in order to stay street legal – and these may vary according to the local laws, rules and regulations of the country in which you are driving;
  • some of these rules may be familiar to British drivers – such as the prohibition against using a mobile phone whilst at the wheel – but other local laws may be less well-known;
  • in France, for example, it is necessary to have on board an alcohol breathalyser kit and it is worth remembering that in many European countries the blood alcohol limit when driving is much lower than in the UK;
  • when driving on the opposite side of the road than in England, it is necessary to adjust your headlights so that they do not dazzle oncoming traffic and to remember that in some European countries (Croatia, Denmark. Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland) your headlights need to be switched on all of the time;
  • the cities and towns of some European countries have also recently introduced low emission zones for vehicles entering them;
  • speed restriction signs might catch out some British drivers since they may be indicated simply by the name of the town or village which you are entering – the 50 kph (approximately 30 mph) restriction continues until you are leaving the built up area, with the name of the town or village on a sign with a black edge and the name crossed though with a red line.

Although the local laws, rules and regulations when driving in Europe may not be difficult to comprehend, it is important to remember that they may be different from those to which you are accustomed in the UK and that they may vary from region to region and country to country.

Keeping yourself and your caravan on the right side of the law, of course, not only helps to avoid on the spot fines – or worse – but also plays its part in ensuring that your holiday proceeds smoothly and without a hitch.