Q879: Can you give me some advice on towing a caravan?

Ideally, it would be best to tow the smallest possible caravan with the largest possible vehicle but this is not always feasible. Car manufactures are making smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles, whilst caravan manufacturers are making larger, more luxurious caravans that weigh more. Therefore, in the interests of safety it is vitally important to ensure that you purchase a caravan that your vehicle can tow safely and lawfully. The following advice applies to cars towing caravans or camping trailers etc.

There are a number of terms you need to be aware of:

  • Gross train weight (GTW) – this is the total weight of the car plus caravan (trailer) plus load. It may also be called the gross combination weight (GCW).
  • Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) – this is the maximum a vehicle is allowed to weigh when it's fully loaded.
    Unladen weight – this is the weight of a vehicle when not carrying a load and excluding fuel or batteries if it's electrically powered.
  • Kerb weight – this is the mass of the vehicle with bodywork in running order (including coolant, oils, fuel, tools, spare wheel and driver). Note that some car manufacturers don't include the weight allowance for the driver (75 kg) in their kerb weight figures. Your vehicle's kerbside weight may be in your vehicle's handbook or you may need to contact your local dealer.
  • Towing limit – this is the maximum weight a vehicle is designed to tow up a 12 per cent hill (1 in 8).
  • Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) – this is the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), normally applied to a caravan.

For safety reasons experts recommend that the weight of the loaded caravan should be no more than 85% of the car's kerb weight – you'll find the kerb weight in the handbook. Drivers who are experienced at towing may go up to 100 per cent of the car's kerb weight, but no-one should tow a caravan that is heavier than the towing limit of the drawing vehicle. From a legal perspective, if you exceed the MAM of your car or caravan (MTPLM) or your car's GTW or in some cases if the MAM of your caravan/trailer exceeds the unladen weight of your car, you will be committing an offence/s.

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