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The law on towing in the UK has evolved over the years to be more in line with what was already law throughout most of Europe. The current regulations cover every aspect of towing including licencing, vehicle weights, necessary auxiliary equipment, and other things. It is absolutely imperative that you know and understand the law on towing before you ever attempt to tow a trailer or caravan on public roads.


In this guide, we will lay out all the basics of the law in simple English. Please note that this guide is not intended to serve as legal advice in your situation. If you have any questions about the law and how it applies to you, speak with a solicitor or a representative from the appropriate government agency. Remember that ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law. It is every driver’s responsibility to know and understand towing regulations before towing a vehicle.

Licence Requirements for Towing a Trailer

Driving licences in the UK are classified into different categories based on vehicle size and weight. For example, the Category B licence mainly pertains to standard passenger vehicles while Category C+E licences are for the largest and heaviest lorries. The licence you currently possess determines what kind of trailer you can tow and the vehicle you can use to tow it. For the purposes of this guide, the information we present is intended for people who tow recreationally – using caravans, cargo trailers, and horsebox trailers.

Anyone who obtained a car licence prior to 1 in January 1997 has acquired rights covering all vehicles in the current Category B+E and Category C1 classes. That means the law on towing allows them to tow all sorts of trailers with regular passenger vehicles up to a combined weight of 8,250 kg MAM. For the record, ‘MAM’ means ‘maximum authorised mass’. It is the total weight of the vehicle including all of its passengers and cargo.

Drivers who obtained their car licences between 1 January 1997 and 18 January 2013 can tow small trailers on a Category B licence with no additional entitlement. They can tow trailers of up to 750 kg with a tow vehicle weighing as much as 3500 kg. If a heavier trailer is used, the combined MAM of both vehicles cannot exceed 3500 kg.

Finally, drivers who obtained their car licences from 19 January 2013 are allowed to tow trailers of up to 750 kg with any size tow vehicle. They also cannot exceed the combined mass of 3500 kg if they want to tow a trailer heavier than 750 kg.

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All drivers who obtained their car licences after 1 January 1997 will need one of the following three licences if they want to tow heavier trailers with heavier vehicles:

For all practical purposes, drivers who obtained their car licences after 1 January 1997 will need an additional entitlement to tow anything but the smallest cargo trailers on the market. If you have a large cargo trailer, caravan or horsebox trailer, you most likely need a higher category licence than the simple Category B.

Obtaining a Licence to Tow

The law on towing requires those who want one of the higher category licences to pass the car and trailer test taken at an approved testing facility. No theory test is required inasmuch as the law is content with the theory test drivers took when obtaining their car licences. The car and trailer test is a three-part test as follows:

Formal training is not required in order to take the car and trailer test. However, it is strongly encouraged. Passing the test is no easy task for someone who has little or no experience towing trailers. The training we provide prepares our students to pass the car and trailer test the first time it is taken.

Other Details about the Law on Towing

The law on towing in the UK is pretty straightforward in terms of licencing requirements and the car and trailer test. However, there are some additional details you may not be aware of. For example, American manufactured caravans do not necessarily meet all of the requirements of the law in either the UK or the rest of Europe. If you want to tow an American caravan in the UK, you must first check to ensure that it meets minimum requirements.

You might also be interested to know the following:

The law on towing is designed to keep drivers safe while doing a task that is considerably more challenging than driving a passenger vehicle alone. We urge trailer and caravan owners all over the UK to be intimately familiar with the law before taking to the roads. Towing a trailer illegally can result in significant penalties if caught, and being involved in an accident while towing illegally can mean even more severe consequences.

If you are looking to obtain a car and trailer licence, the HGV Training Services (HGV Training Centre) can provide the training you need to pass your test and satisfy the law on towing in the UK.

Further Information

If you would like to find out more about towing on UK roads the following articles may be of assistance:


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