Towing with a car
Driving licence rules and what you can tow
The rules on what you can tow are different depending on when you passed your driving test.
Licences issued from 19 January 2013
From 19 January 2013, drivers passing a category B (car and small vehicle) test can tow:
- small trailers weighing no more than 750kg
- tow a trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM)
If you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg, when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is more than 3,500kg, you’ll have to pass a further test and get B+E entitlement on your licence.
You’ll then be able to tow trailers up to 3,500kg.
Licences held from 1 January 1997
If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 and have an ordinary category B (car) licence, you can:
- drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAMtow a trailer over 750kg MAM
- as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg
For anything heavier you need to take a category B+E driving test.
Licences held before 1 January 1997
If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you are generally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes MAM.
This is the weight of a vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely when it’s being used on the road.
You also have entitlement to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM.
Towing heavier combinations
If you want to tow heavier combinations, you’ll have to first apply for provisional entitlement to the new C1+E entitlement. You’ll then have to pass the category C theory test and C1+E practical test.
Once you’ve done this you can drive vehicles and trailers with a combined weight of up to 12 tonnes MAM.
Car towing weight and width limits
Most cars have a maximum weight of what they can tow. It’s usually listed in the handbook or specification sheet.
Alternatively the vehicle’s gross train weight may be listed on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate on the car. This is normally under the bonnet or inside the driver’s door.
The gross train weight is the weight of the fully-loaded car plus fully-loaded trailer and must not be exceeded.
If your VIN plate doesn’t list a train weight, you should not use your vehicle for towing.
Width and length
The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. The maximum length is 7 metres for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes (3,500 kilograms).
The equipment you use with your trailer or caravan must meet certain safety standards.
If you get a tow bar for your car, it needs to be ‘type approved’. This means it meets EU regulations and is designed for your car.
A type-approved tow bar will have a label with an approval number and details of the vehicles it’s approved for.
If your car was first used before 1 August 1998, your tow bar doesn’t need to be type-approved.
You must have an adequate view of the road behind you. If your caravan or trailer is wider than the rear of the towing vehicle, you may need to fit suitable towing mirrors.
If you tow without proper towing mirrors you can be:
- prosecuted by the police
- given 3 points on your licence
- fined up to £1,000
Any trailer weighing over 750 kilograms, including its load, must have a working brake system.
Some smaller trailers also have brakes, although these are optional.
Any brakes on a trailer or caravan must be in good working order.
You must display the same number plate as your towing car on the trailer. If you tow more than one trailer, fix the number plate to the trailer at the back.
A-frames and dollies
If you attach an A-frame to a car in order to tow it with a larger vehicle, the car plus A-frame counts as a trailer.
- If you use a dolly to tow a broken-down vehicle, the dolly counts as a trailer.
- In both cases the usual safety regulations for trailers apply.
- Read more in the ‘A’ frames and dollies’ factsheet.
The car and trailer practical
You may have to take a further test if you want to tow a caravan or certain types of trailer - this depends on when you got your licence.
What to bring to your test
You must bring either:
both parts of your driving licence (photocard and paper counterpart)
your signed driving licence and a valid passport if you only have an old-style paper licence
You must also bring:
a car that meets the rules for the driving test
a trailer carrying a minimum weight
Your test will be cancelled and you’ll lose your fee if you don’t bring the right documents and vehicles.
Rules for the trailer that you bring to the test
- have a minimum real weight of 800kg
- carry a minimum load of 600kg of aggregates or 1 intermediate bulk container (IBC) of 1,000kg, or 600kg capacity when filled with water
- have a Maximum Authorised Mass of at least 1 tonne - you may need evidence of this, eg the manufacturer’s plate
Read more about rules covering load requirements.
The vehicle must be fitted with:
externally mounted nearside and offside mirrors (for the examiner to use)
a device that shows the trailer’s indicators are working properly (most modern vehicles already have this and won’t need an extra device fitted)
Brakes and coupling
All vehicle combinations must have appropriate brakes and use a coupling arrangement that’s suitable for the weight of the trailer.
Trailer cargo compartment
- be a closed box body
- be at least as wide and as high as the towing vehicle
Fees and booking
It costs £115 to take the test on a weekday and £141 during evenings, weekends or bank holidays.
Book the car and trailer practical driving test.
What happens during the test
Before you start the driving ability part of your test, you’ll have an eyesight check and be asked 5 vehicle safety questions.
The eyesight check
You’ll have to read a number plate from a distance of:
- 20 metres for vehicles with a new-style number plate
- 20.5 metres for vehicles with an old-style number plate
Vehicle safety questions: ‘show me, tell me’
You’ll be asked 5 vehicle safety questions. These are also known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions.
The examiner will ask you ‘show me’ questions, where you’ll have to show them how you’d carry out a vehicle safety check.
You’ll also be asked ‘tell me’ questions, where you’ll have to explain to the examiner how you’d carry out the check.
You’ll drive in various road and traffic conditions, which could include:
- one-way systems
You’ll also be asked to do around 10 minutes of independent driving.
You’ll have to show that you can manoeuvre your car and trailer in a restricted space and stop at a certain point.
Uncoupling and recoupling
During the test you’ll be asked to uncouple and couple your car and trailer.