Most of today’s popular selling cars are capable of towing a touring caravan, but the weight of vehicle they can safely and legally pull must be calculated correctly.
What is towing capacity?
Towing capacity is the maximum weight a car is allowed to tow, legally and safely. Prior to towing a caravan, it is vital to ensure that the weight of the caravan does not exceed the maximum towing capacity of your car – this figure can be found in the driver’s manual. If you do not have the driver’s manual for your car, the towing capacity can also be found on the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) plate which is situated at the bottom of the windscreen (passenger’s side) or on the front passenger’s door frame. You will see four figures; these are the gross vehicle weight (MAM), the gross train weight which is the maximum combined weight the car and caravan can be, and the maximum front and rear axle loads. Take the first figure (MAM) away from the gross train weight to calculate your car’s towing capacity.
The guidance for safe towing is known as the 85% rule but this is a guide only and not law. The rule recommends that the fully loaded weight of the caravan, or MTPLM (maximum technically permissible laden mass) does not exceed 85% of the car’s kerbweight. Seasoned caravanners who are experienced in towing may feel confident in exceeding the 85% rule but in these cases, the weight of the caravan should NEVER exceed the kerbweight of your towing vehicle.
What is my car’s kerbweight?
The kerbweight of a vehicle is defined as the weight of the vehicle including all standard equipment plus a full fuel tank. Passengers, cargo and optional extras are not included in the kerbweight, making it the closest weight to the true weight of the vehicle. Your vehicle kerbweight is shown in the driver’s manual, sometimes on the V5 registration document under ‘G: Mass in Service’, or on a plate on the door frame of the vehicle. To calculate 85% of this, simply multiply the kerbweight by 85/100.
What is the weight of my caravan?
The weight of your caravan will be shown in the owner’s manual or on a plate near the door frame. If you cannot find it, the manufacturer will be able to tell you. Remember that this weight will be for the unladen caravan so make sure to calculate the weight of any cargo.
Do I need a special licence to tow a caravan?
This depends on when you passed your driving test! For those who passed prior to 1997, a special licence is not required. However, anyone who passed after January 1st 1997 is restricted to a combined maximum allowable mass of 3,500 kg. This may sound a lot but when you consider that a Land Rover Discovery 4, a popular vehicle for towing, weighs 2,700kg you can begin to see why care must be taken when calculating towing weight limits.
If you are new to towing, our blogs will help with speed limits when towing and the proper use of towing mirrors. For all your other towing needs, we have a comprehensive range of towing equipment and accessories here, and of course our experienced staff is available to help with any further enquiries here.