Am I towing legally?

One of the questions we get asked most frequently is: “what can I tow with my car?”

The simple answer is: there is no simple answer. The reason for this is there are endless different types of trailer – each with different weights, and the same goes for towing vehicles. Then, you have to not only consider the weight of the car or van you are using to tow but the maximum weight the vehicle is designed to support on the towing hitch. Furthermore, the date on which you passed your Category B (Car) test also plays a part in determining what you can tow. We told you it wasn’t simple!

The jargon

Before we get started, we need to clarify a few terms that will come up when this topic is discussed.

MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass)

This is the maximum weight of a trailer or vehicle, usually displayed on a metal plate. This is the maximum weight the trailer or vehicle can legally weigh – if it currently weighs less (for example, the trailer is empty), it doesn’t matter – weights are always based on the maximum permissible.

Nose Weight

The weight pushing down on the tow hitch (the nose) of the trailer. Your towing vehicle’s manufacturer will have provided a maximum nose weight, which can usually be found in the handbook. The vehicle has been designed to operate safely within the limits specified and overloading the tow hitch can cause the vehicle to become unstable or not operate properly.

Category B / BE / C1E

These are driving licence categories which you will find displayed on the back of your photocard licence. Category B allows you to drive a vehicle weighing up to 3500kg MAM i.e. a car or van. Category BE is a specific licence for towing trailers which you may need, and we’ll show you how to find out in this guide. Category C1E allows you to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 12000kg.

Important Dates

If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you’re usually allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg MAM.

If you passed your car driving test on or after 1 January 1997 you can drive a car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM, or, tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.

If you passed your car test after 19th January 2013, further restrictions apply to the Category BE licence.

I’m still confused!

If you’re still not sure how these laws affect you, click here for a handy online tool at GOV.UK.

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