Unless you're very experienced and confident, experts recommend that the weight of the loaded traierl should not be more than 85% of the car's Kerb Weight. Following a few simple rules will help you to stay safe and on right side of the law while towing.

In detail the rules about towing a trailer can get quite technical but the principles are very simple if you want to stay safe and on the right side of the law.

Towing weights

  • You mustn't overload the car or trailer
  • The weight of the loaded trailer must be within the car's towing ability
  • The combined weight of the loaded car and loaded trailer must be below the maximum 'train' weight for the car

With so much space available it's all too easy to overload – try to keep the trailer as light as possible with the heavier items low down and close to the axle.

To find out how much the loaded vehicles weighsis you are able to do the following;

  • Take the trailer to a local weighbridge, or
  • Weigh everything separately and add it to what's known as the trailers 'Mass in Running Order'

More detail about car and trailer weights »

Mass in running order

Your driving licence

Your driving licence shows the categories of vehicle you may drive including the size of trailer that you're allowed to tow.

Older drivers are at an advantage here as the rules changed in 1997.

If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997 then you will most likely be entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer up to a combined Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of 8.25 tonnes.

If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 then, unless you have taken an additional driving test – the 'B+E' car and trailer test – you may only drive a category B3 vehicle coupled with;

  • A trailer up to 750kg MAM, or
  • A trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined weight of the car and trailer is less than 3500kg Gross Train Weight (GTW) and the MAM of the trailer is less than the unladen weight of the car.

More about driving licence entitlements (Direct.gov) »

The car and trailer (B+E) test

You book the car and trailer test in the same way as the standard practical test but will take it at an LGV test centres rather than a normal driving test centre.

You take the test in an unladen category B vehicle towing a suitably braked, unladen trailer of at least one tonne MAM.

The vehicle must be fitted with:

  • External mirrors on both sides for use by the examiner or any person supervising the test
  • A device (audible or visual) to show that trailer indicators are operating correctly

The trailer must have a closed box body at least as wide and as high as the towing vehicle so that the view to the rear must be by the use of external mirrors only.

More about the car and trailer test (Direct.gov) »

Tow brackets

Tow brackets must be tested to the appropriate British or European standard and use mounting points recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

Cars registered since 1 August 1998 must only be fitted with a 'type approved' bracket tested to European Directive 94/20/EC. The bracket will have a label, plate, or stamping detailing the type approval number and the vehicle for which it is an approved fitment.

Some vehicles are not rated for towing by the vehicle manufacturer – no gross train weight will be shown on the VIN plate – and are not able to have a towbar fitted. An example is the Ford KA which has no declared train weight, and no mounting points for a tow bar.

Check with the vehicle manufacturer if you intend to tow but are unsure if the vehicle is suitable.

For tow bracket fitting we recommend using a business approved under the National Trailer & Towing Association's (NTTA) Quality Assured scheme.

Trailer width

Until recently UK regulations on trailer width were different to the rest of Europe – the maximum width allowed here was 2.3m compared to 2.55m across the channel.

UK rules changed from April 2010 and you are now permitted to tow a trailer up to 2.55m in width behind a car or goods vehicle weighing less than 3500kg.