New Rules for Towing a Caravan

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You will maybe have heard that the rules around what caravan you can tow are changing. I personally have always found the rules around what you can and can’t tow confusing. This is mainly because the Government wording is a bit confusing, it just won’t say exactly what I want to read.

Current Rules (Pre September 2021)

Here’s the Government’s explanation about what you can and can’t tow, that is what it was prior to the change:

Licences issued from 1 January 1997 to 18 January 2013

If you passed your car driving test from 1 January 1997 to 18 January 2013, you can currently drive either of the following:

  • a car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM (up to 4,250kg in total)
  • a trailer over 750kg MAM, as long as it is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle (up to 3,500kg in total)

You’ve had to pass a car and trailer driving test if you want to tow anything heavier.

Ok, so let’s look at the above. So, you can “drive a car or van up to 3,500kg towing a trailer up to 750kg.” This is where it’s a bit confusing. Is a trailer, a caravan? “a trailer over 750kg MAM, as long as it is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle (up to 3,500kg in total) Hang on, let’s digest that. You can tow a caravan as long as it doesn’t weight more than your car – up to 3,500kg – thats the weight of the car and the caravan, it seems.

So, you can have a car that’s 2,000kg and a caravan that’s 1500kg, making 3,500kg (as a simple example. In 2013 the wording changed slightly..

Licences issued from 19 January 2013

If you passed your car driving test from 19 January 2013, you can currently drive either of the following:

  • a car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM (up to 4,250kg in total)
  • a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg

You’ve had to pass a car and trailer driving test if you want to tow anything heavier.

Fortunately you don’t need to understand any of this anymore.

Towing a Caravan, What Will Change

Here’s the wording :

If you passed your car driving test from 1 January 1997, you’ll be allowed to tow trailers up to 3,500kg MAM when the law changes.

DVLA will update your driving licence record to show that you’re allowed to tow trailers. You’ll get category BE added to your driving licence when you get a new photocard driving licence.

You do not need to contact DVLA for this to happen. It will be done automatically.

To me this makes things a lot simpler. Anyone can tow a caravan up to 3,500kg. There’s no mention of the weight of the car entering into the calculations.

The Government still recommends you learn how to tow, but it’s not mandatory.

You won’t need to send your license in as they will update your records. When you next send your license in to update the photo, your new license will have BE.

My Thoughts

I know people’s opinions differ, but for me, having what some call “Grandad rights” I’ve always had BE on my license, so have been able to tow whatever I’ve wanted to. Bully for me, I hear you say. I’ve never really been in favour of these tests. I never had to learn how to tow, I obviously had to learn how to drive!

The first time I towed a caravan was to pick it up from the dealer. We’d took the plunge and bought a new caravan from the start of our adventure, so I got a tow bar sorted out and electrics, towing mirrors and a spare number plate and headed off to the dealer. Oh, did I mention the dealer was in Germany? Yep, off I went and collected it from Germany and towed it home without having and lessons at all.

For me, towing isn’t a skill as such, if you can drive, you can tow. Now, people say others don’t know how to reverse. I didn’t “know” how to reverse and it came as a shock to me that the caravan seemed to go in the opposite direction to the way I was steering! I wasn’t a danger to anyone, I just looked a bit of a prat.

I don’t buy this “everyone who hasn’t had towing lessons is a danger”. If you feel you need the lessons, you can still have them, it’s just not mandatory anymore.

Someone that’s been towing for 10 years and hasn’t taken a test can now tow a bigger caravan, does that make them dangerous all of a sudden? No more dangerous than they were before. I have faith that most people have a reasonable amount of common sense and that’s really all you need. Those who are nervous drivers will probably be nervous when they tow. It makes sense, for instance, if you have something on the back of the car you need to take corners slightly wider, otherwise the caravan will bump up the kerb. Bt the way, this isn’t the worst thing in the world, you do it once, you probably won’t do it again.

I’ve personally always thought it was just a bit of a “cash cow”. I realise it might affect the income of some testers, but really, that isn’t the fault of caravanners.

From what I’ve read on some other Facebook groups (not our own of course) it seems that some of those who have taken the test feel it should be keep and those like myself, that have BE already AND those that will benefit from the change are in favour of it changing. Having said that I do think I’d be peed off if I’d taken the test because I had to and spend anywhere up to £1,000 for it not to be needed anymore. I understand the Government won’t give refunds, but maybe they could adjust people’s tax codes slightly, so that they can regain someof the money they’ve spent on a test that now it seems they don’t need.

There also seems to be an underlying fear that the Government will change it back in a couple of years time. I don’t think this is likely as they are giving people BE on their licenses, not just saying people don’t need to take the test for a while. They can’t revoke something you already have on your license, which is why old codgers like myself didn’t need to take the test. It’s not that we are better drivers, although some think they are of course. Having said that, of course they COULD revoke BE, however, politicians like to be voted in again!

Will it make manufacturers build heavier caravans? I don’t believe it will, they’ve invested money in new materials to make caravans lighter and in fact, they’ll have to continue this way of thinking because of the rise of alternative fuels such as electric and hydro cars. At the moment the towing distances aren’t great with these vehicles.

So there’s my thoughts on the subject. I don’t think there will be a big change, other than some people able to get the caravan they want and tow it with a sensibly weighted tow car.

More Information

You can watch my vlog on the subject

And check out the official wording:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-rules-for-towing-a-trailer-or-caravan-with-a-car-from-autumn-2021

Towing Me, Towing You

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