How to choose a tow car

Choosing the right tow car means carefully matching the vehicle to your caravan, and being sure you have the right driving licence to tow your chosen combination.

For safe and stable towing, it’s usually recommended that the caravan, leisure trailer, horsebox or trailer should weigh no more than 85% of the kerbweight of the towing vehicle, especially if the driver is new to towing. It’s acceptable for more experienced drivers to tow a match of 85-100%, but the tail could start to wag the dog if the caravan weighed more than the car towing it.

The car’s legal towing limit should also be checked. Usually the legal maximum figure is higher than an 85% match, but that’s not always the case. Under no circumstances should the legal maximum be exceeded.

It’s also important to be sure that your licence permits you to tow the combination, particularly if you passed your driving test on or after 1 January 1997. This means you will have a ‘B’ licence unless you take a test to upgrade to ‘B+E’. With a B licence, drivers can tow a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of 4.25 tonnes (car and trailer combined), provided the trailer’s MAM does not exceed 750kg. If it does (and just about any caravan will weigh more than 750kg), the legally permitted MAM of car and trailer drops to 3500kg. The MAM of the caravan or trailer must not exceed the unladen weight of the car.

The entitlement changes again for drivers who passed from 19 January 2013, but in reality there’s little difference. Drivers still have a B licence unless they take another test, and are restricted to pulling trailers weighing no more than 750kg. Heavier trailers can be towed, provided the combined MAM does not exceed 3500kg.

In car handbooks and brochures, the MAM is usually referred to as the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). In caravanning, the more common term for the MAM is the Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM). Add these two figures together and if the result is less than 3500kg, the combination can legally be towed with a B licence, provided the car’s legal towing limit has not been exceeded. If the combined MAM exceeds 3500kg, then you’ll need to upgrade your licence or choose a lighter combination of car and caravan.

For further information about towing, you might like to read the datasheets on The Camping and Caravanning Club’s website, plus the Club’s Towing Match Service might be of some use. To watch more tow car reviews, please visit the Practical Caravan YouTube channel.

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