Whether it is a caravan holiday, a boating trip, a house move or moving some large equine friends, being able to tow opens up a whole host of possibilities.
It isn’t just a case of hitching up and heading off, though, as there are some important things to know beforehand
Arguably the most crucial thing to work out is how much your new car can legally tow. Don’t worry if you have bought a used car – the information you need should all be in the driver’s manual or on the VIN plate – more on that below!
How much can my car tow?
The simplest way, in theory, to see how much your vehicle can tow is to look in the driver’s handbook that came with the car when it was new. However, two cars that are seemingly otherwise identical could have different towing capacities – this could be if they were fitted with different options for example.
The other way to be sure is to look at the VIN (or Vehicle Identification Number) plate. This is normally tucked away on the car’s body where the door closes, or on the bottom of the windscreen on the passenger side.
You’ll normally see four weights but it is the first and the second – the gross vehicle weight and the gross train weight (the maximum amount that trailer and car can weigh.) If you subtract the former from the latter then you find out how much your car can tow in kilos.
Brakes or no brakes
However, this isn’t the full story. If your trailer weighs more than 750kg, or more than half the car’s kerb weight (the amount the car weighs without anyone or anything inside) then the trailer needs to have some brakes. If it weighs less than that then it doesn’t matter.
Don’t forget the kitchen sink
There are some important things to remember when calculating how much your trailer weighs, as it isn’t just about the trailer. You also need to factor in what you’ll be loading it up with. This is less of a problem with a caravan that will only have a few extra bags and more of an issue if you are transporting, say, a horse. If you are doing that then you’ll probably need a car with a towing capacity of more than 2,000kg.
If you passed your driving test before 1 January then you usually have more freedom when it comes to what you are allowed to tow.
You can drive a vehicle and trailer combination with a gross train weight of up to 8,250kg and you can also drive a minibus with a trailer that weighs more than 750kg.
If you passed your test after 1997 then the government has just changed the law, as of December 2021. You are now allowed to drive a car with a gross vehicle weight of up to 3,500kg and tow a trailer that weighs up to 750kg.
You are also allowed to tow a trailer that weighs more than 750kg (if it has brakes) so long as the vehicle and trailer don’t weigh more than 3,500kg combined.