Making Sure Your Car Is Right For Your Caravan

If you’re new to the world of caravanning, or if you are thinking about buying a new caravan or car, it’s important to work out whether your car will manage to tow the caravan.

This isn’t as simple as you might think – just like cars, caravans vary hugely in terms of their size and weight, and some of the imported caravans, especially the North American ones, are huge and very heavy. Often, the best people to ask for advice are the caravan retailers but remember that they have a vested interest in selling, so it’s worth knowing how to work out whether your car and caravan are a good match.

Check the VIN plate

The first thing to do is to find out your car’s kerbweight. This will be printed in the manual which was supplied with the vehicle. Sometimes manuals cover a range of different engine types and body specifications, so the best way to make absolutely sure is to check the VIN plate which is the small metal plate usually located just on the lip of the engine bay which has the car’s chassis number and kerbweight printed on it. This weight will usually be stated in kilogrammes. Write the weight down and then multiply it by 0.85. This will give a weight equivalent to 85% of the weight of your car, which is the maximum you should be towing. Sometimes, the VIN will also state a “maximum train mass” which is the maximum combined weight for that particular car and any trailer. If this weight is stated, this is the figure you must stick to, irrespective of what the 85% correction states.

Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM)

Once you know how much your car can cope with, you will need to look for a caravan or trailer which as a MTLPM value less than your 85% figure or within the train mass stated on your car. If you have towed caravans for years, you can exceed the 85% figures but new caravanners are strongly recommended to stick to the 85% rule. There is lots of data available online about matching cars to caravans, so do your homework before signing on the dotted line for your new caravan.

Additional Driving Licence Restrictions

In addition to working out whether your car can cope with the type of trailer or caravan you are thinking of buying, you need to check your driving licence to make sure you are entitled to drive the combination. The laws changed in 1997, so if you passed your test before then, you are allowed to drive the average car plus caravan or trailer combination on your normal full UK driving licence. If you passed your test after this date, you are restricted to towing lighter trailers, and depending on the type of caravan you are buying, you may need to sit an additional test to be able to tow your caravan on the road. The Caravan Club and DVLA will be able to give more information about what is, and is not, allowed.