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Do you know how to tow safely?

Check our dos and don'ts of safe towing before you start driving

Somebody attaching a caravan to the tow bar on their car

Before you hitch up your home on wheels and head off on hols, make sure you stay safe and properly insured. Read our guide to towing and how it affects your car insurance.

Touring caravans often get a bad press from other motorists for clogging up the roads every bank holiday. But love them or loathe them they're part of the fabric of the great British holiday.

The UK trade body for the touring industry estimates there are 550,000 touring caravans in use in the UK. Add these to all the boat and motorbike trailers, goods trailers and horseboxes, and there are a fair few towed units on our roads at any one time.

Get ready to tow

If you've never towed a caravan or trailer before it can seem quite daunting. But before you even get behind the wheel, you should take some basic steps to make sure you're on the road legally.

Not everyone can tow every type of trailer. The type of driving licence you hold and the categories listed on it will stipulate what type of trailer you can tow.

For example, if you got your car driving licence before 1 January 1997, you'll probably be able to tow a heavier trailer than if you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997. There's a full breakdown of what you can legally tow on the website.

There will also be a maximum weight that your car will be able to tow safely. This can be found in the handbook or on a panel in the car.

And you need to make sure the trailer or caravan you're towing is in good shape. Especially if you are carrying livestock. You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get three penalty points if your trailer is in a dangerous condition.

Car insurance and towing

Your car insurance insures your car. It probably won't insure your caravan or trailer as well but will cover against third party towing risks, so for example if the caravan became detached and hit into someone’s car the damage to the other vehicle would be covered but damage to the caravan wouldn’t. Check your policy before you head out on the road.

Car insurance is a legal requirement, but insurance for a towed unit isn't mandatory. However, if you have an accident as a result of towing your caravan or trailer, it can be very costly if you're not insured.

To make sure you're covered look in to getting your caravan insured separately. LV= can cover your caravan not only for fixtures and fittings, but also for liability whilst it's not being towed in case you have a claim against you.

Also remember that a tow bar can be considered a modification to your car so you may need to let your insurance company know that you've had one fitted.

However, if you have an accident as a result of towing your caravan or trailer, it can be very costly if you're not insured.

All-inclusive breakdown cover

It's bad enough breaking down in a car, but if you have a caravan or a trailer in tow it can be doubly difficult.

Good breakdown cover could make life much easier whether you breakdown at home or overseas. For example, if your car needs towing, then so will your caravan or trailer, so you may need two rescue vehicles. And if animals are involved then you may need a replacement trailer or the service of a vet.

Dos and don'ts of safe towing

  • Do check your tyres before setting off. Underinflated tyres can overheat at high speed and cause a blow out.
  • Don't speed. The maximum speed for a trailer on a single carriageway is 50mph and on a dual carriageway 60mph. Some overseas countries have lower speeds, so check before you travel.
  • Do fit towing wing mirrors. It's a legal requirement when you're towing a caravan or trailer that is wider than the narrowest part of your vehicle.
  • Do take care round corners. With a trailer you're much longer so will need to take corners more widely.
  • Don't move in to the outside lane of the motorway, unless instructed to do so.
  • Don't carry passengers in your caravan whilst you're on the move.
  • Do pull over when you can if the traffic builds up behind you.

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