As a 4×4 driver most of us will be using the vehicle to tow at some point. But more and more drivers are getting caught out with changes to driving licence towing laws over recent years.
This is a topic that is cropping up with increasing frequency, especially since the legislation was further changed with effect from those driving tests passed on or after 19 January 2013.
The weight and nature of trailer you can tow, will, ultimately, depend on the date on which you first passed your driving test, as follows:
Licences Held Before 1st January 1997 –
If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you are generally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes MAM. (Maximum Authorised Mass).
This is the weight of a vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely when it’s being used on the road.
You also have entitlement to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750 kg.
Licences held from 1st January 1997 –
If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 and have an ordinary category B (car) licence, you can:
- drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes (or 3,500 kg) MAM towing a trailer of up to 750 kg MAM
- tow a trailer over 750 kg MAM as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500 kg
For anything heavier you need to take a category B+E driving test.
OK, very confusing, so what does that actually mean? The key thing here is the weight of the trailer. If the MAM of the trailer is less than 750 kg, then a combined MAM of 4,250 kg is permitted (3,500 kg vehicle, and 750 kg trailer).
If the trailer exceeds 750 kg, then the combined MAM is reduced to 3,500 kg (in line with the maximum ‘actual’ weight allowed).
If your vehicle has an MAM of 3,200 kg, and you trailer has an MAM of 600kg (total: 3,800 kg MAM) that IS legal, provided, of course, the actual, physical weight of the combination does not exceed 3,500 kg.
On the other hand, if your vehicle has an MAM of 3,000 kg, and your trailer has one of 800 kg, that is NOT legal, even though they have the same combined MAM. The distinction is that the MAM of the trailer is over 750 kg.
Licences issued from 19 January 2013 –
From 19 January 2013, drivers passing a category ‘B” car and small vehicle test can tow:
- small trailers weighing no more than 750 kg
- tow a trailer over 750 kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500 kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM)
If you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 750 kg, when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is more than 3,500 kg, you’ll have to pass a further test and get B+E entitlement on your licence.
You’ll then be able to tow trailers up to 3,500 kg.
Most vehicles have a maximum weight of what they can tow. It’s usually listed in the handbook or specification sheet.
Alternatively the vehicle’s ‘gross train weight’ may be listed on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate on the car. This is normally under the bonnet or inside the driver’s door.
The gross train weight is the weight of the fully-loaded car plus fully-loaded trailer and must not be exceeded.
If your VIN plate doesn’t list a train weight, according to Gov.UK, you shouldn’t use your vehicle for towing.
However, these figures also need caution when using close to the limits, check our previous article on issues with manufacturers towing weights.
If you are new to towing then read up on our top tips for beginners to towing, and remember you also need to safely stop that weight behind you too.