Last updated: 07/09/2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Car insurance and towing explained
This summer is all about the staycation. With no airline luggage allowances to worry about, we can pack up a trailer or caravan with all the gear and no limitations.
But don't just assume you can tow whatever you please. Not only are there certain regulations involved which, if ignored, have legal consequences, but your car insurance policy will also have its own set of rules.
In This Guide:
- What can I tow?
- Licence issue dates and tow restrictions
- Is towing insurance included in my car insurance policy?
- Can I take out trailer insurance?
- What to know before you tow
What can I tow?
When you pass your driving test in the UK, your licence is issued as category B (go check – you'll see!). This category allows you to drive your vehicle plus an optional trailer up to a maximum combined weight limit.
Yet there are certain stipulations on what you can and can't tow – you can't just hook up a tractor to the back of your Vauxhall Corsa!
What these specifics are depends on a couple of things.
One is the weight the vehicle can actually safely tow, which you'll find outlined in your handbook. But the primary determiner is when your driving licence was issued. Over time, allowances have been restricted somewhat.
Licence issue dates and tow restrictions
So just to complicate things a little, there are different towing rules for certain time periods in which you might have passed your test, which we'll outline below.
We'll also refer to MAM, which stands for Maximum Authorised Mass – this simply means the permitted maximum weight.
- For licences issued after 19th January 2013, you can tow a trailer up to 750kg. Or, if you want to tow a trailer over 750kg you can, so long as the MAM of both the trailer and your vehicle is not more than 3.5 tons. To tow more than this, you'll need to upgrade your licence by completing a category B+E test.
- For licences issued between 1st January 1997 and 19th January 2013, it's the same: you can tow up to 750kg, or over so long as the MAM of the trailer and vehicle doesn't exceed 3.5 tons. Similarly, you'll need to pass a B+E trailer test to tow more than this. You can also drive a vehicle with a MAM of 3.5 tons with up to 8 passenger seats.
- Lastly, licences issued before 1st January 1997 enjoy the least restrictive measures. You'll have a MAM of 8.25 tons for any vehicle and trailer combination, and you're allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM. Should you need to tow heavier loads, you'll have to pass a category C theory test, and a C1+E practical test.
Is towing insurance included in my car insurance policy?
Before you start towing, it's important to know what your insurance policy actually covers you for. While all cars driving on UK roads must be insured, you're not obliged to have towing insurance for your trailer.
Some policies may include towing, but some may offer no cover whatsoever.
In addition to this, if towing is included in your policy, you should also be aware that the level of cover may not be as fully comprehensive as your main vehicle policy – you might only be covered for Third Party damage.
Instead, you may want to take out additional cover for your trailer, especially if better safe than sorry is your mantra!
Can I take out trailer insurance?
If you have a caravan, trailer or boat, consider taking out a separate trailer insurance policy.
Should there be an incident on the road which is your fault – let's say your trailer becomes detached – then without insurance any damage could be extremely expensive to repair. It can be even more expensive to get a replacement trailer!
Even Third Party cover – if that's what your policy offers – will only help cover accidental damage costs to any other involved party.
While it's a start, not being entitled to a pay-out when your lovely caravan lies deconstructed at the roadside, or has gone exploring a ditch, is a bit too much salt in the wound. Avoid it by covering your back, too.
Again, it's worth checking the fine print of your policy, not only to ascertain what you're covered for but also to gauge what sorts of things could invalidate your policy. For example, did you know there are certain regulations regarding how you load up your trailer?
What to know before you tow
So, here's our round up of what to know before you tow:
- Check if you're covered by insurance.
- Ensure that what you're towing has the right specifications for your licence.
- Make sure you have the correct tow bar and, critically, have told your insurance provider about it. This is because it's considered a modification and can affect your quote.
- If you're going abroad, be sure you know the towing laws of the land.