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Published Date: 11/7/2017

If you’ve never towed a trailer before and are just starting to do a little research, you’ll probably have come across ‘towing capacity’. But what is it, and what makes a good tow car? We’re here to explain.

What is towing capacity?

Your car’s towing capacity is the maximum weight it can tow, whether you’re towing a caravan, horsebox, trailer or something else altogether.

Your car will be given two towing capacity: braked and unbraked. This refers to the trailer, as some come fitted with brakes, and some do not.

Any trailer over 750kg (or more than half the car’s weight without passengers or luggage) must be fitted with brakes. Although some larger 4x4s have a rated towing capacity of up to 3,500kg, it’s recommended that you never tow anything that weighs more than 85% of the car’s kerb weight.

Each car’s towing capacity is calculated by the manufacturer during testing before going on sale. Even different versions of the same car may have different capacities, because engine pulling power is one of the things that’s taken into account.

Larger and more powerful cars generally have a larger towing capacity – so punchy off-road vehicles like Land Rovers make a great choice.

Maximum authorised mass

The MAM is the the total weight that any car or trailer’s chassis and brakes can cope with: the combined weight of the trailer (or car) itself and anything you load into it.

So if you’re towing a horsebox, for instance, you’ll need to know what your horse weighs. And for a caravan, you’ll need to know what your luggage and equipment weigh.

Fortunately, it’s possible to purchase towing scales that will calculate the total weight for you.

What kind of cars make good tow vehicles?

When choosing a tow car, of course you’ll need to opt for something that can comfortably tow the weight of your trailer, caravan or horsebox. And the bigger and heavier your tow car, the more stable it will feel at speed.

Diesel-engined models typically have a larger towing capacity, because they produce more of their pulling power at low revs – and we spend most of our time on the road driving at low revs. It’s worth noting that fuel economy does suffer when towing extra weight – a 30% reduction is not unusual.

You should also consider things that make towing – particularly caravanning – more comfortable and convenient: like a flexible and spacious interior, and extra 12V sockets. So it’s hardly surprising that SUVs/4x4s, estate cars and MPVs are popular choices.

Licence restrictions for towing

What you’re legally allowed to tow on a standard driving licence depends on when you passed your test.

If you passed your test before 1997, you can drive any car/trailer combination up to a total MAM o 8,250kg.

If you’ve passed your driving test since 1st January 1997, you can:

  • drive a car or van up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
  • tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg

You’ll have to take an extra test for towing anything heavier. Even if you’re within the restrictions, it’s a good idea to practice as much as possible; especially reversing and parking with a trailer attached.

Driving laws when towing

There are several additional laws in place that you must remember when towing a caravan or trailer:

  • The maximum speed limit is 50mph (60mph on motorways and dual carriageways)
  • Trailers must not exceed 7m in length or 2.55m in height
  • You must fit towing mirrors if your trailer or caravan is wider than your car
  • You must display the same number plate on your trailer as your towing car

Tow cars from Hunters Land Rover

If you’re in the market for a new tow car and want to find out more about the towing capacities of the various models available from Land Rover and Range Rover, contact a member of the team at Hunters today.


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