Towing a trailer tent or folding camper
A trailer tent or folding camper can be a great option for family holidays but If you've never towed a trailer before, you might be a bit wary.
There are a few things you need to know before you get started, but don't worry!
Our Q&A tells you everything you need to know about towing, from getting a towbar fitted to your driving licence requirements.
# Can I tow a trailer tent without taking a special towing test?
Since late 2021, all drivers in the UK are allowed to tow trailers with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of up to 3,500kg without the need to take a car and trailer driving test.
Practice makes perfect, so the best way to get more comfortable towing is to get out there and do it. But if you've never towed before, we would advise you take a starter course to get to grips with the basics, especially when it comes to reversing.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club both offer towing and manoeuvring courses at various locations around the country and these are highly recommended.
# What are the speed limits in force while towing?
On dual carriageways and motorways, trailers are restricted to 60mph, while on single carriageways, the limit is 50mph or as indicated by speed limit signs. Trailers are not allowed in the fast lane of motorways.
# Does my trailer tent need its own brakes?
If the trailer together with any payload being carried weighs less 750kg, then it doesn’t need to have an independent braking system.
Anything over 750kg must have its own braking system. Additionally, trailers weighing less than 750kg must have a robust back-up coupling (usually a chain) to keep them attached to the towcar if the hitch fails.
Trailers over 750kg must be fitted with a breakaway cable which, in the event of a hitch failure, applies the trailer brakes before sheering.
# I’ve only got a small car – can I still tow a trailer tent?
Check your car’s manual and consult the section dealing with payload capacities and towing.
Some car manufacturers expressly state that their small cars aren’t designed for towing and to do so would invalidate the warranty.
If this is the case, it’s inadvisable to tow anything, but the majority of cars should be capable of towing a trailer tent of up to 750kg.
As a rule of thumb, as long as when fully laden, your trailer weighs no more than 85% of the car’s kerbweight, you should be able to tow it safely.
The other important factor your towcar’s noseweight limit, which should also be listed in the payload and towing section of its manual.
The trailer’s noseweight is the force exerted by the hitch on the tow hook and again, the noseweight limit stated by the manufacturer should not be exceeded.
The key is to find a car that is powerful enough to tow your trailer but light enough to keep you within your licence requirements.
A family saloon or estate cars such as a VW Passat or Ford Mondeo will usually be powerful enough and have a low enough MAM to let you pull a reasonable size of trailer.
To tow a caravan with a car with a combined MAM over 3,500kg you need to upgrade your licence.
In practice most trailer tents and folding campers are relatively light but make sure you check you are legal before you start.
# I’ve bought a second-hand towbar on eBay. Can I fit it myself?
Probably not. Since 1998, all towbars are required to be type-approved for the vehicle to which they are fitted. You can still fit a towbar yourself, but it must be type-approved for the make and model of your towcar.
# I’ve had a towbar fitted specially to tow the used trailer tent I bought, but the electric sockets don’t match. Help!
It sounds like you have had a new 13-pin socket fitted along with your towbar, but your trailer tent still has the old 12-pin plugs. Don’t panic – pop down to your local camping specialist, who should be able to sell you an adaptor for just a few pounds.
# Do I need separate insurance to cover my trailer tent?
Most car insurance policies will cover the trailer for third party claims as long as it’s attached to the car identified in the policy.
There are exceptions to this however, so check the small print in your policy before hitching up. Your insurance policy is unlikely to cover the trailer for damage or theft suffered on the road, on the pitch or in storage, so it’s worth considering taking out additional cover to protect your investment.
Also bear in mind that – however unlikely they may seem – accidents involving runaway caravans and trailers happen every year.
Outdoor leisure insurance specialists Shield Total Insurance offer the following advice:
- Having your unit damaged or stolen can be a stressful event, particularly if it happens when you are on holiday.
- Mishaps can happen, more common types include: accidental damage to the frame mechanism, canopy material or windows when erecting or dismantling the unit. A part-erected canopy can act as a sail even in relatively light breezes causing it to over-extend or close more violently than intended, or someone may simply forget part of the dismantling procedure e.g. unlocking a leg, resulting in damage.
- When you are in the process of detaching your Unit from your car and manoeuvring it onto your campsite pitch, there is always a danger of hitting someone’s unit or running over something left on the ground.
- Folding Camper and Trailer Tent Insurance provides cover against loss or damage caused by fire, theft, vandalism, storm, flood or accidental damage to your unit, equipment, contents or personal effects.
- In respect of contents and personal effects, check what is and - more importantly - what isn’t covered. It may be prudent to speak to your home insurance provider to establish, what cover, if any, is provided for your personal possessions away from the home.
- The additional costs you suffer in trying to retrieve the situation can be covered by the “Loss of Use” section of your insurance. This will pay towards alternative accommodation costs or the hire of a similar unit. There is usually a policy limit (expressed as a percentage amount per week of your unit’s sum insured), but is nevertheless a useful benefit when needed.
- Personal accident cover may be included for physical injuries which result from an accident, whilst on holiday with your unit, or when hitching, unhitching or working on your trailer tent.
- Compare prices to make sure you aren’t paying over the odds. A specialist insurance provider should offer knowledgeable staff, flexible cover options and a full quote and buy online facility - enabling you to tailor the policy cover to meet your individual needs, at a time to suit you.
Want more great trailer tent or folding camper information?
Our "Trailer tents and folding campers: The ultimate guide" is full of expert advice.
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