20/07/2017
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Motorhome insurance advice - towing with your motorhome

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If you tow a trailer or a car with your motorhome, you need to make sure both are insured. It can be a minefield ot negotiate this and so we asked leading motorhome insurance provider, Comfort Insurance, for its advice.

The problem with going away in your motorhome is that when you get to your destination you’ve got to drive everywhere in something that could be the size of a pantechnicon. Which can make exploring the back streets of Dürnstein or Omodos something of a chore. There is a possible solution though: you can tow a small car behind a motorhome, for cheap, agile transport at the end of the journey.

Among the more popular cars are Smarts, Fiats and Suzukis, but whatever you opt for there are potential problems ahead. You need to make sure that your car is covered in all situations; while attached to your motorhome it’s usually covered on a third-party basis by your motorhome insurer. It should also be covered on a comprehensive basis by your car insurer. Note the word ‘should’ in both cases; don’t make assumptions that could mean you lose out later. Ask specific questions of your underwriter to ascertain exactly what cover you have in the event of you forgetting it’s there and reversing off a cliff.

Ben Cue, Director of Operations at Comfort Insurance, comments, “Of course it is important to check you policy wording to make sure it says that you are insured for both your motorhome and your car respectivel; however, what is easy to overlook is that you will probably need to inform your car insurance provider if you have adapted the car by adding an A-frame. Failing to do so could invalidate your insurance.

If you’re aiming to spend a lot of time in Europe, check how much time your car is able to spend there; while your motorhome may not have restrictions on the time spent overseas, your car may well have. There will probably be no time restrictions but your comprehensive cover may well revert to third-party only unless you pay extra to top it up.

There are other considerations, too, including the legality of towing a car behind your motorhome. You need to make sure that your camper has the capacity to pull a small car; exceed its Gross Train Weight and you’re in trouble.

If you look at the VIN plate it’ll give the Gross Vehicle Weight (your ’van’s maxiumum weight when fully laden) along with the Gross Train Weight (the GVW plus whatever it can pull). Subtract one from the other and you can establish the maximum towing capacity of your ’van.

There are further potential issues which centre on whether your towed vehicle constitutes a braked or unbraked trailer, while you also need to consider whether you’ll be towing a car on a dolly, a trailer or its own four wheels. This is where the waters can get very muddy and unless you want to leave yourself open to prosecution in the UK or mainland Europe you’ll need to play it safe.

That means investing in a braked trailer, upon which you can put the vehicle you’re towing, because anything less could mean you’re restricted to road speeds of as little as 20mph, depending on the type of road.

An unbraked trailer must have a secondary coupling that will keep the trailer attached to the towing vehicle if the primary coupling fails. Braked trailers up to 3,500kg must be fitted with a breakaway cable that will operate the trailer brakes if the primary coupling fails. Alternatively, a braked trailer up to 1,500kg may have a secondary coupling (such as a strong chain) fitted.

However your car is towed you’ll need to pay attention to the noseweight, which shouldn’t exceed more than 5-7% of the weight of the loaded trailer. If you’re towing on a dolly there’s not much that can be done to adjust this but, if you’re using a trailer, you can buy one with the axle located in the right place to achieve the desired noseweight.

There are – unsurprisingly – a whole raft of other considerations, too. Your driving licence might preclude you from towing, on UK motorways you can no longer use the outside lane to overtake and your speed will be restricted to 60mph; on single carriageways your limit is 50mph.

Break any of these rules and you could find your insurance is invalidated, so (as ever) the golden rule is to talk with your insurer to ensure you’re covered because it’s too late once something has gone wrong. Comfort Insurance’s position is, “At Comfort we always say if in doubt ask, there is no such thing as an obvious question in insurance.”

Each month, we will publish the next article in this series, which first appeared in the May 2017 issue of What Motorhome magazine.

You can see previous articles in this series here:

For more advice on motorhome insurance, conatct Comfort Insurance on 0800 0304206.

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