Expert advice and guidance
Find free, impartial advice on the laws of caravanning, security, towing and more…
There’s nothing quite like owning a touring caravan. The sense of freedom and adventure that comes with being able to hitch up and take off at the drop of a hat, towing your home comforts behind you, is incomparable. But with that freedom comes a responsibility to ensure you’re doing everything you can to keep yourself, other road users and your caravan safe, secure and legally compliant.
Here you’ll find a collection of articles offering free, impartial advice and guidance on a range of touring caravan topics, from buying your first one to the UK laws and regulations governing towing.
Advice for new touring caravan owners
So you’ve taken the plunge and decide to become a tourer. Congrats! You’ve just opened up a whole new world of adventure foryourself, and you’ll never look back. You’ll want to get on with booking your first holiday soon, no doubt. But are you really ready for your first trip? Here are our top tips for touring caravan newbies...
Home from home
You’ll have invested plenty of time, energy and money into finding the perfect caravan, agonising over layouts, weighing up specs and choosing all the fixtures and fittings you need. Now you need to make sure your caravan is kitted out with all the things that are going to make life on the road everything you want it to be. And if you plan on hitching up and heading away regularly, that’s going to mean investing in some caravan-specific basics that you can leave in there year-round. Things like pots and pans, a kettle, toaster, washing up bowl and sets of crockery and cutlery are essential, but what about the luxuries? You might want to kit yourself out with things like televisions and sound systems to make those rainy days more bearable, and maybe have a stash of board games and a deck of cards that have a permanent home in the caravan. It might even be wise to have separate duvets, blankets and pillows, to save you the hassle of stripping and remaking beds every weekend. Whatever you need to build your home away from home, essentially.
There are a few essential functional items you’ll need to buy, too. Take a look at our checklist here.
More bang for your buck
No matter how on point your caravan layout is, there’s only so muchfloor space you’re going to get. If you relish having enough room to swing a bigger-than-average-sized cat, an awning is a great way to double the size of your moveable living quarters and ensure everyone makes it back from the weekend in one piece. Awnings, like caravans, come in all shapes, sizes and specs, so you’llwant to shop around for the one that best suits your needs. If you don’t have enough sleeping room in your caravan to host your travelling tribe, a full awning with in-built sleeping cabins will be invaluable. It might be that you just need an extra bit of dry space, where you can store bikes or surfboards after a day spent exploring, or somewhere to put a table and chairs when there’s a nip in the air.
In this case, a universal awning will do the job more than adequately, and the newer air-tube ones are easy to set up. Or perhaps you just want guaranteed access to a bit of shade or shelterwherever you pitch up – a simple canopy awning, which attaches to the side of the caravan and works like a roller blind, will do the trick.Be aware that attaching this type of awning is a specialist job, so you will need to visit your local caravan dealer to get it done. Before setting out for your site of choice, be sure you have the right awning pegs for your pitch. If you’ve booked a hardstanding gravel pitch, you’ll need steel rock pegs to secure the awning properly.
Join the club!
One of the best things you can do as a new touring caravan owner isto join one of the UK’s caravan clubs. Both the Caravan and Motorhome Club and The Camping and Caravanning Club have beenlighting the way for caravan owners for more than 100 years and bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the field (so to speak).Members of both clubs benefit from exclusive access to certain sites, special offers on other sites, kit, days out and travel, and monthly magazines packed with helpful advice and tips. One of the greatest benefits of club membership is the access you get to like-minded people through the online forums, where insider knowledge is shared in abundance (want to know the best-kept secret sites? Someone will have posted it in the forums) and no question is too silly to ask or impossible to answer. For both clubs, membership is reasonably priced and can be bought online in minutes. Pick your club and start pitching.
As a car user, satnav can be your best friend. But as soon as you hitch up your caravan, you need to start questioning everything it tells you. That’s because satnav systems don’t necessarily take into account everything you, as somebody towing, really need to. Things like bridge height or road width, access points and sharp corners.
That’s not to mention the fact that most postcodes in rural areas cover vast open spaces, and inputting that into satnav won’t necessarily lead you to the exact place you want to be – the chances are, it might even mean put you on the wrong side of a river or valley, meaning a massive diversion to get you to the campsite.
Luckily, most campsites will offer caravan-friendly directions on request, or even as part of the booking confirmation, so be sure to print those off for reference en route. And be sure to have an old-school map book in the car with you every time you hitch up and hit the road.
You’ve identified the site for your first trip, and now you’re faced with choosing from a number of pitch options. So how do you go about choosing the best one? As with everything, it will depend on what you’re looking for from your stay. Do you need to be near the toilets? Do you mind being within earshot of people traipsing back and forth to the shower block first thing in the morning? If you want a bit of peace and quiet, a pitch on the outskirts of the site and/or away from the facilities might be better. If you want to be near the action, are there pitches near the club or café available? And what about kids? If you’ve got any travelling with you, a pitch by the play area will mean you can turn them loose while still being able to keepan eye on them.
Regardless of the nuances of your pitch wish list, wherever possible you should try and get a flat, well-drained pitch that’s sheltered from wind by a hedge or neighbouring unit. And be aware that, while pitching among the trees might have a certain romantic appeal, trees are home to birds, and we all know what they do. You don’t want to spend the week following your trip scrubbing bird droppings and tree sap off the roof.
There are plenty of behind-the-scenes essentials you need as a touring caravanner. Here’s our handy checklist of must-have items:
- Towing mirrors
- Spare rear number plate
- Water carrier (or aquaroll, which you fill up and plumb in whenyou’re on site)
- Wastewater carrier and flexi waste pipes (to hook up to your on-board drainage system)
- Toilet chemicals and flush additive
- Electric hook-up lead
- Gas bottle (try a refill agreement, which will allow you to exchange your empty for a full one)
- Regulator and gas hose
- Gas spanner (for changing cylinders)
- Hitch lock and wheel clamp
- Caravan step
- Corner steady winder (to level your caravan on site)
- Smoke and carbon monoxide alarm
- Leisure battery (for when you’re on a pitch without hook-up)
- Levelling ramps, wheel chocks and blocks (for uneven pitches)
- Fire bucket, extinguisher and blanket
- Tool kit
Tow the line: How to get the perfect touring caravan outfit
It can be a little daunting, the idea of dragging a tonne-and-a-half ofmetal behind your car. But with the right set-up, anybody can to do it safely.
Choose the right tow car
Fundamental to safe and effective towing is having enough power inyour tow car’s engine to pull the weight of your fully-laden caravan. And not just on the flat. You’re going to need enough torque in your engine to pull your caravan up steep hills and safely away from junctions as quickly as possible. For most caravans, that will mean you need a 2.0-litre diesel engine, which will do the job perfectly, although most modern 1.6-litre turbo diesels are up to the task too. In terms of weight, the towing vehicle’s kerb weight should never beless than the maximum technically permissible laden mass (MTPLM) of the caravan it’s pulling, and the caravan shouldn’t weight more than 85% of the tow car’s kerb weight.
You’ll also need to be aware of the towing vehicle’s nose weight limit. Typically, this will be between 50 and 100kg, and you need to ensure your caravan doesn’t exceed this limit when it’s hitched up. A caravan that’s too nose heavy will push down on the back of the towing vehicle, potentially lightening the load on the front wheels and affecting the grip and steering.
Four-wheel drive vehicles are always a good choice of towing vehicle, as they help increase stability and traction and are generally a bit heftier.
Choose the right tow bar
There are several types of tow bar, ranging from fixed and removable to swan neck and retractable. They all do the same basicjob, allowing you to hitch up and start towing, but they will have different additional features and functions.
The flange tow bar is the most popular type in the UK, and works by having a flat faceplate welded to the tow bar structure and then a tow ball bolted to that.
In terms of choosing the right tow bar for your car-caravan set-up, it’s down to personal preference and you should shop around. It might be that you need to be able to take the tow bar off when you’re not touring, and in that case a removable one might be your best bet. Have a look around, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice from the place you’re buying from.
Be aware that carmakers are not legally allowed to insist you use their own tow bars and shouldn’t imply any effect on your warranty if you buy from another manufacturer. As long as your tow bar is correctly fitted and EC-approved, you’re fine from a legal standpoint.Whichever tow bar you choose, make sure it has on it a Type-Approved plate or sticker, and that it doesn’t obscure your car’s registration plate when not in use.
Smart stability systems like BPW iDC and AL-KO ATC are a great bit of kit for regulating the movement of your caravan while in transit. The computers monitor sway and when it becomes excessive, automatically apply the brakes on one or both caravan wheels to bring the caravan in line again. Beginners and touring stalwarts alike benefit massively from these devices.
Extended towing mirrors
One of the trickiest things to get used to in the early days of towing is the additional length of your vehicle, and this is probably why extended towing mirrors are a legal requirement for anyone who’s pulling a caravan.
Designed to attach to your existing wing mirrors, these increase backwards visibility to 20 metres and allow you to see four metres from the side of your caravan, so you know exactly what’s going on around you at all times.
There are lots of different fitting methods, so shop around for the one that best suits your towing vehicle. Be aware that, just as it’s a legal requirement to use extended towing mirrors while you’re towing, it’s illegal to drive with them on when you’re not towing, so easily removable ones will be a must.
Regular maintenance checks
Even when you’ve got the perfect vehicle/caravan set-up, there are certain things you should check before every trip to ensure your tripgoes smoothly:
- Caravan driving lights
- Wheel nut torque
- Tyre pressure tread depth
- Hitching procedure and A-frame (is everything engaged properly and all wiring secured?)
- Windows, doors, vents, etc. closed and secured
- Number plate fitted to the rear of the caravan
- Caravan loaded properly, with all water and waste tanks emptied and heavy objects over the axles and low to the ground
Ready to hit the road? Read our top tips for safe towing here.
Safe as houses: How to keep your touring caravan secure
Nobody wants to think about their touring caravan being stolen, but when more than 1,400 are stolen from driveways or storage every year, it’s a possibility you can’t afford to ignore. After all, your caravan is the home that travels with you. It’s where your family sleeps. It’s where you keep your things and make your happy memories. It’s your home away from home, and you need to treat is as such when it comes to keeping it secure.
The good news is, there are plenty of touring caravan security devices on the market to help keep your property safe..
General caravan security tips
It’s commonly accepted that as-standard caravan door and window locks are not the most robust, so improving the security of these entry points should be your first consideration. You could have a word with the dealer you buy your caravan from and see if they can fit a more secure lock before you pick it up. Or you could try BrightLock, a nifty and ultra-secure bit of kit that uses LiFi technology to allow you to lock, unlock and monitor your caravan’s door from your smartphone.
To help prevent opportunistic thefts, make sure all doors and windows are locked when you leave your caravan unattended, and try to keep all valuables out of sight, either in a cupboard or in a safe or lockbox that can’t be seen from outside.
And don’t be complacent when you make any stops en route to yourdestination, because the sad fact is you’re vulnerable even when you’re stopping for 10 minutes to grab a bite to eat. Deploying an immobiliser will only take a couple of minutes, but it could save you an awful lot of heartache.
Caravan security devices
There are plenty of devices on the market that can not only keep your caravan secure while in use or in storage but also massively reduce your insurance premiums. The important thing to remember is that, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for, so if you’re serious about security you should expect to pay a little more. If you want to be sure you’re buying a device that will do what it’s supposed to do, look for the marks of Thatcham or Sold Secure on the product packaging – these independent testing organisations ensure products meet their rigorous security standards, and issue certifications (Thatcham) and bronze, silver, gold and diamond ratings (Sold Secure) to give you peace of mind.
A hitch lock is designed to provide security at the point where the caravan meets the towing vehicle. Some lock the caravan to the towball and are good to deploy when you’re stopping for a quick break at motorway service stations. The best, most secure ones are made from heavy steel and cover the hitch fixing bolts.
Bear in mind that, while a good hitch lock might deter an opportunist thief, it’s probably not going to stop a determined one when used in isolation, so you should always combine it with other security devices.
And don’t forget to take the hitch lock off before you hit the road again – even if leaving it on while in transit is safe from a usability point of view, it can cause all sorts of headaches for emergency crews in the case of an accident.
Wheels clamps come in all weights, sizes and qualities, so be sure toget one you’ll be happy to use. What we mean by that is you’ll probably be less inclined to use a hefty 27kg clamp while you’re on holiday and moving from site to site every few days, because it will be so cumbersome to fit. A lightweight, 13kg one is going to be much more useable in those instances and should provide a decent level of protection against thieves. You might want to have a heavierone standing by for when you’re ready to park your caravan up for afew months, though, because they do offer much better protection. Be aware that some clamps leave the wheel nuts exposed, meaning that determined thieves who have come prepared will still be able totake the entire wheel (including wheel clamp) off. Perhaps think about investing in some locking wheel nuts too, in that case.
Caravans manufactured after 2001, with chassis by AL-KO or BPW, can be secured with a wheel lock, a handy little device fits through the caravan’s wheel and attaches to an axle-mounted receiver. These devices afford much greater security against your caravan being stolen (many being designated a rare Diamond standard by Sold Secure) and can drastically reduce your insurance premiums, but there are some drawbacks with using them. Firstly, they can only be used on caravans that meet the above criteria AND have alloy wheels, and secondly, they can be a bit of a pain to fit. This second issue arises because in order for the lock to be fitted, the wheel and the receiver must be perfectly aligned. This might be finein storage when you probably have a flat standing area, but on site, when you’ve spent time trying to achieve a perfect level on the ramp, it can be a bit more challenging.
If you’re considering investing in a set of wheel locks, you might also want to think about getting a wheel leveller to make the alignment process a bit easier.
Security posts and ground anchors
If you’re keeping your caravan at home, a security post or ground anchor can be a fantastic anti-theft tool. But, as with most security devices, it will only work as intended if it’s installed and used properly. There’s going to be little point, for example, using a security post that’s sunk into grass, or attaching your caravan to a ground anchor with a chain that’s so flimsy it can be cut with a pair of child’s scissors.
For the best security, make sure the post or anchor is set in concrete, that posts have an internal locking mechanism so that you’re not relying on a padlock, and that anchors are combined witha decent chain that can’t easily be cut.
The most effective security posts are those that come with a towballon top, meaning you can hitch to the post and double up on the security by using a hitch lock too. Would-be thieves will have their work cut out trying to circumvent this combination.
As with house alarms, caravan alarm systems won’t necessarily stopanyone breaking into your caravan, but they will certainly act as a deterrent, especially when flagged up with window stickers and combined with other security devices.
There are various types of alarm available, including ones with internal motion sensors to detect intruders, and others that will sound if anyone tries to move your caravan. If you keep your caravan at home, some alarms will allow you to connect the caravanto your home alarm system and control them both from the same unit. In some cases, you can even link a fitted tracker device to give you complete peace of mind.
Again as with house alarms, you need to make sure your caravan system is reliable and fit for purpose – you don’t want to be ‘those’ people whose alarm sounds off as soon as somebody sneezes in the wrong direction. Not only will you become extremely unpopular with your campsite neighbours, it will also make it less likely anyone will respond in the event of a genuine incident.
Buying your first touring caravan: Things to consider
Whether you’ve been saving up for years or have only just started considering it, there’s no denying that buying your first touring caravan is a big investment. And while we know how exciting it can be, shopping for your towable base for adventures, there are a few things you need to consider before you part with your hard-earned cash...
Try before you buy
As with anything you’re going to use regularly, you don’t necessarilyget a full picture of what’s going to work best for you until you are using it. But a new touring caravan represents a huge investment in terms of both money and time, so you need to get this one right. In that respect, it’s probably a good idea to spend a few holidays hiringdifferent caravans with different layouts, gadgets and amenities to determine what works for you and, more importantly, what doesn’t. Is a single- or double-axle your most sensible option? How many berths do you need to give you the amount of space you want? Is a folding caravan your best bet? Try as many different types as possible, and you’ll make the best, most informed decision you can when it’s time to buy. A quick internet search will tell you where your nearest caravan hire place is.
Where will you store it?
Another thing to think about before you buy a caravan is where you’re going to keep it when it’s not in use. Will you park it on your property? Is there a preferred campsite you can park up at? Or are you going to need to store it in a shared facility? If you’re storing it at home, you’ll need to ensure you can do so safely and legally and following all the laws and regulations outlined here. [link to laws article]
Caravan storage facilities offer a good, secure option for those who lack either the space or the inclination to have their caravan parked at home, and there are plenty available around the country. You can choose from covered or open-air storage, and fixed short-term or annual plans, but these ongoing additional costs will need to be a consideration when buying your tourer – you’re looking at around £30-£40 a month for annual storage.
Be sure to insure
Another ongoing cost you need to consider is insurance for your newcaravan. It’s not a legal obligation, and you don’t need to pay for MOTs or road tax either, but caravans are an attractive prospect for thieves looking to make a quick buck, and they are vulnerable when left parked up. There’s plenty you can do to make your caravan more secure [link to security devices article], but an adequate insurance policy is the best way to keep your asset safe. Shop around for the one that offers the type of cover you need.
New or second-hand?
It might actually be that the bloke down the pub has a caravan that’s perfect for your needs, and by all means you shouldn’t rule it out just because it’s not hot off the production line. In fact, if you’re a first-time caravan owner, there are plenty of reasons a second-hand caravan is the more sensible choice.
For one thing, a brand-new caravan will, like a new car, depreciate in value as soon as it leaves the dealer’s forecourt. Secondly, and more prudently, you are bound to pick up a few scuff marks in the early days as you get used to towing, and you’re going to be much less anxious about that if your caravan isn’t all gleaming and sparkly-new in your rear-view mirror.
Equally, dog owners and families might see the advantages of buying a used caravan rather than a new one. It’s a much less terrifying prospect to let a muddy dog (or child) into a caravan to climb all over the seats, if it has cost £10,000 less in the first place and the carpets and cushions have already seen a bit of adventure. That’s not to say a used caravan will necessarily be shabby and dated, of course – there are plenty of as-new second-hand tourers for sale, if you spend some time looking.
The important thing to remember when buying second-hand is to carry out all the proper checks of ownership and paperwork – the last thing you want is to find you’ve bought a stolen caravan and arenow facing legal charges. See our checklist for buying a used caravan here. [link to checklist at bottom of page]
Buying a brand-new caravan is your other option, and there’s plentyof excitement in the window-shopping phase. How many berths do you want? What sort of accessories would you like? What about the fixtures and fittings? Everything’s shiny and new, and the possibilities for building your perfect home from home are endless (depending on your budget, of course). Just be sure to check your towing vehicle will be able to safely handle the weight of the caravan, unless you plan on upgrading that too. See our guide to towing here. [link to Advice on Towing article here.]
Where to buy?
Shows are a great place to check out a wide range of new and usedcaravans in the flesh, giving you the opportunity to see the latest layouts and styles and talk through your options with the dealers. Most brands will be represented, and you might even benefit from being able to whip up a bit of a bidding war among them, grabbing yourself a substantial discount or offer. Just be aware that if you do decide to buy from a dealer at a show, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of their location, because the chances are you will have to travel to them for any repairs carried out under warranty, as well as for annual servicing. Will you be able to travel there and back without too much hassle if they need to keep your caravan for a few days?
As with most things these days, buying online offers seemingly endless options. A quick internet search for ‘Caravans for sale’ will return loads of results, but make sure you head to a reputable site that you are confident offers some level of buyer protection. You don’t want to end up paying upwards of £10,000 for what turns out to be a picture of a non-existent caravan. Carry out a thorough check on any caravan that piques your fancy, and if in doubt, shop elsewhere.
The two big clubs, the Camping and Caravanning Club and the Caravan and Motorhome Club, both have classifieds pages on their websites and in their magazines, and these are generally reliable sources for buyers. You’ll have access to both new and used models here too, and you can filter by make, number of berths, location andbudget, so these might be good places to start if you know a bit more about what you want.
When buying a used caravan, there are certain things you need to check.
- The first thing to do is to carry out a check on its history with the Central Registration and Identification Scheme. This will provide information about the registered owner, whether the caravan has outstanding finance on it and whether it has beenstolen or previously written off by insurers – all important factors to consider when buying. Get started with a CRiS Check here.
- Be sure to check that the person selling the caravan is the person who owns it.
- Every caravan built after 1992 should have a Touring Caravan Registration Document, which will include a unique 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The CRiS Check should provide information about this.
- Caravans built after 2016 should have a VIN CHIP installed. This will help identify stolen caravans.
- Check the bottom right-hand corner of the windows for VIN markings. These should also be visible on the chassis. Any signs of tampering with these numbers should be a red flag.
- Ask to see the current owner’s registration documents. These will prove ownership and allow you to check their name against the registered keeper on the CRiS database.
- Check all the documents are intact for the gas, electrical and water systems, and that the original owner’s manual is there. If there’s a service history, make sure this is up to date.
- Check closely for signs of damp, mould or soft wallboard, especially inside the roof locker areas.
Rules of the road: Caravan laws in the UK
Arguably one of the greatest things about owning a touring caravan is the freedom it brings. The ability to take off for the weekend at the drop of a hat, taking all your home comforts with you, is absolutely priceless. But with that freedom comes responsibility, and there are certain laws, rules and regulations you need to abide by in order to keep yourselves and other road users safe
Do I need a permit or licence to own a touring caravan?
No, you don’t – just a spirit of adventure will do.
Do caravans need an MOT or road tax?
Again, no. Most touring caravans fall under the weight threshold of 3,500kg and are exempt from both road tax and MOT. It is, however,your responsibility to ensure your caravan is safe to tow at all times.Many touring caravan owners find it’s useful to schedule and perform an annual safety check to ensure everything is working as itshould be, but at the very least you will need to regularly check the legality of your tyres and that break and indicator lights are working properly. For safety reasons, you should also regularly check the gasand electrical systems are functioning as they should be.
Note: Motorhomes and heavier caravans will be subject to certain road-tax rules, so be sure to check the requirements for your own vehicle.
Do caravans need to be registered?
Not in the same way your car is registered. It might, however, be a good idea to record your ownership with the Central Registration and Identification Scheme, as this can be helpful in the event of your caravan being stolen.
Do I need a license to tow a caravan?
Anyone with a standard UK B-category driving licence can tow a caravan up to a certain weight limit. If you passed your test before January 1 1997, you are legally allowed to haul up to 8,250kg maximum authorised mass; those who passed after that date are limited to a haul weight of 3,500kg.
Can I park my caravan on the road?
Yes, in certain circumstances – although the law doesn’t provide a great deal of clarity on this issue. Your non-negotiable legal obligations are to ensure your caravan is parked in such a way that it doesn’t cause an obstruction, and that it isn’t parked dangerously. You also need to make sure your caravan is lit at night, and that the rear lights are visible for approaching traffic.
If you value harmony with your neighbours, parking considerately is a must. Try to think about how you would feel if the roles were reversed and it was your neighbour’s caravan. Don’t block driveways, garages or gates, for starters. And try not to park anywhere you might block people’s views or light – although not illegal, you’re likely to find yourself becoming extremely unpopular with the other residents in your street.
Do I need planning permission to store my caravan?
You’ll need to check your local council’s housing permissions on this point, but in most cases you can freely store your caravan in your garden or on your drive, as long as it meets the UK definition of a touring caravan. This means it is:
- A habitable structure that can be moved.
- A maximum of 20m long, 6.8m wide and 3.05m tall.
If you intend to store your caravan on agricultural land or elsewhere on your property, such as in a field, you might need to get planning permission, so it would be wise to check your local council’s rules onthis. You will also need planning permission if you are using your touring caravan as a self-sufficient, self-contained home rather than an extension of your current residence.
Can I tow a caravan with a leased or rented car?
Yes, in both cases, although you will obviously need to check the suitability of the car to the caravan you intend to tow. Make sure youcheck the maximum towing capacity of the vehicle fits your needs before going ahead with the lease or hire, and make sure you tell the hire company you intend to tow a caravan as this might affect insurance policies and coverage.
Can passengers ride in a caravan while it is being towed?
Absolutely not. This is not only illegal, it’s incredibly unsafe. Your caravan needs to be stable at all times while it is being towed, and any shift in weight (such as caused by people moving around in it) could result in a serious accident, thereby putting at risk your life, the lives of your passengers, and the lives of other road users. Moreover, there are no seatbelts or airbags in a caravan, so there would be no protection for anybody travelling in it in the event of even a small accident. Just don’t do it.
As with any and all laws and regulations, the rules for caravans are subject to review from time to time, so make sure you keep up to date with the latest local and national government guidelines.
Tips for safe towing
The best way to ensure the safety of yourself and other road users when you’re towing a caravan is to have the right combination of caravan, towing vehicle and tow bar (read our guidance on that here) [link to Advice on towing article]. But when your outfit is perfected and you’re ready to hit the road, safe towing is all about making adjustments to the way you drive. Here are a few things to remember:
1. Everything takes longer
The additional length of your vehicle means manoeuvring isn’t as straightforward as it is when it’s just you and your car. You’re not only longer when towing, but much heavier too, and you need to bear in mind the impact this will have on your ability to speed up and slow down. It’s going to take you much longer to pull away fromjunctions and to overtake, so make sure you give yourself extra timeto do those things safely. Likewise, slowing down will take longer, as you’ll have the additional weight and forward-momentum of the caravan bearing down on your car. Again, give yourself plenty of time and do it gradually.
2. Everything requires more space
Your caravan will add a good few metres to the length of your vehicle, so you’re not going to fit into the same-sized spaces you normally would. When overtaking, you need to be confident you have not only enough time to get all of you past the vehicle you’re overtaking, but enough space to be able to move safely past it and to rejoin the lane afterwards.
3. Controlling a snake
Snaking (or sway) is when a caravan starts to move from side to side behind the towing car. It can be caused by things like hitting large potholes, sudden swerving, strong crosswinds, or overtaking large lorries and getting caught out by the change in air pressure. There’s no denying it can be a little frightening when it happens, butit’s fairly easy to bring the caravan back under control and in line with the towing vehicle. Simply take your foot off the accelerator and hold the steering wheel lightly, maintaining a straight-forward line on the road. Your caravan will gradually come back under your control. If you have electronic stabilisers fitted, these will automatically help rectify the snaking, and will do it quickly.
4. Reversing your directions
The thing to remember when reversing with a caravan is that left is right and right is left, and you need to do the opposite of what you would normally do. This is because your car and caravan are connected via a pivot point, and reversing your car one way forces your caravan in the opposite direction. If you want your caravan to go left, your need to steer right, and vice versa. Regardless of how easily you take to reversing, it’s a good idea to have somebody outside of the vehicle helping you manoeuvre via the extended mirrors, because all caravans have a huge blind spot at the rear. Remember, the legal speed limits for towing vehicles are lower than for other road users. Don’t exceed 50mph on single carriageways, or60mph on dual carriageways or motorways, or you’ll be breaking the law.
Practise makes perfect
If you’re still unsure about towing, there are plenty of training and practical courses you can sign up to, including with the Camping and Caravanning Club and the Caravan and Motorhome Club. These two-day courses cost less than £200 and cover everything you couldpossibly need to know about towing and manoeuvring. If you just want a quick taster, most of the big annual caravan shows will offer you the chance to try your hand at towing, and there will generally be someone on hand to offer advice throughout.