Beginner's Guide to Caravanning in the UK

If you’re new to the wonderful world of caravanning then there’s quite a lot to take in. Buying a caravan is a pretty big deal, and therefore you need to do research into which caravan is right for you and your needs.

If you need any help, then the Camping and Caravanning Club have a thorough guide on how to choose a caravan. They also have advice on how to choose a used caravan if you’re not going for new.

Read more: 10 Best Caravan Parks in the UK

However, for the purposes of this guide, you’ve already bought your caravan and you’re planning to head away on your first caravan holiday - or you’ve been before and you’re just after some info and handy tips!

Caravan Laws in the UK

There are a huge number of laws specific to towing caravans on UK roads. It would take quite a while (and be a little boring) to go through them all, so we’ve just handpicked a few.

Are you allowed to tow a caravan?

This is a pretty fundamental question, and one that’s determined by your driving license, and more precisely when you got your license. If you passed your test before 1997, then you can drive a car towing a caravan with a combined weight of 8.25 tonnes. If you passed your test from 1997 onwards, things are a little different. For more details, check out GOV.UK’s towing with a car page.

Does your car insurance cover your caravan?

Probably not, unless you’ve taken out a specific package with your insurer. While your car must be insured, there’s no law stating your caravan must be. However, it’d be madness not to have it insured, so make sure you get this sorted before you go away.

Caravan towing weights, lengths & widths

There will be a maximum weight your vehicle is allowed to tow. This will either be in the handbook or on the Vehicle ID number (VIN) plate listed as the ‘gross weight train’ - the weight of the vehicle fully loaded plus the weight of a fully-loaded trailer.

The maximum width for a caravan is 2.55m, while the max length for most vehicles (up to 3.5 tonnes) is 7m.

What are the speed limits when towing a caravan?

The speed limits for towing a caravan are as follows:

  • Built-up areas - 30 mph
  • Single carriageways - 50 mph
  • Dual carriageways - 60 mph
  • Motorways - 60 mph

TIP: You must not drive in the outside lane of a motorway with three or more lanes.

Caravan towing safety checks

When towing, your equipment must work properly and be safe. If it’s not then you could face a fine up to £2,500, get three points on your license or even be banned from driving. There are various safety checks you need to make, including the tow ball, wheels & tyres, lights & indicators load weight, and more. This handy video will give you a quick rundown…

And a more detailed safety checklist can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

Are towing mirrors necessary?

You’ll need towing mirrors if the width of the caravan exceeds the width of the vehicle. They’re a good idea to use anyway just to give you a bit of a better view of what’s behind you.

TIP: You can be fined up to £1,000 and get three points on your licence for not having appropriate towing mirrors.

What if I’m towing my caravan abroad?

If you’re towing your caravan in Europe then you’ll need to adhere to that country’s laws. Make sure you do thorough research before you go - the last thing you want is to get pulled over and have to deal with the local authorities!

Can people ride in a caravan when it’s being towed?

No! It’s illegal to do so, and just generally not very clever.

How to load a caravan safely

It’s important you load your caravan correctly to ensure it remains balanced and safe when on the road. Here are some tips…

  • Check how much extra weight your caravan can carry. This is known as a payload allowance, and information on this can be found in your caravan’s handbook or on the data sticker. You must take into account the added extras you’ve had fitted.
  • Weigh heavy items before you load up so you know exactly how much you’re adding.
  • Make as much use of your car’s boot as possible.
  • The heaviest items should be placed low down in the caravan and over the axles. Lighter items can be placed equally around the caravan, but try and place over the axles if you can.

How to stop your caravan snaking or pitching

When you’re towing your caravan, you might find your caravan starts to pitch (moving up and down) or snake (moving side to side). It’s important you know how to deal with these issues quickly and safely.

In both situations, try and avoid braking if possible, and if the caravan snakes, resist the urge to steer in the opposite direction. If you can, simply ease off the accelerator and let the car slow down by itself. This should ease the problem.

Vango caravan awning

Caravan equipment

If you want to make the most of your caravan, then there are a whole host of supplies and accessories available to choose from. Of course, we have a great selection to browse that can make your caravan holiday run that little bit more smoothly, including lighting, storage solutions, cleaning products, packing pads and blocks, and much more.

Read more: Drive Away Awning Buying Guide

We also have a superb selection of caravan porch awnings that can significantly increase the liveable space available to you and your family, whether you want a little extra room to relax of an evening or you want somewhere for the kids to play if the weather isn’t brilliant.

Take a look at our full range of caravan equipment, accessories and supplies - and if you need any help or advice, get in touch on 0845 688 3667.

Leave a Reply