Towing With Your Motorhome - What You Need To Know

When travelling out and about, it seems that more and more motorhomes are towing cars behind them. If you are in the market for a towing dolly but are not entirely sure what you are looking for, it can be confusing when you see all of the different varieties available. There are A-Frames and Two Wheeled Towing dollies, as well as a variety of other types. What kind you ultimately purchase will depend on what you are planning on using it for.

UPDATE - April 2014

From November 2014 new regulations to match the European Safety Directive are being introduced. This will mean that if you are new to towing behind a motorhome you will only be able to use a proper car carrying trailer, (where all 4 of the car wheels are off the ground on the trailer) and which also has the brakes operated on a centre axle.

If you are already towing prior to this date, the the law will not be retrospectively applied, BUT once a car is registered after 1st November 2014 it must be carried on the new car carrying trailer. A-frames will not be permitted.

A-Frames

An A-Frame is attached to the vehicle which is being used to tow it, and is therefore considered a single unit. This is otherwise known as a trailer. Trailers can be used for a variety of different things, including the transportation of other vehicles and large loads of things. As long as the trailer, or A-Frame Dolly, does not go over the towing capacity of the vehicle, you can use them for just about anything. There are a few things to remember when purchasing this type of towing dolly, although a complete guideline of the requirements should be consulted as well.

  • If the trailer does not have a combined axle mass of over 750 kg, you are not required to have brakes fitted to it. However, if you do purchase a trailer with a braking system, you have to make sure it works correctly.
  • Any trailer that weighs more than 750kg has to be fitted with a braking system. It can be one that is connected to the vehicle brakes, or a separate one operated through the hitch, but they are required and have to be functioning properly.
  • These types of trailers also must have a secondary coupling system, which means that if the trailer comes loose from the main coupler, it will stop automatically.

Two-wheeled Dollies

A Dolly is a device which should only be used to transport a non-functional vehicle. For example, if your car breaks down in the middle of the road, a dolly can be used to tow it back to your home or a garage. With this type of dolly, one set of the disabled car’s tyres, front or rear, is on the ground, while the other end is suspended on the dolly. When using this type of dolly, it is important to ascertain that the vehicle doing the towing has an adequate braking system, and that the combined weight of the dolly and the vehicle being towed does not exceed the amount the towing vehicle can pull. In addition, the brakes on the vehicle being towed must be at least 50% functional.

Are All Dollies Legal?

As long as you are using the right type of dolly for your purpose, and you are using it correctly with all of the safety and towing regulations in use, it should be legal. However, different countries do have different regulations about dollies on their highway systems. For example, there are restrictions about how fast a trailer/vehicle combination can go, as well as other restrictions. Before travelling out of the country, it is best to be sure of the regulations in the country to which you are going.

Also, American-made trailers may not meet the safety standards set forth in the UK. Before attaching an American-made trailer of any type to your vehicle, you need to make sure that it is legal. You can access this information on the Department of Transport website. This website can also be used to access information regarding other types of regulations regarding trailers and dollies.

Driving Licence Requirements

In order to be able to drive a vehicle/dolly combination, there are instances where you will need to have a special licence to do so, depending on when your original licence was issued. For example, if your driving licence was issued after January 19, 2013, you are automatically entitled to tow trailers that do not weigh more than 750 kg or those where the weight of the vehicle and trailer together does not weigh over 3500 kg. If your licence was issued after January 1, 1997, you can drive a vehicle that weighs up to 3500 kg and a trailer of 750 kg. The total weight cannot be more than 4250 kg. If your licence was issued prior to 1997 the good news is that generally you can tow a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8.25 tonnes.

Regardless of when your licence was issued, however, you need a special licence in order to drive anything heavier than the above listed weights. Before you decide to tow anything, make sure you have taken and passed both a category B + E driving test.

What else do you need to be aware of?

Before you think about what type of frame you wish to tow with, you will need to consider what your motorhome can actually tow safely and what the noseweight limits will be. Many manufacturer manuals will quote the towing limits.

Don't forget that you will need to include the purchase price and fitting of a suitable towbar and this is likely to be upwards of £600. Seeking out a specialist in fitting motorhomes would be a good idea as there can be issues with water tanks and other equipment fitted to the underside of the vehicle.

Can the car you are thinking of towing actually be towed? If you own an automatic car or a permanent 4x4 it cannot be towed behind a motorhome unless all 4 wheels are off the ground and thereby on a trailer.

Consider fitting a rear camera to your motorhome if you don't already have one. It will make reversing while towing considerably easier.

We would recommend that you fit a sign in the rear window of the car that you are towing to make it clear that you are a motorhome towing a car. Many people will not be familiar or used to motorhomes towing, or just not particularly observant and it will alert them to the fact that you are a lot longer than they may be expecting.

Don't forget that as you are towing your speed limits will be reduced to 50 mph on single carriage roads and 60 mph on dual carriageways and motorways.

Whether you are an experienced driver with towing experience or this is your first time purchasing or using a dolly, make sure that you follow all of the safety regulations and licensing procedures. Not only will it keep you out of trouble legally, but it can keep you, your passengers, and other vehicles on the road safe from harm.

When your motorhome insurance is due for renewal, call us on 01480 402460 for a competitive quote.

If you found this article useful or have any suggestions or questions, please leave a comment below.

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