Caravan Towing Mirrors – Make Sure You Know The Law

Caravan Towing Mirrors – Make Sure You Know The Law

Posted on June 13, 2013 by

Caravan Towing Mirror

Image reproduced with permission from Milenco.com

As the caravan season starts to hot up for this year (and hopefully the weather too…) we thought that it would be a good time to remind caravan owners about the laws pertaining to caravans and mirrors.  It only takes a short drive out and about to start spotting caravan owners who do not have the additional mirrors fitted.

Contrary to popular belief, towing mirrors are a legal requirement for the majority of cars including 4×4’s that are towing a caravan or trailer.

The Law

The law is very clear on the subject of mirrors and towing –

  • If your trailer or caravan is wider than the rear of the towing car, you must fit additional towing mirrors

Aside from breaking the law, if you choose not to fit them you run the risk of –

  • A 3 point penalty on your licence
  • Being prosecuted by the police
  • A fine of up to £1,000 for each mirror infringement

The law also specifies that you must have a clear field of vision 4 metres out from the side of your van, and 20 metres back behind the driver.  The diagram below clearly shows the area either side of the car that you need to be able to see.  Without the additional mirrors, you will find that you may have blind spots caused by the edges of your caravan.

Caravan mirror field of vision

However, the law doesn’t stop there.  To prevent your tow car becoming an additional hazard, there is a maximum distance of 25cm that the mirrors must not extend beyond the width of your caravan; this is reduced to a maximum of 20cm on cars manufactured prior to 26th January 2007.

You may also find that should you be involved in an accident, your car insurance may be invalidated if you are found to be at fault – so is it worth the risk?

Buying Guide

  • Make sure that the mirrors can be adjusted from the driver’s seat
  • Cheap isn’t always best.  Bear in mind that when you are travelling at speed the mirrors need to be strong enough to withstand strong gusts of wind – especially from HGVs travelling in the opposite direction.
  • Extendable mirrors must be E-marked (lower or upper case) to show that they comply with EU safety regulations if the car was registered after 26th January 2010.  This is not a legal requirement if the car was registered prior to this date.
  • Measure your car and caravan carefully to ensure that you are buying mirrors that can see the full distance required, but do not extend too far
  • Not all mirrors fit all cars, so double check before buying
  • Look for mirrors that are made with safety glass

There are many makes on the market, but Milenco is a particularly well-known one with a variety of different mirrors priced from around £20 upwards.  They are available from many caravan accessory stockists and also online from Amazon.

Fitting Your Mirrors

Ideally this is a job that should be carried out by two people.  One inside the car fitting the mirrors and another standing back at the required 20 metres and testing your potential blind spot areas.  The second person can also help to fit the mirror on the offside of the car, again to make sure the angle is correct.

From the driver’s seat, the mirrors need adjusting in the same way.  A good rule of thumb is that on both sides of the car you should be able to see –

  • The caravan grabhandle
  • The caravan wheel-arch
  • A clear vision of the road behind you including the road surface alongside the caravan
  • If you can see into the caravan front window, they probably need adjusting outwards a bit more

If you have got your mirrors in the correct place, you should be able to see any pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists approaching or crossing close to you.  Use your helper to make sure that this is the case.

Finally,

Don’t forget to remove your mirrors when you have detached the caravan or trailer.  It is an offence to drive with them still attached.

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

Whilst it is not a legal requirement to have insurance on your caravan, it would be a wise investment. After all, your caravan probably cost you a lot of money and your investment should be protected.  Quality insurance from Lifesure is probably cheaper than you think, so call the team on 01480 402460 for a quote and prepare to be pleasantly surprised!

Comments

Paul Richardson 11th January 2014

The 25cm out for mirrors on newer vehicles is ok nut on older vehicles with mirrors at 20cm may not give thew correct viewing when attached to a new caravan as a lot of new caravans are now up to 150mm wider than older ones
i think it would be that the 25cm out would have to be used.

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Alan turner 5th July 2014

Some mirror manufacturers offer longer arms for mirrors which is handy if your cars wing mirrors are very curved meaning you can’t clamp them right at the edge or you have a wider van like a 5th wheeler.

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Matthew Bishop 5th July 2014

Thank you for bringing my knowledge of mirrors up to date, really useful.

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Brian Sowton 5th July 2014

How or are the rear view regulations affected if you use a Camara on the rear of the caravan as a rear view mirror?

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    Sandra Hamilton 8th July 2014

    Hi Brian,

    I have been on to the Government website and unfortunately the law has not been updated yet with regards to rear view cameras – perhaps because they are still relatively new technology. I would suggest that it would be better to err on the side of caution as unless you are recording what it happening all of the time on your journey, it could be difficult to prove to the Police that you had your camera switched on.

    Sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry.

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    Richard Wilson 7th May 2017

    You will still need to be able to see down the side of the trailer / caravan so you dont side swipe someone. The legal view includes alongside the trailer / caravan not just behind it.

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Andrew Wrigley 5th July 2014

RE Mirror’s…. We have a very large 4×4 and the standard mirrors give me excellent vision however we also have a rear mounted camera fitted to the caravan which covers a much wider and longer area than any mirrors fitted, including any legal requirement “extending mirrors”. I have tried to use the legal extended mirrors but they cause so much shake/movement to the vehicles mirrors through wind movement its virtually impossible to see out of them, whilst it may be “technically” illegal not to use extended mirrors I find its SAFER to use the standard car mirrors (remembering I can see down the side of our van) AND the caravan camera system. And would argue this in any court or with any smart ar** traffic constabulary, its a safety requirement and my route is safest in my instance. Having said all this I can see why and agree you would need them on a standard car caravan combo.

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    OldSnowdrop 6th December 2016

    It isn’t a legal requirement to be able to see behind your caravan, as a rear view camera would do. But you must be able to see down both sides. If that smart a@$ed copper sits in your driver seat and can’t see both rear corners of your caravan in the mirrors then you can be fined up to £1000 per mirror. You can argue all you want in court. It is the law.

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John 5th July 2014

Great information

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Neil Collins 5th July 2014

Very informative, it’s good to know what is required by law. I come close but I will be getting my tape measure out to make sure.
Many thanks

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Bernard O'Hagan 5th July 2014

It is impossible for me to adjust my nearside caravan mirror from the drivers seat. Please tell me how this is done,

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    Sandra Hamilton 8th July 2014

    Hi Bernard,

    I agree, some mirrors can be incredibly difficult to adjust, especially by yourself.

    Is it possible for you to have an ‘assistant’ when fitting the mirrors? If not, I suspect that you are going to get fit dashing backwards and forwards. Hopefully someone will come up with remote control mirrors at some point……

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Stella Colley 5th July 2014

Hmmmm, all well & good, but does the average bobby ( no longer traffic officer due to cut backs) know all this complicated stuff? And if you’ve had an accident with a caravan in tow, most likely it’s serious enough to have lost mirrors anyway. This is an example of the British Government’s ( & the EU) attitude that if you pass legislation making stuff illegal it will either:
1: Stop people doing illegal stuff, or
2: (Most likely) Make loads of money in fines, or
3: (Even more likely)have no effect whatsoever.

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Barry Orton 5th July 2014

Does the 20/25cm limit apply to each mirror (i.e. 40/50 total), or combined width?

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    Sandra Hamilton 8th July 2014

    Hi Barry,

    The width is a maximum per mirror, per side.

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David Seager 7th July 2014

The mirrors must not extend 20 or 25 cm beyond the width of the caravan, not the car.

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John Morris-Roberts 7th July 2014

I have a 4×4 Chevy Captiva, can just see behind me. However I do have a camera on the back of my caravan, and a small video on the dash, that shows me everything behind me, I can even hear anyone standing behind me talking.

Do I still need extension wing mirrors?

Incidentally I find having an extra mirror quite difficult to adjust to.

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    Sandra Hamilton 8th July 2014

    Hi John,

    Thank you for your message.

    The law hasn’t yet been updated to take into consideration rear view cameras as far as I am aware, so I would still have the mirrors fitted as I wouldn’t want to prove to a Police Officer that my camera was actually switched on when they stopped me.

    Part of the purpose of the mirrors is not just to be able to see behind you, but also to the side and it could be argued that some cameras do not adequately cover the blind spots that a mirror would.

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luay---m 11th July 2014

Extendable mirrors wobble at speeds above 30mph.

I use blind spot Mirrors that bolt on the end of the plastic casing and they stay still at 60mph.

Car manufacturers should make towing cars the same width as Caravans.

Trucks are 8foot wide so are the trailers.

May I please add a note.

When a HGV that is 60foot long overtaking caravan towers on motorways or dual carigeways. Would it be possible for you to be polite and not speed up and match there speed. They are limited between 50–57mph and cannot go any faster unless they are Scottish or Irish drivers that can.

It is most annoying when overtaking Caravans and they wont let HGVs back to lane one.

We do go slow but we don’t want to go slower stuck behind a caravan who speeds up then slows down again.

Many thanks.

Luay.

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Mark Adams 12th July 2014

We use mirrors that attach to your exisitng car mirrors with a sucker directly onto the glass (they also have a safety strap in case the suction breaks and they fall off). These are excellent as they allow adjustment using the cars normal electric mirror control.This has massivly reduced our ‘mirror stress’ – no more me or my wife having to put our arms out the window on the motorway!

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Arthur branthwaite 13th July 2014

The idea of sucker mirrors that stick on to the cars adjustable ones is a great one,anyone know where they are available from

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Mick Cantwell 18th July 2014

I have found this article very informative, the mirrors I have used for the
past three years are strap on’s I have had no trouble with them.

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Robert wray 18th July 2014

I now use the stick to glass mirrors. They sell them at Towsure, though I didn’t buy mine there. Used on both a Discovery and saloon car. Adjustment so easy and even at continental speed limits they are firmly fixed. Wouldn’t use anything else now

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Matt Hyde 24th July 2014

If the Police are going to try and prosecute you for not having your rear view camera on, THEY have to provide evidence that you were breaking the law (ie couldn’t see). This would only be likely if you reverse into a Police car or into an obstruction within sight of a Police officer short on his quota.

We can’t be expected to prove that we’re NOT breaking any of the 50,000+ driving laws and regulations.

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Pedro 18th June 2016

Typical of the Government change a law but do not put it on their web site where people look!

https://www.gov.uk/towing-with-car/towing-equipment
Towing mirrors

You must have an adequate view of the road behind you. If your caravan or trailer is wider than the rear of the towing vehicle, you may need to fit suitable towing mirrors.

You can get 3 points on your licence and be fined up to £1,000 for towing without proper towing mirrors.

Very ambiguous can someone define adequate view!

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    OldSnowdrop 6th December 2016

    Adequate view is defined in the accompanying diagram. Basically down the side oF the caravan or trailer so you can see the rear corner. Them 4m out and 20m to the rear.

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Ronald cane 2nd July 2016

I have mirrors fitted when towing, what a Pain they are, I never ever look in them because they vibrate and are not in the expected place when quick looking, I have towed all over the world for 60 years and never found a need for mirrors I sapose you people who swear by them don’t have the experience, the good thing is I never have to adjust them, there only there to keep mr plod happy ,,safe driving

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Doug R. 16th August 2016

My trailer is only 1 to 2cm wider than my car and that is only the width across the mud guards, The trailer is a flat bed which I carry my 500cc Quad on which makes the interior rear view mirror redundant when it is loaded, so have to rely on my wing mirrors, if I use the trailer to transport a flat load or empty I have a clear rear view of traffic from all mirrors.
When reversing I cannot see the rear corners of the trailer with or without the Quad on it.
I borrowed some reversing mirrors from a friend, we fitted them and my rear view showed a great improvement I could clearly see the rear corners of the trailer and a great deal more vision behind when the quad was loaded.
Could anyone please tell me if I am breaking the law by using reversing mirrors when towing my trailer with or without a load on it?

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    Sandra Hamilton 16th August 2016

    Hi Doug,

    Thank you for your question.

    When you say reversing mirrors I am assuming that you are actually referring to towing mirrors? If so, according to the Government website says “You must have an adequate view of the road behind you. If your caravan or trailer is wider than the rear of the towing vehicle, you may need to fit suitable towing mirrors.

    If having mirrors increases your visibility then I would fit them. I cannot see the police objecting to you improving what you can see.

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Kevin Wilkes 19th February 2017

The only vehicle i have with a tow bar is a Renault Dispatch van. Do they need towing mirrors & do they make mirrors to fit vans?

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    Sandra Hamilton 20th February 2017

    Hi Kevin,

    Thank you for your question.

    If you cannot see the requisite 4m out and 20m back as shown in the diagram above, then yes you need the mirrors.

    Towing mirrors are available for vans and I’ve found some here on the Towsure website.

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Stephen Flint 9th April 2018

Excellent information regarding the use of mirrors on and off the Car.

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