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Car towing and trailer insurance

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Towing a trailer opens possibilities for transporting all kinds of items or vehicles. But it also carries legal requirements and car insurance considerations to stay protected on the road. This guide examines trailer cover, towing regulations and tips for safe towing.

Adding a trailer to your car or van involves adjusting your insurance, getting the right towing equipment and sticking to weight limits. We’ll outline the costs, cover and laws to help you keep compliant and fully covered when towing.

What is trailer insurance?

Specialist trailer insurance provides financial protection against:

  • Damage to the trailer, whether it’s hitched or unhitched
  • Loss or damage to contents being carried, such as livestock, furniture or equipment
  • Injury to others that occurs during an accident when towing
  • Use by individuals beyond just policyholder drivers

Standard car insurance only covers trailers attached at the time of incidents. The types of trailers most commonly covered include:

  • Garden trailers
  • Utility trailers
  • Horse boxes or animal trailers
  • Boat trailers
  • Flatbed trailers
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What does trailer insurance cover?

As with car insurance, trailer insurance will typically cover your trailer for accidental damage, third-party damage, fire and theft.

Trailer policies tailored for individual needs might also include:

  • Agreed value cover: set payouts to avoid underinsurance in the event of a total loss
  • Public liability: covers injury to others and property damage
  • Legal expenses: access to legal advice helplines and representation
  • Personal possessions: cover for contents in the trailer
  • Personal accident: cash benefits for injury or death to driver
  • Breakdown assistance: roadside repair and recovery for immobilised trailers

Check your needs against different offerings, as benefits vary by insurer. Paying a little more may guarantee you have adequate protection.

What is not covered by trailer insurance?

Common trailer insurance exclusions include:

  • Loss of income from interrupted business due to trailer damage
  • Damage to the vehicle towing the trailer
  • Improper use, such as using the trailer for commercial purposes on a personal policy
  • Unattached items stored separately from the trailer
  • Wear and tear
  • Driving negligently or under the influence

Verify your policy documents to avoid surprises about what protection you have. Ask providers to explain if any aspects lack clarity.

How much does trailer insurance cost?

Typical trailer cover costs range from £50 to £300 annually depending on:

  • Value: more expensive trailers have higher premiums
  • Usage: personal or business use affects prices
  • Experience: newer trailer owners pay more initially
  • Security: locks, chains and immobilisers reduce premiums
  • Contents: personal items inside increase premiums slightly
  • Voluntary excess: higher excesses reduce base premiums

Shopping around is advised, as costs vary significantly between insurers. Think carefully about the level of protection you need to find the right balance between cost and coverage.

Is there a towing limit for cars?

Vehicles have legal weight limits for towing to remain stable and safe:

  • Gross train weight: the combined allowed weight of the towing vehicle and trailer when fully loaded. This is set by manufacturers and can vary from 1 to 3 tonnes for regular cars. You can usually find this in your car’s owner’s manual or on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate, typically located inside the driver’s door or under the bonnet. If the VIN plate doesn’t list a train weight limit, it means you shouldn’t use your car to tow anything
  • Max towing capacity: the maximum trailer weight your vehicle can tow. This is typically 75 to 85 per cent of its kerb weight for cars

Check your vehicle paperwork for official figures. Towing above the legal weight limit can invalidate your insurance, jeopardise safety and incur fines.

Do I need special insurance to tow a caravan?

Legally, your standard car insurance automatically extends to cover any caravan while attached, including caravans, so specialist cover is not a requirement. However, this often only covers third-party damage to your caravan when it’s being towed. But many insurers impose conditions or restrictions, including the following:

  • Caravans are only covered for a limited number of trips away from home annually
  • Some contents and liability aspects may be excluded

Given the gaps in regular policies, dedicated caravan cover adds peace of mind despite the extra costs, as it will also cover your caravan when it’s parked. You might also be able to claim for a temporary replacement or alternative accommodation if your caravan is damaged in an accident.

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What you need to know about towing licensing

Towing introduces additional licensing requirements beyond your normal car or van entitlements. In England, Wales and Scotland, the rules are as follows:

Category Towing entitlement
B (car licence) issued before 1 January 1997 Up to 8.25 tonnes combined weight in a car or van towing a trailer, or a minibus with a trailer over 750kg
B issued after 1 January 1997 A car or van up to 3.5 tonnes towing a trailer up to 750kg, or a trailer over 750kg as long as it is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle
B issued after 19 January 2013 A car or van up to 3.5 tonnes towing a trailer up to 750kg, or a trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight doesn’t exceed 3.5 tonnes
BE Up to 3.5 tonnes combined weight and trailers over 750kg
C1 (van licence) Up to 8.25 tonnes combined weight and trailers up to 750kg
C1E Up to 8.25 tonnes combined weight and trailers over 750kg

The extra trailer classifications (BE and C1E) require passing additional driving tests for licensing. If you want to tow anything heavier than the limits stated above, you’ll need to pass an additional car and trailer driving test.

What happens if you’re caught towing unsafely?

Exceeding weight limits or towing without proper licensing or insurance brings severe penalties:

  • Fines of up to £2,500 and potential for further prosecution
  • Risk of having your licence revoked or having to undergo mandatory re-testing
  • Invalidated insurance if trailer exclusions are breached. Having no cover means you foot all costs
  • Police have the power to immediately seize vehicles being towed unsafely or illegally

These outcomes also apply if other regulations regarding lighting or number plates are breached. Tow legally or risk losing your licence and uninsured losses.

Other important car towing rules to be aware of

Beyond licensing, key legal trailer towing requirements include:

  • Suitable towbars and electrics: these require certified installation following vehicle maker guidelines
  • Trailer lighting: indicators, brake lights and reflectors must function
  • Trailer registration plates: you must display an official licence plate with lighting
  • Correct driving licence entitlement: your licence group must adhere to combined towing weight limits
  • Load safety: towing requires appropriate restraints, covers and weight balance
  • Towing mirrors: additional mirrors are required if a trailer obstructs your rear vision
  • Speed limits: vehicles towing trailers or caravans are restricted to maximum speed limits, which are:
    • 30mph in built-up areas, unless otherwise stated
    • 50mph on single carriageways
    • 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways

Frequently asked questions about car towing and trailer insurance

For expensive, frequently used trailers or caravans, specialist insurance likely provides useful coverage and extra peace of mind. Evaluate your exact needs against policy costs to determine if it’s right for your situation.

Notifying your insurance provider that you’ll be using your vehicle to tow a caravan ensures you have the necessary coverage in place. Omitting caravan use might mean your claim could be rejected in the event of an accident while towing.

Your home contents insurance might cover your trailer while it’s stored at home in a garage or other outbuilding, but don’t assume this is the case. Check with your provider to ensure you have the right cover in place. In addition, personal possessions cover (which is usually an optional extra on home insurance) might cover any contents kept in your trailer while it’s stored.

Nick Jones

Editor in Chief

Nick Jones is a highly experienced consumer journalist and editor, who has been writing and producing content for print and online media for over 25 years.

He has worked at some of the UK’s leading publishers including Future Publishing, Highbury Entertainment, and Imagine Publishing, with publications as diverse as Homebuilding & Renovating, TechRadar, and Creative Bloq, writing and editing content for audiences whose interests include history, computing, gaming, films, and science. He’s also produced a number of podcasts in the technology, science, gaming, and true crime genres.

Nick has also enjoyed a highly successful career in content marketing, working in a variety of topics such as health, technology, and finance, with market-leading global companies including Cisco, Pfizer, Santander, and Virgin Media.

Now the Editor-in-Chief of the Independent Advisor, Nick is involved in all aspects of the site’s content, where his expertise in finance, technology, and home products informs every article that’s published on-site. He takes a hands-on approach with our VPN content, penning a number of the articles himself, and verifying that everything we publish in this topic is accurate.

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