The Trailer test. Towing and the law.

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It used to be the case that once you had passed your car test (cat B), you could legally tow a trailer (cat E). Drivers who passed their car test before 1st January 1997 still have this entitlement - under something called "Grandfather rights."


People who passed their (cat B) car test on or after 1st January 1997 are required to pass a separate test to gain full (cat E) trailer entitlement on their licence. There are some exceptions to this rule and these drivers can legally tow a trailer providing certain conditions are met. In brief:


You can drive a vehicle up to 3500kg maximum weight and tow a trailer with a maximum "plated" weight up to 750kg.
Whilst this means you can tow a small trailer to take garden rubbish to the tip, this doesn't allow you to tow something like a horsebox! However, there is another exception where all three rules must be met:


Rule 1. The maximum possible weights of both the towing vehicle and trailer combined must not exceed 3500kg and
Rule 2. The maximum "plated" weight of the trailer must not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle and
Rule 3. The maximum "plated" weight of the trailer must not exceed the vehicle manufacturers towing limit.

 

Let’s take the example of a popular mid-size car – 2009 Vauxhall Astra 1.9 CDTi Sri 150.
Kerb weight: 1426kg (true unladen weight is 1320kg)
Max gross weight: 1900kg
Max towing limit: 1500kg

Now let’s take a couple of caravans:

The Swift Charisma 230.
Unladen weight: 1118kg
Max permitted mass: 1300kg.
Our interpretation: LEGAL with the above car without a trailer test.

The Swift Challenger 625
Unladen weight: 1542kg
Max permitted mass: 1818kg.
Our interpretation: ILLEGAL with the above car without a trailer test.

(data taken from the Swift caravan web site)

Now let's take two of the market leading horsebox trailers:

HB403 single horsebox.
With standard manufacturers rating plate.
Unladen weight: 767kg
Max permitted mass: 1600kg.
Our interpretation: ILLEGAL with the above car without a trailer test.

"Down-plated" by manufacturer to 1300kg.
Unladen weight: 767kg
Max permitted mass: 1300kg.
Our interpretation: LEGAL with the above car without a trailer test. Can carry a single 533kg horse.

 

HB506 double horsebox.
With standard manufacturers rating plate.
Unladen weight: 920kg
Max permitted mass: 2600kg.
Our interpretation: ILLEGAL with the above car without a trailer test.

"Down-plated" by manufacturer to 1300kg.
Unladen weight: 920kg
Max permitted mass: 1300kg.
Our interpretation: LEGAL with the above car without a trailer test. Can carry a 380kg pony.

 

Now let’s couple the Astra with our double horsebox.
As long as we plate it correctly for the Astra you can LEGALLY carry a load of approximately 650kg without passing a trailer test. This is equivalent to a single 16 hand heavy-weight horse or two 14 hand ponies.

More details, including a list of popular vehicles that are legal with our trailer for cat B only drivers, can be found on our "me" page. If you have any questions please drop us a line.

In the development of our horsebox we conducted extensive research in to these regulations. We are sad to say that even the Police and DVLA don't really understand them. We were told several times by people working for both that drivers without trailer entitlement on their licence are not allowed to tow ANYTHING. This is most definitely NOT the case.

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