Which caravan is right for me?
Before choosing your touring caravan, there are steps you may need to take in order to pass certain rules and regulations that enable you to tow. Then you’ll have to decide on exactly what you want from your caravan, thinking about layout, size, style and service cost. Sounds overwhelming? Read on and we’ll help you make the right decision.
What can I tow?
If you have a 4×4 or large estate, you should be able to tow anything available in the UK. If not, you’ll need to workout what it will legally and safely be able to pull.
The key figures here are your car’s kerbweight and the caravan’s Maximum, Technically Permissible Laden Mass or MTPLM. Although it’s not enshrined in law, you shouldn’t tow a fully-laden caravan that weighs more than the kerbweight of your car. Ideally, a full caravan should only weigh 85 per cent of your car’s kerbweight.
The ‘85% rule’ is endorsed by both caravanning clubs.
Which caravan layout?
The next most important factors are how many people the caravan needs to sleep and what it’s going to be used for. The perfect caravan layout hasn’t been invented yet, so you’ll have to work out what suits your individual needs best.
- Do you need two, four, five or six berths?
- Are you going to be staying on large sites with good facilities or off the beaten track?
- Do you plan to self-cater or eat out more?
A couple with two young children will need a van that sleeps four, but a decent kitchen and somewhere for mum and dad to sit in comfort in the evenings might be almost as important. Similarly, a middle-aged couple might only need a two-berth, but a large end washroom will be a big advantage if they plan to stay on small sites with only limited facilities.
The major caravan manufacturers tend to copy one another’s successful layouts, as they’re tried and tested, so you’ll get used to seeing the most popular variations, but you may come across the odd unusual layout on the used market that’s ideal for your specific needs – especially if you look further afield at a few European caravans.
The B+E TEST
If you passed your driving test after January 1997 and you want to tow a heavy car and caravan combination (over 3,500kg combined), then you may also be subject to licence restrictions. In order to tow, you’ll need to take another test that fulfils the B+E category requirements on your licence. For the complete low down on safety rules and other regulations, visit direct.gov.uk and search for ‘towing’.
The B+E test is not dissimilar to an HGV driving test and you’re advised to find a good towing instructor to assist you in preparing. Don’t just give it a go expecting to pass with no help.