Simpler motoring rules will make it easier to enjoy caravaning over summer
Testing to find the top motor
New driving licencing regulations mean towing tests are no longer needed.
Changes to driving licence rules have made it easier for drivers to tow heavier caravans. However, driver training still has a vital role in keeping new caravanners safe on the roads, according to The Camping and Caravanning Club.
Since December 16th last year, drivers who passed their test on or after January 1 1997 have been allowed to tow caravans or trailers weighing up to 3,500kg. Under the old rules these motorists were restricted to driving a car with a caravan that did not exceed 3,500kg total mass, unless they took a towing test to upgrade their licence.
Purpose of rule changes
The purpose of the change was to free-up capacity so more HGV drivers could be licenced but the easing of towing restrictions has given motorists a wider choice of caravans without the added hassle and expense of taking a test.
Drivers who took their test in 1997 or later can now legally drive every car and caravan combination that The Camping and Caravanning Club tested in the annual What Car? Tow Car Awards. Of the 30 models reviewed in 2022, just eight of the car and caravan combinations would have been legal for post-1997 drivers under the old rules.
The Camping and Caravanning Club’s Ian Hewlett, who was a judge for this year’s awards, said: “Caravanners who passed their driving test since the start of 1997 now have a broader choice of cars and caravans than before.
"However, under the old rules these drivers had to take a ‘B+E’ towing test before they were entitled to tow heavier combinations. Training for the test will have improved driver skills, and the test itself was useful in weeding out drivers who had not yet reached a safe standard, and so we believe courses still have an important role to play in road safety.”
To help drivers improve their towing skills and keep them safe on the roads, The Camping and Caravanning Club runs various towing courses.
The Confidence Builder course is ideal for new caravanners or anyone returning to towing after a long break. Drivers have a one-to-one session with an expert instructor who will assess the driver’s abilities and provide constructive feedback.
Drivers also learn about safe caravan loading, levelling the caravan, how to hitch and unhitch, and manoeuvring through a slalom course. The Confidence Builder costs £160 for club members and £185 for non-members.
Ian added: “Towing safely takes knowledge and experience. Drivers can learn how to tow properly on one of our courses, without the added pressure of having to take a test. If you’re going to invest thousands in a tow car and caravan, £160 to learn how to tow safely has to be money well spent.”
For more information about the club, its courses, and how to tow safely, visit www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk site. To read more about Tow Car Awards 2022 visit www.whatcar.com/awards/tow-car-awards site.
The rules are complex but, broadly speaking, if you passed your driving test on or after January 1 1997 …
Old rules: These were more restrictive in terms of towing, and heavily limited the choice of caravan for those who passed their test after 1996 to a total car and caravan weight of 3,500kg. You would have needed to pass a test for higher limits under the old rules.
New rules: You’re now allowed to tow trailers up to 3,500kg Maximum Authorised Mass. This assumes the car is a legal and capable match for the caravan or trailer (different rules apply to Northern Ireland driving licences).
Licence issued before January 1 1997: Nothing has changed for drivers who passed their driving test before January 1 1997.
The Tow Car Awards 2022
The Camping and Caravanning Club has teamed up with What Car? to choose the best tow cars for every need and budget, towing Adria caravans. These are the cars that came out on top.
Some 30 new cars were entered for testing with the prices ranging from just over £20,000 to more than £75,000.
The judging panel this year tested more hybrids and electric vehicles than ever before in the award programme’s 15-year history, which reflects the shift away from cars that solely rely upon an internal combustion engine. More than 20 per cent of this year’s field was made up of pure electric vehicles.
Putting vehicles to the test
Testing was carried out by matching eligible cars to caravans weighted to 85 per cent of the car’s kerb weight or its legal towing limit, depending on which was lower. They were then ballasted to simulate driving with passengers and luggage.
What Car?’s expert road testers were responsible for the most extreme manoeuvres, designed to show which tow cars will stay under control in an emergency.
Tow Car Awards Judge Ian Hewlett said: “This year’s field was packed with great tow cars, but everyone on the judging panel agreed that the Audi Q5 was the best all-rounder.
“It’s vital that motorists match the right car with their caravan, and our awards programme gives drivers excellent insight into the performance of the latest vehicles on the market.”
National World Tow Car Awards winners:
Up to 1,400kg
Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI Evo 150PS SE L 4x4 DSG
The Karoq is a practical and stable lightweight tow car.
Seat Ateca 1.5 TSI Evo SE DSG
Fun to drive and roomy enough for the whole family.
Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI Evo 150PS SE L 4x4 DSG
A spacious and stable tow car with four-wheel drive.
1,700-1,899kg and overall winner
Audi Q5 40 TDI Quattro Sport
Great to tow with and extremely well made.
Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi '3'
The Sorento is brilliantly practical and sensibly priced.
Best Estate Car
Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155PS ST-Line Vignale Auto
With a big boot and a willing engine, the Ford is highly impressive.
Best Plug-In Hybrid
Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid Premium 4WD Auto
Stable and quick, the Tucson has a useful all-electric range.
Best Electric Vehicle
Kia EV6 77.4kWh ‘GT-Line’ AWD Auto
The EV6 shows how quickly electric tow cars are improving.