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How to choose the right car for towing

Whether you want to tow a trailer, a camper or a caravan, finding the right car is not as straightforward as you may think.

It’s all very well taking a car for a test drive and being happy with its performance but as soon as you hitch anything to the back of a car the driving experience changes. Luckily there are several ways of spotting a good towing car without having to hitch it up.

The Law and Towing

Pick up towing a boat

Some drivers are not aware of this but it is important to note that when you passed your driving test has a direct implication on the weight you can tow. Most drivers can tow some form of caravan, and therefore a trailer or a camper, on their standard licence.

If you passed your test before January 1997 you can drive a car and a trailer with a combined weight, Gross Train Weight (GTW) that is below 8250kg.

If, however you passed your test after January 1997 then to drive a car and caravan where the GTW exceeds 3500kg you will need to take an additional B&E towing test.


For optimum towing capability, it is recommended to tow a maximum load that is no more than 85% of your car’s kerb weight. You should never tow more than 100%. Caravans have the MTPLM (Maximum Technically Permitted Laden Mass) clearly indicated on the outside for ease of reference, this should not be confused with MiRO (Mass in Running Order) the weight your caravan is before you put belongings into it. If in doubt about how much your caravan weighs you can use a nose weight gauge to check.

Towing weight

Car manuals will often tell you the maximum weight a car can tow. If you already have a caravan then you should easily be able to work out whether a car can tow it. If you don’t have a caravan yet then perhaps do some research into caravan weights so you will have those figures to hand when shopping for a car. Remember as your family grows you might need to upgrade your caravan and this could increase the weight so you may want to take this into consideration.

Engine Power and Torque

After weight, the biggest consideration should be engine power and torque. The power to weight ratio (often referred to as BHP per tonne) can be almost halved when a caravan is attached to theFlange tow bar popular choice for towing hitch, so this figure is a very useful indicator. As a rule of thumb 40bhp/tonne of the GTW is a good minimum figure to aim for. This should offer you reasonable performance whilst giving enough power to overtake.

Torque is a measure of your engines pulling power. You should be looking for good torque at low engine speeds which will allow easy pulling away. In general, more low-down torque is found in diesel cars making them very good towing cars.

Whichever car you do decide upon for towing, remember that the car will handle very differently when hitched up. Slow and steady driving with more fluid movements is a must for safe towing, so allow extra time to reach your destination. Happy Towing!