Considering towing a car, boat or trailer behind your motorhome or campervan? Not sure about the law for motorhome towing, what you need to do or if it will be more difficult to use your motorhome? Good news- here’s everything you need to know about towing with a motorhome or camper.
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Motorhome Towing – why we do it
We travel Europe with our motorhome and most of the time we tow 2 motorbikes on a trailer behind our van. We love having the bikes with us as it gives us freedom to explore and makes it easier to visit places in towns or cities.
The reason we decided to buy a motorhome in the first place was because we wanted to explore Europe with our motorbikes.
Initially, we were stuck between whether to buy a caravan or motorhome, but, obviously, you can’t tow a trailer if you’re already towing a caravan- so that was that decision made!
But we’ve also done several trips without the bikes (and trailer!), so we know the pros and cons of motorhome towing and whether it’s worth it or not.
There are a lot of myths and incorrect information about motorhome towing, so we’ve put this guide together to help you decide if you WANT to tow, and then figure out what you need to know to stay legal as you travel around the UK or Europe.
Planning to take your motorhome to Europe?
Motorhome Towing Guide Questions
There are some common questions we get asked regularly. (I’ll use the term ‘motorhome’ predominantly in this guide, but most of these rules apply just as well to campervans and RV towing too.)
- Does towing with a motorhome make it harder to drive?
- Does having a trailer or car cost more on ferries/ tunnel?
- How to find places to stay while motorhome towing
- Is it legal to tow with a motorhome or campervan/ motorhome towing laws?
- Are A-frames legal in Europe?
- What’s the best trailer to pull behind a motorhome?
- What’s the best car to pull behind a motorhome?
Below, I’ll break those questions down and answer them for you.
If you have any questions which this guide DOESN’T cover, please do leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help.
Watch the motorhome towing video
Prefer watching to reading? Here’s the video we filmed about towing with a motorhome, which covers some (but not all!) of the points listed below.
We hope you found the video useful. If you did, we’d love it if you followed us on Youtube. New videos with tips for motorhoming and campervanning in the UK and Europe are released weekly.
Is it legal to tow with a motorhome?
Yes, you’re allowed to tow with your motorhome as long as:
- YOU are legally allowed to tow on your licence (the law was recently changed to allow everyone the ability to tow up to 3.5 tonnes on their full UK licence, as long as the below is taken into account)
- The gross train weight (GTW) of the motorhome is not exceeded (see below)
- The towbar can take the weight of the trailer/ car (not all towbars can take all loads)
- You stick to the speed limits for vehicles towing
- You’re only using an A-frame in the UK. Europe is where things get tricky (see section below)
Motorhome towing capacity
Ok, bear with me. I’m about to spew acronyms at you.
You need to know a couple of numbers.
- First, you need to know what the weight of your motorhome/ camper is. That INCLUDES all passengers, fuel, water, gas, food, clothes, paddleboards- EVERYTHING. You need to know the weight of it all while fully-loaded (go to a weighbridge to get this right- it’s so easy to underestimate it.)
- Then, you need to know the weight of the car or trailer you want to tow behind the motorhome. This is the weight with EVERYTHING on it- so, for example, the weight of the trailer with our 2 motorbikes on it.
Your Gross Train Weight (GTW) restriction is the weight of the motorhome (fully laden) and the trailer/ car (fully laden) TOGETHER.
So, for example, if your motorhome is 3 tonnes fully laden, and your trailer is 750kg, your GTW would be 3.75 tonnes.
THEN, you need to make sure you are under the GTW that your motorhome is ALLOWED to pull. This is often on a plate inside the driver or passenger door, but if not should be in your paperwork or online in the specs for your model van.
Most people on a standard UK car licence are allowed to tow up to 750kg max trailer weight (fully laden) and up to 3.5 tonnes as a GTW. So, in the example above, you would NOT be legal.
Note: GTW is NOT the same thing as payload.
Towbar towing capacity
Another thing to consider is the tow bar weight capacity.
There are some trailers/ backboxes which sit totally on the nose of the tow bar. You need to make sure the towbar nose can take any weight you want to put on it. You find this out from your towbar fitter.
The same with towing weight- check this with your towbar fitter and make sure it is enough to accommodate what you want to tow.
If you are planning to put a lot of weight directly onto the towbar, then you need to consider motorhome loading and if the rear axle of the van can take the weight/ how it will affect steering etc.
Don’t expect ANY towbar fitter to be able to fit a towbar to a motorhome. We tried several and had to drive nearly 100 miles to find someone who could do it.
Towing with a Motorhome- pros
We love being able to bring our motorbikes with us and we’ve had some INCREDIBLE adventures on the motorbikes. Some of our favourites include:
- Trollstigen road, Norway (you can drive this in a motorhome too- it’s awesome)
- Gorge road in the Italian Lakes
- Black Forest, Germany
There have definitely been times where we’ve benefitted from having the bikes- such as trying to get into a busy city to do some laundry while travelling.
But, for us, the biggest benefit is the fact that we’re able to continue our hobby (motorbiking) as we travel. And that’s the bottom line which makes all the downsides of motorhome towing worthwhile.
Because, sadly, there are some serious downsides…
Downsides of Motorhome Towing
As I’ve already mentioned, there a quite a few cons to towing with a motorhome!!
- It makes travelling more expensive (fuel costs, ferry or tunnel costs etc)
- it can be harder to find places to park or aires to use overnight.
- Oh, and it can be REALLY terrifying if you lose your brakes while going down a mountain…!
Does towing with a motorhome make it harder to drive?
Towing ANYTHING makes it harder to drive. However, towing a trailer or a car behind a motorhome normally isn’t as difficult as towing something behind a car, because the tow vehicle is so big.
The trailer just follows along quite happily, even when you’re driving up and down mountains with crazy hairpins- we’ve certainly not stopped exploring because we have a trailer.
But, yes, reversing or manoeuvering in tight spaces is DEFINITELY harder with a trailer behind your motorhome.
You also need to be more careful with your route. Not so much on motorways or main roads, but in small villages where turning might be tough. Or in petrol stations, which can be surprisingly hard to get out of!
Does having a trailer or tow car cost more on ferries/ tunnel?
This is one of the biggest downsides for motorhome towing in our opinion- the sheer cost of it.
Now, to be clear, towing doesn’t actually COST more- our mpg doesn’t change very much at all between having a trailer or not. So, if you live and travel in your camper just in the UK, you won’t have many additional costs for taking a trailer- except for some campsite fees.
If you are planning a trip to Europe, you really need to weigh up the pros and cons of taking a trailer or car with you. Because EVERYTHING costs more.
- The ferry/ tunnel is priced based on your length
- Tolls in many countries cost more, as you become a CAT 3 (3 axles), instead of a CAT 2)
- If you travel to Norway ALL the small ferries are also priced on length, so they cost more
- Campsites charge for trailer or car
- Aires in Europe sometimes charge for longer vehicle
- Car parks which require a parking ticket may require 2 or even 3
And those are just the extra costs off the top of my head. We priced up & discovered how much it costs to tour Norway with a motorhome – if you read that post you’ll see how much having the trailer cost us (which is sad, as we only used the bikes for one day due to the AWFUL weather!)
How to find places to stay while motorhome towing
We’ve never had a problem finding somewhere to stay, eventually, but we have definitely had to drive past some pretty options because we couldn’t fit.
Motorhome wild camping guides for the UK & Europe
For information on how to find good wild camping places, WHAT to do when you’re there and how to stay safe, check out our step-by-step guide for motorhome wild camping in the UK and Europe, complete with database of 250+ overnight spots we’ve stayed with our motorhome.
Don’t forget to grab your free wild camping checklist here
One of the most difficult things about having another vehicle is you have to think about motorhome security for your camper AND for the trailer/ car.
We carry wheel locks for the trailer, additional locks/ chains for our bikes and several other devices to make sure they stay safe overnight. It’s definitely something you need to consider.
Motorhome insurance with a trailer or a tow car
Obviously, if you’re taking more, you’re going to need to insure more- which increases the costs.
Make sure it is VERY clear who insures what. We once found ourselves in a situation where our motorhome insurance insured the van and trailer while towing, and our bike insurer insured the bikes while riding, but NO-ONE insured the bikes whilst they were ON the trailer being towed.
You need to make sure your insurance covers you and the motorhome while towing- not all do. If you have a tow car, you need to get motorhome tow car insurance.
You also need to make sure towing with your motorhome or camper doesn’t invalidate your motorhome warranty.
Motorhome Towing Car- Is it legal to tow with an A-frame?
Ok, this is where things get tricky.
An A-frame is legal for towing a car behind a motorhome in the UK, as long as it has the correct gear (number plate, working lights etc) and the GTW isn’t exceeded (see above.)
A-frames are NOT considered legal in most European countries.
In fact, most countries will stop and fine you for using an A-frame to tow a car.
Let’s dive into this in more detail.
In many European countries, an A-frame is ONLY allowed for use as a recovery tool by licensed recovery operators- not a way of towing while touring in your motorhome.
Whilst many people do ‘get away with it’, there are plenty of people stopped and fined each year while motorhoming in France, Spain and many other countries. The only option these counties permit is a proper trailer, which I know many people dislike because it’s a faff.
Downsides to towing with A-frames
That said, A-frames have been known to twist the body of the car whilst it’s being towed, making them dangerous and sometimes even undriveable.
There’s also an added risk in an accident, as the A-frame modifications mean you will cause much more damage should you hit something, or someone!
The Vienna Convention
There is an EU treaty called the Vienna Convention, part of which states (paraphrasing) that a vehicle which is legal in its own country can pass through a member state, even if it doesn’t comply with the laws in that state (as long as it stays for less than 6 months.)
However, this doesn’t apply to A-frames. Even the UK Gov website recommends not using an A-frame without doing further research into the rules of the country you’ll be passing through.
Why are A-frames legal in the UK and not in Europe? I have absolutely no idea, but it’s worth being aware of the laws if you’re planning to tow a car abroad.
Remember, this only applies to A-frames. Trailers are fine, although you might need a green card from your insurer for the trailer.
What is the best motorhome for towing?
Weirdly, I get asked this question a lot! Not all campervans and motorhomes are suitable for towing. You also need to make sure the camper will pull the weight you want it to. There’s no ‘best’ motorhome, but if you want to tow, be sure to pick a motorhome which will do the job.
Also, not all motorhomes can have a towbar fitted to them. Apparently, some chassis are not suitable. Bear this in mind if you are looking to buy a motorhome and want to tow.
What’s the best car to pull behind a motorhome
We’ve never towed a car behind our motorhome, so can’t offer any advice on this, other than a small one- remember you need to take the weight of the car into consideration for the GTW.
Unless of course you have an American RV, in which case you can tow a pickup truck!
Motorhome towing- is it worth it?
So, after all that, you probably think we’re mad for towing with a motorhome!! But it comes down to personal choice and why you’re travelling in the first place.
- If you prefer campsites near big attractions with easy access to trains, buses, cycle routes or even hire cars, then you probably don’t need to tow anything.
- If you head off into the wilds and want to be as discreet as possible and/ or keep costs down, you don’t need to tow
- But, if you like to stay on a campsite and not move for a week, you might want another vehicle to pop to shops or local attractions. Towing a car with you makes sense then- or perhaps hire one in the local area for a few days.
- For us, we just love being able to ride our bikes in beautiful areas during the summer. It’s worth it for us when we choose to take them.
What do you think about towing with a motorhome? Is it something you do/ would like to do? Tell us why below
If you found this motorhome towing guide helpful, feel free to share it on social media so others can benefit too.
Want more tips for motorhoming?
Here are some more ideas you might find useful:
- Essential Motorhome accessories every van should have
- Best Sat-nav for motorhomes or campervans
- Motorhome Security– tips for at home and on the road
- How to get Internet & wifi in a motorhome
- Europe- essential gear for travelling to Europe
- Best gift ideas for motorhome and campervan owners
Want FREE checklists, eBooks and additional tips to help? Visit our resource page
Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
If you’d like to connect with Kat, send her an email or follow her adventures on social media.