Driving around and exploring in a motorhome is a great thing to do, but there are limitations. Your motorhome can be a great base for a holiday or a spot of wild camping, but for short excursions or for popping to the shops for supplies a motorhome can be challenging to use. There are also routes that might not be the most suitable for your motorhome.
These issues are forcing many motorhome owners to consider towing cars or some other kind of vehicle behind their motorhome, but what are the rules?
In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know about motorhome towing.
What is the Purpose of Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome?
There are lots of reasons why you might want to use your motorhome as a towing vehicle. Here are some of the key advantages:
- Motorhome towing provides increased flexibility when it comes to getting around because you’ll have another option aside from driving your motorhome everywhere you want to go
- Towing with your motorhome brings extra flexibility if you’re taking a holiday in your motorhome
- Motorhomes are a great holiday base but driving one around towns, cities, or winding country roads can be challenging. Towing a smaller vehicle gives you another option.
- Parking motorhomes can be challenging but if you’ve got a smaller vehicle you can use it’s not such an issue as you can leave the motorhome somewhere that’s more accessible.
- Towing a car makes parking in busy cities and mobility easier.
- Towing a vehicle is convenient because it means you can roam without having to keep packing up and manoeuvring a large vehicle.
How to Tow a Car with a Motorhome?
Motorhome towing is not as complicated as it might seem. There are several things to consider, but the following steps will get you heading in the right direction.
Determine the Towing Method
The first step is to decide which motorhome towing method you’re going to use. You have plenty of options, each with its own set of pros and cons. There may also be legal requirements you need to consider. Let’s take a quick look at your options.
Flat Towing (Dinghy Towing) or Car Trailer
Flat towing is a method you can use to tow almost any type of vehicle, including a tow car. You drive the car onto a flat trailer platform, make sure it’s securely anchored and you’re ready to roll.
Flat car transporter trailers are easy to manoeuvre and back up, plus you can tow more than one vehicle behind your RV, as long as the flat trailer is large enough and can support the weight.
- One person can hook up and disconnect flat car transporter trailers
- It’s a cost-effective option
- Flat tows are compatible with most vehicle types
- Loading a flat trailer takes time and effort
- You’ll need space to park the trailer at home and when on the road
- Flat trailers require a high towing capacity
A tow dolly is a small trailer that lifts the front wheels of the tow car off the ground. It’s a good option for two-wheel drive vehicles. If you want to tow a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the drive shaft must be disconnected and removed.
For this type of motorhome towing method, you need to be certain your motorhome’s braking system is adequate. In addition, the combined weight of the dolly plus the tow car shouldn’t exceed the recommended towing vehicle capacity.
- You can use this method for most front-wheel drive vehicles
- You back a tow dolly the same as any other trailer
- The tow car doesn’t need to have a baseplate plate
- Costs more than flat towing methods
- Not compatible with all types of cars
Tow Bar with Auxiliary Braking System
Tow bars are a very common method for motorhome towing. The bar links the vehicle to the motorhome. The towed vehicle keeps all its wheels on the ground and a safety chain or cable is typically used for added stability.
A supplementary brake system or lights ensures the towed vehicle can show brake lights and indicators. Motorhomes registered after April 1st, 2012 must be fitted with an EC-approved tow bar.
- Cheap and space-efficient towing method
- More manoeuvrable and less complicated to navigate tight roads and tight corners
- Some motorhomes can’t be fitted with a tow bar
- Fitting the tow bar can be complicated
- Might not be suitable for a larger tow car
A-frames are a popular way of towing a vehicle behind a motorhome. The method is also known as flat towing and uses a triangle-shaped frame that attaches to the front of the tow car. It then hooks onto the tow bar of the motorhome.
In the UK, there are technical requirements that must be met, relating to lights and braking. Additional braking systems are required for tow cars over 750kg. Cars attached to a motorhome using an A-frame are legally treated as a trailer. This means the number plate must be replaced with a copy of the motorhome’s number plate.
Something worth noting, if you’re thinking about using an A-frame, is that they’re not considered legal in most other European countries. In many, you’ll be stopped and fined for using an A-frame to tow a car.
- When not in use they require little space for storage
- A cheaper option than a car transporter trailer
- A-frames must be professionally installed, often with electric/vacuum braking systems linked up to the car
- Reversing can be an issue
- More suitable for smaller tow cars
- Not a legal option in most European countries
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Methods of Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome?
There are several factors to consider when deciding which towing method to use.
Motorhome manufacturer manuals usually provide towing limit information. You can also find the maximum towing capacity under the specifications of the motorhome’s chassis.
Motorhome towing capacity is the maximum weight a chassis can deal with. This maximum weight differs depending on the class of the motorhome and many other factors.
To be safe and legal, the motorhome needs to have more towing capacity than the heaviest thing you want to tow.
When calculating a vehicle’s towing capacity, you must include things like a spare wheel, fuel, and water tanks, as well as the actual trailer and vehicle being towed.
Not all motorhomes are suitable for towing. Firstly, you need to make certain the motorhome is capable of towing the weight you want it to. Next, you must be sure you’re within the law.
Not all towing methods are easy to manoeuvre. A-frames, for example, can’t be used to reverse. You need to think about where you plan to use your motorhome and tow vehicle and pick a method that suits your skills. Trailers can be challenging to master, whereas a tow bar is easy to remove.
Whatever method you use to tow a car behind your motorhome there will come a time when you need to store it. A full-size trailer requires a large storage space, whereas an A-frame or tow bar required hardly anything at all.
Price is an important factor, particularly when your motorhoming experience has to fit a tight budget. The cheapest way is to use a tow bar. A flatbed trailer will likely be the most expensive option.
Licensing and Regulations
The law sets limits on who is legally permitted to tow a vehicle and it depends on the type of driving licence you hold. Anyone who passed their driving test before 1997 is automatically entitled to drive anything up to 7500 kg. This is called a driving licence C1 entitlement. On top of that, you’re allowed to drive a trailer of up to 750kg.
Once you reach the age of 70, the C1 entitlement on a driving licence is automatically taken away, unless you get a doctor’s note to get it reinstated.
If you passed your driving test after January 1, 1997, you can tow a caravan or trailer up to 3500kg. If you want to tow anything heavier, you must take an additional test.
It’s important to note that the rules above apply to the UK. If you’re planning to drive your motorhome anywhere else, you should check the local rules.
What is the Best Way to Tow a Car With a Motorhome?
The best way to tow a car with a motorhome is to use a tow bar. A tow bar links the vehicle behind your motorhome. However, it’s not an option for all motorhomes, so you might need to consider an alternative such as an A-frame or flat trailer.
What is the Safest Way to Tow a Car Behind a Motorhome?
The safest way of towing with a motorhome is to flat tow it. It’s the method most people are familiar with, but it doesn’t work for all vehicles.
What Equipment Do You Need to Tow a Car with a Motorhome?
If you want to take a vehicle with you when travelling with a motorhome, it requires some additional equipment. For example
- Supplemental Braking System: A supplemental braking system is a device that applies the brakes on a towed vehicle whenever the brakes are applied in the motorhome.
- Baseplate: A baseplate is used for flat-towing a vehicle. They can be either vehicle-specific or universal baseplates.
- Safety Cables: Safety cables attach the brake system on a trailer to the back of the tow vehicle. It is there in case a trailer unhooks from the tow vehicle. Should this happen, a pin pulls out and the trailer brakes are activated. It is also known as a breakaway system.
- Wiring Harness: To tow safely and in accordance with the law, you may need to think about a wiring harness to connect the trailer or tow car to your vehicle’s lighting system. The type you require depends on the vehicle.
- Weight Distribution Hitch: A weight distribution hitch attaches to a tow vehicle using a vehicle’s rear receiver hitch. It is used to ensure that the tongue weight of a trailer is kept at a safe 10 to 15% of the load, thereby reducing the chances of losing control.
Connect the Towing Equipment
Connecting the towing equipment is an important part of the process. You should start by plugging in the lights, then connect the chains and breakaway cable. The chains should be crossed and correctly adjusted so they’re not dragging on the ground. Once everything is connected, there are important checks to make.
Check Lights and Signal
Check all the lights and signals by walking around the vehicle being towed or the trailer. You might need a friend to help activate the signals and lights while you check that they’re working.
Check Safety Chains or Cables
Make sure all the safety chains or cables are correctly connected.
Test the Brakes
Finally, you can move on to checking the brakes.
What Towbars can be used on a Motorhome?
Towbars are a common method for towing behind a motorhome, but there are different ones to choose from. Here is a list of the most common towbars you can use on a motorhome.
- Fixed Flange: A towbar is a permanent fixture that’s bolted onto a faceplate. If you’re going to be towing a vehicle regularly it’s a good option. It’s compatible with most accessories and typically the cheapest option.
- Detachable Flange: A detachable flange is very robust and versatile, just like a fixed flange, but with the added benefit that you can remove it when not in use.
- Fixed Swan Neck: A fixed swan neck is sleeker and more aesthetically pleasing. You’ll find it compatible with AL-KO stabilisers, however, you can’t use it for towing and carrying bikes simultaneously.
- Detachable Swan Neck: A detachable swan neck is equally appealing, but you can remove it when not in use.
- Retractable Towbar: You can fold away a retractable towbar when not in use. It takes just a couple of seconds. It offers the same advantages as the different types of detachable towbars.
When towing a vehicle, you should check the noseweight. This is the downward force a towed vehicle exerts on a towing car’s tow ball and is important for towing stability and safety. In other words, if the nose weight is insufficient, the towed vehicle tilts and becomes unstable.
National Caravan Council recommendations are that nose weight should be around 5 to 7% of a towed vehicle’s laden weight.
For example, if the loaded trailer weighs 1,000kg, the noseweight should be at least 50 kg.
Additionally, the noseweight applied to the tow ball must not exceed the tow ball limit set by the motorhome manufacturer.
If you decide to use a chassis extension on a coachbuilt motorhome, it might lower the permissible noseweight specified by the base vehicle manufacturer.
If you’re towing a luggage trailer or caravan, you can adjust the noseweight by redistributing the weight of any equipment either in front of or behind the trailer axle.
For trailers carrying a single large item like a boat or car, it’s recommended you use a purpose-made trailer designed to achieve the desired noseweight with that specific load.
What are the Legal Requirements for Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome?
There are several legal requirements you must comply with if you want to tow a car behind your motorhome. They include:
- Laws that impose a maximum towing limit based on your driver’s licence. For example, people who passed their driving test before 1997, have a C1 entitlement. This allows you to drive vehicles up to 7500 kg and tow a trailer up to 750kg.
- In 1997, the rules changed, limiting the driving of cars or vans up to 3,500kg and towing a trailer up to 750kg (total weight of 4,250kg).
- From January 19, 2013, those who passed their car driving test have the same rules, allowing them to tow a car or van up to 3,500kg and use tow trailers up to 750kg (total weight of 4,250kg).
- You can tow a trailer over 750kg is permitted only if the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer does not exceed 3,500kg
- Individuals who passed their driving test before January 1, 1997, can still drive a combination of a vehicle and trailer weighing up to 8,250kg.
- People who passed their test after January 1, 1997, can tow a caravan or trailer up to 3,500kg. If the towing weight exceeds this limit, additional testing is required
Are there any Specific Regulations Regarding the Length or Width of the Towed Car?
The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. The maximum length for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3,500kg is 7 metres.
Are There Any Speed Limits or Restrictions When Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome?
In the UK, if you’re towing a car behind an RV on the motorway, your speed is limited to 60 mph. In addition, you’re not allowed in the outside lane if there are three lanes or more.
On dual carriageways, the same rule applies regarding speed. In other words, the limit is 60mph.
On a single-carriageway road, the limit for a motorhome towing a car is 50mph. In addition, according to Rule 169 of the Highway Code, you shouldn’t hold up a long queue of traffic. So, check your mirrors frequently, and if necessary, pull in where it’s safe and let traffic pass.
Things to Keep in Mind When Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome?
If you want to tow a car behind your motorhome, there are some things to keep in mind.
- Motorhome towing capacity: Ensure that your motorhome has the appropriate towing capacity to safely tow the combined weight of the motorhome and the towed car
- Towing equipment: Use a properly rated and installed hitch and towing equipment that is suitable for your motorhome and the towing method you choose (e.g., tow bar, tow dolly, car trailer).
- Safety chains or cables: Use safety chains or cables to connect the motorhome and the towed vehicle.
- Lights: Ensure that the towed vehicle’s brake lights, turn signals, and taillights are connected and synchronised with the motorhome.
- Plates and registration: Ensure that both the motorhome and the towed vehicle have valid licence plates and registration.
- Size restrictions: Be aware of any length and size restrictions for motorhomes and towed vehicles in your area.
- Speed limits: Observe speed limits and regulations specific to towing vehicles.
- Braking Systems: In some areas, braking systems may be required for towed vehicles. Depending on the weight of the towed vehicle, you may need to install additional braking systems or use supplemental braking devices to assist in braking.
- Lane Usage: Follow the rules regarding lane usage and restrictions for vehicles towing trailers or other vehicles.
- Warning signs:
- It is recommended to display a sign in the rear window of the towed car to indicate that it is being towed by a motorhome.
Are There Any Special Driving Techniques or Considerations You Should Be Aware of When Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome?
If you decide to tow a car behind your motorhome, there are some considerations to be aware of:
- Know what you’re towing: Extra weight behind your motorhome will have an impact on its ability to stop quickly and navigate sharp turns
- Make wider turns at corners and curves
- Allow for longer stopping distances
- Adjust the brakes on your trailer, if you’re using one, according to the load
- Get in some practice driving with a trailer before you hit the road
What Safety Precautions Should You Take When Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome?
Safety should always be a primary concern when towing a vehicle. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Know and follow the law, depending on the country you’re visiting.
- Don’t exceed the towing capacity of your motorhome.
- Only use quality towing equipment.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for securely connecting and fastening a towed vehicle to your motorhome.
- Balance the load as this will stop the trailer or tow car from swaying side to side and becoming difficult to control.
- Regularly inspect and maintain the tyres on both the motorhome and the towed vehicle.
- Install an auxiliary braking system as this will reduce the risk of catastrophic brake failure.
- Adjust your driving habits when towing.
- Continuously monitor your mirrors and pay attention to any unusual sounds or vibrations.
- Research your travel route, including potential obstacles such as low bridges, steep grades, or narrow roads.
- Stay informed about weather conditions, in particular high winds.
What is the Maximum Distance When Towing a Car?
If a vehicle is being towed with just a rope or bar, the maximum distance between each is 4.5 metres.
How Does Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome Affect Fuel Efficiency and Overall Handling?
One disadvantage, although it’s a small one, is that the fuel mileage of your motorhome will suffer if you choose to tow a car behind it. However, it will still be better than paying for fuel for two vehicles, should you drive each of them separately.
Hauling additional weight behind your motorhome is bound to affect its overall handling. One important thing to remember is to be prepared to take things slow. It will take longer for your motorhome to accelerate and also stop.
Are There Any Maintenance or Servicing Requirements Specific to Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome?
Regular maintenance and servicing will help maximise the life of your towing equipment. Here are some quick and simple tips:
- Regularly inspect all towing components such as the tow bar, hitch receiver, safety cables, and any braking systems or supplemental braking devices.
- Regularly lubricate all moving parts, including the tow bar and hitch receiver. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding brake system maintenance.
- Tyre maintenance should include checking the tyre pressures and looking for wear.
- Monitor the cooling system because towing a vehicle puts extra stress on the tow vehicle’s engine and cooling system.
- Towing puts additional stress on a motorhome’s transmission. To help regulate the temperature of the transmission fluid, consider installing an auxiliary transmission cooler. This will help to prevent overheating. Regularly check the transmission fluid levels and follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for fluid changes.
- Inspect and clean all electrical connections between the motorhome and the towed car before every journey.
- Check the alignment and suspension components to ensure they are working properly.
- Follow the recommended service intervals for your motorhome, including oil changes, filter replacements, and overall maintenance.
Can You Tow a Car Behind a Motorhome on All Types of Roads, Including Highways and Mountainous Terrain?
You might be thinking that towing a car behind a motorhome will mean you can’t drive on all roads, highways, and terrain. This is not strictly true. As long as you take things slowly and be aware that your motorhome is carrying extra weight, you should have no problems driving it anywhere.
What are the Potential Challenges or Risks Associated With Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome?
When you haul a car behind your motorhome, it’s not going to be the same as driving it on its own. There are challenges you have to deal with and risks to understand.
- Dimensions: Towing a car behind a motorhome increases the overall length and weight. Both differences can affect the manoeuvrability of your motorhome.
- Fuel efficiency: Towing a car reduces the fuel efficiency of your motorhome if you’re towing a car.
- Braking performance: The additional weight of the tow car will affect your motorhome’s braking performance.
- Turning circle: A motorhome and car combination is longer which means you’ll need to allow for a wider turning circle.
- Visibility: Visibility is compromised when you tow a car but you can reduce the impact by installing a rear camera. This will make reversing easier.
- Fishtailing: If you don’t stick to the speed limits and ensure the balance is correct, it increases the potential for swaying or fish-tailing.
- Wear and tear: Your motorhome is put under extra stress if you tow a vehicle behind it. Your motorhome’s engine, transmission, suspension, and tyres will all be affected. Follow a regular maintenance routine, including proper servicing, tyre inspections, and checking fluid levels. This will ensure optimal performance and help prevent premature wear.
- Regulations: If you don’t want to run the risk of a penalty, you must comply with towing regulations. Also, bear in mind that regulations will likely differ, depending on where you are.
- Towing limitations: Automatic cars or permanent 4×4 vehicles cannot be towed behind a motorhome unless all four wheels are off the ground on a trailer.
How Does Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome Affect the Motorhome’s Braking System?
Having brakes that work efficiently is critical when you’re driving your motorhome on the highway. It’s also important to understand and appreciate what a difference it makes to the braking system if you’re towing a vehicle as well. Here are some examples:
- Increased Braking Distance: Towing with a motorhome adds extra weight which increases the overall mass. This increased mass means it takes longer for the braking system to bring the motorhome to a complete stop. When you’re driving, remember to take this into account and adjust your driving accordingly.
- Reduced Braking Performance: The added weight from the towing vehicle can affect the braking performance of the motorhome. It might take longer for the motorhome to slow down or stop, compared with the braking performance when not towing a car. As the motorhome driver, make sure to anticipate this and apply the brakes earlier and with more care.
- Brake Fade: Brake fade can be a problem with motorhome towing, particularly when you’re constantly breaking or using heavy braking more than normal. Brake fade occurs when the brakes overheat and it will reduce the effectiveness of your motorhome’s braking system. Always be mindful of this and use braking techniques such as downshifting and using engine braking. These will reduce the risk of brake fade happening.
- Trailer Brake Systems: Trailer brake systems are used by some manufacturers. These allow for independent braking control of the car being towed. A trailer brake system improves braking performance and stability because it provides additional braking force to the towed vehicle.
- Weight Distribution and Load Balancing: Proper weight distribution and load balancing are crucial if you want to enjoy optimal braking performance. If the weight distribution between the motorhome and towed vehicle is uneven, it can cause imbalances during braking. The result will be reduced braking efficiency and increased instability. Always make sure your load is evenly distributed and properly secured.
What We Should Know When Towing A Car With A Motorhome – In Winter?
Driving a motorhome with a car requires extra precautions if you’re doing it in the winter. Here are some things to bear in mind.
- It’s especially important to watch your speed in the winter as it will help you avoid accidents.
- Take the time to know your vehicle before you drive in the winter.
- If you’re expecting snow, prepare ahead of time and make sure you take extra equipment with you such as snow tyres, an emergency kit, extra food, clean water, and charged batteries.
- Keep your trailer maintained. If you can’t do it yourself, find a well-trained motorhome and trailer mechanic.
- Be aware of your surroundings and other drivers.
- Consider taking lessons for driving in the snow.
Towing with a motorhome is very much a personal choice. There are plenty of benefits such as being able to pop to the shops or local attractions. The advantages of towing with a motorhome are not just restricted to cars. It’s just as viable an option to tow a pair of motorcycles, scooters, or even a boat. It’s important to think through all the factors discussed above before you make your decision.
Can I tow a car behind my motorhome in Europe?
Yes, towing with a motorhome is possible in Europe, but one method that’s not permitted is using an A-frame. A trailer is the best option if you’re travelling in Europe.
Can you tow a small car with a motorhome?
Yes, it is possible to tow a small car using a motorhome.
What is the lightest car to tow behind a motorhome UK?
Possibly the lightest and smallest towable car is the Smart Car.
Can you tow a car behind a motorhome if it has an electric or hybrid drivetrain?
A hybrid drivetrain car cannot be towed behind a motorhome as it will cause the battery to overcharge and damage it.
A true electric car can’t be towed either because there is no proper neutral gear so if you try and tow it in drive or reverse, you’re creating kinetic energy that builds up and can damage the battery.
However, you can tow both types of cars using a flatbed trailer because the wheels of the car will not be in contact with the road.
Does towing a car behind a motorhome damage the car?
It is possible that towing a car behind a motorhome could damage its steering system, transmission, and other components. However, it is possible to transport a car using a trailer that is towed by the motorhome.
Can you tow a front-wheel drive car behind a motorhome?
Absolutely, yes you can. The best method when towing with a motorhome is to use is a tow dolly. These work especially well with front-wheel drive vehicles.
Can you tow an automatic transmission car behind a motorhome, or does it require any modifications?
If an automatic car is lubricated by the output shaft it can be flat towed without any problems. If it’s lubricated by the input shaft, an auxiliary method such as a lubrication pump is necessary to keep the cooling fluids circulating.
Can an automatic motorhome tow a car?
Most owner’s manuals recommend that you shouldn’t tow using vehicles with automatic transmissions.
Does towing a car with a motorhome make it harder to drive?
You may find your motorhome is harder to drive if you’re towing a vehicle. This is mainly due to the additional weight that can affect handling, manoeuvrability, and braking.