Running a small caravan site as you can imagine I’ve seen pretty much every type of caravan towing mirror over the years. I’ve also had a few conversations with our guests about towing mirrors. Ranging from the praise of particular products to motorway horror stories. With this post, I’ll reference what I believe to be some of the best towing mirrors available. However, there is an important caveat, not all towing mirrors can be fitted to all cars. Due to the design of some wing mirrors there just isn’t space/gaps available to secure the caravan towing mirrors properly. Therefore with some cars its about choosing the best product you can, that will actually fit your tow cars wing mirrors.
Now, generally, the vast majority of our guests turn up to site with caravan towing mirrors. However, from time to time, particularly with new caravanners they don’t seem to aware of how essential caravan towing mirrors are. So with this post, I will also discuss the law with towing mirrors aswell. Some people reading this post already know UK law with regards to caravan towing mirrors. They just want to read about the best type of products currently available. Therefore, if you are in a rush a don’t have the time to read this whole post you can use my Table of Contents below to jump to a particular section. Enjoy 🙂
Introduction to Caravan Towing Mirrors
Whichever caravan towing mirrors you choose just make sure you always fit them. Without caravan towing mirrors you will not be able to see the back of your caravan and cars behind you. Hence, without caravan towing mirrors on the motorway, there could be a car behind you that’s starting to overtake, and you won’t see them. Therefore, you’ll pull out in front of them, potential causing a very serious accident. In preparing to write this post on caravan towing mirrors as I usually do I had a look around to see what were the best videos I could find on the subject.
The best currently available is from Caravan Guard. It’s a demonstration by Frank who was previously a Police officer, so he knows what he’s talking about. Its only a quick 5-minute video but Frank provides an excellent visual demonstration. Frank shows what you can and cannot see on the road with and without caravan towing mirrors:
So hopefully if you weren’t already aware and convinced, you always need to fit caravan towing mirrors. Now that’s been covered we can actually start to discuss the different types of mirrors available. There is literally a huge range online and trying to choose the best product for you can be daunting. Therefore, below I’m going to highlight some of the features to look out for and some to avoid. This is based on my own experience and impressions along with some feedback from our guests.
Flat or Convexed Mirrors?
Not all caravanners are aware that several of the manufacturers of caravan towing mirrors generally offer two versions. You have the option of flat mirrors or convexed mirrors. Now, whichever type you find best comes down to personal preference. Its a bit of a marmite ‘love/hate’ topic with flat or convexed towing mirrors. If you are buying replacement caravan towing mirrors because yours either fell off or got damaged its probably a good idea to stick to what you’re used to. I’ve spoken to guests in the past who went from using a flat mirror to a convexed mirror (and vice versa) and they really hated it.
A convex mirror will provide you with a wider field of view, which is good. The problem some people have with convex mirrors is judging distance. For instance, if you see a car coming up behind you with a flat mirror it will appear to travel at a constant speed (presuming they are going a constant speed). That same car if looked at through a convexed mirror will appear to get faster as it gets closer, this is an illusion. But, it can make it harder to determine if you have the time and space to manoeuvre into the lane for those people who are used to flat mirrors.
However, all modern tow cars are fitted with convex mirrors. Therefore, I think its unlikely most new caravanners today are going to prefer to use a flat towing mirrors alongside their cars convex wing mirrors. I think the best option for most caravanners is going to be convexed caravan towing mirrors. Again though, its a personal preference, but its definitely something to consider before you make your purchase.
Avoid Suction Pad Towing Mirrors
Personally, I think suction pad towing mirrors should be banned. I get why some caravanners choose them. There is no need to use clamps, you just attach the suction cup to the tow cars mirror and that’s it! Well, I’m sure almost everybody reading this before sat navs were built into cars used a portable sat nav unit such as a TomTom, or still does. Sometimes when you go over a bump in the road (I mean pothole) they can fall off. Its annoying when it happens. However, it has also made me jump quite a few times. Well, if your suction cup caravan towing mirror falls off it will also be annoying and potentially make you jump. This could potentially make you react unintentionally leading to an accident. Furthermore, not only are you in a state of shock you now cannot see what’s going on behind you!.
I believe ‘Stick-on’ suction cup caravan towing mirrors should be banned: Image – Amazon
The image of the above product actually gives clues that the manufacturer knows they are going to fall off. They provide a security string that loops around your wing mirror! Well, that’s ok then, isn’t it? Rest assured, when the ‘stick-on’ caravan wing mirror falls off, don’t worry you haven’t lost it, its just happily bouncing along denting your door! If there is one thing you take away from reading this post I hope its that’s ‘stick-on’ mirrors should be avoided. Anyway, let’s start talking about the features on caravan towing mirrors you should be considering.
Strap Caravan Towing Mirrors
This type of caravan towing mirror is popular with some of our guests. The reason being they are generally quite universal. In other words, with a strap caravan towing mirror if you change your tow car you can often fit them again by just adjusting the straps. The rubber strap attaches to the top and bottom of the wing mirror. You then turn the rotating handles which tighten the rubber strap. Obviously, being rubber the straps won’t scratch the paint of the wing mirrors on your tow car. Of all the different types of caravan towing mirrors strap mirrors have the largest surface area in contact with the cars wing mirrors. Hence, rubber strap caravan towing mirrors can be pretty stable.
If you have rounded wing mirrors ‘strap type’ caravan towing mirrors may work for you: Image – Amazon
However, due to the shape of some tow car wing mirrors, the rubber straps may not get good contact over the whole surface area. If your tow car has rounded wing mirrors with a smooth radius, strap caravan towing mirrors may work well. However, car manufacturers are constantly trying to make cars more aerodynamic. Hence, the shape of wing mirrors often changes, getting smaller and with sharp creases to reduce drag. However, this is apparently where strap caravan towing mirrors pardon the pun can have problems.
Electric Strap Type Caravan Towing Mirrors?!
Yes, a couple of years back Reich, a brand many caravans will be familiar with produced electric towing mirrors. The concept makes sense, your car has electric wing mirrors, why not electric towing mirrors! They use a couple of AAA batteries per towing mirror and come with a remote control.
The biggest problem with them is their price at around £120 per mirror, so around £240 for two mirrors! Compare that to a typical good quality manually adjustable clamp-type mirror at around £30 each or £60 for a pair. The reality is, not factoring in if the electric towing mirrors came off going over a bump/pothole, even the most experienced caravanners from time to time make mistakes. Well at £120 a pop per mirror, by most peoples standards that’s going to be an expensive mistake. If you have the cash and you want easy adjustment of the mirrors you could consider them. But for most caravanners, electric caravan towing mirrors are not a viable option.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend strap type towing mirrors in most cases. But if you cannot use the clamp style caravan towing mirrors below, strap type mirrors may be a viable choice.
Clamp Type Caravan Towing Mirrors
My personal preference (and the choice of most of our guests) is the clamp type of caravan towing mirrors. The simple reason being they offer the best stability. We use the clamp type on our tow car. They have stayed on when we have hit some pretty deep potholes. That’s obviously dependant on taking the time to make sure they are fitted securely before setting off. There are many different brands of clamp-type caravan towing mirrors. However, the brand we use and the brand I see most of our guests have chosen to go with is Milenco. The best video I’ve found explaining the features of the Milenco caravan towing mirrors and importantly how to fit them is actually from an Australian retailer:
So as stated in the video there are the Milenco Aero (for cars/small SUV’s) and there is also the Milenco Grand Area for larger 4×4 vehicles. Either is a good option to choose. Both versions are available with either flat or convex mirrors. So in reference to my comments above, the mirror type is a personal preference. Just make sure you know which mirror type you are ordering.
The Milenco Aero mirrors are the smaller option and generally suit cars and small 4×4 tow cars: Image – Amazon
However, if you want even more viewing space the Milenco Grand Aero could be a more suitable option for you: Image – Amazon
Now, everyone can make a mistake or perhaps the towing mirrors get damaged and maybe it wasn’t your fault. Either way, Milenco provide a range of spare parts for the Aero towing mirrors. If the rest of the mirror is undamaged and reusable you get replacement mirrors etc.
Towing Mirror Stability at Speed
Okay, so many towing mirrors can do an adequate job while towing at low speeds. However, its when you are travelling at 60mph on the motorway when towing mirrors really show you how stable they are. A 60mph there is a lot of air resistance trying to move the towing mirrors, along with vibration from the road.
Even if we presume for a second that all towing mirrors will stay on the car (with some that’s a big if), well many of them are not stable at 60mph. Hence, you’re looking in the mirror to see what’s going on behind the caravan and you’re looking a vibrating image. Nobody wants to see that, its not safe and it makes judging distances even harder. In my opinion, when it comes to stability at speed, the clamp type wins hands down. However, always remember to space the clamps as far apart as possible to provide the most stable visibility at speed.
Caravan Towing Mirrors and UK Law
So if you watched the video above from Caravan Guard and the retired Police officer Frank you should be familiar with UK law with regards to caravan towing mirrors. However, its the law hence its always important to understand it in as much detail as possible. Milenco in their promotional literature has actually produced a great diagram. It shows why caravan towing mirrors are essential to meet the legal requirements.
As you can see from the diagram. To meet UK law you need to have visibility 20m back from the midpoint of your tow car with a with of 4m. Now, flat mirrors will provide that 4m width. However, you will get a wider view with convex towing mirrors.
What does the E on the Towing Mirrors stand for?
The ‘E’ or ‘e’ stamped on the back of the caravan towing mirrors is to indicate that the mirrors have been produced to either European or International standards. There is usually a number next to the ‘E’ which indicates where they were evaluated. E11, for instance, indicates the towing mirrors where produce to meet European standards and they were evaluated in the UK. As a minimum, whichever caravan towing mirrors you are considering purchasing, check they have an ‘E’ or ‘e’ marking on the back.
Conclusions on Caravan Towing Mirrors
If there is one thing that you take away from this post I hope its that in almost all cases caravan towing mirrors are an essential part of responsible caravanning. That goes along with loading your caravan properly, making sure your within the caravans MTPLM and if your noseweight is legal. You still have to decide if flat or convex towing mirrors are going to work best for you. Furthermore, you have to decide if you want strap or clamp fitting mirrors (never stick on please). Its also vital to have a good set of towing mirrors when reversing a caravan. While I’m on the topic of towing, I’ve written a post on how to choose the best towbar for your car.
I hope you learnt something new today with this post on caravan towing mirrors. I also hope you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common in the near future. 🙂
If you had a wide 4×4 and a short caravan its potentially possible that it may already meet the 20m by 4m visibility requirements under UK law. However, its unlikely, as most large 4x4s are used to tow larger long caravans. Hence, the 20m by 4m visibility requirements could not be met without the addition of caravan towing mirrors.
You must always have two mirrors which meet the visibility requirements under the law. Hence, you need to be able to see the rear of the caravan on both sides and any vehicles potentially behind the caravan/trailer.
If you had an accident without towing mirrors its likely your insurance would be invalid. Put simply, in most cases by not using towing mirrors you have an illegal and unsafe outfit. Hence, any accident could be interpreted to be your fault. Not using towing mirrors could invalidate your insurance and lead to points on your licence.
Yes, there is actually a stipulation in UK law which states that mirrors should not extend beyond 25cm from the widest part of the outfit. Hence, when your caravan is not hitched on the back of the car its likely your towing mirrors will break this rule.