Each year we have several motorhome guests who arrive at Horton Common with something in tow. Sometimes its a trailer with a car/motorcycles on top. Other times the motorhome will be towing a car with all four wheels on the ground via an A-frame. I’ve been asked quite a few questions over the years from guests around towing with a motorhome from those considering it. For instance, what are the legal rules around towing with a motorhome and what are the pros and cons of trailers vs A-frames? I’ve heard various comments in the past from guests that A-frames are illegal when touring Europe. Therefore, with this post, I thought I would discuss the topic of towing with a motorhome and the law. Furthermore, on the various other factors, you need to consider. Such as does the weight allowance of your motorhome legally allow you to tow? Also, does your driving licence enable you to legally tow with your motorhome?
Now, there are many different combinations of motorhomes, trailers and a-frames which result in different legal and illegal combinations. Its not feasible for me to write a post on every combination and cover every scenario. Therefore, this post is focused on the general concept of towing with a motorhome. After you have read this post if you are still interested in towing with a motorhome I recommend two steps. First, contact your insurance company, make sure they are happy to insure you to tow with your motorhome. Secondly, I’ll provide details below on a couple of companies who can supply tow brackets/A-frame for your motorhome/car in tow. Furthermore, companies that supply small car transporter trailers such as that seen in the image above.
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or Caravan Guard are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase, with no additional cost to you.
Introduction to Towing With a Motorhome
I always like to add videos into my posts where possible when they add value. This post on towing with a motorhome is no different. There are two videos I want to reference today. Both are from Practical Motorhome. However, each covers different aspects of what you need to consider and be aware of when it comes to towing behind a motorhome. This first video from John Wickersham discusses some of the most important initial questions you need answers to. Such as, is your motorhome even mechanically capable of towing a car or trailer?
Can a Towbar be fitted to your Motorhome?
One of the first questions which needs to be answered is can a towbar be fitted to your motorhome? Well, its not a simple yes or no answer. Depending on the class of motorhome and how it was built the answer can be yes, no and maybe. Typically, most panel van motorhomes can be fitted with a towbar. However, when it comes to coachbuilt motorhomes its a varied story. There may be an under chassis fresh or wastewater tank that gets in the way. You may have a refillable LPG cylinder under the motorhome that gets in the way of a towbar installation. First, get in touch with your motorhome dealer/manufacturer and ask them for feedback on a tow bar.
A typical example of towbar assembly for a Citroen Relay, Fiat Ducato and Peugeot Boxer based motorhome: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Trailer/Car Weights Above and Below 750kg
Whether you are interested in towing a trailer behind your motorhome or a car via an A-frame, both are treated as a trailer with regards to rules and regulations. Generally, trailers under 750 kg will not have brakes fitted. However, if the trailer does have brakes fitted, they must be in working operation while in transit. This also applies for cars under 750 kg as can be seen from the quoted legislation below (cheers Karl) which states the following:
“Trailers having a maximum laden weight not exceeding 750kg are not required to have brakes fitted. However, if the trailer (regardless of mass) is fitted with a braking system, then all brakes in that system must operate correctly and efficiently. This means that the braking systems of small ‘microcars’ (under 750kg in weight) must still operate, even when the vehicle is being towed. Unless the vehicle is broken down, when C&U makes special provision.” – GOV.UK
If the weight of the car/trailer is over 750kg then it must have its own brakes to assist the motorhome under braking conditions, no exceptions. Furthermore, it must have a breakaway cable fitted. Now, with regards to a trailer, brakes are fairly straight forward. However, when it comes to cars towed behind a motorhome with all four wheels on the road via an A-frame it becomes more complicated.
The Maximum Weight of Trailer/Car You Can Legally Tow Behind Your Motorhome
Later in this post, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of car transporter trailers vs A-frames. However, first I want to reference a second video I found produced by Practical Motorhome and ‘Diamond Dave’ on the maximum legal weights of towed trailers. Just as with any tow car, there is a maximum amount of weight the motorhome chassis can deal with. As Dave shows in the video below you really need to study and understand your motorhome weight plate. This will indicate the legal gross train weight and also the maximum permissible noseweight of a trailer. Its is important to note those weight figures may change. For instance, you could have a motorhome chassis upgrade. Alternatively, you may have motorhome air suspension fitted which can increase noseweight towing capacity.
Motorhome A-Frames For Towing
Let’s presume for this example its a car and not a motorbike that you want to tow with your motorhome. One of the most popular choices to tow a car behind a motorhome is A-frames. These have to be professionally installed, often with electric/vacuum braking systems linked up to the car. A microcar as seen in the first video above is very niche and not a popular car in tow. Over the years of running Horton Common, I’ve seen VW Ups, Kia Picanto’s, Smart Cars and similar small cars towed behind our guest’s motorhomes. These cars have gross weights around 1,400 kg, hence the vehicle’s brakes have to be set up to work with the motorhome under braking.
As previously mentioned a car attached to a motorhome via an A-frame is legally treated as a trailer. So the car’s number plate needs to be replaced with a copy of the motorhomes number plate, as it would for a trailer. In terms of the rear lights, again these have to mimic the motorhomes. Different A-frame installation companies take different approaches with regards to rear lights. Some fit a separate detachable trailer board with lights. Others wire up the cars rear lights to mimic the motorhome. In either case, a pair of red reflective triangles have to be fitted to the back of the car while being towed, to reflect trailer laws.
Either a detachable trailer board needs to be fitted to the car in tow behind a motorhome via an A-frame or the cars rear lights need to mimic the motorhome: Image – Amazon.co.uk
The Pros of A-Frames for Towing a Car
So the first key benefit of A-frames over a car transport trailer is space. At Horton Common, I reserve one of our pitches for large motorhomes and for motorhomes with a car in tow. It, therefore, provides sufficient hard standing for both the car, motorhomes and even a trailer. However, you cannot presume that’s the case on every campsite you visit. A campsite provides pitches to cater for a car and caravan, there will typically be enough space for a motorhome and car in tow. The A-frame its self takes up very little space and can be stored under the motorhome while on site.
Another benefit of A-frames over car transporter trailers is cost. Its often a cheaper option to go for A-frame and installation than a car transporter trailer. However, this does vary considerably depending on the type of car, how easy it is to fit the new wiring loom/brake controls etc.
The Cons of A-Frames for Towing a Car
From speaking with our guests over the years about their towing A-frames it would appear that its not always possible to modify every small car. There can be complications with fitting additional towing mounting points, along with braking and electrical issues. If you don’t already own a small car for towing behind your motorhome I would personally hold off on that purchase until you have talked to some of the A-frame installation companies. Ask them which was the easiest/cheapest small cars to convert with a towing A-frame and braking/lighting setup. That could potentially save you a big headache and additional cash. However, if you already own the small car which you don’t want to change and the conversion is complicated/expensive a towing trailer maybe a better option.
The biggest drawback with A-frames for towing behind your motorhome is you cannot reverse. You can probably move back a few meters but you ultimately cannot control the direction of the car. A trailer pivots, hence through steering input you can reverse and direct a trailer where you want it. A car towed via an A-frame has all four wheels on the ground, hence there is no pivot point. If you got really stuck you would have to uncouple the car and reverse it separately. Depending on the specific A-frame how quick/easy this is to do will vary.
Are Motorhome Towing A-Frames Legal in the EU?
There is a lot of confusion around this issue and debate about the legality of using an A-frame to tow a car behind a motorhome in Europe. I’m not an expert on these matters, I’m just going to refer you to some good sources of information on the matter.
First, check out this link to the UK governments comments on towing A-frames. Secondly, I would encourage you to watch the video below from LNB Towbars. They have also produced this leaflet which discusses the law around Europe with regards to the use of towing A-frames.
Motorhome Car Transporter Trailers – Pros and Cons
So if a towing A-frame is not an option to take, the other option is a car transporter trailer. These are available in a range of sizes and weight capacities depending on your chosen car. Obviously as referenced above, you are still limited by the towing capabilities of your motorhome and your driving licence. An advantage of using a trailer is its not just restricted to cars. I’ve had guests in the past towing a pair of motorcycles behind their motorhome. Furthermore, I had a guest with a trailer which was multipurpose. They could fit sides to their trailer and it was also used to take waste down to their local tip. Therefore, the flexible use of trailers is a big benefit.
A big benefit of trailers over A-frames is obviously the ability to reverse. While reversing any trailer is a tricky task for many people at least it is actually possible unlike a car in tow with an A-frame. With regards to cost, while a trailer may cost more than an A-frame conversion (not true in all cases) they hold their value. A trailer has more universal appeal and hence if you want to sell in the future its easier to recover more of your investment.
A downside with trailers is the additional storage space required. As stated above, you have to make sure that the campsite your visiting has sufficient space for you to store the trailer. Furthermore, you are going to need sufficient space to store that trailer at home or pay an additional fee at the storage yard. You will also have to factor in the cost of additional security. Car transporter trailers can be targets for thieves. So make sure you have a wheel clamp and or hitch lock on that trailer to keep it safe.
Conclusions on Towing With a Motorhome
I’ve had several guests who own caravans question why would someone with a motorhome want to tow? Isn’t their reason for owning a motorhome because they don’t like the idea of towing? My response is while that’s true for some motorhome owners, it doesnt address the full range of circumstances. Take the example of Dave in the second video above from Practical Motorhome. He is towing his race car behind his motorhome. His race car can obviously not tow a caravan. Therefore, for Dave to stay over at the track, a motorhome and trailer combination is the perfect setup. At Horton Common, we have guests going to car shows with a similar motorhome and trailer setups.
Furthermore, many of our guests who tow cars behind their motorhome don’t always choose to do so. On some visits its just their motorhome, it obviously depends where they want to visit on each trip. With a car and caravan, you are obviously always towing. In terms of the choice above between an A-frame and trailer, as is often the case its not a simple choice. If you are interested in one of the options above you to have a lot of research ahead and circumstances to consider to make the best choice for you. I have also recently written a post on the best towbars, however for motorhomes its typically only a fixed towbar which is used. Also, its important your motorhome suspension is in good working order before more weight is placed on the back of your motorhome while towing.
Anyway thanks for reading, I hope the above information as useful to you. I also hope at some point in the future you consider coming to pay us a visit to Horton Common Campsite. If you will have a car/trailer in tow just let me know and I will reserve a specific pitch for you. 🙂