Tips for buying a caravan tow car
While caravanners tend to focus much of their attention on their caravans, it is also very important that you take time to consider what type of tow car you will use to drive your caravan around.
Here’s a quick guide to some of the factors to bear in mind when buying a tow car.Weight of car:
What you should be aiming for is a heavier car pulling a lighter caravan.
As a rule of thumb, the total weight of your caravan including contents should add up to no more than 85% of the car’s kerb weight. It is very unwise to go beyond this as you are likely to experience a swaying or snaking caravan.
Car manufacturers publish towing capacities of cars, so make sure you check this before you buy.Types of car:
Consumer watchdog Which? publishes a useful guide to choosing a tow car.
It recommends that if you intend to pull a big load like an eight-berth caravan, you’re going to need a vehicle like a full-size 4x4, such as the Volkswagen Touareg or Land Rover Discovery, which can tow up to around 3.5 tonnes (braked).
For towing medium loads, Which? advises a medium-sized 4x4 or estate car that will avoid the high running costs of a full-size 4x4. Cars in this class include the Audi Q5, Honda CR-V and Skoda Superb.
For lighter loads medium-sized hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf can suffice.Nose weight:
You will also need to establish the caravan’s noseweight – that is the amount of weight bearing down on the car’s towball. You can find this out by asking the manufacturer or by using a noseweight scale, which can be bought quite inexpensively.Diesel or petrol?:
According to Which?, cars with diesel engines make better towers because of their torque or pulling power. However, it says some forms of hybrid cars like the Lexus RX450h and Volvo V60 PHEV Plug-In Hybrid can tow almost as much as a diesel.Fitting a tow bar:
When it comes to fitting a tow bar, the Caravan Club advises that car manufacturers will often specify at what points the attachment should be made and often provide pre-drilled points for the bolts. From 1st August 1998 most new cars have to be fitted with a towbar but for older cars ensure the tow bar has been tested to the British (BS AU114) or International (ISO3853) Standard.