Boat towing regulations & Rules

This is a rough guide to towing boats in the UK and will hopefully answer most of your questions and save you from fines and points on your license

The basics

These are subject to the maximum towing weight of your car/ van.  If you don’t know what this is we strongly suggest you look at your car/ van handbook.

Licences held from 1 January 1997

If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 and have an ordinary category B (car) licence, you can:

  • drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500kg towing a trailer of up to750kg
  • tow a trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg

Licences held before 1 January 1997

If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you are generally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes.

This is the weight of a vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely when it’s being used on the road.

Width and length

The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. The maximum length is 7 metres for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes (3,500 kilograms).

Towing mirrors

This is often missed by people towing boats and the police are starting to clamp down on this boat towing requirement and are imposing fines of 3 or more points and a fine of up to £1000!

The law states You must have an adequate view of the road behind you. If your boat trailer is wider than the rear of the towing vehicle, you will need to fit suitable towing mirrors.

Trailer brakes

Any trailer weighing over 750 kilograms, including its load, must have a working brake system.

Please remember that this is the total load of the trailer , the boat, engines, fuel and all your equipment on board. This catches many people out as fuel, engine and equipment  all add up!

If you have bought a 2nd hand trailer that is braked  it is also worth checking that the breaks are in good working order and that you check these again every time you replace the boat trailer bearings.

Other Boat towing rules

1.When towing a trailer you are restricted to a maximum speed of 50mph on single carriageway roads, and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways, provided no lower limit is in force. In the UK you are not allowed to use the outside lane of a three or more, lane motorway when towing, except where there are lane closures which restrict the lanes to two or less, or when instructed to do so by the Police.

2.If you tow a small trailer without brakes, the weight of the trailer is limited to 50% of the kerb weight of the car or 750kg, whichever is less.

4: If brakes are fitted they must work whether they are a legal requirement or not.

  1. Whilst towing you must have third party cover for your trailer as well as for the tow car.
  2. If you are towing a boat with an outboard motor you must use a reinforced plastic bag or bucket on the propeller and outboard legs.
  3. The lightboard should be no more than 1.5m from the ground or 2.1m if the structure of the vehicle makes it impracticable. Indicators must flash in unison with those of the towcar and a dashboard warning light or buzzer must be fitted.
  4. The number plate on the trailer must be identical in shape, and colour to that on the towcar.


For further information on the latest regulations please visit