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Can You Hire a Car with a Towbar?

24th January, 2023, in Car Hire Help

Cycling holidays, boating holidays, camping and caravanning holidays all have one thing in common. If you are driving from A to B, you are going to need a towbar to help you transport your bike, boat or caravan. The question is, though, when renting a car, is this even possible? Can you hire a car with a towbar? The simple answer is yes, although there are a few things to straighten out before you settle on this type of holiday.

Let’s take a look.

Can I tow a caravan or trailer with a rented car?

Before booking the trip, you will need to check with any of the rental companies you are considering whether the use of a towbar is prohibited or not. There are many available that are more than happy to allow this, however some are reluctant. Once you have found one that is happy for you to do so, then consider booking as soon as you can. In some cases, there are hire companies that will have towbars already attached to their cars. This isn’t too common and you would always need to ensure that the towbar is sufficient for the weight you are planning to tow.

With that in mind, a rental company that allows you to affix your own would be the best bet.

Is my rental car insurance affected if I attach a caravan?

When you rent a car, the vehicle itself is insured although as with all insurance policies, there will be the standard excess to pay should something happen. Luckily you can take advantage of excess car hire insurance to protect you from those costly fees. When it comes to towing a caravan, things are a little different. You would need caravan insurance to protect it. If for example your caravan was burgled or stolen, your car insurance will not cover it.

However, if you are renting the caravan and the car, then both will have their own separate insurance provided by the rental company.

How will I find out the towing capacity of my rental car?

If you do need to tow a caravan or anything else for that matter, you will need to know if the car can safely take the weight of the item you are towing. You can find this out by discovering the vehicle’s kerb weight. This will be in the user manual and should be provided by the rental company. You then just need the maximum mass of the towed item. This is sometimes known as the MTPLM.

Although not legally enforceable, you can use the 85% rule which means that the fully laden weight of the towed item should not exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the car.

If you have not been given the paperwork for either car or towed item, you can find the car’s kerb weight on a small plate on the door. For the towed item, let’s say, a caravan, the information will again be on a small plate on a door.

The general rule is that if the mass of the caravan is less than 85% of the kerb weight, you will have no issues towing it. Once these figures are between 85-100% you may struggle, especially if not experienced with towing. If the figure was to show the caravan heavier than the car, then you should not tow it at all.

How can I tow something safely?

Whatever you are towing, be it a caravan or something much lighter, there are a few things you should do to ensure the safety of you and your passengers and protect both the rental car and the towed item:

  • Never exceed 60 mph on two-lane roads or 50 mph on single lanes. Each country may vary, so in some cases you can go slower. Just make sure you don’t go any faster
  • Never let anyone stay in the towed item whilst you are driving
  • The towbar you use must be approved for use. There are EU regulations they must pass so you should check this upon renting
  • Add towing mirrors if the item being towed is wider than the rental car
  • Ensure number plates match on both the towed item and the rental car
  • Before setting off, connect the electrics to ensure brake lights, indicators etc. all work

Which towbar type do I need?

You will likely have the option of either a gooseneck or flange towbar, and they may be detachable or fixed. When collecting your rental car you will be able to see which one is fixed or if you have been allowed to attach your own, so you can see how easy it is to apply.

Gooseneck towbars are commonly seen across Europe and are suitable for most towing jobs. Neater in appearance than the flange towbar, drivers do tend to prefer them, but they do come in more expensive than the other variety. One of the main cons is that should you look to tow luggage and a bike at the same time, you will not be able to.

The flange towbar is larger in size and can set off parking sensors due to where it is positioned. Although cheaper as a fixed unit, the detachable ones can be quite expensive. Flange towbars are also adjustable in height, whereas the gooseneck is not. This can sometimes be quite an important factor.

Always speak to your rental company to find out more about the options open to you.

No matter where you go in your rental car, ensuring you are protected from surprise costs will always be welcome. That is why we offer comprehensive holiday car rental excess insurance from as little as 12p per day. Whether it is travel across Europe or a policy for worldwide insurance car hire excess, you can speak to our team to make your trip worry-free. Get a free quote today.

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