Small talk

A small, motorhome-towed ‘support’ car can give you extra flexibility during your trips. Sammy Faircloth offers some advice to consider before you hitch up

Many car parks have height restriction barriers – a hindrance to motorhomes

Motorhomers will be familiar with the situation. You’ve settled in on site but want to head off to an attraction for the day, or perhaps pop to the supermarket. Bikes or public transport are sometimes options but often you’ll need your main vehicle to get out and about. Having to unhook the electrics and constantly check everything is stowed safely can be tiresome – not to mention the possibility of height restrictions and compact parking spaces during your day out. As a result, some owners of larger motorhomes like to tow a small ‘support’ car with them to site.


Whether you decide to tow a car using a trailer or an A-Frame (a frame – shaped like an ‘A’ – which is attached to the front of the car), your motorhome will need:

  • a towbar, and
  • a socket that is wired-up to power the road lights on the trailer

Fitting a towbar to a motorhome can be quite complicated. The make, model and year of the motorhome will determine the type and method of fitting. For motorhomes registered in 2012 and thereafter, it is mandatory to have a ‘Type Approved’ towbar fitted. Motorhomes registered before this date may not have a Type Approved towbar available – instead look for one which is made to British Standard BS AU 114 or International Standard ISO 3853.

Before purchasing a motorhome, it is worth checking that it can be fitted with a towbar. A quick look underneath the rear section will identify whether there are any possible obstructions (such as water tanks, spare wheels, waste pipes, etc). If your secondhand motorhome came with a towbar fitted, check (or have it checked) carefully. The Club has seen cases of towbars being fitted which are only strong enough to support a cycle carrier, neglecting strengthening parts needed to cope with the loads of towing a trailer or car.

If you are unsure and want a professional opinion, consider arranging an appointment with a towbar specialist. For help choosing a well-qualified installer, the National Trailer and Towing Association (NTTA) has established a national list of ‘Quality Secured Accredited Towbar Centres’. These are found on the NTTA website ( and each centre is scrutinised annually.

A-frames, trailers, brakes and the law

Braked trailers and A-frames must be fitted with a breakaway cable

If you are towing a car (for example with an A-frame) and the car’s wheels are in direct contact with the road, the relevant legislation is the same as that applicable to trailers. And so, like any laden trailer weighing over 750kg (ie trailer plus its load), it must meet the legal requirements of a trailer, including road lights, triangular reflectors, and brakes which operate correctly and efficiently. 

Also note that braked trailers and A-frames alike must be fitted with a breakaway cable.

The legality of towing a car in the UK using an A-frame has been confirmed by the Government, but the A-frame in conjunction with the car must meet the legal requirements to be a trailer. However, you might get pulled over elsewhere – A-frames are not accepted in most European countries, for example. If necessary, check with the authorities of the countries that you are intending to visit before embarking on your tour. 


Arguments for:

  • A braked trailer in good working order is universally acceptable both at home and abroad.
  • It can often be used for transporting other goods instead of just cars.
  • After you’ve practised the skills of manoeuvring, a well-designed trailer isn’t hard to reverse.

Arguments against:

  • A trailer takes up storage space both at home and on campsites.
  • Trailers are stolen surprisingly often, so security devices are essential.
  • Unless it has an elevating flat base, a trailer needs ramps for loading the car. It can take time to secure a car safely with ropes and straps.
  • You need to check noseweight to ensure the outfit is stable and to confirm that the towbar isn’t being overloaded.
  • A trailer should be equipped with a spare wheel and tyre.


Arguments for:

  • The frame is easy to store both at home and on sites.
  • When dropping off a motorhome for service or repairs, a support car brought on an A-frame means you can leave the van and quickly get home.

Arguments against:

  • Apart from a metre or so, you can seldom readily reverse a car when it’s coupled
  • to an A-frame. The car will inevitably start to turn, but as it is very close behind the motorhome and narrower than it, by the time you can see it is out of line, it will be too late to apply a steering correction. A reversing camera will help, but reversing a towed car remains a serious challenge, even if the brake actuating system for the A-frame is sophisticated enough to prevent the car’s brakes coming on.
  • While towing with an A-frame in the UK is legal as long as the set-up meets the legal requirements for a trailer, A-frames are widely illegal in other European countries.
  • Carrying out a professional, robust and safe modification to a car in readiness for coupling to an A-frame is likely to take a day and is potentially costly.
  • Coupling up an A-frame can be a tricky, hands-on job, and potentially time-consuming.
  • Several safety-critical jobs are involved, so coupling must be done with methodical care. 
  • Not all cars are suitable for A-frame towing. Clearly they must be light enough, but some are inherently unsuitable (eg some autos or electric models). Good A-frame suppliers can advise on suitable models.

It’s not just cars that can be towed by motorhomes. Some people tow a boat; motorsport enthusiasts often use box trailers; motorbike connoisseurs use specialised trailers. And, of course, some larger motorhomes feature an onboard garage!

Final thoughts

Before proceeding, you must check the weight data of your motorhome and understand towing restrictions relating to your motorhome’s ‘gross train weight’ limit. You must also go to a weighbridge to get factual weight information. 

Do some research before spending money and talk to others who have similar set-ups before considering towing with your own motorhome. 

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