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Towing laws: what you need to know

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Updated 11 Oct 2019

Lara Wilde

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As the wet season of the North starts to dry up, the annual migration of retirees towing their mini homes and boats behind them starts to invade the highways above the Victorian border.

For many, this is a bucket list experience and if you are one of those who aspires to drag your life through the best bits of Australia here are the towing laws you need to know.

The first and most basic thing to do is to make sure you have taken care of the paperwork.

Are your tow vehicle and your trailer registered? Make sure your licence is current and is appropriate for the vehicle you are driving.

Check with your insurance company that your policy will cover you while you are towing.

Your car and your trailer need to be in roadworthy condition and suitable for the task at hand.

Make sure the tow bar, electrics, brakes, tyres, tow mirrors and couplings are all suitable and in working condition.

If you are in doubt, use AutoGuru to find your nearest mechanic to inspect and confirm they are good to go.

Make sure the tow vehicle is suitable for the trailer you are towing.

The vehicle manufacturer or the tow bar manufacturer will provide advice as to the maximum load you can tow.

If the weight listed by each is different, you can tow the lesser of the two.

  • If you are in doubt the rule is:You can tow the same weight as the tow vehicle weighs if you do not have brakes fitted to the trailer.
  • If the trailer you are towing has brakes, you can tow a maximum weight that is one and a half times the TARE weight of the tow vehicle.

The weight of your vehicle is listed as the TARE weight on your registration papers.

Remember that the weight of the load will include the trailer and all of the cargo including your passengers and odds and ends in the trailer and in your car.

It may pay to double check the weight of your unloaded tow vehicle and your fully loaded trailer at a weigh bridge if in doubt.

Make sure the number plates are clean and visible.

You need one plate on the rear of the trailer and your tow bar can’t obstruct the plate on the tow vehicle.

The plate can also be no more than 1300mm from the ground so don’t mount it too high.

It might seem safe in the trailer, but it is not the place for people to ride.

While it would be hilarious to have a few mates fishing from the boat as you cruise down the freeway the police will have no sense of humour for your prank.

One at a time.

Leave the towing of multiple trailers to professional truck drivers.

You are only allowed to tow one trailer at a time.

Look around you.

It is essential that you have a clear view in front, beside and behind you.

To do this you may need to fit towing mirrors.

Each State and Territory in Australia has slight variations on rules such as speed limits so it pays to research the road ahead.

Do what it takes to stay legal and avoid hanging out with friendly police people this year as you head out on the roads.

Not sure where to start? Book yourself in with a mechanic on AutoGuru for a safety inspection to ensure your vehicle is ready and capable to tow to your heart's content!

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Written By

Lara Wilde

Lara Wilde is the automotive addict showing you how to love your car without getting dirty.

With more than 20 years of driving experience, Lara has made cars her life.

Lara shares her automotive adventures educating and entertaining audiences as a keynote speaker for corporate events and freelance author for a variety of publications.

Driving across the country or on your daily commute to work, Lara can offer you safe, simple, stylish advice for adventures on the road. Look her up on