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Car and Trailer Test Explained

If you need a license to drive a trailer you will need to take the car and trailer driving test (B+E). The information in this section explains when you can book a car and trailer test and what happens during the process.

Other key topics include the three faults you can make and getting your result. Review the current rules about the car and the trailer you can use (e.g. a horsebox) to pass a trailer test.

Test for Towing a Trailer

Booking a Car and Trailer Driving Test

Providing your full car driving licence is valid, you can book your driving test through the online booking service.

The ‘B+E car and trailer test’ is a practical evaluation. It does not involve having to pass another theory examination. But, you must be able to:

  • Drive a car and trailer combination safely and responsibly in different road and traffic conditions.
  • Show the examiner that you are familiar with The Highway Code rules (by the way you drive).

You should only take the test when there is no longer a need for instruction. The DVSA produce guidance notes on the national standard for driving category B vehicles (e.g. cars and light vans).

The national standard explains what skills, knowledge, and understanding you will need to pass the car and trailer test.

Note: There is no minimum number of lessons required to book a car and trailer practical driving test. But, it’s worth checking the rules on towing with a car licence to see if you actually need to take it.

Changing a Driving Test Appointment

You will be allowed to change your driving test appointment up to six (6) times after making the original booking. Provide advance notice of at least three (3) working days to avoid having to pay again. Sundays and public holidays will not count as a working day.

What if you lose the confirmation email sent to you after making a booking? In this case, you can check your driving test appointment details on the driving test booking service.

How to Rebook a Driving Test

You would need to book your driving test as a repeat process to rebook it (for example if you fail and want to resit it). You would need to choose a date that is at least three (3) working days later.

Things You Must Take to the Test

You will need to take the right things to the car and trailer test. You must take:

  • Your UK driving licence.
  • A car and a trailer that meet the rules (details below).

Note: Failing to take the right things means they will cancel your test and will not reimburse your money!

Rules on Driving Licences

What happens if you lose your drivers licence before taking the test? In this case, you should apply for a replacement driving licence (it could take two weeks to arrive). So, you may need to rearrange the test if you do not get it in time.

  • Take a valid passport along with your paper licence if yours is not the new photocard version.
  • Take the Northern Ireland photocard along with the paper counterpart if yours is a licence from Northern Ireland

If You Take Someone With You

The test examiner will ask whether you would like to have someone accompany you. If you take someone with you, such as your driving instructor or a relative, they can:

  • Sit in the back of the car for the duration of the test.
  • Be present with you for the car and trailer test result and extra feedback from the examiner.

If you choose to take someone with you they must be over sixteen (16) and must not take any part in the test. The DVSA produce guidance notes for people who sit in and observe driving tests.

Note: You can only sit the car and trailer driving test in English or Welsh language. Likewise, you cannot have a foreign language interpreter accompany you.

What is Involved in a Car and Trailer Test

It will take around fifty (50) minutes to drive around and complete all six (6) parts of the driving test. The six parts are:

1. The Eyesight Check

To pass the eye test you will need to read a vehicle number plate from a distance of:

  • 20 metres (for vehicles with the new-style number plate).
  • 20.5 metres (for vehicles with the old-style number plate).

Note: The new-style number plates begin with two (2) letters followed by two (2) numbers (e.g. AB99 ABC). Failing the car and trailer eyesight check means you will also fail the driving test. If this happens, the process would end.

2. Questions about Vehicle Safety

The examiner will ask you five (5) questions about vehicle safety (i.e. the ‘show me, tell me‘ section of the category B+E (car and trailer) driving tests). The main purpose of these tests is to confirm that you know how to carry out some basic safety checks.

3. Manoeuvring Exercise: Reversing

You must be able to manoeuvre the combination of your car and the trailer into a restricted space and be able to stop at a certain point. The examiner will have a reversing exercise diagram that will show:

  • The start and end point for the reversing exercise.
  • The position of the cones.

4. General Driving Ability

As a rule, the car and trailer test involves driving in a variety of road and traffic conditions. It may also include driving on motorways, where practical.

The DVSA do not publish any driving test routes. So, there is no way to check the route before you take the test. Instead, the examiner will provide you with clear directions for you to follow.

Pulling the Vehicle Over (at the side of the road)

At some point, the tester will ask you to pull over the vehicle and then pull it away, such as:

  • Making normal stops at the side of the road.
  • Pulling out from behind a parked vehicle.
  • Performing a hill start.
5. Independent Driving Segment

This is a section of independent driving (around 10 minutes), following:

  • A series of verbal directions
  • Traffic signs (or a combination of both)

Note: You can see an independent driving route diagram example on the GOV.UK website (similar to one the examiner might show you). It will help you understand how to follow verbal directions – because you cannot use a sat nav on the car and trailer driving test.

What If the Traffic Signs are Obscured?

It may be difficult to see a traffic sign (for example if trees are covering it). If this happens, the examiner will provide you with further directions to follow until you can see the next traffic sign.

What If You Forget the Directions?

The car and trailer practical driving test is not an assessment on your memory. So, you will not fail if you do not remember every direction given to you. Instead, stay calm and ask the examiner to confirm the directions for you.

What If You Go Off the Planned Route?

As a general rule, going off the route will not affect your test result (unless taking a wrong turning causes you to make a fault). The examiner will be aware that it may happen, and will help you to get back on track if it does.

6. Uncoupling and Recoupling the Trailer

During this final part of the evaluation, the examiner will ask you to:

  • Uncouple the car from the trailer.
  • Park the car alongside the trailer.
  • Realign the car with the trailer and then recouple them.

What Happens If You Make Mistakes?

Only serious blunders are likely to affect the result even if you make a mistake. So, stay under control and continue with the test, if you feel you made an error of judgement.

Note: DVSA examiners only stop car and trailer tests if they assess the driving to be dangerous for other road users.

Driving Test Faults and the Result

The three kinds of car and trailer test faults that drivers can make are:

  • A driving fault (has little potential for danger but could become a serious fault if repeated).
  • A serious fault (something that has the potential of becoming a dangerous situation).
  • A dangerous fault (involves actual danger to the driver, the test examiner, members of the public, or to property).

The Pass Mark

You will pass the car and trailer practical driving test providing you DO NOT make:

  • More than fifteen (15) ‘minors’ (driving faults)
  • Any ‘majors’ (serious or dangerous faults)

If you reach the pass mark, the examiner who tested you will:

  • Let you know if you made any faults.
  • Give you a pass certificate.
  • Enquire whether you want the full licence sent to you by automatic process. If so, you would need to hand over your current licence.

Note: You only have two (2) years to apply for your full driving licence if you choose not to have it sent ‘automatically’. You would need to retake the test if you do not apply within the two year period.

When Can You Start Towing?

There is no need to wait for the full licence to arrive before you start towing trailers. So, you can use your car to tow a trailer straight after passing the test. Allow up to three (3) weeks for the new licence to arrive before contacting the DVLA.

What Happens If You Fail the Test?

If you do not pass, the examiner will tell you which particular faults you made. You would need to book your driving test again (and pay again) to resit the test. You would need to choose a date that is at least three (3) working days later.

How to Appeal the Driving Test Result

DVSA examiner guidance provides information on the regulations for carrying out driving tests. You can make an appeal if you believe the examiner failed to follow the regulations during your test.

You would need to make your appeal to either a magistrate’s court or to a sheriff’s court (depending on where you took your test). So, appeal to:

  • A magistrate’s court within six (6) months of sitting a test in England or Wales.
  • A sheriff’s court within twenty one (21) days if you took it in Scotland.

Note: A successful appeal would not get the test result changed, but it could get you a free retest.

Rules about the Car You Use

Strict rules apply to all cars used for towing trailers in the driving test. So for example, you must be using a car that:

  • Is taxed and insured for a driving test (your insurer can confirm this).
  • Is roadworthy and has a current MOT (for vehicles more than 3 years old).
  • Has no warning lights showing there is a fault (e.g. the airbag warning light).
  • Has the legal tread depth on each tyre and none of them should be damaged.
  • Is smoke-free (meaning you must not smoke in the vehicle before or during the test).
  • Can reach at least 62mph (with a speedometer calibrated for miles per hour).
  • Has four (4) wheels and a maximum authorised mass (MAM) not more than 3,500kg.

Note: The Lorry and bus section explains the definition of MAM in more detail. In simple terms, it refers to the weight limit of a vehicle when loaded.

The car must also be fitted with:
  • Extra mirrors mounted onto the wing mirrors on both the passenger and driver side (used by the examiner).
  • The correct size L plates on the front of the car and on the rear of the trailer (can be ‘L’ or ‘D’ plates in Wales).
  • A seatbelt on the passenger seat for the examiner to use and a proper passenger head restraint (it cannot be the slip-on type).

Using Manual and Automatics

You can either use a manual car (with 3 pedals) or an automatic car (with 2 pedals) to take the B+E trailer towing test in the United Kingdom. But, after passing the test, the type of car and trailer you can drive will depend on:

Your Car Licence Car Use for the Test Cars You Can Drive (not towing) Cars You Can Drive for Towing
Manual Manual Manual and automatic Manual and automatic
Automatic Automatic Automatic Automatic
Automatic Manual Manual and automatic Manual and automatic
Manual Automatic Manual and automatic Automatic

Using Hire Cars in the B+E Trailer Test

Providing it meets all the rules, and is fitted with dual controls, there is nothing to stop you taking your test in a hire car.

You can also use a vehicle that features:
  • An electronic parking brake.
  • Hill-start assist.

Cars You Cannot Use (with known safety faults)

As a rule, you will not be able to use any of the cars shown in this table of known vehicle safety faults. These cars have been recalled for reasons of safety.

Car Model Reason for the Recall List of Vehicles Affected Recall Issue Date
Citroen C1 Steering failure Vehicles built between 9th of September 2014 and 15th of October 2014, with vehicle identification numbers (VINs) between wF7xxxxxxER516105 and VF7xxxxxxER523367 28th of June 2016
Peugeot 108 Steering failure Vehicles built between 9th of June 2014 and 15th of October 2014, with VINs between VF3xxxxxxER256527 and F3xxxxxxER017078 28th of June 2016
Toyota Aygo Steering failure Build dates between 9th of September 2014 and 15th of October 2014, with VINs between JTDJGNEC#0N022080 and 0N026438, JTDJPNEC#0N002099 and 0N002100, JTDKGNEC#0N022186 and 0N031372, and JTDKPNEC#0N002083 and 0N002102 28th of June 2016
Toyota Yaris Potentially defective seat rail track and/or steering column mounting Some models built between Jun 2005 and May 2010 (‘05’ to ‘10’ registration plates) 9th of April 2014
Vauxhall ADAM Potential steering problem VINs with last 8 digits between E6077301 to E6113446, and F6000001 to F6006544 29th of September 2014
Vauxhall Corsa D Potential steering problem VINs with last 8 digits between E6071016 and E6118738, and E4181031 and E4308122 29th of September 2014

In some cases, you may use one of the cars listed in the table by providing proof that the car (either):

  • Was not part of any recall.
  • Was previously recalled but there was no requirement to have any work done.
  • Was previously recalled and the recall work has already been carried out.

The proof you provide to the car and trailer testing facility must be (either):

  • On official or headed notepaper from the manufacturer or a dealer.
  • The recall letter or the safety notice (containing an official stamp by the manufacturer or the dealer).

Note: The facility will cancel the test, and you may lose your test fee, if your car fails to meet the rules or you don’t take appropriate proof.

Rules about the Trailer You Use

Car and trailer test rules also apply to the actual trailer that you use and the load that it is carrying. The trailer used in the practical assessment must:

  • Be a closed box body (e.g. a caravan or a horsebox).
  • Be a similar width and height as the car.
  • Have a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of at least 1,000kg (show proof to the examiner, such as the manufacturer’s plate).

Note: You must not be able to see to the back of the vehicle through the rear window. Instead, you must need to use the external mirrors to get a view of the rear.

Rules for the Load

The trailer that you use must be carrying a load of not less than 600kg. The combined weight of the trailer and the load must not be less than 800kg. For the load itself, you can use (either):

  • Bagged aggregates, providing they are not toxic materials and they weigh at least 600kg (examples include chippings, gravel, sand, or stone).
  • A 600 litre or 1,000 litre intermediate bulk container, providing it is completely full of water.

As a rule, intermediate bulk containers are made from semi-transparent plastic, often reinforced with a wire frame. They are industrial containers used for transporting liquids.

When using bags of aggregate, each bag must:
  • Be sealed.
  • Have the amount that it weighs clearly marked on it.
  • Weigh no less than 10kg (all the bags must weigh the same). You can use a single bag providing it weighs either 600kg or 1,000kg.

When using water inside containers:
  • The water must be inside an intermediate bulk container.
  • The examiner must be able to see that the water container is completely full.

Note: The examiner will cancel the test if the load is not secured safely to the trailer. Likewise, you would also need to pay the test fee again if the trailer or the load fail to meet the rules.

If the B+E Trailer Test is Cancelled

There are several valid reasons for cancelling a driving test. It may be stopped because of bad weather, because of health problems, or due to issues with the vehicle setup.

Cancellation Due to Bad Weather

DVSA will not conduct car and trailer practical driving tests in dangerous or in adverse weather conditions. So, they will cancel it if there is thick fog, high winds, or if the roads are flooded or icy.

It is best to phone the test centre if there are any bad weather conditions in force on examination day. You will find the phone number on the booking confirmation email.

If the test cannot go ahead the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will:

  • Book the next available date for a test (you would be able to change your driving test appointment).
  • Send the rescheduling details to you within three (3) working days. Although unusual, long periods of bad weather may force a delay of up to seven (7) days.

Note: Drivers cannot claim out-of-pocket expenses if the DVSA cancels the test because of bad weather.

Cancelled Due to Vehicle or Health Problems

You would have to book your practical driving test again, and pay the exam fee once more, if the problem that causes the cancellation is (either):

  • A fault of yours (e.g. you feel unwell during the evaluation).
  • A fault of your vehicle (e.g. the car breaks down during the test).

Other Reasons for Cancelling the Test

There may be another reason why the DVSA needs to cancel the schedule (e.g. the examiner is not feeling well). In this case, they would send you a new date.

Note: You can apply for a refund of out-of-pocket expenses for a cancelled driving test at a short notice (less than 3 clear working days).


Adjustments for People with a Disability

At the time you book the car and trailer driving test you should let the testing centre know if you have:

  • A disability
  • A health condition
  • A learning difficulty

Note: Even though you would need to drive to the same standard to get a pass, the examiner can make some adjustments to help the situation.

Drivers with a Disability

Before the test begins, the examiner will talk to a driver with a disability about:

  • The extent of the disability.
  • What kind of adaptations, if any, have been fitted to the car.

Note: Some disabled drivers may be physically unable to uncouple and recouple the car and trailer. In this case, the examiner may ask you questions about the exercise to check your understanding.

Drivers who are Deaf

The examiner would start the test using written notes for drivers who are deaf or for those with a hearing impairment. The notes will make it easier to understand what is involved in a car and trailer test.

They will also face you when they speak, and may give directions as hand signals. Thus, anyone who can lip read will find it easier to understand what they are saying.

Using a Sign Language Interpreter

If you take a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter along with you they need to be at least sixteen (16) years old. It can be your driving instructor.

You would need to arrange your own interpreter and pay for any fees that they charge you. But, you can apply for a refund for using a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter at a driving test.

If You are Pregnant

There are no trailer test rules that stop a pregnant woman taking part at any stage of the pregnancy. Even so, you would need to be able (and willing) to carry out an emergency stop in the vehicle.

If You have Reading or Learning Difficulties

Anyone with a reading difficulty can still perform the eyesight check at the beginning of the driving test. You can achieve it by writing down the number plate instead of reading it out aloud to the examiner.

If you have some learning difficulties, the examiner can make adjustments for the independent driving segment of the test. For example, you might prefer to follow traffic signs instead of the examiner’s verbal directions.

Another alternative is to follow a set of directions given to you on a diagram. As a rule, examiners would ask drivers to follow up to three (3) directions at a time. But, they can reduce it to two (2) directions for someone with a learning difficulty.

Note: The short video [4:01 seconds] explains more about the B+E trailer towing test and the reversing manoeuvre.

What the Car and Trailer Driving Test Involves in United kingdom