Towing mirrors are a legal necessity, not a luxury. Fail to take this on board and you’re looking at three points on your licence and a £1,000 fine for each offence (that’s two mirrors, so £2,000).
But some caravanners, particularly novices, think that a simple adjustment of the towing vehicle’s wing mirrors will suffice.
Even if you’re driving a large 4x4 or a large van, towing mirrors are a legal requirement. You must be able to have clear vision 13ft (four metres) from the side of the caravan at a distance of 20 yards (20 metres) behind the driver.
Read more about caravans and the law
A lack of a towing wing mirror can lead to blind spots and a (good) chance that while overtaking, you could fail to see a car or, more likely, a motorcyclist coming up alongside at speed in the right hand lane, or even a cyclist travelling at speed in town.
You wouldn’t drive ‘blind’ in your car. So don’t when you’re towing a caravan.
How much do they cost?
Towing mirrors are inexpensive, starting around the £20 mark, but it’s worth investing long-term in a strong set that are resistant to strong winds, accidental bumps or even vandalism.
The joy of towing mirrors is that at the end of the journey you can remove and store them, reducing the chances of random damage or deliberate vandalism or theft.
It does mean the mild inconvenience of having to refit and adjust the towing mirrors for the next journey but that should come as second nature as you become more experienced.
Just starting out with a caravan? Read our caravan accessories to get started
Buying caravan towing mirrors
All towing mirrors must comply with EC regulations. Buy from a retailer, not secondhand; if the mirrors are over five years old they won’t necessarily be EC compliant.
Towing mirrors are not universal so when you buy yours, check with the retailer that it does fit your particular vehicle’s mirror.
There are three basic types of fitting: suction pads; strong rubber bands that fit around the car mirror; or screw clamps. It’s down to the individual’s preference.
Suction pads may be unreliable at high speed - no-one wants to lose rear vision on a motorway or dual carriageway. Again, be guided by the retailer or check caravan online forums.
Read our guide to buying a caravan
Fitting caravan towing mirrors
When fitting the mirror, stay in the driver’s seat and have someone walk from behind the caravan so as to gauge when an image first appears in the mirror. The mirrors themselves can come with either flat or convex glass. Again, it’s down to personal preference.
Most important: unless you have an adequate nearside rear view from your interior mirror then you must install a nearside mirror. It is not sufficient to simply equip the driver’s side alone.
Finally, you might also consider a rear view camera (often wireless) fitted to the back of the caravan. The dashboard-fitted screen will give you a much better idea of traffic flow directly behind you.
This is particularly helpful if you are towing a larger, two axled caravan. Remember, a camera is not a replacement for a towing mirror. It is an additional safety appliance, and the more safety equipment you have, the better.
Good sets of dashcams start at around the £100 mark. And they come in very handy when reversing, too.
Safer drivers should insure with Saga Caravan Insurance. Click for more information.