The Difference Between Braked & Unbraked Trailers

May 5, 2021

Trailer Braking Types

A common catering trailer question we hear all of the time is “What is the difference between braked and unbraked trailers?”

The braking type fitted to a trailer has implications for cost and safety. It should be closely examined when choosing a trailer build.

The differences between braked and unbraked trailers are significant. Especially when considering the Gross Vehicle Weight of a trailer and the UK legal requirements that apply.

An Unbraked Trailer


In layman’s terms, has no brakes so that the vehicle towing does all the braking.

The government requirements state here that:

“A trailer with a Gross Vehicle Weight of 750kg or lower, is not required to have brakes, but if brakes are fitted they must be in full working order.”

VOSA/ DVSA (Driver Vehicle Standards Agency) considers these as Class 01, Very light Trailers as unbraked, if braked – Class 02.

Questions for catering trailers manufacturer

A Braked Trailer


In layman’s terms, has brakes fitted. These will apply through a mechanical linkage connected to the towing vehicle

The government requirements also states here that:

“A trailer with a Gross Vehicle Weight from 751kg up to 3,500kg is required to have brakes, normally over-run (inertia) brakes that operate automatically are fitted.”

VOSA considers these as Class 02, Light Trailers

Gross Vehicle Weight


Is defined as:

“This is specified by the manufacturer and it means the maximum weight the vehicle or trailer is allowed to be when fully loaded. It is the unladen weight of a vehicle plus the maximum permitted payload. Also known as Maximum Permissible Mass, item F1 on the V5C.”

Are Your Braked Trailers Tested/ VOSA/DVSA Approved?


When it comes to VOSA/DVSA each of our trailers are “Individually Type Approved”.


This means that each of our trailers is VOSA/DVSA tested and approved before being used. If brakes are fitted to one of our trailers they are VOSA tested and approved. This price is included in our trailer quotes.

What brakes do you fit to your braked trailers?


The Best Possible Trailer Brakes


Over a period of six years, SBTrailers has tried and tested various types of and brands of braking.

We now only recommend and fit Knott Avonride brakes to all our braked trailers. These are considered to be the most reliable trailer brakes available.

Catering trailer brakes during construction process
Trailer wheels and brakes during construction process

What Type Of Braking Would You Recommend?


Trailer braking type is down to personal choice and requirements.


For the majority, we would recommend choosing a braked trailer for several reasons.


1. Equipment Allowance

With a braked trailer you are able to tow more weight. You thus have more allowance for equipment.


2. Future-Proofing

Braking on a trailer adds a certain amount of future-readiness. You may currently want very few additions. If you want to update what the trailer is carrying a braked trailer would allow more expansion.


3. Safety

With trailer safety, it’s simple, the better the braking the safer you are when towing.


4. Static Braking

Braked trailers have the equivalent of a handbrake in a car. You stop, level, apply stands and brake.
With an unbraked trailer you will have to transport and apply chocs after levelling to prevent movement when unhitched. Braked trailers mean less fuss.

Custom built braked catering trailer

Does my driving licence affect whether I can tow a trailer?


Yes. The law is based on when you passed and the trailer/ towing vehicle weight.

UK driving licence towing trailer

Up until the 2nd January 1997


Anyone who passed their car driving test before this date acquires ‘grandfather rights’. This allows the holder of the licence to tow a trailer over 750kg and a combination of car and trailer over 3500kg.


From 3rd January 1997 – 12th January 2013


Things changed due to EU Directives. When a driver passed their car driving test during this period they are only allowed to tow a trailer up to a weight of 750kg if their vehicle’s gross weight is 3500kg or a heavier braked trailer as long as the combination of car and trailer does not exceed 3500kg.

If a driver needs to tow a trailer over 750kg or the combined weight exceeds 3500kg, they must pass a separate category B+E test.


Since 13th January 2013


All new drivers can only tow a trailer as long as the combined weight does not exceed 3500kg.

Do I Need To Do A Trailer Test?


That will depend on when you obtained your driving licence and the weight of the trailer and towing vehicle (as above).


If you are thinking of towing a ‘light trailer’ we would definitely recommend practising, training or a car and trailer test before taking it out on the road.

You can find more information from the government on Car and Trailer Tests here.

When it comes to braking and trailer weight not abiding by the law could lead to points issued to the driver. If towing for work, the employer may have to pay a substantial fine.

towing braked catering trailer

General Advice On Braked/ Unbraked Trailers


To conclude, you do not necessarily need a braked trailer. However, you should definitely check the law on towing trailers and how it applies to you.

Also, consider the safety aspects of adding brakes. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

If you have any further questions about the appropriate type of braking for your trailer build please contact us.