Virginia Trailer Laws: A Guide for Towing and Hauling

Mar 24, 2017 | Auto Accidents

From camping to moving to business purposes, there are many reasons you might want to tow a trailer with your vehicle. Before you take your trailer out on the road, you will want to make sure to comply with all laws and safety regulations. As trailers are attached to your vehicle, their use is governed by state law. We’ll review Virginia trailer laws and important safety precautions to help you get out on the road.


Virginia law defines a trailer as “a vehicle without motor power designed for carrying property or passengers wholly on its own structure and that is drawn by a motor vehicle, including tow dollies and converter gear.”


You must register any kind of trailer with the DMV. You can choose to register annually, bi-annually, or permanently. The registrations fees are based on the weight of the trailer and the length of registration.

Permanent license plates are available for all trailers, and they will be marked “permanent.” Only rental trailers will display a month and year. For trailers less than 4,000 lbs, you can choose a small license plate instead of full sized if you prefer. If the trailer is sold, new plates must be purchased by the new owner.


Just like your car has to be insured, you also need to insure your trailer. You will need to provide proof of this insurance in order to register the trailer. Ask your insurance provider or agent about adding the trailer to your existing auto policy.

Safety Equipment

Trailers must be equipped with brakes if they weigh 3,000 lbs or more. All trailers with brakes must have an annual state inspection.

The connection between the vehicle and the trailer must consist of a drawbar, trailer hitch, or other similar device. It is not to exceed 15 feet in length. An emergency chain or cable capable of supporting the weight of the trailer is also required.

The trailer must have at least one red brake light that is visible from at least 500 feet in clear weather. Reflectors on the rear of the trailer are also required.

Weight and Size

The maximum allowed length of a trailer is 65 feet, which includes all couplings. The maximum width is 102 inches, and the maximum height is 13 feet 6 inches.


No one is allowed to ride in or occupy a trailer while it is being towed. The driver or owner of the trailer cannot knowingly allow anyone to ride in it while it is traveling.

Other Safety Measures

In addition to the legal requirements, you should make sure to follow all proper safety precautions when towing your trailer. Make sure that you are familiar with all parts of your trailer including tires, brakes (if applicable), door latches, etc. Most importantly, be certain that you know how operate your hitch or drawbar and secure it properly for travel. Consult this NHTSA guide for more safety information.

A comprehensive listing of safety requirements is available from the DMV.

If you are involved in a collision with a vehicle that is towing a trailer, having a lawyer to help explain the legal options that may be available to you, can be an important part of the decision making process. For a free review of your incident to help determine if you have a claim, contact a Richmond auto accident attorney from Geoff McDonald & Associates today. 

Geoff McDonald and Associates: 804-888-8888.


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