Pack carefully - how overloading your vehicle could lead to a £100 fine

Suitcases are removed from the home of football manager Jose Mourinho in central London.

Families making a getaway for half-term – or even making early plans for their summer holidays – should be careful when packing. Though it's tempting to load up everything including the kitchen sink, especially if you're camping, improperly packed cars can be construed as dangerous by police, to the point where driving one could see you slapped with a £300 fine and three penalty points.

Some drivers think they can get away with this by simply leaving their rear windows clear, but blocking your rearward visibility isn't actually illegal. Provided both of your exterior mirrors are clear and visible, there's no requirement for a central interior mirror. Think of the number of vans without a rear window...

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However, one area holidaymakers may easily misjudge is weight limits. Overloading your car past the manufacturer's weight limit is illegal, and could not only see you fined but could put extra strain on your vehicle and even invalidate your insurance.

The vehicle handbook should inform drivers of the maximum permissible weight of the vehicle, which will include passengers as well as luggage. It can be surprisingly low too – a Volkswagen Golf is only homologated to carry 520kg payload. That means once you load up with four burly adults, there's actually precious little remaining.

The same is true of larger cars, such as the seven-seater Land Rover Discovery. That has a payload of 786kg, which means filling up every seat with a generously proportioned adult could actually exceed the payload before any luggage has been added.

But what if you have lots of people and gear that needs to be moved? A possible solution is a trailer. Once you're towing, you have the 'maximum authorised mass' to worry about – but this is usually much higher than the payload. A Land Rover Discovery is capable of towing 3,500kg. Once again, check your car's manual for more information.

And while you're unlikely to be pulled over for being a few kg above your weight limit, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

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