New York State Towing Laws

By James Rutter ; Updated June 16, 2017
Pickup Truck towing a boat

New York State offers tourists and residents a plethora of recreational waterways and state and national parks to enjoy, so bring your boat or camper. But remember, if you want to tow a boat, trailer or camper in the State of New York, you must abide by the following regulations and laws.

Trailers Defined

Subchapter E, Section 180.1 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations defines a semitrailer and trailer for all towed vehicles driven in the state. A semitrailer consist of any trailer whose front end rests on the body or chassis of the towing vehicle when being towed (such as the box container pulled by a truck). A trailer consists of any vehicle pulled or drawn forward by a motor vehicle (such as a car being towed by another car), or a vehicle designed for non-highway use that must be occasionally towed by a car (such as a camper or boat).


According to New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 375, Section C (Equipment), every vehicle towing a trailer and the unit being towed must be equipped with working brakes and lights. Also, New York requires that a towed trailer must be connected so that while driving, the wheels of trailer cannot swing out of the towing vehicle’s path by more than six inches. Also, the towed trailer must display a license plate (and lights to illuminate it) as well as proper brake lights, turn signal lights and rear lights. For a full list of current requirements and specifications for these lights, please see Reference 4.

Towing Regulations

Like every other state, New York specifically regulates the dimensions of what a driver can tow, how fast a car can go while towing, etc. In New York, a towed unit (whether boat, camper, etc) cannot exceed 13.5’ height, 8.5’ width, the two vehicles cannot exceed a combined length of 65 feet and the trailer cannot exceed a length of 48 feet. In addition to the whatever mechanism holds the trailer in place, safety chains must also connect the trailer to the towing vehicle. The trailer’s weight cannot exceed 22,400 lbs, and a driver must possess a commercial towing license (CDL-C) in order to tow a trailer weighing in excess of 10,000 lbs. Also, New York prohibits the practice of “Triple-towing,” that is, the connecting of more than one trailed unit to a motor vehicle.


Section 388 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law holds a driver of a towed vehicle or trailer liable and responsible for any deaths or injuries caused by negligence while towing.

About the Author

Since 2005, James Rutter has worked as a freelance journalist for print and Internet publications, including the “News of Delaware County,” “Main Line Times” and Broad Street Review. As a former chemist, college professor and competitive weightlifter, he writes about science, education and exercise. Rutter earned a B.A. in philosophy and biology from Albright College and studied philosophy and cognitive science at Temple University.