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Are Tow Dollies Legal to Use on U.S. Highways?

by Christopher Jackson

The two-wheeled tow dolly is an intermediate vehicle-towing choice. It represents a compromise between towing with all four wheels on the ground and using a trailer, and as such, it falls into a gray area in terms of freeway regulations.

Laws Governing Tow Dollies

Two-wheel tow dollies are legal on all U.S. highways, though the laws on registration and lighting requirements vary from state to state. Some states require all trailers to be registered and plated, where others do not require license plates for trailers under a certain weight. Because the dolly itself is lightweight, it is exempt from laws requiring trailers over a certain weight to have braking systems, but some states take the weight of the towed vehicle into account and expect tow dollies to have emergency braking systems. Some states also require that the car being towed be licensed and registered, while others do not. Most states' motor vehicle departments have the proper guidelines posted online.

Travel Between States

When traveling between states, the regulations of your home state will apply; thus, a tow dolly that comes from a state that does not require registration and licensing is still legal when traveling through a state that does.

Basic Safety

Safety equipment laws change from state to state, but when towing a car with a dolly, safety chains should always be used. If the dolly does not have lights, magnetic auxiliary towing lights can be attached directly to the towed vehicle.

About the Author

Christopher "Emmy" Jackson has been an automotive writer since 1999. His self-syndicated auto column appears weekly in print and online, and his work has appeared in "Grassroots Motorsports," "AutoWeek" and "African-Americans on Wheels." He is a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, with degrees in English and creative writing, and spends most of his free time reviewing new cars and working on new automotive projects.

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