Whether you are fishing on Lake Tahoe, cruising around Clear Lake or taking the yacht out for a spin in the Pacific Ocean – California offers some of the best boating opportunities in the country. With 850 miles of ocean shorelines and hundreds of lakes, if you love being on the water, you can’t go wrong in the Golden State. When towing your boat to your favorite fishing or sailing spot – especially if you are traveling to the state – it is important to know the California laws. While this list of ordinances is meant to be informative, it is not comprehensive – we urge you to confirm with local authorities for any changes before you hit the road!

  • You must use the designated towing lane, generally the right hand lane. Passing is allowed only in the lane directly to the left of that lane. The maximum speed for towing a vehicle is 55 mph.
  • Passengers are not permitted to ride in a towed trailer or boat. Some fifth wheel trailers are exempted if properly equipped.
  • Every connection, including a hitch, drawbar, coupler, must be securely and properly attached to the vehicle, and be designed with adequate strength for the weight being towed. Every towed vehicle must have safety chains. The raised end of any motor vehicle being transported by another motor vehicle using a tow dolly shall be secured by two separate chains or cable.
  • Every trailer over 1500 lbs must be equipped with brakes on at least 2 wheels.
  • The braking system on every motor vehicle used to tow another vehicle shall be set up so that one control on the towing vehicle will operate all the service brakes on the power unit and combination of vehicles, Both the towing vehicle and the towed vehicle is required to be equipped with power brakes.
  • All trailers must have fenders, covers or splash guards; any trailer over 80 inches must exhibit amber side reflectors and red rear reflectors.
  • Every trailer shall be equipped with tail lights, stop lamps, license plate lights  and turn signal lamps if any towing takes place after dark.
  • If the trailer extends more than 4 feet behind the tow vehicle or blocks the taillights, it must be equipped with tail lamps – magnetic lights are acceptable.
  • No passenger vehicle, or commercial vehicle under 2 tons is legal to tow more than one vehicle in combination; the exception is a car on a tow dolly. No vehicles in combination may measure more than 65 feet in length. (As some areas have a 60 foot restriction, it is important to verify based on your route.)
  • The total width of the vehicle or its load cannot be more than 102 inches. Lights or mirrors are permissible to extend past this limit.  No vehicle or towed load may be taller than 14 feet measured from the road surface.
  • No motor vehicle under 4000 lbs is allowed tow any vehicle over 6000 lbs.

Towing and hitching equipment, and its method of installation, is strictly regulated  by law. Being aware of California laws is of utmost importance, as an infraction in this area can result in a charge of criminal negligence, as well as liability for any injuries and damage that may occur.  When you are headed out for a relaxing boating excursion, the last thing you want is a legal problem. All rules are in place to keep you – and everyone else on the road – safe for the journey.


Sign and Glide provides expert towing services at highly affordable rates. If you are going to be out on the water, it is easy to obtain membership. Call us today, and never be stranded again.

California Boat Towing