October 20, 2020

Reclassifying Your Panel Van or Van with Windows to a Motorcaravan – the Conundrum!

In 2019 reclassifying a panel van, or van with windows, to a motor caravan with the DVLA suddenly became a far more difficult task. From previously only requiring specific internal layout adaptions to enable your van to be reclassified as a motor caravan, the DVLA added a new dimension in the autumn of 2019 and external features became a vital part.

To quote the DVLA;

DVLA is required to record vehicle details for road safety and law enforcement. The body type information held on the vehicle record must describe what a vehicle looks like in traffic. This description, as well as other distinguishing features, allows the police and other enforcement agencies to easily identify vehicles.

The body type does not affect the insurance category of the vehicle or have any effect on speed limits or other legislative requirements. It is only used for establishing vehicle appearance and identification.

It is important to remember that even if the vehicle’s body type is not changed to ‘motor caravan’, the vehicle can still be used for this purpose as long as the keeper is satisfied the converted vehicle meets the required internal features for motor caravans.

DVLA is responsible for making sure the vehicle record is accurate. To change the body type of a vehicle, DVLA has to be satisfied that the vehicle meets their policy for body types. Requests for a body type change to ‘motor caravan’ require that your vehicle has external features that can be recognised as those of a motor caravan. It is the responsibility of the converter or vehicle keeper to make sure that any alterations made to the vehicle do not compromise its safety.

But if my van isn’t reclassified as a motorcaravan will it affect my speed limits?

As the DVLA clearly state in the text above, which was taken directly from their website in Oct 2020, it won’t. Although they don’t explain the reason why, it is down to The Motor Vehicles (Type Approval) (Great Britain) Regulations 1979, where vehicle definitions are given, upon which speed limits are based for the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, Schedule 6. Within this 1979 Regulation the definition of a motorcaravan is as follows; a motor vehicle which is constructed or adapted for the carriage of passengers and their effects and which contains, as permanently installed equipment, the facilities which are reasonably necessary for enabling the vehicle to provide mobile living accommodation for its users.

If your campervan or motorhome meets these criteria, and cannot carry more than 8 passengers, does not have an unladen weight of over 3.05 tonnes and is less than 12m long, then regardless of what Body Type the DVLA assigns to your van, you have a motorcaravan and you are legally allowed to drive at the speed limits of a regular passenger car – 60mph on a single carriageway and 70mph on a dual carriageway. If you do receive a speeding fine then challenge it immediately and cite these two regulations. You will be in the right.

Will I still be able to get insurance if my van isn’t reclassified as a motor caravan?

It’s a question that many people are rightly concerned about and the answer in most cases seems to be a simple yes. From feedback across the sector, cases where insurance have been refused because a van has not been reclassified by the DVLA as a motorcaravan, look like they are few and far between. Insurers appear to be taking a pragmatic view in that their level of risk isn’t affected and the overall value of the vehicle won’t change according to the Body Type. Common sense prevails. Hooray!

How do I get my panel van or window van reclassified as a motorcaravan?

If you’re still determined to go through with the reclassification process then there are two key areas to focus upon – the external and the internal features. Both are detailed on the DVLA website and we’ve given the links below.

In summary though;

Internally the camper van must have permanent features of; seats, table, sleeping accommodation, cooking and storage facilities.

Externally the campervan must have permanent features of; two or more rear windows, an access door into the living accommodation, campervan/motorhome decals, an awning rail on both sides and a fixed high top roof (yes that excludes pop top roofs!!)

For the full DVLA detailed requirements just click on the following links;

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/registering-a-diy-caravan/converting-a-vehicle-into-a-motorhome

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/converting-a-vehicle-into-a-motor-caravan/converting-a-vehicle-into-a-motor-caravan

If I buy a brand new professionally converted campervan with a pop top roof then will it be registered as a motorcaravan?

Simple answer – it depends! Where a professional converter sources a brand new vehicle from a manufacturer and then converts it into a campervan then even though it could have a pop top roof and not have two awning rails and fancy exterior decals, then yes it can. The professional converter has to meet regulations such as having certified full Type Approval (by IVA, National Small Series or European Whole Vehicle) and the vehicle must be unregistered so that the application is the very first – if the converter is working on an already registered panel van or window van then they won’t be able to have it reclassified as a motorcaravan.

This means that yes, converters such as ourselves and of course the VW California will have a DVLA Body Type of motorcaravan on their V5’s despite being pop top campervans. How we love consistency of policy!

After all of this does it actually make any material difference if my application to have my van reclassified to a motorcaravan by the DVLA is refused?

Peace of mind over the clarity of speed limits is probably the greatest benefit. For the keen-eyed buyer in the second-hand market there may also be a marginal impact on residual value if the Body Type of motorcaravan isn’t stated on the V5 ownership document.

Sign up to our newsletter to receive tips, tutorials and much more