RV, DVLA and Body Types (2023)


Text: Barry Norris Photos: Barry Norris and John Chaffee

Many of our readers are down-to-earth folks, which often leads them to convert their registered van to a motorhome, either on their own or professionally, to suit their specific needs and budget.

However, one task facing an increasing number of tuners, including professionals, is re-registering a commercial vehicle as a motorhome with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the government agency responsible for vehicle registration.

Newly registered as an RV

What is a little formalism compared to the actual hassle of conversion? Not a big deal unless you take into account the DVLA's narrow and sometimes confusing view of caravans. The term 'campus' is what DVLA refers to as a motorhome, and ideally that term should appear on your V5C body type line.

DVLA confirmedMMMAt the start of 2020, the bureau rejected 9,488 applications to re-register vehicles as caravans in the first 11 months of 2019, compared to just 622 for all of 2017.

He also said he could not explain why the increase was so large, or what the main issue with the rejection was. He stressed that vehicles that meet all of his criteria will be reclassified as motorhomes.MMMWe also found many professional and private converters denying this, claiming that their conversions meet all standards and continue to be rejected.

DVLA Caravan Status Standards

The DVLA has strict standards for what constitutes a motorhome, and you will only be allowed into a V5C motorhome after accepting evidence submissions including photographs. The best that many tuners can get out of the DVLA is to register the vehicle for a new body type called 'van with side windows'.

Details of DVLA requirements can be found on the websitegov.uk/government/publications/converting-a-vehicle to-caravan

The DVLA's position is that a motorhome should not only have the interior character of a motorhome, but also have a durable exterior that, in their words, "accurately reflects how the vehicle will look in traffic". Internal attributes do not appear to be a barrier to re-registration, and most converters consider these requirements reasonable.

By its very nature, if the superstructure is built in the form of a truck, it can be clearly distinguished from the base vehicle. But when converted to a van (PVC), how can one change the look of the van? Another question might be: why does PVC have to stand out in traffic like a caravan?

Arguably, the DVLA requirements for awning rails are barely noticeable in traffic and therefore of little importance. Even if the converter is mounted in a retractable canopy (which usually includes canopy rails on the front of the cassette), DVLA ignores this. And it is normal for the application to be rejected without reason.

reader experience

One of the biggest advantages of a professional warehouseMMMIt's your readers who send us their camping experiences, which can be challenging and motivating for us.

Reader John Chaffe is a typical example. He contacted the DVLA to register his professionally modified Ford Transit van as a caravan. After reading my readers' repliesSeptember 2020MMM Regarding the possibility of fines if the HGV speed limit is exceeded, unless the V5C body is marked as a caravan, he writes about his frustrating experience with the DVLA.

He submitted all the details requested by the DVLA, including the photos shown in this report, but only received a body replacement for a van with side windows. As for John (I agree), all DVLA requirements are met.

There are no visible awning rails, but a snap-in awning is fitted, making it more visible in traffic. There is no appeals process or detailed reasons for the failure to register a new RV. The DVLA was pleased with the changes to the interior, but said "from the outside, the vehicle lacks the permanent exterior features that could be described as a camper van."

The DVLA continues: "Regarding the speed limits that apply to motorhomes...the speed limits for different classes of road vehicles depend on the configuration of the vehicle for road use. If, as a registered owner, you are sure that the vehicle meets the definition of a motorhome...you can use it like this, Regardless of body classification."

This seems a little vague, and John has a legitimate concern: if he gets caught doing 70mph on a dual carriageway, the police will believe that the vehicle he says is defined as a caravan or what he saw in the V5C thing.

The DVLA website also states: "Body type does not affect the vehicle's insurance class or speed limit or other legal requirements." It is only used to determine the vehicle's appearance and identification. "

each questionMMMFilled with technical and practical advice written by experts especially for motorhomes and RV owners. You can now browse a detailed archive of articles by subscribing to our fully searchable digital content library. To start viewing content to read, type in the search bar below and a list of articles will appear:

Vision of the Department of Transportation

To verify what the DVLA is doing, I contacted the Department for Transport (DfT), which is responsible for speed limit legislation, and confirmed that vehicle speed limits are not related to the body type on the V5C registration form.

National speed limits for different classes of road vehicles depend on the configuration of vehicles used on the road. The applicable law is Schedule 6 to the Traffic Regulations Act 1984 which lists the types of vehicles restricted below the national speed limit.

If a van meets the definition of a motorhome given in the link below, it must meet the speed limit for a given type of vehicle (eg a motorhome) depending on its weightgov.uk/government/publications/car-registration/car-to-caravan conversion

Section 1 is referred to in Schedule 6 to the Road Traffic Act 1984. 2 seconds. Regulation 1 of the Motor Vehicle Approval (Approval) (UK) Regulations 1979 defines a caravan as a "motor vehicle constructed or adapted for the carriage of passengers and for the purpose thereof, including as permanently installed equipment, such as is reasonably necessary" Enables vehicles to provide mobile accommodation to users. "

Thus, both the 1979 Regulations and the DfT provide the legislative outlines for the definition of a motorhome for speed limiting purposes, and both definitions refer only to the interior and not to the exterior.

I also asked if the UK Department for Transport could make sure the police were aware of the requirements. The response: "That's a question the police have to answer."

police response

I've posted the topic of speed limits and wagon conversions in the help field:perguntethe.police.ukOfficial website of the Police Service of England and Wales. The next answer is:

"Check that the V5C registration document has been changed to 'Campaign', otherwise it will be subject to the same speed limit as the van it is based on. However, although the V5 says there are caravans, if you drive these vehicles the speed limit is the same as a car , some police officers may take action against you for speeding. You then have to prove to them and eventually to court that the vehicle is a motorhome - which may not be easy. So if you have a van converted into a camper, To avoid any difficulties, many organizations will advise you to follow the same speed limits that apply to vans.

Expert Opinion

As you can see above, there are mixed messages. To get a clearer picture, I interviewed industry expert Tim Booth. Tim has 30 years experience as a police officer, primarily caravan and motorhome thefts, and has since spent a significant amount of time educating law enforcement officers across the country about recreational vehicles. He now runs his own consultancy, transferring his expertise to the National Caravans Council (NCC) and the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS). You can often meet him at the show, where he gives advice.

Tim agrees that most speeding violations are now signaled by cameras, so the images are taken from the front or the rear, and waiting for the police to notice that the van has an awning is either impossible or impractical.

In this case, comments were made to the DVLA suggesting overhead lights or pop-ups would be more visible when viewing camera footage, but the DVLA declined to respond. He also believes the side graphics are misleading because they can be easily removed or replaced, an economical way of disguising a stolen RV.

Tim believes better information on the V5C could help track the stolen vehicle, but the standard answer from the DVLA is "impossible". Your suggestion to solve this problem is to have a PVC caravan body, such as a Window Van (caravan), but this requires additional input fields and it is believed that the DVLA IT platform cannot handle the additional information. While IT performance issues still exist, it is unlikely that anything will change for the foreseeable future.

Tim believes the V5C camper van, shown as a van with side windows, would likely be considered a non-commercial van after analyzing footage from the cameras. Tim said it was acceptable for the owner to provide appropriate photographic evidence as part of the defence, provided the case was not withdrawn.

Vision of the National Science Center

The NCC represents the major motorhome manufacturers who mainly convert new cars under the type approval system before registering them for the first time with the DVLA.

So far, the manufacturer has obtained full European Vehicle Type Approval (EWVTA) and uses DVLA's automated RaV (Registration of Vehicles) system without any issues.

The NCC is concerned that the DVLA's definition of a motorhome is inconsistent with the definition in the EWVTA directive. There is another issue with the NCC that concerns the quality of modifications to pre-registered vans that do not require any certification.

Therefore, if the DVLA changes the status of RV conversions, the NCC believes this can be considered a tolerance for unsafe conversions and potentially dangerous vehicles.

The National Focal Point is working with the DfT and DVLA to address these issues, trying to improve the registration process and hoping to increase the number of checks to ensure the safety of unapproved switchovers.

DVLA Review

After contacting the DVLA, the information was repeated on its website: "The body type information contained in the vehicle registration certificate must describe how the vehicle will actually look in traffic. So the body type will not change unless the vehicle actually looks like a car from the outside. RV."

Asked whether the DVLA discriminated against processors of minivans, while large caravan manufacturers approved by large caravan manufacturers appear to automatically receive caravan status (despite the similarity in appearance), a spokesman said: "I can confirm that each Decisions are based on the information and evidence provided, not the person who submitted the application."


It is clear from the statements issued by the DVLA and the DfT that the V5C van body with side windows does not prevent the motorhome from being considered a motorhome for speed limit and other purposes. However, as a standard and legally required document, the V5C offers an ideal opportunity to avoid problems with the police.

The document requires photographic evidence, which police can easily obtain and provides motorhome owners with assurance of the vehicle's condition. An opportunity to make everyone's life easier is being missed.

We hope the NCC succeeds in creating a better registration system that also regulates small processors in a way that benefits consumers and reduces the likelihood of unsafe conversions being sold.

In the meantime, if you have received a registration for a van with side windows please keep a copy of the DVLA application to send when you are notified of a speed limit and refer to the relevant law for motorhomes to define the purpose of the speed limit

Potential Benefits of Re-registering as an RV

  • A caravan is able to travel within the national speed limit like a car provided its unladen weight does not exceed 3.05 tonnes
  • Cheaper Insurance – In general, RV and RV insurance will be less expensive because it may cover fewer miles. Property insurance may also be lower because the van may contain expensive tools or business items.
  • Minimum MOT - HGVs between 3,000kg and 3,500kg require a class 7 MOT, while motorhomes require a class 4 MOT
  • Ferry tickets are cheaper – motorhomes are often cheaper than HGVs

The good news about ferry inspections and prices is that it is unlikely that stations and ferry companies will refer to the V5C and treat your motorhome as shown. Insurance companies may also consider your RV application, but you'll need to be honest with them and explain the situation.

Specialist caravan insurer Caravan Guard says the DVLA must be notified and assigned a description of a motorhome or van with side windows, equipped and used as a motorhome only, in order for them to insure it as a motorhome.

Speed ​​limits can pose real difficulties, although as explained in the article, as long as you understand the relevant laws and the reasonable response of the relevant police officers, you should be able to solve the case successfully.

DVLA defines requirements for permanent external resources

  • Two or more windows on at least one side, excluding cabin windows
  • Separate door (not car door) to living area
  • Caravan style graphics on the sides of the vehicle
  • Awnings mounted on each side of the vehicle
  • High roofs (excluding pop-up roofs)

You can read another article aboutHow to re-register your camper conversion here

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