REGISTERING YOUR CONVERTED VAN
WITH THE DVLA
Converting vans into day vans, race vans, and campervans are getting more popular all the time. Whether you want to get away for weekend breaks, enjoy a seaside trip with somewhere warm and dry to retreat to, or travel across the country or continent, a converted van offers the most flexible space available on four wheels.
With any structural modification to a vehicle, it's a legal requirement to let the DVLA know about the changes you've made. This information is shown on your V5C document and is stored in the DVLA's database, which is used by the police, emergency services, and other agencies to help them easily identify your vehicle, if necessary.
In the past, campervans were lumped in with motorhomes and caravans in a grouping called "Motor Caravans". The DVLA identified that more campervans were being registered than both motorhomes and caravans combined, so decided to separate them out into other categories.
As of the spring of 2019, the DVLA made the requirements for being classified as a motor caravan far more specific, especially in terms of the body type of the vehicle. In basic terms, only coach built motorhomes, actual caravans, or some vehicles with higher roofs (not pop top roofs) will be classified in the old category. Think of the type of vehicles that could be called a motorhome or a caravan, and you'll probably be pretty close.
For the rest, which includes converted vans, they either classify them as a "Van with Windows" or a "Modified Van". The criteria for each isn't set in stone but as a rough guide if your van primarily has rear seats and windows you'll be a van with windows, and if your van has things like a side kitchen, pop top, etc you'll probably be a modified van.
The internet is a wonderful thing but it does often give rise to some misconceptions and misinformation. Social media groups and forums spread a lot of uncertainty at times. Here are some of the comments or queries we hear on a regular basis:
Being classed as a motor caravan will change my insurance
Insurers understand the new DVLA rules and don't mind what classification the DVLA put your van in, so long as you've told them about the changes you've made.
Being classed as a motor caravan lifts the 60 mph speed restriction for some vans
The police have confirmed that the DVLA classification has no effect on the speed limit rules. At best, there was previously a loophole where some automated systems might not ticket vans which had been reclassified, but this was unintended. The speed limit rules can be seen here.
In simple terms, if you have an empty medium-sized van you will have a lower speed limit on some roads. Adding a fixed seat with a legal seat belt and window to the back, and changing your classification with the DVLA, makes your van a "dual-purpose vehicle" which lifts the restriction.
Not being classed as a motor caravan will prevent me using some campsites / the passenger side of a ferry / etc.
Like the insurance companies, campsites, ferry companies, and anyone else who regularly welcomes converted vans will understand the new rules. You won't face any restrictions as a result of your DVLA classification, as long as you have reclassified from an empty commercial vehicle.
I have to have certain facilities in my van to make it a campervan
This is the best part of the new changes, you no longer need to meet some random set of criteria that is intended for motorhomes or caravans in order to reclassify. In the past, you had to have 2 gas or electric hob burners, a water tank, and a host of other features in your van in order to be classified as a motor caravan. Now, you can have as much or as little in your van as you like!
While there is a lot of negativity around these changes, they are mostly due to the poor/non-existent way the DVLA explained them prior to implementation. They're actually a sensible step that makes our lives as van owners and converters much easier, reducing the hurdles that need to be jumped to classify our vehicles correctly.