Owning a motorhome is a dream of many and can give you a freedom that is hard to beat; just pack and go wherever you want, but there are some important considerations before you get behind the wheel and start your road trip, or you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law .
1. Do you have the right licence?
This depends on when you passed your driving test and your age; If you passed before the 1st of January 1997 but are younger than 70 years of age you will have Category C1 on your licence which entitles you to drive a vehicle up to 7,500 kg. So, you are good drive most motorhomes except some large American Rvs.
However, if you passed a car driving test after this date your licence only allows you to drive a vehicle up to 3,500 kg gross weight. While many modern motorhomes come under this limit it is important to check as if you spend a lot of time travelling you might want the extra space a larger van offers.
Your 70th birthday will add another complication; you will need to renew your driving licence and will lose the C1 entitlement to drive a vehicle over 3,500kg so if you have a larger motorhome at this stage you will need a medical certificate (D4) from your GP who will probably charge you for this service.
2. Seat Belts
The laws about seat belts can be pretty confusing, especially as many motorhome owners love retro campervans. However, in recent years, many people have decided to use camper conversion kits like these which can help turn your ordinary VW vehicle into your dream camper van.
The first seat belt laws came into play in 1965 but it wasn’t until 1983 that the wearing of seat belts in the front seat of a vehicle became compulsory (if they were fitted) In 1991 it became the law to also wear them if fitted in rear seats.
In 2007 all motorhomes were designed with seat belts for both forward and rear facing seats, these are designated as travel seats and will have a badge stating this. If you have seats which are not constructed as travel seats you shouldn’t use them whilst travelling and this includes side facing seats with or without seat belts.
If you are travelling with a child under 12 they must be in a suitable child restraint in either a rear or forward-facing seat with 3-point belt, they cannot be fitted to side facing seats.
Remember it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all passengers!
The dream is to travel through the day then just pull over and spend the night wherever you want in the woods perhaps or atop a cliff, but unfortunately it is illegal to “wild camp” in a motorhome in most of the UK.
Otherwise you will need permission from the landowner be it privately or council owned land. Local bye-laws will not allow overnight stays in many car parks or lay-bys, and you can be moved on by the police .
However, there are some car parks and pubs which do allow stopovers and you can check these out online, of course a lot of this is down to common sense:
Don’t park up right next to a “NO CAMPING” sign, or in the middle of the local village green, if you are in the middle of nowhere, arrive late and leave at dawn it is unlikely anyone will know you are there and as long as you are respectful i.e.; closing gates etc and clear away any trace of your stay there shouldn’t be a problem.
4. Speed Limit
Smaller motorhomes with an unladen weight up to 3,050kg are treated as cars when it comes to the UK speed limit; 70mph on a motorway and 60 mph on other roads unless a speed sign stating a limit applies. However larger motorhomes are restricted to 60mph on dual carriageways and 50mph on other roads, the 70mph limit on motorways still applies. For these speed limits to be applicable the V5C Registration document must have the 'Body type' stated as Motor Caravan, otherwise goods vehicle limits may apply. (Note; if you are towing a trailer you are not permitted in the outside lane of a motorway).
5. Size Matters
We’ve mentioned that size matters regarding your driving licence, but it is also important as to whether your motorhome is actually allowed in the country, any imported motorhome needs to be registered and size is restricted in the UK – your vehicle must be less than 12 metres long and 2.55 metres wide. So, no you can’t have one of those giant behemoths that regularly traverse route 66 in the USA.
Whether your motorhome is new, second-hand, imported or built here in the UK, it still needs to comply with UK Construction and Use and Lighting Regulations. If your vehicle fulfils the requirements of the National Caravan Council (NCC) certification scheme, it will have an NCC approved plate on the vehicle stating such.
So, there you have it, 5 Motorhome laws you must follow before setting off, and once your motorhome is safe to do so, you can climb aboard and experience the freedom of the open road.
For more information on Campervans, visit: