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Paperwork! Not the most exciting subject but it’s important to understand any applicable regulations governing your camper van conversion so you don’t breach any laws.
Whilst this article is specific to how to register your converted camper van with the DVLA in the UK, the overriding advice is to check the rules in the country of registration before your start your conversion to make sure you meet them all during the build.
It’d be horrible to find you’ve missed a critical design feature when you’ve finished!
How to register your converted camper van with the DVLA
Disclaimer: this information is based on our experience in 2017 and the details available from the DVLA. Rules, laws and regulations may change so please always check the latest with the DVLA.
Why do you need to register your converted camper van with the DVLA?
It’s a legal requirement
As quoted from the DVLA website, “It is a legal requirement that all UK registered vehicles are classified correctly on the V5C log book.
All camper vans, motor caravans and motorhomes fall into the DVLA category of ‘motor caravan’. If you’ve converted a van into a motor caravan then you must return the V5C to DVLA for body type amendment.”
It saves money on insurance
In general, insurance for a camper van is cheaper than for a panel van. This is because they’re not (usually) used for commercial use, have fewer claims and often don’t drive as many miles.
Camper van insurance also has the benefit of some contents insurance for your personal belongings. Make sure to check your policy wording to see how much cover you have.
Faster speed limits apply
We travel slowly so speed isn’t much of an issue for us. And when we had Mowgli, with a top speed of 53mph, it was just as well.
As a panel van you can travel at:
- 50mph on single carriageways where the national speed limit applies
- 60mph on dual carriageways
- 70mph on motorways
With your converted camper van registered as a “motor caravan” with the DVLA you can travel at:
- 60mph on single carriageways where the national speed limit applies
- 70mph on dual carriageways
- 70mph on motorways
Cheaper and less strict MOT testing
Vehicles registered as a “motor caravan” come under the Class IV MOT rules. Mowgli, at 7.5 tonne and Baloo at 4.5 tonne are Class IV for MOT purposes.
Even before your van is registered, the MOT tester ought to see it’s a camper van and test it as a Class IV.
Minimum camper van features
In order for a converted vehicle to qualify as a motor caravan it must have certain features. The DVLA summarise the minimum camper van features as follows:
- a door that provides access to the living accommodation
- a bed, which has a minimum length of 1800mm or 6 feet – this can be converted from seats used for other purposes during the day but must be permanently fixed within the body of the vehicle
- a water storage tank or container on, or in, the vehicle
- a seating and dining area, permanently attached to the vehicle – the table may be detachable but must have some permanent means of attachment to the vehicle. It is not good enough to have a loose table
- a permanently fixed means of storage, a cupboard, locker or wardrobe
- a permanently fixed cooking facility within the vehicle, powered by gas or electricity
- at least one window on the side of the accommodation
If the vehicle has all of these features present, permanently fixed and installed properly, then it’s a legal requirement to reclassify it as a motor caravan on the V5C.
The DVLA go on to refer to their interpretation of the law governing storage, cooking facilities, the dining area and even the sleeping accommodation.
I know it all sounds mega tedious. When we set out to register our converted camper van with the DVLA, we made sure to prove we’d met each of these requirements.
Seats and a table
- Are required to be an integral part of the living accommodation area, and mounted independently of other items.
- The table must be capable of being mounted directly to the vehicle floor and /or side wall.
- The table mounting arrangement must be secured as a permanent feature, (bolted, riveted, screwed or welded), although the table may be detachable.
- Permanently secured seating must be available for use at the table.
- The seats must be secured directly to the vehicle floor and/or side wall.
- The seats must be secured as a permanent feature, (bolted riveted, screwed or welded).
- Must be an integral part of the living accommodation area.
- Either beds or a bed converted from seats (to form a mattress base).
- Secured as a permanent feature, with base structures bolted, riveted, screwed or welded to the vehicle floor and / or side wall, (unless the sleeping accommodation is provided as a provision over the driver’s cab compartment).
- That are an integral part of the vehicle living accommodation and is mounted independently of other items.
- That are secured to the vehicle floor and /or side wall.
- Secured as a permanent feature, (bolted, riveted, screwed, or welded).
- The cooking facility must consist of a minimum of a two ring cooking facility or a microwave in either case having a fuel/power source.
- If the cooking facility is fuelled by gas having a remote fuel supply, the fuel supply pipe must be permanently secured to the vehicle structure.
- If the cooking facility is fuelled by gas having a remote fuel supply, the fuel reservoir must be secured in a storage cupboard or the reservoir secured to the vehicle structure.
- Storage facilities must be provided by a cupboard or locker.
- The facility must be an integral part of the vehicle living accommodation, i.e. mounted independently of other items, unless incorporated below seat/sleeping accommodation or the cooking facility.
- The storage facility must be a permanent feature, (bolted, riveted, screwed or welded).
- The storage facility must be secured directly to the vehicle floor and/or side wall, unless a storage provision is provided over the driver’s cab compartment.
When to start the re-classification process
The DVLA site states the conversion should be complete before you re-classify but we all know, we never stop tinkering. Many of us think a conversion is never complete!
Our advice is to make sure you meet all requirements and cosmetically, it looks complete.
Finishing touches aren’t important though – we didn’t even have the covers on the fronts of our cupboards when we registered Baloo as a camper van conversion.
How to register your converted camper van with the DVLA
The DVLA want photos to your completed conversion showing the changes made with a description of the work carried out.
If they’re not happy with the evidence you provide they may wish to inspect the vehicle before approving a change to the V5C.
Our mission was to avoid this at all costs! You just know it’ll be a pain in the neck.
Here’s the process we followed, including the belt and braces we did to try to ensure we were successful first time round:
- Complete (ish) the conversion
- Fill in section 7 of the V5c – you only need to fill in the bits that have actually changed
- Print off this checklist
- Take and print photographs to prove each of the checklist items
- Number the back of each photo and write the number on the checklist item it shows (1 photo can prove more than 1 item)
- If you need to change the tax classification (see below), print a V70 form and complete it
- Download this covering letter and update it with your details before printing; don’t forget to sign it
- Send the photos, checklist, V5C, V70 and covering letter to DVLA , Swansea ,SA99 1BA .
The DVLA could can take up to 6 weeks to process the change and during that time, they’re unable to confirm receipt of the application if they’ve not yet started the process.
For peace of mind, we sent our application by special delivery so we knew it had been delivered.
Here are all the photos we sent to the DVLA with our application. Nothing fancy as you can see and you can see just how far off the finished article she looks.
Changing your tax classification
Depending on your vehicle, you may need to change the tax classification you have completed your conversion. For example, Baloo was a 16 seater minibus and we converted her to a 2 seater camper van her tax classification changed too.
We didn’t realise this at the time we asked the DVLA to re-register her as a motor caravan. Instead, they called us to let us know they needed to change her tax registration too.
Because both the old tax classification and the new attract the same fees, they said they’d deal with it all for us without the need for us to fill in anymore forms.
I suspect this was thanks to the nice guy at the DVLA dealing with our case rather than the standard process.
Our advice is to play it safe. Call the DVLA and check if you need to change the tax classification and send of the V70 form at the same time. Explain the situation on your covering letter.
Insuring your camper van
Once the DVLA register your converted van as a “motor caravan” with the DVLA and you receive your V5C, you can insure it as a camper van. You can get a quote here. Our insurance page has loads of information and links to a camper van insurance site too.
- Link to the DVLA pages about how to register your converted camper van
- Covering letter template to update with your details and send to the DVLA with your V5C
- Checklist of all DVLA specified requirements