Are you thinking of buying or hiring a motorhome (motor caravan) to get to your holiday destination? Or maybe you want to import one from another country? Before you decide you'll need to check the entitlement you hold on your driving licence and the size of motorhome you are going to drive.
The entitlement needed on your driving licence
You will need to check that your driving licence gives you entitlement to drive a motorhome. The categories shown on your licence allow you to drive vehicles up to certain weights, known as the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM).
Category B (car) entitlement
You can drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes MAM, together with a trailer not exceeding 750 kilograms. To tow a heavier trailer you will need category B+E entitlement.
Category C1 entitlement
You can drive vehicles over 3.5 tonnes MAM but less than 7.5 tonnes (with or without a trailer up to 750 kilograms). To tow a heavier trailer you will need category C1+E entitlement.
If you passed the category C1+E test:
- before 1 January 1997 (shown as C1+E (79) on the licence) you are limited to driving such combinations up to a combined weight of 8.25 tonnes: for example, motorhome six tonnes, trailer 2.25 tonnes
- after 1 January 1997 you are entitled to drive combinations up to 12 tonnes in weight where the MAM of the trailer exceeds 750 kilograms but doesn't exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle
Category C entitlement
You can drive vehicles over 7.5 tonnes MAM. To draw a trailer over 750 kilograms you will need category C+E entitlement. Motorhomes of this weight can't be driven on a standard category B (car) licence, irrespective of when that category B entitlement was obtained.
The size of the motorhome
A motorhome being registered in the UK cannot be more than 12 metres long and 2.55 metres wide, unless it has an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) certificate. A vehicle with an IVA can have a maximum width of 2.6 metres. There is no height limit but, if the motorhome is over three metres tall, the height must be on a notice visible to you as the driver.
If you need to measure the vehicle there are some parts that you don't need to include in your measurements.
When measuring the length don't include the:
- driving mirrors
- rearward projecting buffers (made of rubber or other resilient material)
When measuring the width don't include the:
- driving mirrors
- distortion in tyres due to loading
Who sets the current limits
The Department for Transport (DfT) imposes the current limits that are contained in the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 (as amended). Representatives from European countries, including the UK, agreed to impose these limits throughout Europe.
Why these current limits were set
A number of factors were taken into consideration, such as existing restrictions in different countries, vehicle manoeuvrability and typical road specifications. Also, the overall size of large vehicles that can create an unacceptable safety hazard for adjacent property, vehicles and pedestrians, but especially for oncoming traffic.
No plans to change the law
The Department for Transport (DfT) has no plans to change the law on the maximum dimensions of a motorhome, or indeed of any other vehicle.
Whose responsibility is it for the motorhome to meet the law?
Anyone selling, or offering to supply, a motorhome is responsible for ensuring that the size of the vehicle is within the law. It is an offence under the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order, 1981 if a motorhome that is too long or too wide is offered for sale. As a customer, it is a good idea for you to be aware of the law, as ignorance of the law is not a defence in court. Your insurance cover may also be invalid if your vehicle doesn't meet the requirements of the law.
Why are larger vehicles allowed in North America but not in Europe?
The road traffic laws in Europe have many differences to those in North America, on a variety of subjects, not only maximum length and width. Roads in North America are generally wider than in Europe and property is often set back further from the road.