In the UK
In the UK you have the option of re-registering your van as a "motor caravan" with the DVLA. It is not a requirement to re-register the vehicle. You can continue to use the vehicle as a campervan, even if it is still registered as a "panel van", assuming you have adequate (i.e. campervan)insurance.
Why Re-register as a "Motor Caravan"?
Although you do not need to re-register a campervan conversion, here are the befeits of doing so
Cheaper Insurance - Generally leisure vehicles such as campervans are cheaper to insure the panel vans. This is because they generally have fewer claims, do fewer miles and are not used for commercial use. Keep in mind that you can still get your self build insured as a campervan even if the vehicle is registered as a panel van. Campervan insurance is generally 10% - 50% cheaper than van insurance.
Contents Insurance - Vehicles registered as campervans generally have better contents insurance than panel vans. This is because a campervan contains personal belongings such as mobile phone, laptops, jewellery, etc. Whereas a panel van typically contains tools and parts for commercial use.
Might be able to travel faster - Vans with an unladen weight of under 3050kg can travel at a maximum of 60mph on a dual carriageway. But this increases to 70mph on a dual carriageway for vehicles registered as campervans. All other speed limits remain the same. Vehicles with a unladen weight over 3050kg (i.e. all 3500kg vans) have no change in speed limit when re-registering as a campervan.
Cheaper MOT - Class VII vehicles (between 3000kg and 3500kg) registered as camper vans come under the cheaper and less restriction Class IV MOT rules. When inspecting the vehicle the MOT tester has to test the vehicle "as it is presented". So if a campervan is presented, that would normally be class VII, even if it is not re-registered as a campervan, the MOT tester should test is as class IV vehicle.
Might get cheaper ferry prices - Travelling on a ferry is typically cheaper for a campervan or motorhome than a commercial van. Most ferry companies look at a converted campervan and are happy for it to pay the cheaper campervan price. However, a few ferry companies will use the DVLA log book classification to determine whether to price the vehicle as a commercial vehicle or not.
Change of Vehicle Classification
If you decide that you want to re-register your van as a campervan you should contact your local vehicle authority. In the UK this is the DVLA.
Before doing this make sure you vehicle meets all of the criteria mentioned below.
What makes a 'Motor Caravan'?
For a vehicle to qualify as a 'Motor Caravan' in the UK in the eyes of the DVLA the following permanent fixtures must be present:
There must be a bed with a minimum length of 6ft or 180cms
The bed must be an integral part of the vehicle living accommodation area
The bed must be permanent or converted from seats (the bed can fold away during the day)
The bed fixtures must be secured directly to the vehicle floor and/or side walls, unless it is over the drivers cab compartment.
There must be a horizontal sliding door or an outward opening rear or side door.
Seats and Tables
There must be a seating area for diners to sit around
The table can be fixed or detachable
The table must mount directly to the vehicle floor or side walls
The table mounting must be secured as a permanent feature, either bolted screwed or welded. The table itself can be detachable.
Seats must be secured directly to the vehicle floor and/or side walls
The seats must be secured as a permanent fixture, either bolted, riveted, screwed or welded
Permanently secured seating must be available for use at a table
Water Container Note: DVLA do not state any requirements regarding water storage. However, most insurance companies state that the water tank should be onboard, or under the chassis. However, some insurance companies are happy with an external water container that can be moved, such as those used with a caravan.
The vehicle must have an onboard or external (e,g, under the chassis) water container
Note: The insurer Adrian Flux requires the water container to hold 6 gallons / 27 litres.
The vehicle must have at least one cupboard, locker or wardrobe
The cupboard must be an integral part of the living accommodation area
The cupboard must be a permanent feature, either bolted, riveted, screwed or welded
The cupboard must be secured directly to the vehicle floor and / or side walls
The vehicle must have cooking facilities powered by fixed gas, electric hob or microwave oven
The cooking facilities must be secured directly to the vehicle floor or side wall
The cooking facilities must be a permanent feature, either bolted, riveted, screwed or welded
Gas and electric hobs must have a minimum or 2 cooking rings. Microwave ovens must have a power source (don't just fit one that can't be used)
Gas cooking facilities with remote fuel supplies must have the gas supply pipe permanently secured to the vehicle structure
Gas cooking facilities with remote fuel supplies should have the gas bottle, fuel reservoir secured to the vehicle structure
The vehicle must have at least one side window
New! Since 2011 the DVLA are now asking that the vehicle look like a motor caravan from the outside. The details are yet unclear what is required. More information will appear here when available.
How to Change a Vans Classification to Camper Van or Motorhome in the UK
In the UK, changing the classification of a van to a campervan or motorhome is fairly straightforward. The following information is based on real experience, correct at the time of the re-classification. This serves as a good guide, but please contact the DVLA and/or VOSA to confirm the rules regarding your vehicle.
When your conversion is complete, and your van is now (nearly) a camper van or motorhome you need to contact the DVLA and inform them.
You should change your V5C (log book) document and return it to them. You need to change the vehicle body type to "Motor Caravan". Motor Caravan is the term used by the DVLA for campervans and motorhomes. See the DirectGov website for details on changing your V5 document.
You should also include a covering letter, briefly covering what you have done to the vehicle. Also include photographs of your converted vehicle. Dont include too many. Between 10 and 20 are required. Do ensure that you include the vehicles number plate in a shot of the front of the vehicle, and a shot of the back of the vehicle. From the photos the DVLA can see if you have done a good conversion to the vehicle, or simply thrown a mattress in the back.
Send the paperwork to: DVLA Swansea SA99 1BA
If you have done a good conversion, and the DVLA are satisfied they will return a new V5 document to you, with the body type changed.
However, if they are unsure of your conversion they will ask you to visit the local DVLA inspection office. An agent will inspect the vehicle before recommending any change of documentation.
The DVLA do not publish strict guidelines for the above. However, The Department of Transport do publish a strict 'motor caravan' definition for vehicles that are being imported.
When to Change the Vehicle Classification
You should change the classification of your vehicle from 'Panel Van' to 'Motor Caravan' when your conversion is nearly complete, once the major fittings are in place (bed, kitchen) and it looks neat and tidy. Once you think you satisfy all of the conditions mentioned above, contact the DVLA and start the re-classification process.
You don't want any vehicle inspectors to think it is not finished, so ensure it looks finished before you apply for the change.
Don't worry about finishing touches, you can always complete these once the vehicle is re-registered.
Once your vehicle has been officially re-classified by the DVLA, you will need to change your insurance. Your original insurance will be for a 'Panel Van', and your vehicle is no longer one. So you need to cancel your existing policy, and get a new policy for a Camper van.
UK Vehicle Classes
In the UK small vans, less than 3500kg, are classified as Class 4 vehicles. Vans between 3000kg and 3500kg are considered Class 7 vehicles. Class 7 vehicles have stricter MOT tests. Vehicles over 3500kg would normally go to a VOSA Test Centre. A bus/mini-bus with more than 8 seats (up to 13) is a Class 5, unless the seats are removed and the vehicle is re-classified as a campervan, then it becomes Class 4.
However, if a Class 7 vehicle is registered for recreation purposes, it becomes a Class 4 vehicle. Therefore, if you convert a Class 7 big panel van into a campervan or motorhome, changing it's classification to a recreation vehicle will make life easier and cheaper for you.
Also note that you should insure you vehicle based on its classification. You cannot really insure a camper van as a panel van. Should you have to make a claim the insurance company are unlikely to pay if your vehicle is wrongly classified.