When it comes to understanding speed limits, it has always been pretty straightforward: “normal” car drivers can go 70 on dual carriageways and motorways, 30 in built-up areas, and 60 everywhere else unless specified. However, the last couple of years has seen a sharp rise in people buying campervans and caravans, which can often mean a change in speed restrictions.
While most people know that when you are towing a caravan or trailer, the limit reduces to 50 mph for single carriageways and 60 for dual and motorways, the confusion can arise when driving vans or MPVs. This is in part down to the seemingly mystifying criteria used by the DVLA when reassigning vans from goods vehicles to leisure vehicles or campers, and partly due to people simply not knowing how their vehicle is categorised. However, with a fine of up to £2,500 for speeding, not knowing your limits can make your holiday very costly indeed.
Broadly speaking, there are two different types of campers: conversions and factory-made. The difference is pretty self-explanatory; while factory-made campers leave the production line complete, conversions have been adapted post-production.
Speed limits for campers
The highway code divides campers into two categories: those that weigh below 3.05 tonnes and those that weigh more. Lighter camper vans (referred to as motor caravans) have the same speed restrictions as cars (30, 60, 70, 70). Meanwhile, the heavier ones are subjected to the same restrictions as light goods vehicles (30 in built up areas, 50 on single carriageways, 60 on dual carriageways and 70 on motorways).
Simple, right? Well, no. Factory-built campers under 3060kg are subject to the same restrictions as cars and, therefore, don’t face the confusion that drivers of converted vans do. However, most conversions were goods vehicles before they became camper vans, day vans or family vehicles. This means that, strictly speaking, although they are the technically the same weight as a factory-built van, converted campers which have not been reassigned as motor caravans by the DVLA must adhere to the 30, 50, 60, 70 limits.
If in doubt, check your logbook for the vehicle category and definition. If you bought your camper after it was converted, the previous owners may have been lucky enough to get the classification changed on the V5C; a feat that is increasingly challenging at the moment.
If you are stopped for speeding
The DVLA has stated that, regardless of what your V5C says, if you tick the boxes for a motor caravan, and not a goods vehicle, and your vehicle weighs less than the 3050 kg, you can abide by the upper speed limit. This is not a sentiment that has been formalised anywhere, therefore it is recommended that you proceed with caution. The upshot is, nobody is sure what will happen if a post-conversion van is caught doing 70 on a dual carriageway. If in doubt, drop your speed by 10mph; you will not only play it save but you will considerably reduce your fuel consumption, too.