Legal Requirements for Owning a Caravan

Once you have purchased your new caravan you will need to make sure you are safe, government legal and road legal. Part of caravan ownership is complying with the necessary rules and regulations that are required by law, as there are some necessary obligations that must be met before you can tow or use your unit for recreational purposes.

But how do you know what they legal rules and laws are? You may need to complete paperwork for the DVLA, registrations, MOT’s and licenses, or simply the necessary insurance to make sure you are appropriately covered in the event of an accident. So what is required exactly for caravan ownership and operation?

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Do caravans need an MOT?

No there is no legal requirement for an MOT on caravans. Unlike cars and other road-going vehicles, caravans are actually not required to perform an MOT or road check of any sort. However, the owner of the caravan is responsible for making sure that the vehicle is safe to tow on the road at all times. General roadworthiness, the legality of tyres and full operation of any brake lights, indicators etc. are all the owner's responsibility.

Although it is not legally required most people that have a caravan deem it prudent to perform an annual safety check to make sure they are meeting standards and that gas and electrical systems are operating correctly, and include this in their budget for annual costs of owning a caravan.

Do caravans need road tax?

No, caravans do not require any road tax. There are a number of expenses that come with owning a vehicle, fortunately, if the vehicle in question is a caravan then it is not subject to any road tax obligation in the way a car or truck would be. If your caravan is below a weight limit of 3,500kg then you are completely free from paying road tax.

These rules apply to touring caravans only, the ones designed to be hauled and transported using another vehicle. If you are operating a caravan or trailer that is above these limits or if you own a motorhome then you will be subjected to certain road tax rules depending on the size of the vehicle.

There may be restrictions or some requirements if you are planning to park your caravan on the street and these should be checked with your council or local authority.

Do caravans need to be registered?

No, caravans do not have to be registered in the typical manner. Caravans, once again, have their own set of rules when it comes to registering the ownership of the vehicles. This is not done in the same way as you would with a car or other road vehicles by sending in a registration form to the correct authorities.

There is, however, a way to record the ownership of your caravan which can help in the event of a theft. The Caravan Central Registration and Identification Scheme was created in 1992 and helps to track caravans that go missing. All new units are registered by the manufacturer with the CRiS and with an estimated 4,000 caravans per year being stolen it is a helpful addition.

Do I need special caravan insurance?

Special caravan insurance is not required by law. Caravans are not required to have any special or extra insurance coverage to be legally allowed on the road. Your car insurance as long as it is fully comprehensive will be sufficient in most cases to allow you to tow your caravan.

However, the cover provided by your car insurance will usually be third party coverage only, meaning that damage to another person or property will be covered. In light of this most responsible caravan owners seek to add some additional coverage to their policy to pay for repairs or damage to their caravan—especially give caravan insurance costs a fraction of the price of your caravan.

There is no legal obligation to increase your insurance coverage, it is purely optional and your existing insurance premiums and payments will not be impacted by the fact that you are hauling a caravan.

Do I need a special license to tow a caravan?

It depends. If you obtained your license prior to 1 January, 1997 you are legally allowed to haul up to 8,250kg MAM (maximum authorised mass).

If you obtained your license on or after 1 January, 1997 then you don't need a special license to tow a caravan if the combined MAM is less than 3500kg. In that case, a standard B driving license will be sufficient in most cases. However, if the weight is higher than this, you'll need to pass an additional Category E driving test to obtain a B+E licence.

For reference, according to Peak & Dale, a small 2-berth caravan can weigh as little as 800kg while a larger 4-6 berth caravan can weigh up to 1800kg or even more. Midsize SUVs weigh in the ballpark of 2000kg (e.g., Volkswagen Touareg). So you can see how the weight of a car and caravan could easily exceed the 3500kg limit, triggering the need for a specail license.

Do I need a special car to tow a caravan?

You don't need to invest in a special car or a 4 x 4 SUV to tow a caravan but your combined weight should be no more than 85% of the towing vehicles curb weight. That is, the weight that you can safely haul will be determined by the size of the car that you are driving. For safe operation of your car and caravan combination, you will need to consult your car owners manual and locate the total curb weight of your car.

The caravan that you can tow will not be decided by make and model but rather the overall weight. So legally speaking you may tow any caravan or trailer providing it doesn’t exceed 85% of the car or towing vehicles total curb weight.

Do I need planning permission for may caravan?

You generally do not need planning permission to store a caravan at home, but if you live in your caravan full time then you are likely to need planning permission. It all depends on the rules in your local authority.