If you’re wondering does a caravan need an MOT, let’s cut straight to the chase.
No, caravans don’t need an MOT by law.
This can be surprising for many people, as caravans feel similar to other vehicles that do need an MOT.
Even though you don’t need an MOT, if you own a caravan, it’s still your responsibility to ensure it’s safe and roadworthy. As part of this, regular maintenance and servicing are essential.
This guide explains all the rules and regulations you need to know.
Does a caravan need an MOT?
So, do caravans need an MOT?
In short, no.
An MOT for caravans isn’t something that’s legally required.
They don’t need to pass official checks or MOTs of any kind. Despite this, caravan owners must make sure their vehicle is safe on the road.
In practice, this means things like tyres, brake lights, indicators, gas, water and electrical systems (to name just a few) must all be in working order.
So although it’s not something that’s legally required, lots of people have an annual safety check and service performed on their caravan. This lets you take your caravan on the road, knowing everything works and meets relevant safety standards.
Top Tip: Your caravan’s insurance policy might have conditions about the level of maintenance required. If you haven’t kept your caravan in roadworthy condition, your insurer might invalidate any claims. So check your policy documents and call your insurer if you’re unsure.
How often do you MOT a caravan?
You don’t need to MOT a caravan at all. So the simple answer is never!
We’ve already seen how it’s the owner’s responsibility to ensure their vehicle’s safe to use. So it’s sensible to get your caravan serviced once a year, to check everything’s working as it should.
Because there are a few similarities between an annual service and an MOT, they’re sometimes confused.
Here’s a brief explanation of each.
An MOT’s sole purpose is to test whether your vehicle meets UK road safety and environmental standards.
When a car is over three years old, you’ll need a yearly MOT to confirm it’s safe and road legal. This is essentially an inspection of the vehicle’s safety and condition, checking things like lights, tyres, brakes and the engine.
If any of these elements don’t meet MOT testing standards, you’ll get a fail. Your vehicle won’t be legal to use on UK roads until you fix any issues.
Services are different from MOTs, involving a more in-depth mechanical assessment. They help identify potential issues and keep your vehicle in the best possible condition.
There are usually different service levels, such as interim servicing, full servicing and major servicing.
While services aren’t legally required for either cars or caravans, many people get a service at the same time as an MOT. As well as ensuring your vehicle is safe and roadworthy, it helps protect its value and lifespan.
Of course, caravans are very different from cars. Because they have a whole host of extra features (for instance, kitchen and bathroom appliances), it stands to reason additional checks are needed. With this in mind, lots of garages offer caravan-specific services.
As well as looking at internal features, caravan services should also ensure your caravan’s running gear and chassis, bodywork and trims, water, electrical and gas systems are in working order.
The person performing the service should also check your caravan is adequately ventilated, with fire safety and carbon monoxide alarms in place. As part of your service, you should also receive a final report alerting you to any concerns.
How often should I change my caravan tyres?
As part of caravan servicing and maintenance, one of the most common questions is how often you should change your tyres.
When you’re towing a caravan, you want complete confidence that your tyres have good grip on the road. You’ll also want to know if your tyres (for both your car and caravan) are tough enough to cope with the weight.
The amount you take your caravan out on the road will differ for everyone. Very often though, caravans might be static for extended periods — only taken out for the yearly family holiday. This intermittent use isn’t great for tyres and can lead to problems like “flat spots”.
So, even if you aren’t using your tyres much, you should still replace them every five years.
If you’re getting an annual service, this will alert you to any tyre issues meaning they need replacement sooner.
Do you have to pay road tax on a caravan?
No. You usually don’t have to pay road tax on a caravan.
It’s important to note this only applies to “touring caravans” (i.e., those designed for towing by another vehicle) under 3,500kg. If you own a caravan heavier than this or a motorhome (i.e., a motor vehicle with living quarters), you’ll probably have to pay road tax.
You can easily check the weight in your owner’s manual, but your caravan is probably under 3,500kg. For reference, a small two-berth caravan can weigh as little as 800-1,200kg. For larger 4-6-berth caravans, they typically weigh around 1,500-2,000kg.
Even though your caravan is probably free from road tax, if you’re parking it on the street outside your home, there might be some restrictions and requirements from your local council. Take a look at your local authority’s website for more information on what you are and aren’t allowed to do.
Do you have to register a caravan with the DVLA?
Because you don’t need an annual MOT and you don’t have to pay road tax — you don’t have to register a caravan with the DVLA like you would with a car.
Despite this, many caravan owners still want the certainty of proving their caravan is actually theirs. If your caravan goes missing or is stolen (and around 4,000 caravans a year do go missing), it’s useful to prove you’re the rightful owner.
To solve this issue, the Caravan Central Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS) helps owners track any missing caravans. Under this scheme, manufacturers register all new units with CRiS. This helps police to identify and recover your vehicle.
Do I need insurance to tow a caravan?
Car and caravan owners don’t need extra insurance coverage to drive legally. As long as your car insurance is fully comprehensive, this is normally more than enough to tow a caravan. It’s always best to double-check your policy documents to confirm this.
Although it’s not legally required, most caravan owners add additional coverage to their insurance policy. Most car insurance policies won’t protect the caravan itself. So if you want cover for damage or repairs on the caravan (and most people do!) — it’s worth researching this.
Remember, any increases in insurance coverage are optional. Your existing insurance payments shouldn’t automatically change because you’re towing a caravan.
Do I need a specific type of car to tow a caravan?
In good news, you don’t have to buy a particular car or a massive off-road 4×4 to tow a caravan.
The main rule to remember is your fully-laden caravan shouldn’t weigh more than 85% of the towing vehicle’s kerb weight (i.e., the weight of your car with a full tank of fuel).
This means the weight you can safely tow is largely down to the weight of your car.
If you’re unsure whether your vehicle can tow your caravan, look at your car owner’s manual. It will provide further information on safe limits for towing.
Do I need a specific licence to tow a caravan?
As a rule of thumb, you don’t need a special licence to tow a caravan.
The rules are slightly different depending on when you got your licence.
- If you got your licence before 1 January 1997, you’re legally allowed to tow up to 8,250kg (which includes your vehicle and the trailer). This is what’s called your “maximum authorised mass” or MAM.
- If you got your licence on or after 1 January 1997, you’re legally allowed to tow a combined MAM of up to 3,500kg.
For most people, a standard “B” and “BE” driving licence allows you to tow your caravan. If your combined weight is more than 3,500kg, you might have to take a driving test for a category “C1” or “C1E” licence.
For more information on licence codes and categories, take a look at our guide to UK driving licence codes. We’ve already seen how a larger 4-6 berth caravan can weigh up to 2,00kg. A medium SUV can also easily weigh 1,500-2,000kg. So if you’ve got a larger car and a larger caravan, it’s easy to see how you could be over the 3,500kg limit.