Motorcaravan Officialdom

Approaching the time that the truck became habitable I moved towards sorting its official re-classification to that of a motorcaravan. 'Motorcaravan' is the official DVLA body type classification for all the terms widely used to describe vehicles that are cooked and slept in, for example: RV, camper, motorhome, camper van, mobile home etc. Once a vehicle is no longer classified as a ‘goods vehicle’ there are fewer Construction & Use etc restrictions. Particularly relevant to us were:
 

  • No need for side guards
  • No need for an under-run
  • The opportunity to submit to Class 4 MoT rather than a DVSA based goods vehicle test
  • The opportunity to obtain proper (very comprehensive) motorhome insurance
  • Fewer chances of interference on ferries or at borders where freight is often subject to high levels of scrutiny
    • The requirements that need to be satisfied in order that DVLA will be persuaded that you have a motorcaravan and not a truck are fluid and seemingly inconsistently applied. At the time of our application the main stipulations were: fixed seats and at least one fixed table, proper sleeping facilities, cooking facilities, and adequate permanent storage capacity. An excellent resource for actual requirements can be found at ukmotorhomes.net. The DVLA itself is also helpful.

      Even though the truck was well short of being 'finished' I felt we could satisfy the requirements and so sent to DVLA:

      • A letter describing the vehicle, the changes I'd made, and the reasons I wanted to change body type classification
      • Copies of receipts for the conversion stuff I've bought (there are very many)
      • Some photos of the exterior (one with registration plate on show) and of the interior
      • My existing registration document
        • It seemed this was enough as after a couple of weeks I received all my receipts and photos back with a nice hand-written note stating a new V5 showing the new body type would be issued shortly. And so it was. After a further week or so we were officially a Motorcaravan. I had read that this step had caused some people problems, including those who own panel van conversions made by reputable professional companies. Maybe we were lucky, but we didn’t encounter any fuss or nonsense at all.

Adrian Flux / Truck-based Motor Caravan Insurance / Sharp Business Practice

The matter of motorcaravan insurance was less straightforward. Specific motorhome insurance is a good product as it generally recognises the relatively low risk of grey-agers pottering from site to site and taking great care of their pride and joy. It often has low excesses, breakdown recovery, contents cover and a European cover thrown into the standard mix, all for a relatively low premium.

I had kept my insurer informed that the truck was gradually being converted but after formal recognition of the change of type by DVLA decided to formalise the matter with them and bring things fully up to date. It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that they were rather more excitable about covering a home-made, fully functioning and relatively expensive travel van than they were about a relatively cheap flat bed truck parked on a driveway.

Adrian Flux staff claimed they could find only one ‘market’ for me and the insurer insisted upon me fitting a Thatcham approved Category 2 immobiliser before they would even offer theft cover. The premium was also expensive. Undeterred I began the quest of ringing round several other specialist insurers who were all very pleasant but essentially useless. I even tried horsebox and race-truck specialists but no one knew a company willing to cover us. The sticking point with many of the self-build motorhome specialists was that they seemed to have an (arbitrary) 5.0litre engine capacity limit, after which – computer says no.

I resigned myself to having to jump through the essentially pointless hoop of having a Thatcham approved immobiliser fitted and so went back to Flux to make sure I could comply with the strict requirements: insurers do like their small print. Essentially, the device had to be fitted by an approved installer as well as itself being approved. Here’s where the fun began. At the critical time there was no such thing as an aftermarket Thatcham Cat 2 approved device suitable for 24 volt systems. 12 volt yes: 24 volt, no. I went back to them and explained the position. I also mentioned that given the lack of electronic – and even electrical systems – that fitting the non-existent device they were insisting upon would be practically pointless anyway, and would singularly fail to make the truck, in reality, any more theft resistant.

They weren’t impressed, neither were they impressed with the range of measure I already have in place to prevent theft / track the truck if stolen. They reported the matter was non-negotiable and that I simply had to have the - I remind you - unavailable Thatcham Cat 2 approved device fitted.

Flux clearly have a ‘special’ relationship with GAP security and I had no choice but to comply with what they eventually determined would be an adequate solution: that being that the insurers agreed that GAP, and seemingly no one else, would be given the privilege of being allowed to certify the fitting of a 24 volt version of a 12 volt Thatcham Cat 2 approved device and with a bit of official whitewashing all would be satisfied. I wasn’t happy, but saw no options. I am dubious about the apparent thinly veiled money-spinning racket, but also recognise the folly of pyrrhic victory in trying to blow a hole in it.

And so, I still don’t have a Thatcham Cat 2 immobiliser fitted but had to pay a highly inflated £300 for the privilege anyway. What I do now have is three non-Thatcham Cat 2 immobilisers and a tracker fitted, and - significantly - proper motorhome insurance. At least I managed to haggle a bit with the premium having made a nuisance of myself.

Altogether an unsatisfactory conclusion even though the mission of obtaining proper and very comprehensive insurance had been accomplished; Goliath slayed David: as is usually the case in spite of romantic notions...