Welcome to Camplify’s ultimate guide to campervan safety, where we cover essential issues to be aware of when buying a used campervan.
In this guide, we’ll look at campervan safety and how to ensure you and your van are safe when on and off the road. You’ll also need to ensure your campervan conforms to UK legal safety requirements.
What do you need to look out for?
Buying a used campervan means you need to consider several safety aspects as well as the more obvious ones of vehicle type, size and mileage. Gas safety, fire safety and driving safety are all vital parts of safe campervan ownership, maintenance and driving. Driving a campervan or motorhome can be very different to driving a car, especially if you’re not experienced.
Campervan safety and the law
In the UK, all recreational vehicles must comply with official government regulations relating to their construction, their contents, the number of passengers allowed and the number of seatbelts required. There are also regulations to adhere to if you’re converting a van for recreational vehicle use.
The main regulations relating to campervans, motorhomes and motor caravans cover:
Converting a van to carry passengers in the rear
These regulations relate to:
fitting seat belts and using side-facing seat belts
the number of passengers you can carry
transporting goods and passengers
Under Regulation 100 of The Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 (SI 1986 No. 1078), a motor vehicle plus all its parts and accessories is required to cause no danger, or be likely to cause danger, to any person in a vehicle or on a road.
In other words, all passengers (and any load the vehicle is carrying) must be transported safely.
the number of people you can have in your camper van
seat belts and seats
driving with children younger than 12 years old
It isn’t illegal to carry a passenger in the accommodation area of a campervan, and there’s no legal requirement for seatbelts to be fitted in the rear of a van. However, the driver needs to ensure that the carriage of any passengers conforms to the Regulation 100 above, where the vehicle and its accessories must not cause a danger to any other vehicle or any person.
Official government advice (note: not regulation) recommends that passengers are safest in a forward-facing or rear-facing seat fitted with a three-point seatbelt, and therefore that the best way to comply with road safety regulations is for all passengers to travel in a proper seat with a seatbelt fitted.
You’re not legally required to have your seatbelts professionally installed and fitted (eg by a garage or seatbelt specialist), but this is strongly recommended.
Number of passengers allowed in a campervan
Again, this is a matter of guidance rather than official law, but you must comply with Regulation 100 above. The vehicle manufacturer will likely specify the maximum number the vehicle is designed for – if this is exceeded, Regulation 100 could apply.
Your van’s safety – conversion fixture and fittings
Although legally you don’t have to fit seatbelts in the accommodation part of your vehicle, there are four elements relating to internal fittings that you must comply with if converting a van to a recreational vehicle:
seats and table: must be permanent and mounted
sleeping accommodation: must be a permanent fixture of the van
cooking facilities: the van must have at least a single gas ring or a microwave, mounted as a permanent feature. Different rules apply for the type of gas fitting used.
storage: the van must have a cupboard or locker, which again must be a permanent feature and mounted
It should go without saying that you need to be rigorous with gas safety in your campervan. The first part of that is knowing exactly what you’re dealing with.
If you’re travelling in the UK and Europe, remember that all countries have their own gas bottle suppliers, all with their own regulations. Campingaz is available throughout Europe, but as it comes only in small bottles, it might not be suitable for your trip.
For bigger gas bottles, the type that’s used most in campervans and other Rvs is liquid petroleum gas, or LPG. You can buy this as either butane or propane:
more efficient than propane, so you can boil kettles, heat food etc more quickly
denser than propane, so you’ll get more gas in a bottle of the same size
can’t be used at temperatures below freezing (it’ll freeze). It’s worth taking this factor into account for UK winter caravanning!
operates at temperatures down to -40°C, which will certainly cover a UK winter trip
lighter and less dense than butane
normally used with several appliances running off one bottled supply
Regulations on campervan gas and the Gas Safe Register
The legal standards applying to gas regulation and fitting in campervan and motorhomes is BS EN 1949: 2001 + A1:2013, covering “gas safety in caravans, including leisure accommodation vehicles and residential park-homes”. Government guidelines on campervan gas safety are here.
You don’t have to stick to these standards if you’re fitting your gas appliances yourself, and only using your van for personal use. However, if you plan to rent your campervan out, you MUST ensure it adheres to the same legal standards as any other dwelling, ie a flat or a house. (Not sure how to go about letting out your van? Have a look at how it all works on Camplify.)
It’s also worth knowing who the official regulator is gas are in the UK – this is the Gas Safe Register. Its website gives tips on gas safety and holds the official list of the country’s gas engineers.
If you want help on or advice about your campervan’s gas supply, make sure you only use a registered engineer. You can – legally, at least – fit your own gas supply as long as you’re “competent” to do so, but we strongly recommend using an engineer, especially if other people will be using the van. Factor the cost of a gas engineer into your general setting-up budget.
Campervan gas safety tips
Once your gas is safely hooked up and fitted correctly, it’s time to hit the road. Follow these tips to stay gas-safe in your campervan:
turn off the gas while you’re driving
don’t carry more than the legal amount (two 10-litre bottles in the UK)
be aware of high winds and adjust your driving accordingly
look out for overhanging branches
take as wide an angle as possible when turning corners
fit catches to cupboards and doors to keep them shut when driving
as above, turn off the van’s gas when driving
if you’re using a motorhome park or campsite, look into public transport options/bike hire when there, so you can leave your van safely on site and avoid narrow local roads
Above all, take extra care and leave extra time! You won’t get to know all the ins and outs of driving your campervan until you’ve used it for at least one trip.
Planning a campervan trip
As mentioned, allow for extra time on your trip, especially if you’re new to driving a campervan. Remember too that rural areas such as Cornwall will have small roads and lanes in many places, which won’t be suitable for your vehicle; you might have to plan a new route.
Other campervan safety tips include:
checking that satnav is working before you set off
cleaning and refilling the clean water tank
emptying and cleaning the grey water tank
fully checking the interior and exterior bodywork of the van, as well as lights, brakes, windows and seals
checking all tyres including spares
checking the weather – don’t drive in torrential rain if you’re inexperienced with campervan driving
making sure your insurance is up to date
Following all these rules and guidelines will ensure you and your van stays safe on the road. And if you’re thinking about buying a campervan but are a little nervous about driving it, or overwhelmed by all there is to consider, your next step should be to try before you buy. Camplify is the UK’s largest caravan and motorhome RV sharing community, so it’s easy to find a van that suits.