Van and pickup speed limits explained

  • How fast can you legally drive vans and pickups?
  • All the info on the van speed limits for UK roads
  • Speeding fines are on the rise so make sure you know the law

Van speed limits in the UK are not always the same as they are for cars. Given you can be fined up to £2,500 in court for speeding now, do you know how fast you can legally drive a van on British roads?

Making van speed limits even more confusing, different classes of van are subject to different rules. Do you know the speed classification for car-derived and dual-purpose vehicles compared with 3.5-tonne panel vans, for example? Or which category campervans and pickup trucks fall into?

This guide to speed limits for vans aims to make the law clearer for drivers, and help you avoid unnecessary speeding fines and penalty points on your driving licence.

Keep reading for full details, or click on the links below to jump straight to the info that interests you:

What is the speed limit in a van?

If you drive lots of different types of light commercial vehicle (LCV), and want to be sure you stay on the right side of the law, this is the basic rule of thumb for van speed limits:

  • Built-up areas (such as towns and cities): 30mph – the same as a car
  • Single carriageways: 50mph – 10mph less than a car
  • Dual carriageways: 60mph – 10mph less than a car
  • Motorways: 70mph – the same as a car

These limits are obviously subject to further restrictions, according to the posted speed limit signs – so you may find dual carriageways with 40mph limits, 20mph zones in towns, and so on.

Speed limits for 3.5t vans

The above speed restrictions apply absolutely to large vans with a 3.5-tonne (3.5t or 3,500kg) gross vehicle weight.

Gross vehicle weight (GVW) is sometimes also referred as maximum laden weight, gross vehicle mass (GVM) and maximum authorised mass (MAM).

Example large vans of this type include versions of the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter; these come in higher and lower GVWs as well, but all are subject to the same speed limits.

Van speed limits - 2020 - Mercedes Sprinter 3.5t large van

In fact, technically those limits apply to all goods vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes GVW, although European law means commercial vehicles between 3.5t and 7.5t GVW should be electronically restricted to 56mph anyway.

Plus you need a different driving licence for vehicles above 3.5t GVW, as this is the maximum gross vehicle weight you're allowed to handle on a standard car licence.

Speed limits for small and medium vans

Generally speaking, speed limits for small vans (such as the Ford Transit Connect, Citroen Berlingo and Volkswagen Caddy) and speed limits for medium vans (such as the Ford Transit Custom, Volkswagen Transporter and Vauxhall Vivaro) are also restricted in the same way.

Van speed limits - 2020 - Citroen Dispatch small van

So far, so straightforward.

But the waters get murkier when you enter the realms of car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles.

Speed limits for car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles

In one sense, the speed limits for these LCVs are quite straightforward, as they exactly match those for regular cars:

  • Built-up areas: 30mph
  • Single carriageways: 60mph
  • Dual carriageways: 70mph
  • Motorways: 70mph

As with larger vans, these limits are obviously subject to further restriction, according to speed limit signs.

The problem is that it's not always obvious what actually counts as a car-derived van or dual-purpose vehicle...

Legal definition of a car-derived van

According to UK road traffic regulations, a car-derived van (or CDV) is ‘a goods vehicle which is constructed or adapted as a derivative of a passenger vehicle and which has a maximum laden weight not exceeding 2.0 tonnes.’

Obvious examples of CDVs therefore include the Ford Fiesta Van and Vauxhall Corsavan.

Van speed limits - 2020 - Ford Fiesta Van car-derived van

However, certain more conventional small vans may technically count as car-derived when passenger versions using the same basic platform are introduced to the market first. For example, Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall have each introduced the passenger versions of their respective 2018 Berlingo, Partner and Combo models ahead of the vans.

Whether this will allow drivers of those vans to travel at car speeds will still depend on two critical things.

First, the GVW ('maximum laden weight' in the definition above) must not be greater than 2.0 tonnes (2.0t or 2,000kg) – this will be marked on the weight plate, usually found on the door sills or under the bonnet.

Second, and most important of all, the V5C registration document for the vehicle must list the body type as a CDV. If it doesn’t, then no matter how small the van is, you’ll be subject to the same speed limits as other vans, outlined above.

Legal definition of a dual-purpose vehicle

UK road traffic regulations tell us that dual-purpose means ‘a vehicle constructed or adapted for the carriage both of passengers and of goods and designed to weigh no more than 2,040kg when unladen.’

Van speed limits - 2020 - Mercedes X-Class pickup

It must also either have four-wheel drive OR a rigid roof and at least one row of passenger seats behind the driver complete with side and rear windows – plus the correct ratio of passenger space to load area.

The government gives a full definition of dual-purpose vehicle requirements on its official legislative website.

Speed limits for pickups

Most pickups count as dual-purpose vehicles, and can be driven as quickly as a car.

But do check their unladen weight before making any assumptions. For some high-spec pickups this will be greater than 2,040kg, making them the subject to the same rules as regular vans.

Pickup speed limits - 2020 - Fiat Fullback

Making life more difficult here, very few pickup manufacturers publish unladen weight figures, which is defined by the government as the weight of the vehicle in road-going condition but without any fuel.

Also note that single-cab pickup trucks (those with only two doors and no second row of seats) that don’t have four-wheel drive are not considered dual-purpose, and are also subject to the reduced van and goods vehicle speed limits.

What about kombi and double-cab vans – what are the speed limits for vans with side windows?

This is perhaps the area where UK speed limit laws are greyest.

Van speed limits - 2020 - Ford Transit Custom police double cab / kombi

For while kombi vans, also known as double-cab vans, can qualify for dual-purpose status – subject to the 2,040kg unladen weight rule – their overtly van-like appearance has been known to cause confusion when it comes to police speed limit enforcement.

If you do feel you’ve been wrongly accused of speeding as a result, our best advice is to remain polite, explain your position clearly, and be prepared to appeal at a later date.

What are the speed limits for campervans?

There are presently only two manufacturer-built campervans sold in the UK: the Volkswagen California and the Mercedes V-Class Marco Polo. Both are legally allowed to drive as fast as a regular car.

Van speed limits - 2020 - VW California campervan

However, the two brands have gone about this in different ways. The California is classed as a 'motor caravan', while the Marco Polo is labelled an 'MPV'.

Where you do need to be wary is with third-party campervan conversions based on regular vans. This is another extremely grey area, for although the DVLA will only change the body type description of the V5C to motor caravan (the official description of a campervan) if there are clear changes to the outside of the vehicle, in theory you can still drive the vehicle at motor caravan speeds without this change if you bellieve it meets the requirements.

We've covered campervan speed limits in greater detail in a separate article precisely because of this complexity.

Note also that car speed limits only apply to motor caravans / campervans with an unladen weight of less than 3.05 tonnes (3,050kg); above this weight van speed limits apply.

Should I rely on my sat-nav knowing the speed limit?

No. Speed limits often change more quickly than the databases used by satellite-navigation mapping services are updated. And they often don’t account for the type of vehicle being driven, either.

Van speed limits - 2020 - should you believe your sat-nav?

It is much better to rely on the physical speed limit signs. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.

The same goes for the new-fangled speed limit displays that are popping up in some modern cars and vans, which use cameras to read road signs and display them on the dashboard. These systems can - and frequently do - make mistakes.

What’s the speed limit if I’m towing a trailer?

The speed limit for any vehicle towing a trailer is reduced to 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways – regardless of whether your van or pickup is legally allowed to do 70mph in other circumstances.

Van speed limits - 2020 - Isuzu D-Max, speed limit when towing

Articulated vehicles are also subject to this restriction.

Have speeding fines increased for vans?

We’ve covered this in more detail on the car side of Parkers, but as of 24 April 2017, if you go to court for speeding the amount you can be fined has increased to up to 175% of your weekly salary.

This goes for vans and pickups as well as cars.

The fine is capped at £2,500 on the motorway, £1,000 on more minor roads – with the final value split into three bands, depending on how far over the limit you were caught.

Under Band A, the court can impose a fine in the range of 25-75% of your weekly salary. You will also receive three penalty points.

Band A speeding offences:

  • 21-30mph when the speed limit is 20mph
  • 31-40mph when the speed limit is 30mph
  • 41-55mph when the speed limit is 40mph
  • 51-65mph when the speed limit is 50mph
  • 61-80mph when the speed limit is 60mph
  • 71-90mph when the speed limit is 70mph

Under Band B, the range is 75-125% of your weekly salary, plus between four and six penalty points or disqualification from driving for seven to 28 days

Band B speeding offences:

  • 31-40mph when the speed limit is 20mph
  • 41-50mph when the speed limit is 30mph
  • 56-65mph when the speed limit is 40mph
  • 66-75mph when the speed limit is 50mph
  • 81-90mph when the speed limit is 60mph
  • 91-100mph when the speed limit is 70mph

Under Band C the range is 125-175% of your weekly salary, plus six penalty points or a seven to 56-day driving ban.

However, the guidelines also explicitly state: ‘Where an offender is driving grossly in excess of the speed limit the court should consider a disqualification in excess of 56 days.’ So that’s not a set limit.

Band C speeding offences:

  • 41mph and above when the speed limit is 20mph
  • 51mph and above when the speed limit is 30mph
  • 66mph and above when the speed limit is 40mph
  • 76mph and above when the speed limit is 50mph
  • 91mph and above when the speed limit is 60mph
  • 101mph and above when the speed limit is 70mph

The ‘speed limit’ in all these cases should be considered the legal limit for the van, rather than the road.

Is it worse to get caught speeding in a van?

Frankly, yes. When announcing the new guidelines, the UK Sentencing Council that sets the fines and other penalties categorically confirmed that the type of vehicle will be taken into account.

Van speed limits - 2020 - VW Caddy racing van

As such, speeding in a van or other goods vehicle will be considered worse because the vehicle’s size and weight increases the potential danger involved in exceeding the legal limit.

Other things that will make a speeding offence more serious include the weather conditions, the number of people on board and the location – such as near a school, in traffic or where there are high numbers of pedestrians.

Also read:

>> Campervan speed limits

>> Best 3.5-tonne vans for payload

>> Most fuel-efficient vans

>> Read a van or pickup review on Parkers