Changing Registration from Panel Van to Motorhome in NSW

When we bought our beautiful motorhome, it had already been converted by the previous owner. This was a huge bonus for us as the work had already been done and we were short on time and resources to do the build ourselves.

Changing the van over into our name was a straightforward process in New South Wales, but we came across one minor issue that we wanted to address – It was registered as a panel van, not a motorhome.

This isn’t a huge problem, and we could have left the registration as a panel van without too much concern. But the question about legality and insurance kept cropping up, so we decided to go ahead and change registration from a panel van into a motorhome for peace of mind.

The entire process was relatively straightforward, but trying to find information online for this was surprisingly difficult. We spent hours trawling through blogs, reading the official RMS website and calling engineers, and while we successfully did this in the end, it was a bit of a minefield navigating through all the details.

To help you go through this without the headaches, we’ve put together this blog post on exactly how to change your vehicle registration for a motorhome in New South Wales.

Van Right Side Profile
Our van.

The Benefits of Motorhome Registration

You might be wondering why you would even both changing the registration over. We sure were. When we asked the guy we bought the van off why he hadn’t done it already, he kind of shrugged and said he didn’t see the point.

The more we researched though, the more it seemed like a good long-term option.

Some of the benefits are:

  • Cheaper comprehensive insurance
  • Full compliance in case of accident
  • No issues with police

It’s not all rosy though. There are also some negative aspects to changing your rego over.

  • Registration goes up in price slightly
  • Expensive process

In our opinion though the pros outweighed the cons, especially as this was an high-value purchase for us and something we plan on keeping for a long time.

Insurance

Comprehensive motorhome insurance is a lot cheaper than standard vehicle insurance.

To give you an idea, full insurance for our 2015 Mitsubishi ASX, valued at $18,000, was $1065 a year with a $800 excess.

Full insurance for our 2008 Mercedes Sprinter, valued at $48,000, is $884 a year with $500 excess.

As an added bonus, being insured as a motorhome means all of our accessories for the interior and exterior, such as solar power, auxiliary battery, kitchen build, awning, plumbing, gas, etc is covered, along with up to $2000 in personal items. That’s not the case if you insure your motorhome as a standard light vehicle panel van.

We’re insured with Ken Tame Insurance, but another good option is CIL Insurance.

Full Compliance

As we mentioned, being fully compliant means we won’t have any issues in case we do have an accident.

You’re probably aware that insurance companies will do anything possible to not pay out a claim. They’ll assign an investigator to a case to go through everything with a fine tooth comb, hoping to find an excuse not to fulfil their promises.

One such excuse could be that the ‘panel van’ we were driving is actually a converted motorhome, but we never had that certified. But with our shiny compliance certificate from an engineer and the RMS registering us as a motorhome means everything is legit.

No Troubles With the Police

This one is more of a, ‘it could happen’ benefit, but still worth noting. If you get pulled over for a routine traffic stop such as an RBT and the police officer is in a bad mood, they might fine you for driving an uncertified modified vehicle.

What Are the Requirements?

Unfortunately changing your registration isn’t quite as simple as just telling the RMS you now have a motorhome, not a panel van. They need to have a compliance certificate from a licensed engineer to change the vehicle type in the system, which falls under the ‘Vehicle Safety Compliance Certification (VSCC) Scheme’.

And of course, that compliance certificate is an expensive piece of paper with a few hoops to jump through to obtain.

Basically what that means is you’ve had a RMS-certified vehicle engineer look at your vehicle modification and declare that it meets Australian standards.

Gas Compliance Plate
Having a gas compliance plate is one of the requirements for getting the modification certificate from the engineer.

The Bare Essentials

Besides the usual safety items, in order to be classified as a motorhome, your vehicle needs to have the following things:

  • Fixed bed
  • Fixed cooking facilities and sink
  • Storage
  • A waste bin that can be closed
  • The same number of seats as berths
  • Any change in seating arrangements be fully compliant (such as adding a seat to the rear)
  • A report from a licensed weighbridge to determine new post-conversion tare weight
  • Any gas and 240v installations need to have a compliance certificate from a plumber and/or electrician

It’s a bit of a long list, but to be honest besides the gas and electrical work, everything is pretty simple to do yourself.

Basically as long as everything is bolted down properly and your vehicle is roadworthy with no glaring issues, you should pass.

Finding an Engineer

There’s only a limited number of engineers who are licensed by the RMS to sign off on vehicle modifications (you can find the full list here). We called about 5 different engineers around Sydney to get quotes, and ended up settling with Morry from Mobility Engineering in Asquith.

He knew immediately what we were talking about when we called up with our enquiry and was very clear on telling us the requirements.

He was also the cheapest at $770 including GST, and assured us that the payment was for the certification, not per inspection.

That meant if we didn’t pass on something we could go away and fix it ourselves, then send him a photo of the repair when it was complete. Or if it was something major we’d have to go back so he could inspect it personally.

The Process

Our van already came with the LPG plumbing compliance certification, so we didn’t have to do that. Also our entire electrical system is 12v, so we didn’t need to see an electrician. If it connected to 240v mains though we would have.

We then went to a public weighbridge to check our new tare weight (total, front axle and rear axle). We personally unpacked everything out of the van that wasn’t permanently installed and checked it with no water in the tanks and low diesel so we could get our bare minimum weight.

This cost us $45.

Note – It’s important to make sure your tare weight when fully loaded is under your GVM (gross vehicle mass) weight. For our van it is 4490kg, which is also the limit to keep it as a light vehicle, meaning you can drive on a standard car license.

The next step was to book in to see Morry so he could do his inspection. We drove out to his workshop, and his whole inspection took about 10 minutes.

He checked the axle length, odometer, seats and seatbelts plus the whole conversion in the back to make sure it matched Australian standards. He took photos of everything for his own records.

He also needed to see our current vehicle registration, weighbridge report and LPG compliance certificate.

When he had finished we paid the fee and headed home. The next day he emailed through our official vehicle modification compliance certificate.

The final part of the process was to go into our local RMS office and change our registration over.

This was simple as well, although it did take about 20 minutes to finalise. All they needed to see was our old registration and the vehicle modification compliance certificate, which they cross-checked in their system where Morry had to file it, and then printed off our new papers.

Panel van registration is different to motorhome registration, which brings in different fees. We had to pay the difference for the rest of the registration period, which worked out to be only $1, and that was all we had to do.

Our panel van is officially a motorhome!

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