Confusion over road tax rates for new motorhomes
Confusion over the new road tax rules, which came into effect on new motorhomes powered by the latest (and cleanest) Euro 6d/2 diesel engines in September 2019, is growing.
Several issues have come to light since the rules – which mean buyers of new motorhomes are now faced with a £2,870 higher Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) bill over a six-year period – were introduced.
The industry trade body, the National Caravan Council (NCC), continues to lobby to have motorhomes and campervans excluded from the tax change but, if successful, it is unlikely the VED system will be amended before the start of the new tax year at the beginning of April or, more likely, April 2021.
The new VED rules, which were introduced as a result of a change in EU regulations and a new emissions testing regime, mean that new motorhomes and campervans powered by diesel engines meeting the latest and most stringent emission standards moved from the previous commercial vehicle tax band into the much higher car tax band.
This means the first VED for a new motorhome increased from £265 to up to £2,135 – a 705% increase – plus owners are now liable for an annual charge for the following five years of £465 (up from £265).
Motorhomes powered by previous generation engines are not affected.
However, some new models, including some powered by the 140bhp version of the Fiat Ducato’s Euro 6D engine, do not fall into the higher VED rate.
This means buyers can save thousands of pounds by ordering a higher-powered 140bhp Fiat-based model. For example, the Roller Team T-Line 743 – a rear fixed bed, front lounge model – comes with the new 120bhp engine as standard but, if buyers upgrade to the 140bhp engine for an £900 extra, they can avoid the higher road tax bill.
To further complicate matters, it is suggested that this situation is only temporary and may end in April, so buyers who get their motorhome registered in March will not be liable for the higher VED rate but those who have bought exactly the same model powered by the same engine will pay the higher rate if their new motorhome is registered in April.
Even more confusingly, it is also come to light that some motorhomes based on the rear-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis are also not liable for the higher VED rate but models based on the front-wheel drive Sprinter and some others built on the RWD chassis do not.
This is down to the way Mercedes-Benz registers the original build chassis. “A rear-wheel drive Sprinter certified as light-duty would be affected by this VED hike, while the same vehicle certified as heavy-duty would not be affected,” explains Mercedes.
This means buyers opting for a rear-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based motorhome can save thousands of pounds when compared to a front-wheel drive model.
“The front-wheel drive Sprinter does not yet have any heavy-duty emissions certification, so all front-wheel drive vehicles will currently be light-duty [and therefore liable for the higher VED rate],” explained a Mercedes-Benz spokesman. “I believe heavy-duty cycle testing is planned during 2020 but couldn’t give a specific date when this is expected.”
Much of the confusion is thanks to the way the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) emissions testing works.
“Now, as WLTP applies only to light-duty vehicles and brings with it many new considerations and complexities, the two categories and their differences have been highlighted in a big way,” said the Mercedes spokesman. “It is very much an added confusion along with all the intricacies of the WLTP regs.”
Finally, a further issue to cloud the already confusing system is that some motorhome manufacturers are still building on the run-out chassis with the previous Euro 6 engine. These are now being converted into motorhomes and are either already in showrooms or will be arriving in showrooms in the coming months.
If the chassis is a Peugeot Boxer, it takes skill and knowledge to differentiate the new chassis from the previous Euro 6 model. It is only by studying the paperwork that a dealer and buyer can be sure what chassis a model is built on and therefore what VED level the new owner will be liable to pay.
If it is a motorhome based on the Fiat Ducato, there is an easier way to ascertain whether it is the new Euro 6D/2 engine or the previous Euro 6 engine and that is to open the fuel filler cap and, if there is an AdBlue filler cap in addition to the diesel filler cap then it is a new engine and liable for the higher VED rate.
The advice is to discuss with the dealer exactly what chassis your new motorhome will be built on, when it will be registered and what level of VED it will be liable for.
To help the situation and try to remove confusion, some manufacturers and dealers are offering to cover the cost of the tax so again check first what your liability as a buyer is.