The rules of caravanning follow the same principles in France as in the UK, but there are key differences. We look at what you need to know to stay safe and comply with French law.
What is considered to be a caravan?
For the French town planning code (Code de l'urbanisme) a caravan is “any habitable land vehicle intended as a temporary or seasonal dwelling for leisure,” according to article R111-37.
This definition primarily affects where you can park a caravan, and for how long.
This is irrespective of whether it can move under its own power or not. Indeed, for the purposes of town planners, campervans are technically autocaravanes, or motorised caravans.
If a caravan is attached to the ground permanently and used as a de facto extension to a home, it would be considered an illegal construction rather than a caravan. This could result in the planning authorities ordering it be demolished.
How does the weight system for caravans work in France?
The weight system in France is similar to the one used in the UK.
It is based on the Poids Total Autorisé en Charge (PTAC) and the Poids Total Roulant Autorisé (PTRA)
The PTAC corresponds to a caravan’s weight with a safe load of baggage (the English term is Maximum Authorised Mass – MAM).
The PTRA corresponds to the maximum load limit of a vehicle, passengers and anything it is towing, such as caravans.
You can find these weights in the owner’s manual for your car and caravan, on a sticker inside them, or on your French carte grise.
For caravans with brakes:
The caravan’s PTAC and the towing vehicle’s PTAC must be less than the towing vehicle’s PTRA.
A Land-Rover Discovery with a PTAC of 2,505 kg and a PTRA of 4,505 kg could tow a caravan with a PTRA of 2,000kg.
Caravans without brakes are limited by two rules:
- Maximum PTAC can be no higher than 750kg
- The PTAC must be less than half of the towing vehicle’s empty weight
A Peugeot 207 with a PTAC of 1,643 and an empty weight of 1,223kg could tow a caravan with a PTAC of 600kg.
A Land-Rover Discovery with a PTAC of 2,505 kg could tow a caravan with the maximum PTAC of 750kg.
Exceeding the acceptable towing weights can result in steep fines: Police can fine drivers €135 for every 500kg that their caravan is overweight.
What driving licence do you need for a caravan?
If you have a valid British licence issued before January 1, 1997, your licence should be suitable for towing a caravan up to a combined PTAC of 8,250kg.
After that date, the limits for UK Category B licences are the same as for France Category B licences, which allow up to 3,500kg.
French licences according to weight:
Permis B: for caravans with PTAC up to 750kg or if the combined car and caravan weigh less than 3,500kg.
Mention B96: for combined weights above 3,500kg but below 4,250kg. This licence requires seven hours of training at a driving school.
Permis BE: when the total PTAC is more than 4,250kg. This requires a theory and driving test at a driving school.
What insurance does a caravan need
Caravans that weigh less than 750kg can be included on the car’s insurance for a supplement.
Heavier caravans require their own insurance and green card.
What are the road rules for a caravan?
Caravans can carry no passengers when in motion. They are also subject to their own speed limits:
- 90km/h on motorways (below 3,500kg this is 130km/h)
- 80km/h on priority roads (below 3,500kg this is 110km/h)
- 90km/h on dual carriageways with a central divide (below 3,500kg this is 110km/h)
- 80km/h on other roads. This is 60km/h with an articulated trailer or if the combined weight exceeds 12,000kg
- 50km/h in urban areas
All caravans with a PTAC more than 750kg must have automatic brakes in case of separation.
Caravans wider than 2.10m must also be equipped with wing mirror extensions that eliminate any blind spots.
If the total length is greater than 6 metres, the caravan must also be equipped with side marker lights.
Where can you park a caravan in France?
You can stop a caravan briefly, so long as it does not impede traffic and it remains attached to the car.
However, to park and detach a caravan the rules come under the code de l’urbanisme:
- On your own property, you can usually park a caravan unless there are local planning restrictions. If you plan to do this, consult your mairie or local authority
- On private land for up to three months per year
- On a campsite for up to three months per year
This three-month period does not have to be consecutive – you can park for a month, go away, then return to park for another two months in that year, for example.
To park a caravan on private land or at a campsite for periods longer than three months, you need to inform the local mairie. This applies if you are renting, have purchased the land where it is parked or if the landowner lets you stay for free
In all three cases, you need to complete cerfa form n°13404. This is the same form used for a déclaration préalable for building work that does not require planning permission. On page three of the form it includes a box to tick for caravans.