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3-Wheeler Laws and Regulations

United Kingdom

NOTE: The Information contained in this section is believed to be correct. Laws and regulations change all the time and the webmaster of this site does not state that this list is in any way exhaustive or correct.  The information is provided as a guide only and official sources should be contacted to confirm any points you find.

 If you know any further information or know a point given here is incorrect please e-mail me.


UK Government Regulations

Licence Groups permitted to drive a Tricycle:

Group B1  Motor tricycle / quadricycles
Group B    Car category manual or auto
Group P    Mopeds (Tricycles not exceeding 50cc and a top speed of 30mph)

Please note!  There is still a belief that if you pass a motorcycle test that you can drive a 3-wheeler like a Reliant Robin, this is no longer the case.  For those who took a motorcycle test and gained Group A on their license before February 2001, this gave them the full Group B1 entitlement.  However, passing your motorcycle test after February 2001 does not give you full Group B1 entitlement.  For those who passed a car test (Group B), although the driving license may not be explicitly marked with Group B1, it is included because Group B is the main category and also covers the sub-category B1.

Minimum Age:
In general, the minimum ages for driving on British roads are 16 years for invalid carriages and mopeds, 17 years for agricultural or forestry tractors, small vehicles and motorcycles, and 21 years for medium/large sized vehicles, minibuses and buses. At 16 years old a person can drive a 3-wheeler that is powered by an engine no greater than 50cc.  You have to be 17 or over to drive a larger 3-wheeler like the Reliant Robin. (750cc - 850cc)

For more information on what you can drive at 16 click here

Vehicle Tax Rates ( Cost January 2012):
Tricycles (not over 450kg unladen)

Engine size (cc)

12 months rate

6 months rate

Tricycle not over 150


Not available

All other tricycles




MOT Rules:
An MOT applies to all vehicles that are over 3 years old.

3-Wheelers in the UK are exempt from emissions testing and so do not require catalytic converters.

Reverse Gear:

Up until 1963 only people with a full car licence could have a reverse gear on a 3-wheeler.  Motor cyclist licence holders with no car licence had to have the reverse gear blanked off if it was fitted. The change of law in 1963 means that anyone can now have a reverse gear on a 3-wheeler.

3-Wheeler Kit Car Rules.
 If a vehicle is under 410kg then you can obtain a self easement form from the local DVLA to register a new vehicle. All receipts must be kept as well as stating what parts (ie:. the suspension or running gear) have come from another vehicle. There are no safety considerations other than the obvious seat belt mountings and general safety issues. 3-wheelers under 410kgs do not have to endure the SVA (Single Vehicle Approval) inspection but the MOT inspector will pick up things like dangerous sharp edges etc. Vehicles utilising a doner’s chassis/floorplan and engine/running gear do not need to be SVA'd as they are re-bodied (eg. 'Lomax'- 2CV chassis/running gear). However, if you use a new chassis it is possible you may be issued with a 'Q plate, using the orginal engine, gearbox and suspension (as on the usual 223) may qualify you for an "age related plate" '. ( It is also worth noting that most Lomax 223s are not exempt on weight but may be exempt if they use the original chassis )

If the vehicle is over 410kg then it becomes classed as a car and has some really tight laws in the body form and the type of items that it must have. Home built cars have to initially be MOT'd then inspected by your local Vehicle Inspectorate. The former will sort the safety issues and the latter will decide if the original registration number can be retained (This works on a points system regarding the number of original components used)

SVA scheme

Since August 2003 all trikes (subject to a max unladen weight of 1000kg) now fall under the Motorcycle SVA scheme. This scheme has been brought in to provide an alternative route to registration for bikes, trikes etc that do not have European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA). Type approval for bikes and trikes became a requirement for registration in June 2003. The good news is that MSVA requirements are not the same as car SVA theyare based on motorcycle type vehicles."

The new laws also affect importing 3-wheelers and a Certificate of Conformity will be required to register the vehicle for road use in the UK.  Current exemptions for this test include, slow vehicles not designed to exceed 6km/h (approx 4mph), Vehicles for pedestrian control, vehicles for the physically handicapped vehicles used for agricultural use (tractors & machines) or for competitions. (ie trial / enduro bikes)

Number Plates:

Recent legislation will only allow the sale of 'legal' number plates. It will not be possible to purchase undersized plates in future. Small plates on bikes are illegal. Some owners of modern kit three-wheelers have dispensed with the front plate (as motorcycle combinations do not need one). The legality of this is suspect, as on nearly all “car type” tricycles a front number plate is required by law.  

Also note that from September 2001 new number plate laws made it illegal to have an italic font. All number plates will have to adhere to a standard font and must have correct spacing so that letters and numbers are not squeezed together to form words and that “strategically” placed bolts are not used to turn numbers into a letter. (ie: two 1’s into a H)

Black Number Plates

Only vehicles constructed* before January 1st 1973 can carry black number plates with either silver, white or grey letters. Vehicles after this date must carry the reflective white at the front and yellow at the back type.

*A vehicle registered in 1973 can have black plates if you can prove it was constructed in 1972.

Seat belts:

If a 3-wheeler is constructed using mainly motorcycle parts (ie.JZR - Honda CX500/650) you can opt to either wear a crash helmets or wear seat belts.  Most owners wear both. 3-wheelers made from predominantly car components need to be fitted with seat belts and you have to wear them. The 1982 Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulation Act came into force on 31 January 1983. This stated all drivers must use seat belts (where fitted) and the only exemption is if you can prove you have a medical complaint that is aggravated by wearing a seat belt.  3-wheelers with an unladen weight under 410Kg that were first used before 1 January 1965 are not required to have seat belts if none were originally fitted by the manufacturer.


London Congestion Charge (Started 17 February 2003):
Tricycles will be exempt from the charge but 3-wheeled cars like the Reliant Robin will not be. If your 3-wheeler looks like a car with windscreen etc you will have to pay. If it looks more like a trike than a car you may get away with it. An additional page has been added about 3-wheelers and the charge. Click here for more details
M6 Toll Road (Opened 8th December 2003):
The new M6 Toll road opened that offers 27 miles of new motorway that goes around Birmingham avoiding one of the most congested sections of motorway in Europe. Seeing the Toll signs erected with the pricing structure I have e-mailed the M6 Toll folks three times asking what fees 3-wheelers will pay but they appear to have chosen not to reply to my e-mails. After consulting the M6toll web site at www.m6toll.co.uk it seems that most vehicles are placed into different classes - all except 3-wheelers. Click here for more details
Additional Information:
Severn Bridge Crossing PLC have been convinced (sort of) that 'roofless' Morgan style 3-wheelers are 'toll exempt' (but you must have a letter from SBC to prove it).

'Stena Line' will allow owners of open 3-wheelers to travel on the motorcycle tariff providing that the occupants wear crash helments and there is no windscreen! You must argue the case each time you travel.  Reliants are considered as saloons and pay full price.
Useful Sources of information:
DVLA: Main Web Site: http://www.dvla.gov.uk

DVLA: Number Plates: http://www.dvla-som.co.uk/
My thanks go to the following people for helping with the data on this page: Geoff Payne, Mike Butler, Alan Viggers, David Overton, Richard Plaxton, Mark Richardson, Ray Whitehurst, Nick Mynott


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