The Laws On Road Legal Quad Bikes Explained

Understanding what’s legal for your quad bike, and what’s not, can be confusing. Is it considered a motorbike or is it a car? What are the on-road rules? From helmets and insurance to age limits and tax, we take a look at road legal quad bike laws, and how to make sure you’re staying on the right side of the regulations as of 2019.

Are all quad bikes road legal?

The simple answer is no. Most quad bikes are not legally allowed to drive on the road because they don’t meet the strict road safety standards that are required for any motorised vehicle to drive on the public highway. If you’re investing in a quad bike (and that investment can run into thousands of pounds), it’s important to make sure you check first if you want the vehicle for both on and off-road use.

The best person to give you that advice is your bike manufacturer. They’ll be able to tell you if it’s road legal or not. Don’t worry if it isn’t, though, as there may be ways to register it for use on public roads if it complies with safety standards but hasn’t been approved for road use. If this is the case then you can apply for type approval.

How do I get a quad bike approved for road use?

There are several different Vehicle Type Approvals, and the one you choose will depend not just on the type of vehicle, but how many you need to register as approved, and importantly, whether they’re imports.

In most cases for a quad bike, you’ll need Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA), or Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval for some quads. If you’re importing a vehicle that’s been registered in the EU you’ll need Mutual Recognition. The previous Pre-Registration Inspection (PRI) that was applicable up to 2015 is no longer available, so you’ll need to decide which of the above is relevant for your vehicle.

You’ll need to register your quad with the DVLA so that you can use it on the public road. Once registered, it’s classified as a Light Goods Vehicle. To get that all-important Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval it has to:

  1. Comply with the EUCWVTA (European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval) regulations
  2. Comply with UK National Type Approval (small series)
  3. Comply with UK Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval Scheme
  4. Have proof of compliance with a Certificate of Conformity (CoC).

Bear in mind, too, that your vehicle has to be under 10 years old if you want to register it for on-road use. If you build your own quad bike or modify an existing vehicle then you’ll need to get certified by the DVLA, and also confirm whether or not you’re allowed to take passengers.

What driving licence do I need to ride a road legal quad bike?

The government classifies road legal quad bikes as a B1 vehicle. That means the driver must hold a full car licence or full motorcycle licence, category B1 (issued before 1997) to drive it on the road.
If you are riding a quad bike off-road then bear in mind that children under 13 years old cannot drive or be a passenger on a quad, even if it’s being driven on private land. Kids over 13 can ride quad bikes of an ‘appropriate size and power’ on private land, but they must have completed formal training for driving ATVs first.

Can a 16-year-old drive a quad bike on the road?

Generally, you need a B1 category full motorcycle licence or full car licence. That means you’ll be a minimum of 17 years old before you can drive a quad bike on the road.

However, there is one exception – if a 16-year-old applicant receives or has applied for the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP (Personal Independence Payment). However, this only applies to lighter quad bikes that fall within maximum power and speed restrictions. Construction requirements are the same for these types of quads as they are for a motor tricycle or 3-wheeled moped.

Do I need an MOT for my quad bike?

If you’re going to be riding your quad bike on the road then it must conform to current MOT legislation. That means if it’s three years old or older, and you drive it on the road, an MOT is required.

Do I need licence plates to ride my quad bike on the road?

Any motorised, road-going vehicle that’s registered with the DVLA, taxed and MOT’d must display licence plates. On a quad bike they must be clearly visible on both the front and the rear of the vehicle. If you’re using a quad bike off-road the licence plates don’t need to be on the vehicle, but as soon as your wheels hit tarmac, you need to make sure the plates are back on the vehicle.

How much does quad bike road tax cost?

The cost of road tax for your quad bike depends on emissions and the size of the engine, just like taxing a car. But not everyone has to pay road tax for their quad bike. If you use your quad bike a very limited amount on the road for agriculture, horticulture or forestry, you are exempt from road tax. If you don’t ever ride your quad bike on the road, you won’t need to tax it.

If you do need to tax your quad bike, you can do it online here. You’ll need the reference number that you can find on your tax reminder letter, your vehicle log book, or the green ‘new keeper’ slip from the logbook if you’ve just bought it.

If your vehicle does require taxing and the tax period runs out, you will either have to renew the tax as usual, or register the vehicle as SORN (Statutory Off Road Notice). Remember that if it has been SORN’d you will then need to renew the tax before you drive it on the road. Failure to do so is not only illegal, but it will also invalidate your insurance.

How do I apply for zero-rated vehicle tax?

If you use your road legal quad bike for agriculture, horticulture or forestry, you can apply for zero-rated road tax. You can only apply for this if you only make very short journeys on the road (less than 1.5km) to go between land owned by the same person. Remember, even if you don’t need to pay for road tax, you still need to apply for it.

Can you ride a quad bike on the motorway?

You can ride a road legal quad bike on the motorway as long as it is fully registered with the DVLA. However, as even the best, top-of-the-range quad bikes would struggle to keep up with motorway traffic, we really wouldn’t recommend it! A quad bike registered for agricultural, horticultural or forestry use is not permitted on the motorway.

Do I have to wear a helmet on a quad bike on the road?

You don’t have to wear a helmet when you drive your quad bike on the road in Scotland, England or Wales, although it is strongly recommended, particularly as you are not restrained by a safety belt, and in the event of an accident you may be thrown off the vehicle. The same rules apply to pillion passengers.

However, if you are driving your quad bike in Northern Ireland, you must wear a crash helmet on the road. If you don’t, you can be fined £500.

I use my quad for agricultural work. Do I have to register it?

If you use your quad for agriculture, horticulture or forestry, you’ll need to register it as a light agricultural vehicle. If that’s the case then you won’t need an MOT test to use the vehicle on public roads, but it must still be:

  • Registered and licensed for road use
  • Have at least Third Party Only insurance cover
  • Have number plates front and rear with the vehicle registration
  • Have lights if it’s used during the hours of darkness (half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise).

You will need to pay road tax if you use a quad that’s registered as an agricultural vehicle on the road. That will either be Limited Use Tax class for bikes, or Agricultural Machine Class for quads not licensed for road use.

Do you need to insure a quad bike?

If you have a road legal quad bike, laws concerning insurance are the same as any other motorised road-going vehicle.

That means, if you drive it on the road or in a public place, you are legally obliged to hold a minimum of third party insurance. If you don’t, you are committing a traffic offence. That can mean a £300 fine and six penalty points on your licence. Your case could also go to court, and you may have the vehicle seized, face a more substantial fine, or even be disqualified from driving.

If you have a road legal bike but never drive it in a public place or on the road, you don’t legally have to take out insurance. However, there are lots of good reasons why you might want to take out cover, especially to ease the financial pain of having to replace your ATV if it’s stolen or damaged.

If you only use your quad bike off-road, you can take out specialist off-road quad bike insurance. This tends to be cheaper than standard on-road quad bike insurance because it won’t normally include third-party public liability cover. Be warned though. If you use your quad bike in a public place, for example at horse trials, country fairs, or other public events, you could be liable for significant costs if you do injure someone or damage property.

Quad bikes are very popular with thieves because they are relatively easy to steal. The rapid increase in the number of thefts in the last two years has been particularly bad in rural areas, where quad bikes are one of the top targets for organised gangs of thieves. In some areas, the level of thefts has reached ‘epidemic’ levels, according to farmers, with some victims being repeatedly targeted. In 2017, insurance provider NFU Mutual put quad bikes and ATVs at the top of the list of items most commonly targeted in farm robberies, accounting for £2.3million of claims

To help combat the problem, the DVLA has created an Off-Road Register, where owners can register off-road quad bikes. This gives instant access to the Police National Computer and registered keeper files, to help police track stolen quads, and hopefully reunite them with their owners.

If you want to ensure that you keep the cost of your insurance down then you’ll need to demonstrate to insurance providers that you’re taking adequate precautions to protect the vehicle from theft. That could include fitting an alarm or disabler, keeping the vehicle in a locked garage, or data-tagging the vehicle.

Where can I buy cheap quad bike insurance?

Quad bikes are considered specialist vehicles, and that can make it trickier to find the right quad bike insurance. You’ll need to speak to a specialist provider or an independent broker who understands niche motor insurance.

At Park Insurance, we have over 20 years’ experience in finding our customers the right kind of insurance at the right price. When you talk to our team, we’ll know exactly what questions to ask you so that we can find the most appropriate cover for you, without breaking the bank. That means you can be reassured you’re going to get insurance you can rely on.

Our specialist vehicle team at Park Insurance has been helping quad bike owners to find great value insurance for two decades. We’re a Bristol-based, family-run business that not only understands insurance, but what our customers are looking for too. Above all, our expert team is on hand to talk you through what you do (and don’t!) need and we know exactly where to look to negotiate the best deal.

Call us today on 0117 955 6835 or get in touch to find out more.