Can You Drive a Tank on the Road – the Essential Guide
Ok not the most common question when it comes to driving on the roads. But believe us when some people do question what to do to have road worthy tanks. As Experience day providers offering tank driving experiences at locations around the UK, we know our Chieftains from our Challengers. But we’re not talking about which private off-road centres you can go to for a one-off experience. We want to know if we could get ourselves a fully tracked vehicle and drive the tank ourselves into work, on the public roads!
But are tanks road legal? Do you have to be a member of the Special Forces to be able to drive one? And how on earth do you parallel park? We decided to lift the hatch on the muddy world of military vehicle driving and investigate further…
Do you need a special licence to drive a tank on the public roads?
Yes. A civilian H category licence. If you have a standard car licence (category C) you automatically have a provisional licence for a fully tracked vehicle. If that military vehicle has more than one seat, a driver who already has their H test must accompany you and you must display L-plates. Technically, if the vehicle only has one seat, you can go out with L-plates on the roads unsupervised, but we wouldn’t advise it!
How do you pass the H test?
You apply at your local DVLA test centre. An examiner will come out to you. The DVLA website states that for the practical part of the test the examiner gives you instructions to do things like ‘drive as you go around left and right circuits’, ‘turn around using forward and reverse gears’ and ‘drive the vehicle backwards and turn it around using its tracks so it’s facing the opposite direction’. As for the cost, it isn’t excessive, coming in at £62.
And is there a theory test?
Yes. After the practical part there’s an eyesight test, followed by five questions on the Highway Code then six traffic signs to be identified.
So now you’ve got the H licence, let’s take a look at your trusty fully tracked vehicle. There is a lot of confusion and discussion as to just what is needed to get a tank road legal and registered, but it IS possible to drive a tank on the good old open roads. Here’s our advice for anyone thinking of buying a tank to drive down to the local Tescos for the weekly shop:
Buy a tank that’s already road registered
If you try and register one yourself, you’ll hit a minefield of DVLA legislation including width and weight limits and what mods need to be carried out. If you buy one that’s already registered and with number plates, it makes the whole shebang a lot easier. You’ll find already road-legal military vehicles like the FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier and the CVR Sabre quite easily in the specialist market place.
And what about the gun turret?
Any arms fitted to the tank must be deactivated. You will also need to fit road-going rubber track pads if you are over 5 tonnes in weight, but this is to be advised in all cases as it gives better grip on the tarmac roads and prevents damage to the highways and byways of this green and pleasant land, which you could be liable for if you do rip up the tarmac!
MoT and tax free? Yes please!
Most of these ex-military tanks are of a certain age, so there’s no MoT and some are even exempt from vehicle road tax. A nice little perk is the fact that they are exempt from the London congestion charge, so there’s nothing to stop you trundling around the West End to stop off at Harrods for a spot of shopping. And we’re sure finding a parking space won’t be hard.
Insurance – a bargain or an arm and a leg?
Actually, most tanks in civilian hands are classed as classic vehicles and there are several specialist insurance companies who offer cover for these. You might be surprised to hear that you could insure your ex-Army tank for less than £200 per year. Watch out for clauses that say things like you must have a commander with you and a working intercom when you drive on the road and adhere to them, else you won’t be insured in the event of a claim.
And the price tag?
Well, you can actually pick up a ‘good runner’ FV432 for as little as £4000. Mint ones go for around £10,000. Check out Tanks-a-lot’s military vehicle sales.
So how much do they cost to run?
Ah. That’s the problem. Get an oil leak and you could be talking thousands for the repair. Roll into the petrol station and the 400+ litre fuel tank will cost a fortune to fill up (we’ll let you do the maths!). And when you do get tracking along, you can’t expect much better than 3 to 4 mpg – especially if you’re attacking hard on the off-road.
Here’s footage of Tank enthusiast Mark taking his FV 432 for a spin!
But let’s face it, if you’ve got the cash, the garage big enough to park it in and have taken a little time to get your H category test, we can’t think of any better mode of transport for a nice Sunday drive out. And we reckon everyone you pass will give you the thumbs up, stare in disbelief and generally give you a very wide berth as you drive your little rumbling tank around the roads of your local town. Oh and one last thing, you’re currently limited to 20mph, (although there are proposals to increase the limit to 40mph) so don’t be surprised if a queue of traffic forms behind you!
*All information in this article is up to date as of June 2017*