Confused about the law for displaying a red / white striped sign on the back of your motorhome or campervan when travelling in Europe?
So were we, so we've done the research for you. Here's everything you need to know to stay legal if you have an overhanging load on your van in Europe.
Don't forget to grab your FREE Europe motorhoming checklist below to remember everything else you need to bring!
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Red & White striped boards – do you need one?
If you are travelling in certain countries in Europe and have ANYTHING which overhangs the length of your motorhome, you MUST display a panel board (often called a chevron board) which has reflective stripes (or slashes, if you prefer) in red and white.
The stripes must run at 45 degrees and must be displayed on ANY vehicle with anything extending the length. This applies to cars, caravans, motorhomes and campervans.
The reflective warning sign must be displayed on the rear of your motorhome/ camper, at the back of the load (so not on the back of your actual motorhome.)
You'll need them if you have a:
- storage box (like ours)
- bicycle rack (even if nothing is on it)
- tow bar rack (even if nothing is on it)
- if you have a surfboard or something on the roof which extends beyond the back bumper
- If you have anything which makes the vehicle wider, you must display two boards, one on each side.
You do NOT need one if you have a trailer.
It's unclear if you need one if you just have a towbar and nothing else on it. My gut feeling is no- after all, where would you attach it to?- but I can't find any definitive answer.
Which countries are they mandatory in?
These back marker boards are compulsory if motorhoming in Italy and Spain, although they are ‘recommended' in several others.
According to this Thule post, they are also mandatory in Hungary and Poland
You don't need one in the UK if the overhang is less than 1m.
They are not currently mandatory when motorhoming in France, Germany or any other European country unless the load extends over 10% of the vehicle length, but still worth having- just in case you're like us and go detouring into random countries with very little planning!
What dimensions do the red/ white board need to be?
The board must be at least 50×50 cm (minimum area of 2500cm²)
Does it matter how many stripes?
I've read that Spain requires ones with at least 3 red/ 3 white hatched, reflective stripes, whereas Italy seems to require 5 stripes
We have one with 5 red stripes. We figured, if in doubt, more is better.
Does it matter what the board is made from?
In Italy, the board must be made from aluminium and have a reflective surface ‘all over'. I have read that this is only for vehicles over 12m long, but can't find the rule to confirm this. Personally, we went for an aluminium one and haven't had any trouble in Italy or when motorhoming in Spain.
I have also read that the Italians are less concerned about the material if it has the 4 ‘reflective circles/ cats eyes' in the corners. However, Fiamma (an ITALIAN company!) say that the plastic boards are not legal in Italy (in their FAQs)
What makes that even more absurd/ confusing, is that Fiamma themselves only sell the plastic boards. Which makes absolutely no sense!
Planning to take your motorhome to Europe?
How do you attach the board?
The red & white striped signs are usually easily attached to the overhanging object with elastic bungees (not usually provided with purchase so be sure to buy some- these are good). There is usually a hole in each corner for the bungees (or string, if you prefer) to attach to.
Which way round does the stripes have to point?
The stripes MUST point into the centre of the road in the country you are driving in. Of course, in Europe they would always go from top right to bottom left (see photo).
I guess technically in the UK you should stop and turn the board around to point the other way, but we have driven all over the UK and often forgotten to do this.
Can I just use reflective tape instead of a sign?
No. I think you run the risk of being fined. Get a proper reflective rear warning board.
Which rear warning board to buy?
Personally, we have one like this aluminium red and white warning sign and have never had a problem.