Speed limits in the UK – complete guide

Anyone driving on UK roads will agree, there are more than enough distractions to worry about without fretting about caught speeding. It’s even more stressful if you can’t remember the last speed limit sign you saw – or whether there even was one. Fortunately, there are a few simple rules you can follow to make life easier.

Unfortunately, different types of vehicles have different speed limits imposed upon them, so it’s worth swatting up on the numbers based on what you drive. We explain all…

Speed limits around towns

Regardless of whether you’re driving a tiny city car or a huge articulated lorry, one limit always remains the same – driving in built-up areas carries a blanket 30mph limit, unless stated otherwise. Signs will state where a 30mph limit starts and finishes, but rarely will there be repeater signs to remind you.

The best indicator of a 30mph zone is whether or not there are street lights on the road. If there are no speed limit signs but there are street lights, it’s a safe assumption you’re in a 30mph zone. Be aware, some very built-up areas now feature 20mph zones – especially around schools – though, these will be clearly sign posted.

Speed limits for cars, motorbikes and dual-purpose vehicles

If you’re driving a car or riding a motorcycle, motorways and dual carriageways are subject to a 70mph limit, and single carriageways 60mph – unless stated otherwise by road signs. Dual carriageways are defined as roads with a central reservation, not roads with two lanes of traffic in either direction – this means it’s possible to have a two-lane single carriageway.

These limits also cover car-based commercial vehicles  for example, a Ford Fiesta van  and double-cab pickups. The likes of Mitsubishi L200 and Volkswagen Amarok are bought for commercial use, personal use or both, so fall into the category of ‘dual-purpose vehicles’ according to government regulations.

Speed limits when towing a trailer

For any of the vehicles above, towing a trailer reduces the speed limit by 10mph on motorways, dual carriageways and single carriageways. Urban speed limits remain the same.

Speed limits for motorhomes, buses and minibuses

Speed limits vary slightly for motorhomes depending on weight. Those with an unladen weigh less than 3.05 tonnes are subject to the same limits as cars and motorcycles. Unladen weight refers to the weight of a vehicle without any people or goods on board  motorhome manufacturers generally list this figure clearly.

Those heavier than 3.05 tonnes maintain the 70mph limit on motorways, but single carriageway limits drop to 50mph and dual carriageways to 60mph. The same applies to buses and minibuses shorter than 12 metres, while those longer than 12 metres are reduced to 60mph on motorways, too.

Speed limits for goods vehicles

Goods vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes are allowed to drive at 60mph on all UK motorways. It’s worth bearing in mind that the limits in England and Wales differ to those in Scotland  if you venture north of the border, your speed on single and dual carriageways will need to drop 10mph compared to the rest of the mainland.

It’s understandable if there’s confusion around the 60mph goods vehicle rule. Though 60mph is the legal limit in the UK, a Europe-wide regulation mandates any vehicle weighing more than 3,500kg – classed as a Heavy Goods Vehicle, or HGV – must be limited to 56mph.

Drivers of goods vehicles lighter than 7.5 tonnes and not towing a trailer are governed by the same rules as minibuses  that’s 70mph on motorways, 60mph on dual carriageways and 50mph on single carriageways.

Still with us?

If you want a quick description of the limits all in one handy place take a look at table below, with information sourced from gov.uk.

UK national speed limits
Type of vehicle Single carriageways (mph) Dual carriageways (mph) Motorways (mph)
Cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles 60 70 70
Cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles when towing caravans or trailers 50 60 60
Motorhomes or motor caravans (not more than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight) 60 70 70
Motorhomes or motor caravans (more than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight) 50 60 70
Buses, coaches and minibuses (not more than 12 metres overall length) 50 60 70
Buses, coaches and minibuses (more than 12 metres overall length) 50 60 60
Goods vehicles (not more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) 50 60 70 (60 if articulated or towing a trailer)
Goods vehicles (more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) in England and Wales 50 60 60
Goods vehicles (more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) in Scotland 40 50 60

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