A 16-seat minibus under 3500gk is a converted window van that omits heavier safety features and robust seating to keep the weight limit down. No manufacturer makes a 16-seat factory-built minibus under 3500kg. Van conversion companies sell converted 16 seat minibuses to drivers who do not hold a D1 entitlement but wish to drive a minibus under a Section 19 Permit.

Castle Minibus considers there to be several risk factors schools should consider when choosing to purchase and operate a 16-seat vehicle under 3500kg including licences, training, safety features and the additional concern of being overweight.

If you are looking to drive a minibus under 3500kg consider one with less seats; there are factory-built minibuses available with 9, 12 and 14 seats. The older Ford Transit 14 seat minibus was 3500kg but the new 2019 version has a MAM (maximum authorised mass) of 4100kg.

Whatever minibus you choose Castle Minibus advises schools to only drive vehicles with 8 passengers or more with a D1 entitlement as part of a robust minibus safety system. It is one of the reasons Castle Minibus will only lease, hire or sell factory built minibuses, because with a D1 weight it not an issue.

Can teachers drive minibuses under 3500kg on a car licence?

If a teacher obtained their standard B car licence (car, not automatic) before January 1997 they have an automatic D1 entitlement that allows them to drive any weight small bus and receive payment for doing so. If they obtained their car licence after January 1997, they can only drive a minibus under 3500kg if they are doing so without payment or other consideration. Castle Minibus along with several county councils have sought specialist legal advice on this issue and been advised that teachers are driving as part of their paid employment and as such are receiving payment regardless of whether they have ‘volunteered’ to drive the minibus.

If you are allowing teachers to driver minibuses under 3500kg on a standard B licence, you run the risk of driving on the wrong licence and we recommend you seek specialist legal advice to clarify your position.

You can read more on our blog Can I drive a 16 seat minibus on a car licence?

Regulations regarding converting a van to carry passengers in the rear

There are no specific regulations covering the conversion of vans into passenger carrying vehicles Regulation 100 of The Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 (SI 1986 No. 1078) will apply. This requires:

  • a motor vehicle, and all its parts and accessories
  • the number of passengers carried, and the manner in which any passengers are carried in or on a vehicle
  • the weight, distribution, packing and adjustment of the load of a vehicle

to be at all times such that no danger is caused, or is likely to be caused, to any person in or on a vehicle or on a road. This means that the conversion work must allow passengers to be carried safely.

There is no legal requirement for seatbelts to be fitted in the rear of a van but if you intend to carry children aged 12 years or under, the seatbelt wearing regulations require them to wear a suitable child restraint at all times. When fitting seatbelts, they must comply with the latest British or European standards and be marked accordingly with either the ‘e’, ‘E’ or BS ‘Kitemark’.


Schools need to understand that they will be liable, not the conversion company, if the vehicle is found to be in a dangerous condition and ‘is such that the use of the motor vehicle involves a danger of injury to any person’.

Ensuring you’re not over weight

It is dangerous to drive an overweight vehicle for many reasons but if you’re relying on the weight of your vehicle being under 3500kg to drive it with a standard car licence then it is especially important to understand the unleaden weight and pay loads of your vehicle which combined make up the MAM, maximum authorised mass of 3500kg.

The 750kg additional allowance is for specialist lifting equipment only and can not be used for anything else i.e. luggage or a ramp.

If you are concerned about your minibus and are looking for advice on minibuses, D1 driver training or minibus compliance please call Castle Minibus on 01869 253744 or email enquiries@castleminibus.co.uk