What is Vehicle Type Approval?

This page was last updated on 15th May 2024


Vehicle Type Approval is the confirmation that production samples of a type of vehicle, vehicle system, component or separate technical unit will meet specified performance standards. It can be demonstrated through type approval markings (‘e’ or ‘E’ marks) applied to products by the manufacturer, and in the case of vehicles approved under the GB, UK(NI) or EU Whole Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA) schemes, by a Certificate of Conformity (CoC) issued by the manufacturer. In the case of UN International Whole Vehicle Type Approval (IWVTA) a Declaration of Conformity (DoC) is issued by the manufacturer.

The process involves the oversight of the selection and testing of samples, the documentation of the specification and the evaluation of the measures in place by the manufacturer to ensure Conformity of Production (CoP). A prerequisite of type approval is that the manufacturer has appropriate measures in place to ensure that production samples will continue to meet the performance requirements as the products originally examined, this is known as Conformity of Production (CoP).

CoP is a fundamental cornerstone of type approval and type approval cannot be issued without CoP. Learn more about Conformity of Production.

The legislative instruments which govern automotive type approval schemes require third party approval – testing, certification and production conformity assessment by an independent body. A country may appoint an Approval Authority to issue the approvals and a Technical Service to carry out the testing to the relevant legislative instruments.

In the UK, the Vehicle Certification Agency is the designated UK Type Approval Authority for automotive products and also a designated Technical Service for type approval testing in the GB, UK(NI) and United Nations (UN) schemes.

As the UK Type Approval Authority, the Vehicle Certification Agency is responsible for issuing UK type approvals on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport under the GB, UK(NI) and UN  type approval schemes.

The Vehicle Certification Agency has its own in-house Technical Service which can undertake type approval testing for GB, UK(NI) and UN regulations.

If you would like to find out more about type approval and the services VCA can offer, please visit our contact us page

Introduction to Vehicle Categories

Type approval is available for different kinds of vehicles, systems, components and STUs;

Vehicle Type Category
Motorcycles Category L
Passenger Vehicles Category M
Goods Vehicles Category N
Trailers Category O
Agricultural Vehicles Category T, C, R & S
Non-road Mobile Machinery Various engine categories

These categories are further subdivided into subcategories generally defined by the size or weight of the vehicle. However, there are exceptions, for example, vehicles of Category M are subdivided by the number of seating positions.

Learn more about Type Approval category definitions

Applicable Routes to the UK Market

There are several routes to approval available and depending on your chosen market, you will need to ensure that you select the right option and obtain the correct approval type.

As applied within Great Britain (GB) and Northern Ireland (NI), it is possible to place goods on the UK market using one of these routes:

Approval Type GB NI Details
Provisional GB Type Approval X For all categories
GB Type Approval X For categories M, N, O, and their components
UK(NI) Type Approval X X For all categories
United Nations (UN) Type Approval X X Primarily for systems, components and separate technical units, for use in global markets of UNECE 1958 Agreement
EU Type Approval QNIG only X For all categories, EU Type Approval is accepted in Northern Ireland as part of the Northern Ireland Protocol and may only be accepted in Great Britain where the product is a Qualifying Northern Ireland Good (QNIG)

Qualifying Northern Ireland Good (QNIG)

The definition is legislated within ‘The Definition of Qualifying Northern Ireland Goods (EU Exit) Regulations 2020’ as UK Statutory Instrument 2020 No. 1454.

To meet the definition, the good must be either:

  • Processed in Northern Ireland in line with the legal definition in the SI; or
  • Present in Northern Ireland and are not subject to any customs supervision, restriction or control which does not arise from the goods being taken out of the territory of Northern Ireland or the European Union

The Vehicle Certification Agency is not able to advise on whether your product meets the legal definition. HMRC have provided guidance on moving qualifying goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK which may be helpful.

European Union Type Approval

European Union (EU) legislation provides for the type approval of whole vehicles, vehicle systems, components and separate technical units. This harmonises the standards for vehicles which are to be placed on the market, sold, registered or entered into service in the EU.

EU type approvals must be granted by the Approval Authority of an EU member state, but VCA can assist with queries relating to these regulations and VCA Europe S.r.l. are a designated Technical Service of several EU member states.

As there are two systems of type approval used in Europe (the UN type approval framework is also utilised), EU type approvals are sometimes known as ‘little e’ approvals. This is derived from the fact that products marked in accordance with the EU requirements may bear an EU approval mark characterised by having a lower case ‘e’ followed by a number in a rectangle;

The type approval numbers written on the type approval certificates themselves and on CoCs and other associated documents have a lower case ‘e’ as part of the type approval numbering system.

WEBTA-Intro0 Rev 1
25 January 2023