How to hire a van


If you’re moving house and decided to do it yourself, have a large DIY project planned, or have just bought an upright piano on Gumtree, then chances are you’ll need to hire a van for the job.

If you’ve never done this before then the process can be daunting. Or, if you haven’t hired a van for some years you might find the rules and regulations have changed.

With all of this in mind, The Van Expert offers this five-step guide to hiring a van.

What documentation do I need to hire a van?

A full UK driving licence (category B) will cover a wide range of vans weighing up to 3.5 tonnes. That’s basically the bulk of popular small- to medium-sized panel vans, which should cover you for most domestic needs.

The codes and icons on the back of your licence tell you exactly what you’re covered to drive.

However, not all driving licences provide the same cover as this is determined by how long ago you passed your test.

If you passed your test before January 1997, you might be surprised to learn you’re entitled to drive bigger vans up to 7.5 tonnes (they actually look more like trucks!) in weight for private usage. If you passed after that date, then you’ll only be able to drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes without passing an additional test.

Rules regarding driving licences change from time to time. For instance, in January 2017 the rules on plug-in electric vans were changed enabling holders of standard Category B licences to drive models weighing up to 4.25 tonne, a recognition of the additional weight a battery adds to an unladen van.

Drivers over 70 need to meet Group 2 Medical Standards. And if you passed your test after January 1997 you’ll need to apply for a minibus licence. Further details can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/driving-a-minibus

You’ll need to produce your licence when renting a van and it will be checked to see precisely what you’re covered for.

Choosing a van rental company

This is one of the easier parts of the process!

Google (other search engines are available) is probably the best place to start and will direct you to all the big names, from Enterprise and Europcar to Europcar and Avis.

It will also flag up independent rental firms serving the needs of local customers. They can sometimes be more flexible than the big boys and are likely to be more conveniently located.

To ensure your supplier is top notch and takes good care of its vehicles and customers, ask them if they are members of the British Vehicle Rental Leasing Association (BVRLA); the industry trade body that ensures all members deliver the highest levels of service.

What size should I choose?

This will be the most important question you ask yourself.

A top tip here is don’t try to save a few quid and hire a van that ends up being too small for the job.

Remember, on a full driving licence you can hire vans up to 3.5 tonnes. That’s the size of a standard Ford Transit, Vauxhall Vivaro (manufactured in Luton, if you want to support The Van Expert’s Built in Britain campaign!) or Renault Trafic, all with voluminous load bays.

Also, don’t forget it’s dangerous and illegal to overload vans; an over-heavy load in a small van is an absolute no-no!

What sizes are available?

For private usage, there are basically three types of vans offering different payloads, or carrying capacity:

Small van

These vans include the Ford Transit Connect, Volkswagen Caddy, Peugeot Partner and Citroën Berlingo. Expect an average payload of 600-750kg, which makes it suitable for transporting small items of furniture, household bits and pieces and boxed items, which is why they are so popular with courier companies.

Panel van

Often generically referred to as Transits, even if they’re not made by Ford as the Blue Oval pioneered this all-purpose class of van.

This class of van comes in two sizes with payloads ranging from 1,000-1,400kg. Most manufacturers cover both bases with vehicles such as: Ford Transit Custom and Transit, Volkswagen Transporter and Crafter, Vauxhall Vivaro and Movano, Mercedes-Benz Vito and Sprinter.

Luton Van

A generic term used for large vans differentiated by the tell-tale design which features an enclosed box body which extends over the cabin, providing extra capacity which can be particularly handy for long loads.

Payload is around 1,000-1,200kg. Most are fitted with a rear tail lift as it’s a long way from the ground to the loading bay!

What else do I need to know?

If you haven’t driven a van before, or not for a long time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how easy they are to drive, the high levels of standard spec they feature and just how car-like and comfortable the interiors are.

Here are some additional points to consider from Europcar:

Watch your speed
Depending on the size of the van, the speed at which it can be driven may well be slower than the national limit. Make sure you check the vehicle’s speed limit when collecting it.

Familiarise yourself
Take the time to get to know the size and responsiveness of the van before you head out onto busy roads.

Handle with care
A van will usually handle quite differently when you collect it empty compared to how it will feel once fully laden. 

Secure the load
Even a small amount of movement in a van can cause it to move around dangerously, so ensure items are packed securely.

Take it slowly
Larger vehicles require longer braking distances, especially when fully-laden or in poor weather, so watch your speed.

In addition, make sure you take bends slowly as vans are more liable to tip over due to their height and increased centre of gravity.

Tips to help you hire a van from the Van Expert

Curtis Hutchinson
Curtis Hutchinson
Curtis Hutchinson is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and has been a senior motoring journalist for over 25 years. He has written extensively about the automotive industry as editor of both Company Car and Motor Trader where he won the coveted Newspress Business Publication of the Year Award. His work also appears in Fleet World and Fleet World International. In 2016 he was part of the founding team behind the relaunched London Motor Show.

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