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Tips For Driving a Van for the First Time

Jun 26, 2023

If you’ve never driven a van before, it’s important to understand that driving a van isn’t quite like driving a car. So before you hit the road, take some time to familiarise yourself with how the van feels to drive.

If you’re thinking of renting a van – to move house, for example, or to transport a bulky item of furniture – in this post we’ll share some essential tips for driving a van for the first time.

If you are going to hire a van, don’t forget that you’ll need appropriate insurance cover! We can help you get instant online temporary van insurance to last from one hour to 28 days. Get a free quote online today.

Are There Different Road Laws for Van Drivers?

Yes, there are some key differences to road law for van drivers. First, van drivers must follow slightly different speed limits. Depending on the size of your van, you may, for example, be limited to 60 mph on motorways and dual carriageways. Read the full speed limit rules for different kinds of vehicles.

You may also have to follow different parking restrictions, particularly if your van’s classed as a “commercial vehicle”. Take a look at the relevant sections of the Highway Code.

What’s The Main Difference Between Driving Vans and Cars?

The main thing to remember is that vans are bigger and more powerful than cars. This means:

  • Your driving position will be different. The driver’s seat in a van is much higher from the road surface than the driver’s seat in a car.
  • Your view of the road will be different. Because the driver’s seat’s so high, and the windscreen’s so large, you’ll have a much better view of the road ahead than you would in a car. Unfortunately, you may also have a much bigger blind spot, as some vans don’t have rear-view mirrors.
  • Your turning circle will be much larger than it would be in a car. Also, because a van’s physically taller than a car, you may not be able to enter multistorey car parks or pass under certain barriers and bridges.
  • Vans can carry much heavier loads than cars. If you’re driving with a particularly heavy load or with an empty load, it may affect your handling and your stopping distance.

Essential Tips for Driving a Van For The First Time

  • Get used to using your wing mirrors. Some vans don’t have rear-view mirrors. This can be very confusing if you’re driving a van for the first time. Luckily, a van’s wing mirrors tend to be larger than a cars, so they’ll give you a pretty good view of the road behind you. You’ll just have to adjust to glancing from side to side, rather than above, to see what’s going on behind you.
  • Take care when loading the van. You may have to secure any large or heavy items, for example. And remember that heavy loads may affect your handling and your braking.
  • Take care when driving an empty van too. Vans are designed with heavy loads in mind, so you might find your accelerator is more responsive than you’re used to and breaks are sharper.
  • Before you hit the road, do a few circuits of a car park. This will help you get used to the raised driving position, the lack of a rear-view mirror, the use of your wing mirrors, and your van’s turning circle.
  • Also practice parking your van before you set out. Remember that you’ll need to find bigger and wider spaces, as vans are not as manoeuvrable as cars.
  • Learn your van’s dimensions, particularly its height, so you can avoid any bridges or barriers that might be too low for you.
  • Take care at high speeds – strong winds can seriously affect vans!
  • Finally, take care when using your sat-nav. Your phone’s navigation app will assume you’re driving a car, so may take you down roads that are unsuitable for vans. There’s a reason why LGV and HGV drivers use specialist sat-navs!

Don’t Forget Insurance!

If you’re hiring a van for a temporary period, then it’s unlikely that your existing car insurance policy will cover you. You’ll have to get some specialist temporary van insurance to cover you for as long as you’re driving the van – even if it’s just for an hour or so.

We can help you get instant online temporary van insurance to last from one hour to 28 days. Our temporary van insurance policies are fully comprehensive, and they can even cover you if you’re driving for business use. Get a free quote online today.

Get a Quote

You can call us during normal office hours, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Outside of office hours you can either email us or leave an answerphone message and we promise to get back to you the next working day.

General enquiries:
020 8290 4560

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