Does My Car Insurance Cover Me for Driving a Van?
Many of us occasionally rent vans: to move house, to transport large pieces of furniture and equipment, or to ferry our extended family on holiday. Others will invest in a van, using it for either business or pleasure.
But don’t assume that when you get behind the wheel of a large vehicle that your car insurance covers you. You’ll need specific insurance to cover your operation of that vehicle, whether it’s a temporary hire, a borrowed vehicle or a van you’ve purchased. You’ll also need to make sure you’re licensed to operate it.
In this guide:
- Does my car insurance cover me for a borrowed van?
- Does my car insurance cover me for a hired van?
- Does my car insurance cover me for a van I own?
- Am I licensed to drive a van?
If you’ve borrowed a van from a family member or friend, say to move house or pick up a new tree from a gardening centre, you can’t assume you’ll be insured while driving it.
In the past, fully comprehensive car insurance policies generally covered you with the legal minimum of third party liability while you were operating any vehicle.
But the “any car” provision has gone out of fashion, at least as standard. You may be able to add the ‘driving other cars’ (DOC) benefit on as an extra to your policy, for an additional charge on your premiums. But the courtesy won’t be extended to all motorists: those under 25 and in certain occupations may not be able to get “any car” coverage.
If your car insurance policy doesn't include this benefit, you have two options. You can either ask the owner of the van to temporarily add you as a named driver on their insurance policy, which might increase their premiums. Alternatively, you can seek out a short-term van insurance policy on your own, lasting for as long as you’ll be using the van.
If you operate a van without being properly insured to drive it, you can face fines, points on your licence, and even prosecution.
Hired vans usually come with insurance policies, which include liability insurance and a collision damage waiver. But you should always check the terms and conditions to see exactly what’s covered and the excess you’ll need to pay if you’re involved in an accident.
Excesses on these hire firm insurance policies can be very high, often between £500 and £2,000 or higher. Therefore you can also get an insurance policy that protects you against those costs. Car hire excess cover is almost like an insurance policy on an insurance policy, but it can protect you against substantial expenses.
Some van hire companies, especially those who rent to the trade market, expect customers to provide their own van insurance. In those cases, you’ll need to seek out a separate short-term insurance policy for the van.
In a word: no. If you own a van, whether you use it for commercial or recreational purposes, you’ll need to be insured to operate that specific vehicle. Your name will have to be listed on the van’s insurance policy, and any insurance you have for another vehicle isn’t portable to the van.
This can be confusing if you and your spouse own a car and a van, and want to swap vehicles. Both of you will need to be listed as drivers on the policies of both vehicles for you to exchange cars back and forth.
Insurance is a legal requirement for operating a van, but it’s not the only one. The driver also needs to be fully qualified to drive the vehicle, which can be much larger, heavier, and more challenging to manoeuvre than a car.
If you’ve passed a standard driving test, you can drive a van of up to 3,500kg with up to eight passenger seats. Most vans on UK roads will fall under this weight limit. This includes most vans you’d hire and white panel vans used by tradespeople.
If your driving test dates from on or after 1 January 1997, you’ll need to take extra tests before you can drive vehicles weighing between 3,500kg and 7,500kg or tow a trailer with your van. Those who’ve passed their driving test before 1 January 1997 can drive van and trailer combinations with weights up to 8,250kg.
Driving a vehicle without the appropriate licence can lead to a fine of up to £1,000 and three to six penalty points on your licence.