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Private van insurance

We usually associate vans with business and trade, but many people use vans for purely recreational and social purposes. They use them to haul sporting and camping equipment, to drive their family on holidays, and to move their own possessions and those of family and friends.

In fact, a lot of heavier vehicles you wouldn’t consider, including pickup trucks and very large people carriers, are classified as vans for insurance purposes.

All these vehicles will need specialist insurance policies, but you can save money by getting a social use or private van policy.

In This Guide:

What is private van insurance?

Private van insurance is cover for large vehicles used exclusively for recreational or social purposes. This may include transporting personal possessions not used for business, including sporting and camping equipment (tents, motorbikes, surfboards); driving family members; making supermarket runs; transporting possessions during a move, as long as you’re not receiving money for the assistance.

Even if you only use your van occasionally, for holidays and excursions, it will need to be insured year-round, under the rules of Continual Insurance Enforcement.

If you use your van for commercial purposes, even if just occasionally, you won’t be able to obtain a private use policy. You will need to take out commercial van insurance, which is generally more expensive. Some ‘business’ uses are unexpected. You’ll need commercial van insurance if you use the vehicle to commute to work, for example.

If you have a private van insurance policy and use the vehicle for commercial purposes - for instance, carrying equipment you use for work, travelling to jobs or the office, or even accepting money to help someone move or taking commercial waste to the skip - you risk invalidating your insurance policy.

Here’s an example: A band transporting musical instruments to gigs for which they’re not paid will only need private van insurance. But the minute they make it big and start receiving compensation for their shows, they’ll need to get commercial van insurance. In these cases, you typically won’t have to scrap your policy but request an alteration to it. Your premiums may rise, however.

Can I get private van insurance if I use my van for commuting?

Cars can be insured with non-commercial policies if they’re driven on commutes, but vans cannot. Van insurance works differently than car insurance, and there’s no social, leisure and commuting policy available for these heavier, larger vehicles.

If you commute to work with your van, even if that’s the only ‘business’ activity you do with it, you’ll need to get a commercial use policy. Private van insurance won't be suitable, and you can end up invalidating your policy and having your claim/s rejected. This could be very expensive if, for instance, you get into an accident with your van while driving it to work.

What does private van insurance cover?

Private van insurance works much like car insurance. There are three levels of cover

  • third party cover: the legal minimum for vehicles; covers damage your van might cause to other parties’ vehicles and property and injuries to them but doesn’t cover your own vehicle against damage.
  • third party, fire and theft: policies which provide third party cover and coverage for your van if it’s damaged in a fire or stolen.
  • fully comprehensive: policies which cover all eventualities, including damage to your van caused in accidents, even those at which you are at fault.

What extra coverage can you get with private van insurance?

Sometimes even fully comprehensive insurance policies aren’t enough coverage for your van and the way you use it. Here are some extras you can add onto your private van insurance, for additional charges on your premiums:

  • equipment cover: Fully comprehensive policies will typically come with some level of cover for personal possessions, but this will often be for a limited sum and won’t cover expensive sporting and camping equipment you might carry in your van. You’ll need additional equipment cover for these possessions.
  • international cover: If you drive your van on holiday, you’ll want to ensure your insurance is still valid wherever you roam.
  • breakdown cover: Covers emergency callouts and roadside assistance if your van breaks down and gets you back on the road quickly.
  • courtesy vehicles: Gives you access to a comparable courtesy vehicle while yours is being repaired.