If you’re something of a novice van driver - whether your job involves driving one or you’re using one to run errands – then getting used to being behind the wheel of one might take some getting used to. The good news is that driving a van is nothing like it used to be. These days, modern vans feel more like cars.

That said, there are still a few things you’ll want to be aware of when driving a van – especially if you’re driving a van for the first time. Below, we’ll run through a selection of tips for driving a van, along with a number of things you might want to consider if you’re thinking of purchasing a van.

What type of license do I need to drive a van?

Before you do anything else, you’ll want to check if you can legally drive a van in the first place.

Anyone with a standard car driving licence can drive a van up to 3,500kg. Exceeding that weight limit will invalidate your licence and possibly your insurance. It will also leave you liable for spot fines and potentially a court summons.

Electric vans tend to be heavier because of the weight of their batteries. That means to drive an electric van with a gross vehicle weight of 4250kg, you’ll have to complete at least five hours of training and a certified course to do so.

However, if you passed your driving test before January 1, 1997 you’re exempt from these restrictions. In fact, you can drive a van or small truck of up to 7.5 tonnes and tow a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8250kg.​

Driving a van: 5 top tips

Get comfortable with your van

When you sit down in the driver’s seat of a van, make sure everything is to your liking. The seat and mirror positions will probably need adjusting. And since both of them will help make your journeys are safer, more comfortable experience, it’s worth getting them in the right positions. Many seats in modern vans have a high level of adjustability, so that won’t be a problem.

As for visibility, you’ll probably notice the lack of a rear-view mirror. However, the larger door mirrors compensate for this, and you’ll find that you still have a full view of the road once you’re moving. Just make sure that your door mirrors are set up according to your seat height, and that you’re aware of where your blind spots are.

Familiarise yourself with the vehicle’s controls

All the gizmos that modern vehicles come equipped with might take some time to get up to speed with as well. Lights, wipers, air conditioning, infotainment and stalks will likely all be in unfamiliar places, so make sure you’re well versed with where these all and how to operate them before you set off.

Looking at light controls or turning on your wipers might take no time at all. But even those few seconds you spend looking for them could make a big difference if it’s dark or the heavens open. Don’t leave things up to chance, stay safe and familiarise yourself with everything before your next journey.

Get used to its dimensions

Your van will most likely be bigger than the car you’re currently driving, so you’ll have to consider its dimensions too.

Finding out the dimensions will help you work out how much room you’ll need on the roads. This will help you avoid attempting to squeeze into tight spaces or damaging the van trying to get into a car park with height restrictions.

Stick to the speed limit

This one obviously goes without saying, as it’s something you should be doing anyway. Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that vans and other light commercial vehicles have to stick to different speed limits than those for cars, which are as follows:

-On single carriageway roads a national speed limit sign denotes 50mph for a van

-On a dual carriageway, a national speed limit sign denotes 60mph for a van

Check your insurance cover

Whether the van belongs to you, your business’ or you’re renting it, make sure that it has the right level of cover.

If you’re transporting goods or carrying tools inside it for work, then look into specialist van insurance so that the van and whatever’s inside it is protected.

If you’re renting, then the majority of van hire agreements will contain some level of insurance that will protect the vehicle in the event of damage. That said, don’t assume that it will. Make sure you’re reading over all of your rental information so you know exactly what you are and aren’t covered against.

As well as van insurance, you’ll also need breakdown cover in case your van breaks down. When it comes to work purposes, you’ll need to opt for a commercial breakdown policy, since most consumer policies won’t cover a business vehicle used for business reasons.

Choosing the right van: things to consider

When it comes to picking the perfect van, there’s plenty to weigh up ahead of time. Keep the following in mind in the run up to your decision:

-What are you using the van for? If you’ll only be driving it occasionally, then flexible hire or opting to buy a used van might be a better option. Long distance jobs, on the other hand, might suit something newer and more reliable.

-Will you be driving on your own, or will a team join you on your journeys? If so, you’ll likely need a van with more seats.

-The load will be another big factor too. Too small a load in too big a van is a waste of money, while too small a van for too big a load will mean making multiple trips. Remember to factor in wheel arches, too!

-Loading and unloading will affect your decision too. Will side-loading doors be enough, or do you want the added convenience of a drop side or tipper? If you’re transporting heavy goods, then a box van with a tail lift might be the best option.

Is van insurance the same as car insurance?

To put it bluntly: no, van insurance is not the same as car insurance. Since cars and vans are generally used for different reasons, their respective policies will cover slightly different risks specific to each vehicle. Consumer policies cover cars and drivers for things like driving to the shops or doing the school run. They’re not suited to the longer distance journeys and transporting of goods that vans will need covering against.

Additionally, you’ll have to choose between private and business van insurance, which differ as follows:

-Private van insurance: For activity that can be deemed as social use only, such as school runs or visiting family and friends

-Business van insurance: Covers the above in addition to covering your journeys to work

A good rule of thumb: you must have business van insurance if your van is used for anything that earns you money. If you drive to work in your van, then you’ll need business van insurance.

What vans do we have here at Brindley Group?

Here at Brindley Group, we have a large range of vans and light commercial vehicles, with flexible payload and wheelbase options, from some of the best brands across the industry, including Nissan and Maxus.

We’re also on hand to help you reach the right decision thanks to our team of commercial vehicle specialists – they’ll even be able to advise on funding options should you need them too.

For more motoring tips and advice, head to the Brindley blog. In the market for a used car? Maybe you want to learn about our servicing options? Follow the links or contact your local Brindley Group dealership today.