Van driving tips for beginners

Whether you’re planning to hire a van for business or pleasure, here’s our guide to driving one for the first time.

The good news is that the standard UK driving licence allows you to drive vehicles of 3.5 tonnes or lighter, which means you’ll be able to drive all of our rental vans.

For vans above 3.5 tonnes, you may need to sit an additional test before you can drive a vehicle in this weight category. And no matter its size, you’ll need the correct insurance policy in place; if you don’t, you could be risking a large fine.

Before you set off

Check your mirrors

Many vans don’t feature windows for security reasons, and the partition between a van’s cabin and storage areas often means there’s no rear-view mirror.

So, you’ll need to set your wing mirrors to the correct position before starting your journey, as they’ll be essential visual cues for manoeuvring rush-hour traffic, or changing lanes out on the open road.

Consider the speed limits

The following speed limits apply for driving vans and vans with trailers (which will of course add to the weight of the van and could change its category) in the UK:

Type of van Built-up area Single carriageway Dual carriageway Motorway
Van 30 mph 50 mph 60 mph 70 mph
Car-type van 30 mph 60 mph 70 mph 70 mph
Van and trailer 30 mph 50 mph 60 mph 60 mph

It’s another dimension

It’s also important to be aware of your van’s width and height for those tricky occasions you have to negotiate a low bridge or access a restricted parking area. You should also factor in the increased weight of a van – especially one carrying a load – compared to a car. Allow extra stopping time and distance, when approaching junctions, roadworks, or if traffic starts to slow ahead of you.

Driving vans for work

When your van’s your office, it’s good to know how to treat it with care, and make sure it’s always a safe place to work.


If you’re driving a van as part of your working day, chances are you’ll be carrying equipment with you, or loading and unloading goods from the van’s rear storage bay. When loading up, make sure any weight is spread evenly. Always load the vehicle below its maximum capacity, and make sure any cargo is properly secured.


Parking a van can be a lot more challenging than a car, especially when traffic behind you is busy and you start to feel the pressure.

And there’s nothing wrong with asking for help; you can get guidance from any passengers you’re carrying, or from pedestrians ready to assist, to make sure you park your van safely.

Driving vans for leisure

Maybe you’ve hired a van for camping in the country, with a tent, gas stove and industrial quantities of midge repellent in the rear storage area. Or maybe you have some surfboards waxed and primed for a trip to the coast with friends? Among all the fun, there are just a few things to remember.

Make sure that when you return your van, the fuel tank is topped back up to its original level. It’s also really important that you check the van’s fuel type to avoid any refuelling mix-ups!

If you’re nervous about driving a van for the first time, speak to a member of our team and they’ll be happy to help you.

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