But whatever the reason you drive a van, you need the right insurance cover.
Van insurance is distinct from car insurance, but it’s not always easy to tell whether you drive a van or a car because of the number of multi-purpose vehicles on the road.
It’s important to get it right, though, otherwise your insurance could be invalid and would not pay out in the event of a claim.
If you are unsure, you can usually find the vehicle classification in the V5C log book.
When you run a quote at MoneySuperMarket, you can either enter the vehicle’s registration plate, in which case we’ll provide details of your vehicle, or you can use the drop-down boxes to specify the make and model.
As is the case with car insurance, van insurance is compulsory under the law.
The minimum legal requirement – and the most basic policy – is third party insurance, which only provides cover in cases where you injure another person or damage their property. There is no pay-out to cover your own losses.
The next level up is third party fire and theft, which includes cover for your own van in case of any loss or damage caused by fire or theft.
Comprehensive van insurance is the most extensive and usually covers any loss or damage to your own van as well as to other vehicles or property.
Most insurers offer all three types of policy, but don’t assume third party is the cheapest. You can often buy comprehensive insurance for the same price, or just a little more, than third party cover.
Please note: your van must be insured even if it is not being used for a number of weeks or even months.
In fact, you must always have valid insurance unless you apply to DVLA for a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN).
Black box insurance
A number of van insurers offer telematics policies, which use a ‘black box’ to record your driving using data collected via satellite.
The premium is then calculated according to when, where and how well (or badly) you drive, so could be reduced or increased during the term of the policy.
Types of use
There are three types of use recognised by van insurers – you choose which is appropriate for you in the course of running your quotation:
Carriage of own goods
You pick this one if you only ever carry items in your van that belong to you, including tools and equipment, or belong to someone else but are needed to carry out your line of work.
You pick this one if you carry goods on behalf of someone in return for payment. A courier would choose haulage.
Social, domestic and pleasure
If you use never use your van for work, you can select the social, domestic and pleasure (SD&P) option, which should be cheaper.
For example, you might be a keen gardener who packs your tools in your van when you go to your allotment. Or maybe you like fishing or playing sports and carry your kit and equipment in the van.
If you opt for SD&P and subsequently use your van for work, you’ll need to contact your insurer in advance to upgrade your protection – if you don’t, you risk driving without adequate insurance.
Confusion can arise if you use the van simply to get to and from your place of work, but don’t actually use the vehicle for work purposes.
Some insurers cover commuting within a SD&P policy, while others will require a higher level of protection. You should therefore check the details carefully or you could end up with the wrong cover.
Limitations of cover
Be aware of the limitations of commercial van policies.
You should check whether the insurance covers the goods in your van, as well as the vehicle itself. Many policies include tools up to a certain value, often about £500.
Bear in mind, though, that the insurer will expect you to take care of your equipment, so don’t leave it in an unattended vehicle overnight.
If you’ve got an open-backed vehicle, you should never leave items unattended, no matter where it’s parked, or even during the day, otherwise you might not succeed with a claim for theft.
If you have no choice but to leave items in your pick-up, lock them inside the cabin – but not overnight.
Drivers who plan to take their van onto the Continent should read the small print of their policy as European cover does not always come as standard.
However, you can usually pay an additional premium if you want to drive in Europe. You might also be able to pay to add optional extras such as legal expenses, a courtesy van and breakdown cover to your policy.
The level of cover and the type of policy will to a large extent determine the premium. Insurers will also look at a range of other factors including the make and model of the van, your address and your occupation.
The driver’s motoring history is important, too. So, if you have any past motoring convictions or claims, you should be prepared to pay a higher premium for your van insurance.
You should also think carefully about the track record of any other drivers you would like to add to your policy because it could bump up the cost of cover.
Bear in mind that most insurers impose an age limit on van drivers. If you are under the age of 21 or even 25, you might struggle to find cover.
No claims discount
Van drivers can build up a no claims discount, just like car drivers. The discount varies from insurer to insurer but you might be able to knock up to 70% off your premium if you can manage five consecutive years without a claim.
You can also pay a bit extra to protect your no claims bonus. You would then be allowed to make a certain number of claims within a specified period without losing your discount.
Variable excess payments
Some van drivers are willing to negotiate a higher excess in return for a lower premium.
The excess is the amount the policyholder must pay towards each claim. All van insurance policies carry a compulsory excess, usually about £200. So, if you put in a claim for £1,000, the insurance company would pay only £800.
But you can usually choose to pay a bigger, voluntary excess, and because you are agreeing to contribute more towards any claim you make, the insurer will usually charge a smaller premium.
But don’t set your voluntary excess to high, otherwise you might not be able to afford to get your van back on the road following an accident.
Cutting the cost
There are a number of other ways to cut the cost of van insurance.
You could, for example, limit your annual mileage. Or you could make sure your van is fitted with up-to-date, approved security devices. If you can keep your van in a locked garage overnight (rather than parked on the street), you can also expect a slightly lower premium.
The most important money-saving tactic is to compare prices from a wide range of van insurers – which you can do quickly and easily here at MoneySuperMarket.
The cost of cover varies but you can get quotes from all the leading van insurers in minutes using our comparison service.