If you are intending to hire or purchase a van, then it’s important to understand whether your existing driving licence covers you for the vehicle. The majority of UK licence holders have a Category B (Cat B) licence, which covers you for almost all standard new and used cars and a range of additional vehicles, including motorbikes, vans, light commercial vehicles and motor homes.
The general rule you should be aware of is that a Cat B licence will cover you to drive any normal roadworthy vehicle whose maximum laden weight (including goods and passengers) does not exceed 3,500kg. This applies to both the general public and members of the motor trade. You should always check your own driving licence to confirm the correct category is listed, otherwise you could be prosecuted should you not be eligible.
If you wish to drive a van where the gross laden weight is above this 3,500kg, then you’ll need to check with the DVLA or obtain a different licence which allows you to drive such vehicles. If you found to be driving one of these vehicles with an invalid licence, the penalty can be a fine of up to £1,000 and 3 to 6 penalty points – this is of course in addition to any other penalty should you not be covered by a valid insurance policy or driving an untaxed vehicle!
Usually, the van rental company will include motor trade insurance products to cover any rental period, but if you purchase a van then you will obviously need to add this vehicle to your own insurance policy and confirm whether it’s for personal or business use. In most cases for example, drivers may need a larger vehicle for use as a removals van or to dispose of unwanted goods. In most cases, your standard licence should be more than enough to cover you, but it’s worth confirming with the hire company or individual from whom you hire from, including what the maximum laden weight of the vehicle would be.
If you are driving the van for a business purpose, you will also need to abide by various laws and rules for driver hours. Should you have to drive for more than four hours each day then you’ll need to know the rules on rest breaks and consecutive hours driving, as fines will apply if you fail to adhere to them. It is also important to understand international driving laws if you are planning to take the vehicle out of the country for any reason, for example, will you need a ‘Green card’ with Brexit looming?
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There are occasionally age restrictions in place when hiring larger vehicles from the motor trade – although your licence will cover you to drive vans from the age of 17, it is often the policy of rental companies to specify a minimum age of 21 (or even higher) for the hire of certain vehicles or charge a higher insurance premium or waiver – again be aware of this when planning any jobs that would require such a vehicle rental.
It’s also possible to drive small minibuses on a Cat B licence, though there is a specific additional caveat on these vehicles. If you are using the vehicle for any commercial purpose (for example you are charging passengers for their journey) then you cannot use your normal driving licence and would require a special licence – additionally there must be 16 seats or fewer, you have to be at least 21 years of age and held your licence for a minimum of two years.