It’s easy to start seeing a van as more of a trusted companion than a vehicle. Whether it’s cruising down to the coast with a surfboard in the back, whipping around town on the way to your next job or carting a few boxes across town for a mate, a van is a reliable and useful asset.
Vans are so versatile that it’s easy for the dividing lines between business and pleasure use to become blurred. What happens if you use your van to help out your employer every now and again, or if you do a couple of jobs with it in between contracts?
Know your policy types
Insurers take a fairly hard line with van insurance. There are two types of policy: private insurance and commercial or business insurance. Private insurance only applies where your van is used exclusively for non-work purposes. Even commuting to a place of work in a van will mean you require commercial insurance. Insurers enforce this much more strictly for vans than they would for cars.
Sometimes vans are used only for certain times of the year. You might have one to support your presence at a music festival over the summer months, for example, or use it solely for Christmas tree delivery in the festive period. The law says that the van must still be insured throughout the year, unless you have an official Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).
How do you use your van?
When you apply for insurance, your insurer will ask about how you use your van. The different types of policy are: private use only; carriage of own goods; carrying goods for hire, reward and haulage. The cost of insurance will vary depending on which category you fall into.
Private use is sometimes straightforward; for example, if you only use the van to go on holiday or transport your model railway to share with friends at the weekend. There can be grey areas though: what if you are a drummer who sometimes performs for free, sometimes for money? How about if you are an amateur potter and you take your ceramics to sell at market stalls? The answer is clear cut; if you do anything with your van that involves taking payment as a regular activity, you will need commercial insurance.
Carriage of your own goods covers vans used by the owner to transport tools or equipment which are used in their profession. This covers kit used by tradesmen like plumbers, carpenters and builders; it would also include yoga teachers carrying yoga mats and cushions, street performers carrying their unicycles and any other equipment used to earn money.
Carrying goods for hire, reward or haulage is likely to involve more risk and, therefore, higher premiums tend to apply. If you are delivering someone else’s goods you will probably be on the road a lot, moving between destinations. Be aware that most van insurance does not provide cover for the value of the goods you are transporting; this would need an additional policy.
The key point is to talk through your situation with your insurance broker to find the right policy. The price of cover may also vary according to the usual criteria such as criminal record, age and experience, and your claims history.