How to drive a van


First time van drivers may feel apprehensive when driving a larger vehicle, whether its just a test drive or the day you collect your new van. You've finally managed to choose the right size and style for your business, agreed on how you want to purchase it, and selected the correct van insurance. All that's left is to drive it away and start using it.

There are still several steps you should take to make sure that your first time van driving experience is smooth and safe. Our guide will give you a few useful tips for first time van drivers starting out on their van driving experience.

Check Your Licence

Before you even stat the van up you need to check your licence and make sure that you're able to drive the van that you've purchased or hired. Ideally you should really do this before you even purchase the van but before driving off it doesn't hurt to double check.

A standard UK driving licence will allow you to drive a van up to 3,500kg, which generally will take you up to most large vans. Anyone who passed their driving test after 1st January 1997 may need to take extra tests in order to drive vehicles that weigh between 3,500 and 7500kg and to tow a trailer with your van.

To make things even easier you can check your own driving licence details through the government website which will show you all the vehicles that you are qualified to currently drive.

nissan townstar

Get Comfortable

It might seem obvious but taking time to set yourself up properly inside the cabin will have huge impact on your driving experience and ability to drive the van correctly. You should never set off if your driving position is incorrect.

Take advantage of all of the adjustments available for the driving seat whether it's height, distance from the steering wheel, lumbar support, or the angle of the backrest as you may find that you need a different set up than when you drive a car.

The height difference, particularly evident in medium and large vans, means that it may take you a little bit longer to find what's going to work best for you and as most modern vans don't have a rear view mirror that can be used your side mirrors are even more important to get correct.

Get To Know Your Van

To save from distractions whilst driving it's important to know where all of your basic controls are and how they work before you set off. Different brands will all have slightly different set ups so if you're driving a van that's a different brand to your normal car make sure to take time to figure them out.

Make sure you know how the main electrics work such as your air conditioning and heating, exterior lights, and your windscreen wipers. You don't want to be caught out if it starts pouring with rain and you can't get your wipers to the correct setting.

Work out how to use additional features like sat nav, either integrated or one that runs through your phone or sat nav device, so that once you set off you don't need to try and fiddle with it.

As well as the controls and the features be mindful of the size of your van. The last thing you want is to get stuck trying to pass through car park barriers or a low bridge. Take this into consideration for parking too as there's a good chance you'll be taking up more space than you're used to. Having a larger parking space than you need is not a bad thing.

Your chosen van will also have a weight limit for what it can carry. Take note that this includes the van itself, driver and passengers, fuel, and whatever you then load into the cargo space. You can find this on your van's vehicle identification (VIN) plate. Be aware that you can be fined up to £300 or get a court summons if your van exceeds its maximum permitted axle weight.

Drive Accordingly

There are several things you'll have to consider when you're driving a van that will be different to driving a car. For example your blind spots will likely be different and greater in number as you're unable to see directly behind you in many vans so you'll have to adjust you existing driving habits accordingly.

You should also be aware that the speed limits are different in some cases for vans compared to cars. On single carriageway roads a national speed limit sign means 50mph and 60mph on dual carriageway roads. If you have a van that is towing a trailer then a national speed limit sign also equals 60mph on a motorway.

Your braking distance is impacted when you have a fully loaded van too. Volkswagen conducted a study that found that a full van traveling at 30mph requires an additional 2 metres to come to a stop than an empty van, with this increased to five metres at 60mph.

Make sure that all of your goods are secured correctly in the back too. If there are things moving around constantly it will destabilise you as you drive. Your suspension will feel stiffer when you have a full van too so you'll hit bumps and potholes harder, best to avoid clipping them altogether.


Overall, driving a van for the first time isn't overly different from driving a car, there are just different considerations that you need to make as a driver. Knowing your van and what to expect as you drive it are two crucial parts of taking a van out for the first time. Keep distractions to the minimum to make sure that all of your attention is on the road and you'll be a confident van driver in no time!

For more information or to have any further questions answered please don't hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team at Clark Commercials who are always on hand to assist.

Clark Commercials