Beginners' guide to van insurance

Confused by van insurance cover levels and policy documentation? Read our guide to help you through...

Key points

  • Van insurance is a legal requirement
  • You must tell your insurer if any of your details change
  • Be clear on whether you use your van for social or business purposes

What is van insurance and why do I need it?

Since the Government brought in the Road Traffic Act (1930), van insurance has been a legal requirement for all drivers on the road.

You're legally obliged as a driver to be insured against the possibility that you may injure another person or cause damage to another person's property.

For example, if you reverse your van into someone else's vehicle, your van insurance will pay for the repairs to the vehicle.

Anyone who doesn't have van insurance could receive a fine or driving ban if they're caught. The only time when you're not required to have insurance is if the vehicle is registered as off road with a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN).

Filling in your application

It's your responsibility to answer questions relating to your insurance application truthfully. If information is found to be incorrect then any claims that you make could be invalid and the insurer may not pay out.

Before you make your final decision, always make sure that the policy that you choose has the right level of cover as well as all the features you require.

Factors affecting your van insurance premium

Insurers consider many different factors when calculating an insurance quote, including:

Claims history: Prior claims that you have made can raise premium prices

Van

Occupation: Your job will have an impact on your premium

Security: Improving the security of your van could have a positive effect on the price of your premium

Use of vehicle: What you use your vehicle for will have an effect on your premium, whether it's carriage of your own goods, carriage of goods for hire and reward, haulage or for social reasons only

Read more in our article on how van insurance quotes are calculated.

What documentation or paperwork will I get?

Once you've taken out your van insurance policy, your insurance provider will send or make available to you:

  • A certificate of insurance or a cover note, which is a temporary certificate - this is evidence that you're legally insured and is one of the documents that the police will ask to see if you're stopped. Cover notes provide the same protection as a certificate, usually for a limited period
  • A schedule and/or policy document - sets out the terms and conditions of your policy
  • A policy booklet (or they will tell you where you can access one) - has the details of exactly what your policy covers and what to do if you need to contact your insurer

What types of van insurance are there?

There are four main types of policy available with differing levels of cover for van owners, these are:

Types of policy

  • Third party only
  • Third party, fire and theft
  • Comprehensive
  • Telematics

Telematics

Telematics is a growing area of van insurance, providers relying on a black box or mobile phone app to calculate your premium based on your driving habits.

Third party only (TPO)

This is the minimum level of cover required by law in the UK. It covers:

  • Liability for injury to others (including passengers)
  • Damage to property
  • Liability whilst towing a caravan or trailer

However, it doesn't cover accidental damage to your own vehicle - that will have to be paid by you.

Third party fire and theft (TPFT)

This covers everything that third party covers, plus:

  • Fire damage
  • The theft of your own vehicle
  • Damage to your van caused during the theft

Comprehensive

Comprehensive is the most extensive van insurance cover and includes everything third party fire and theft does, and usually the following:

Types of excess

  • Compulsory
  • Voluntary
  • Loss or damage to your vehicle
  • Windscreen cover
  • Personal effects
  • Accidental damage
  • Medical expenses

Some van insurance companies offer cheaper 'comprehensive' policies that will provide you with less protection, known as 'stripped down' policies - for example, windscreen cover may have been removed.

Always check your policy documents to see exactly what you're covered for.

Commercial or private van insurance?

The type of policy you require will depend on what you use your vehicle for. Depending on its function there are different options available including private and business van insurance.

Excess

An excess is how much you're required to pay towards any claim that you make. There are two types of excess:

Compulsory excess

  • Set by the insurance company
  • Dependent on details you provided your insurer with when you took out your policy
  • Higher excesses are more likely on policies with young drivers and/or on high-value vehicles

    Van insurance

Voluntary excess

  • You can choose to pay more towards the cost of a claim
  • Could help to reduce the price of your premium
  • In the event of a claim this has to be paid on top of the compulsory excess

Courier van insurance

If you're using your vehicle to transport goods, it's important that you have the appropriate cover, such as goods in transit protection.

For more information, read our article on haulage and courier insurance.

No claims bonus

As the name suggests, this is a reward for people who don't make a claim on their policy, usually in the form of a discount on their premium.

Note that it's a 'no claim' bonus, not a 'no blame' bonus, so whether an accident is your fault or not when you make a claim, it will affect your no claims bonus, unless your insurer recovers their costs from the other driver's insurance company.

Cancellation rates can be found in your policy booklet. They're usually made up of a percentage of your premium, as well as a cancellation fee

It may be possible to 'mirror' or transfer a no claims bonus from any vehicle you've driven - including, perhaps, a company van - onto a new van policy. It may be worth asking...

Making a claim

In the unfortunate case of having an accident or your van being stolen, it's important to let your insurer know as soon as possible. This applies even if you've had an accident but aren't going to make a claim.

If you have a comprehensive policy and your van needs repairing, your insurer will provide you with approved repairers in your area and arrange for your vehicle to be fixed.

Making changes to your policy

If you need to make any changes to your policy, it's important that you tell your insurer so that they can update their records.

There may be an administration charge, and be aware that your premium may change depending on the change that's been made.

If the insurance company has incorrect details and you make a claim, it may be invalidated.

Cancelling a policy

Cancellation rates can be found in your policy booklet. They're usually made up of a percentage of your premium, as well as a cancellation fee.Wallet

Remember that you won't be able to drive your van until you take out a new insurance policy.

Uninsured drivers

The Motor Insurers' Bureau was set up in 1946 to provide a way of compensating the victims of uninsured or untraced motorists.

All motor insurers must be members of the Motor Insurers' Bureau and contribute to its funding.

The Bureau has a Motor Insurance Database which helps identify uninsured drivers. It's run by the Motor Insurers' Information Centre and holds details of all private and fleet motor insurance policyholders.

The police have access to the database so they can carry out on-the-spot checks on motorists to confirm they have current and valid insurance.

When an uninsured or untraced driver injures a third party or damages their property, the third party should receive compensation from the Motor Insurers' Bureau.

If a car is stolen and the car thief damages property or injures someone, the insurance company for the car covers these costs.

By Abbie Laughton-Coles