If you’ve been convicted of a crime - whether for a motoring offence or something else - you may find it difficult to get affordable van insurance.
But there are providers who’ll be willing to help.
Find out how to get cover for your van if you have a conviction on your record.
When you have a criminal record, you may be refused van insurance by some providers or face higher premiums than average.
That’s because insurers see you as a greater risk, regardless of whether the criminal conviction is driving-related or not.
A criminal conviction is when you've admitted to, or been found guilty of, a criminal offence by a court.
It can be anything from a serious matter that resulted in a prison sentence, to things like shoplifting, being drunk and disorderly, or a motoring offence like speeding.
In terms of getting van insurance, what matters is whether your conviction is spent or unspent.
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, a conviction becomes spent after a certain period of time and it’s removed from your criminal record.
You don’t have to tell an insurer about a spent conviction.
It depends on the severity of the sentence you received as to when a conviction will become spent. For example, a conviction that came with a fine or restraining order will become spent in less time than a conviction that resulted in a prison sentence (although prison sentences over four years never become spent).
You do need to tell insurers about any unspent convictions if they ask you. An unspent conviction is one that will show up on a criminal record check.
The charity Unlock, which supports people with criminal records, has a handy disclosure calculator, which allows you to see when your criminal record becomes spent in England and Wales.
A driving conviction is a criminal conviction you receive when you’re prosecuted for a motoring offence such as dangerous driving, or drink driving.
Your punishment may be a fine and points on your licence, or for the most serious driving offences, a driving ban or prison sentence.
For minor offences, such as breaking the speed limit by a small margin, or using a mobile phone while driving, you may receive a Fixed Penalty Notice, rather than being taken to court.
Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) may incur a fine only, or a fine and penalty points on your licence.
As long as you pay the fine, the offence is discharged and it’s not classed as a criminal conviction.
But if you receive points on your licence with the FPN, they’ll stay on your driving record for four or 11 years, depending on the seriousness of the offence. You need to let your insurer know about any points on your licence when you apply for cover.
If you commit a driving offence, you could receive a Fixed Penalty Notice and points on your licence, or for more serious offences, a driving ban and prison sentence from the courts.
Your licence is likely to be ‘endorsed’ with penalty points for certain driving offences.
You can get up to 11 points on your licence, depending on how serious the offence you committed is deemed to be. Speeding, for example, carries between three and six points, while dangerous driving can carry between three to 11 points.
Endorsements stay on your driving record for four or 11 years from the date of the offence.
If you build up 12 penalty points on your record within three years, you may be disqualified from driving. New drivers can get a ban if they amass six or more penalty points within two years of passing their driving test.
Every endorsement that goes on a driving record has its own offence code.
Driving penalty codes are a combination of two letters and two numbers.
Accident offences are prefixed with the letters AC, dangerous driving offences with DD, speeding offences with SP, traffic direction and signs offences with TS, and drink offences with DR.
You can find a full list of endorsement codes and their penalty points on the gov.uk website.
You may be asked about previous convictions when you apply for a van insurance quote.
As we already mentioned, you don’t have to tell your insurer about any spent criminal convictions.
But you must disclose any unspent convictions - whether for driving or something else - if you’re asked. That includes any other person insured to drive on the policy - such as your spouse, partner, or child.
If you have points on your licence, you’re legally obliged to tell your insurer about them too.
If you don’t tell your insurer about your unspent convictions and they find out about them, your policy could be invalid and any claim you make won’t be paid.
If you’ve been paid a claim, your provider could ask for some or all of the money back. Your policy may be cancelled and you could even be prosecuted for insurance fraud.
Some insurers may not even offer you a quote for van insurance if you have any unspent criminal convictions, but there are plenty who will. In fact, some companies specialise in this sort of cover.
Minor convictions may have no effect on the price of the policy. However, in many cases, having a conviction means you’ll likely be charged more, because you’re regarded as a higher risk.
It’s not worth lying when you apply for van insurance to try to keep the cost down, though.
If you knowingly withhold information about your unspent convictions, your policy will be invalid, you won’t be able to make a claim, and you could face prosecution.
There’s plenty you can do to try to keep the cost of your van insurance down.
Things like paying annually, rather than monthly, and increasing your voluntary excess can help.
Other things you can do include:
Keeping your van as safe as possible from break-in or theft can lower the cost of insurance. Fit an approved alarm, a tracker or immobiliser, and keep your van somewhere secure overnight - ideally in a garage. If you can, empty your van of expensive tools and equipment at the end of a working day. Letting your insurers know your van is empty could reduce premiums.
Smaller, less powerful vans usually cost less to insure.
Taking a speed awareness course can mean you avoid a speeding fine and penalty points. A drink-driving rehabilitation course can help demonstrate you intend to be a safer driver after a conviction.
Enrolling on an advanced van-driving course could rate you as less of a risk and help lower premiums too.
Black box, or telematics insurance, monitors your driving through a device installed in your van. Driving well and responsibly could see you rewarded with lower premiums.
Compare cover and get multiple quotes to find the right deal for you. If you can’t find suitable cover, the charity Unlock, which specialises in helping people with criminal convictions, may be able to point you in the right direction.
When you’re getting quotes for cover, you’ll need to make sure you’ve answered questions about unspent convictions honestly.
Though it doesn’t often happen, if your insurer doesn’t ask anything about convictions in the quote process, be sure to check the terms and conditions of the policy to see if convictions are mentioned there.
When you do disclose your convictions, it can be a good idea to ask your insurer for written proof that shows you’ve done this, in case of any disputes if you make a claim.
Lastly, if you get a conviction when your van policy is already in force, you generally don’t have to declare it until it’s time to renew your insurance.
But check the terms and conditions in case your particular policy specifically says you must inform them in these circumstances.