Driving without van insurance consequences

Learn the implications of driving a van without insurance, when you do and don’t need cover and what you should do if you won’t be driving your van in the foreseeable future.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 7 November 2022  | 4 mins read

Key points

  • It’s an offence to drive a van without insurance - third party cover is the minimum level required
  • You could face a fine and penalty points on your licence for being uninsured, and you may even be disqualified from driving
  • You’ll need to apply for a SORN if you don’t plan to drive your van or you’ll be keeping it off-road
  • If you’re hit by an uninsured driver, you might be able to claim compensation from the MIB

Is it always illegal to drive without van insurance?

Yes, if you’re driving your van on any road, or in any public place, you must have motor insurance for it.

Third party insurance is the minimum level of cover required by the Road Traffic Act.

This most basic level of insurance will provide cover if you’re responsible for a road accident that injures other people or damages their vehicle or property.

And, even if you’ll only be driving for a few minutes, it will still be illegal for you to drive without insurance and if you’re caught, you could face a fine and points on your licence.

What happens if I’m stopped by the police for driving without insurance?

The police have automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology fitted to their cars and fixed sites to check whether you’re insured and are legally allowed to drive.

This technology can also tell whether your MOT and tax is up to date.

If the system flags your van as uninsured, the police are allowed to stop you and ask for proof that you’ve got valid cover. If you can’t show this at the time, you’ll have seven days to bring your insurance documents to a police station.

The penalty for driving without insurance

If it turns out you weren’t insured when you were pulled over, you’ll be charged for driving without insurance.

This can result in a £300 fine and six penalty points on your licence.

In some cases, it could mean you’re disqualified from driving. The police are also allowed to seize your van and, if you don’t collect it in time, it may even be destroyed.

Will I get a criminal record for driving without insurance?

No, if you’re caught driving without insurance it won’t appear on your criminal record.

But if you’re convicted of driving without insurance you could get up to six penalty points which will show on your driving licence for four years. You could even be banned from driving if the case goes to court.

You’ll also need to tell insurers when you’re applying for a policy which will increase your premium.

What are ‘special reasons’ for driving without insurance?

‘Special Reasons’ is a legal term you may hear if you’re sent to court because of an offence like driving without insurance.

These go beyond the common reasons for why you were committing the offence.

For example, a usual reason for driving while uninsured might be because you hadn’t realised your cover had expired, whereas a special reason could be that your insurer had cancelled your policy without letting you know.

Special reasons can mean you escape being disqualified or receiving points on your licence. But you’ll need to show reliable evidence and there’s no guarantee that you’ll avoid being penalised.

Is accidental policy lapse a legitimate defence?

You may not have realised that your insurance has run out, but if you get caught without any cover this won’t be a valid excuse.

It’s your responsibility to renew your insurance and most insurers will send you reminders three to four weeks before your cover is due to expire.

To make sure you stay covered it’s a good idea to set your own reminder, so you don’t find yourself facing an expensive mistake.

Do I need insurance if I’m test driving a van?

If you’re just taking a van for a test drive, you’ll still need insurance in case you have an accident while you’re behind the wheel.

Dealers often have special insurance in place for test drives, but if you’re buying your van through a private sale you’ll need to make sure you’re covered.

You may find your current comprehensive policy includes cover for you to drive another person’s vehicle with their permission.

However, it usually only provides third party cover, so will only cover damage that happens to other people’s cars, not the one you’re driving.

To get fully comprehensive cover for a test drive, you can take out temporary or short-term vehicle insurance – cover can range from one hour up to a month.

My van is parked on the road but I don’t drive it. Does it need to be insured?

Even if your van is parked and you won’t be driving it, it still needs to be insured. This applies whether it’s parked on the road, in the driveway or in your garage.

The only way to be exempt from needing van insurance is to apply to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN).

This is free to do and you’ll get a refund for any full months of remaining road tax.

Can I drive on private land in an uninsured van?

Yes, you’re legally allowed to do this if the land is private and can’t be accessed by the public.

However, if the private land has any kind of public access - for example, if it has a car park or campsite - your van would need to be insured if you wanted to drive across it.

Plus, if you’re only planning to drive on private land in your van, you won’t be exempt from vehicle insurance or road tax unless you’ve notified the DVLA that your van is being kept off road and have applied for a SORN.

When don’t I need van insurance?

Generally, it’s an offence not to have van insurance, but there are a few circumstances where your van can legally be uninsured, these include:

  • If it’s officially kept off the road - If you’re not driving your van and keep it off the road, like in a garage, you can apply for a SORN
  • When your van has been scrapped, stolen or exported - You’ll need to inform the DVLA and your insurer about this if you want to avoid a fine
  • If it’s registered as being ‘in trade’ - This is when your van is between dealers or is being held in stock by an authorised dealer

What if my van is hit by an uninsured driver?

Being involved in any kind of road accident is stressful, but it’s important to get as many details as possible at the time that you can refer to later.

Try to take down:

  • the person’s name, address and phone number
  • the vehicle’s make, model and registration plates
  • photographs and details of all vehicles and damage involved
  • details of driving conditions
  • names and contact details of any witnesses

If it turns out that the other driver isn’t insured or won’t provide you with their details, you should contact the police.

In cases where there’s no insurer to cover the cost of the damage, you might be able to claim compensation from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).

Some policies have an uninsured driver promise, so if you’re in a non-fault incident with an uninsured driver your no-claims bonus will be protected and you won’t have to pay the excess.