Medium hire van

Van hire - First time rental guide

Hiring a van for the first time can be quite scary. Not only do you need to choose the right size van, but you have to drive it, too. All of a sudden, they seem much larger than your car...

In reality, it is not that bad - you can drive most vans on a car licence, after all. Despite this, there are a few things you should know before becoming a van driver for the first time!

If this page doesn't answer all of your questions, then check out our van hire FAQ page.

What type of van do you need?

What size rental van

There are five main sizes of van used by van rental companies. All of these can be driven with a UK car licence.

We've listed typical dimensions (length x width x height) for the load compartment in brackets next to each type of van.

  • Small vans (1.7m l x 1.4m w x 1.2m h)
  • Medium (short wheelbase) vans (2.4m l x 1.7m w x 1.4m-1.6m h)
  • Large/long wheelbase vans (3.4m l x 1.7m w x 1.7m h)
  • Extra-long wheelbase vans (4.1m l x 1.7m w x 1.8m h)
  • Luton (box) vans (3m-4m l x 2m w x 2.2m h)

Remember that width is reduced where the rear wheel arches intrude into the body of the van, except for lutons, which are a perfect box shape as the wheels are below the body.

For more information on van sizes, visit our van size guide.


Don't forget passengers.

Vans normally have two passenger seats, except small vans, which usually only have one passenger seat.

For short journeys, it can be cheaper to hire a smaller van and make two trips, rather than hiring a large van and making just one trip.

Find a local van hire company

To find the van hire companies nearest to you, enter your postcode or location into our search page or simply use the box below.

You can click through to several companies to find the cheapest van rental quote - once you have decided, go ahead and book.

Most of the companies listed on provide online booking facilities - van hire companies usually offer their best rates online.

Compare van rental rates - click here


Some van hire companies provide parking for you to leave your car - but most don't.

Consider getting a lift to pick up your van.

Collecting your hire van

When you go to collect your hire van, you should be shown around it to inspect it for damage (like a hire car).

Make sure you understand the insurance excess you will have to pay for any damage to the van (regardless of whether it's your fault). You may be offered additional insurance to reduce this excess.

If you have hired a luton van with a tail lift, you should also be shown how to use the tail lift correctly and how to secure it for travelling. If you aren't shown this, ask. Getting it wrong could be dangerous.

If you have any questions, ask - don't worry about sounding stupid. Any decent hire company will understand that you are not used to vans and be happy to help you.


Do you have to return it with the same amount of fuel as when you collected it, or should it have a full tank?

If you have a photocard driving licence, you need to take the paper part as well as the photocard when you collect the van.

Driving the van & filling it with fuel

The good news is that modern vans are increasingly like cars to drive. Most current models now have short, dashboard-mounted gear levers (like many cars). Similarly, the days of giant, heavy steering wheels are long gone - most vans now have car-like steering wheels and excellent power steering.

The main risk when driving a van is being caught out by the larger size.

When driving, length is not usually a problem but height and width can be. Don't try and squeeze through gaps if you aren't sure of the width - avoid 6' 6" width restrictions - they are very difficult or impossible for most vans.

Make sure you know how high your van is - most are 2m or more and very few will fit under any kind of car park height barrier. Low bridges can also be a problem.

Many hire companies stick a label on the dashboard showing the van's height.

Read it - you will be liable for any damage caused by overhead obstructions.


Hire vans are virtually always diesel. The filler cap is usually somewhere on the front half of the van.

Brake gently and take corners more slowly than you would in a car.

Adjust the van's wing mirrors so you can see behind you properly - there will be no central rear-view mirror.

Van speed limits are lower than for cars:

  • Single Carriageway: 50mph
  • Dual Carriageway: 60mph
  • Motorway: 70mph

Packing & loading the van

Luton van with tail lift

If you are moving house, here are some tips on packing and loading:

  • Pack well. Heavy items should go at the bottom of boxes with a layer of lighter objects on top - that way, the box won't be too heavy and risk breaking.
  • Wrap glasses in tea towels or newspaper. They will be safer if they are stood up, not piled on top of each other.
  • Protect furniture from being scratched in the van with old sheets or blankets.
  • Drawers can be filled and used for storage. However, carry them out separately to the van and make sure they can't slide out when you are driving.
  • When stacking, ensure the objects at the bottom of the pile can take the weight of the items on top. The heaviest boxes should go at the bottom of the pile, or it will be top heavy and fall over.
  • Use straps or rope to tie larger items like wardrobes in place against the side of the van. If it can move, it will move.

Click here for more tips on packing and loading a van.


Security can be a problem with a luton van as the rear roller door will not lock with the van's locking system.

The tail lift provides some security when it is fastened up for travel.

If needed many roller doors can be locked close with a padlock.