Medium hire van

First Time Van Hire Guide

Hiring a van for the first time can be quite daunting.

First you need to make sure you choose the right size van, then you have to load it and then you have to drive it! However, it's not as difficult as it might seem.

Hiring a van can be quick, affordable and simple, and with care, they're very similar to cars to drive, with most allowed to be driven on a standard car driving licence.

Here's our guide to help you through all the steps to renting a van for the first time:

What type and size of van do I need?

What size hire van

There are five main sizes of van used by van rental companies. All of these can be driven with a standard UK car driving 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 1.49m w x 1.2m h)
  • Medium (short wheelbase) vans (2.4m l x 1.7m w x 1.4m-1.65m h)
  • Large (long wheelbase) vans (3.5-4m l x 1.7m w x 1.7m h)
  • Extra-long wheelbase vans (4-5m l x 1.7m w x 1.8m h)
  • Luton (box) vans (4m l x 2m w x 2.2m h)

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.

Work out how much space you will need in the load compartment - think of the largest object you will be carrying, and measure it. Then, think about everything else that will have to fit in around it - can it all be stacked up high and laid on its side, or does it have to be kept a certain way up?

Work out your minimum length and width requirements - if you are transporting some pieces of wood that are 3m long, you need a load compartment at least 3m long - which means a LWB, XLWB or Luton van. Likewise if you have something like a large wardrobe, measure how wide it is - it needs to fit through the rear entrance of your van, which is usually slightly narrower than the load space.

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.

Where will you be loading and unloading your hire van? Most underground or private car parks have 2 metre (6' 6") height restrictions - large or high roof vans will not be able to fit in.

You could make two trips in a smaller van or find somewhere else to unload. For short journeys, it can often be cheaper to hire a smaller van and make two trips.

Consider the weight of your load. A 3.5t van should be enough for most van-sized loads.

Find a local van hire company

Not all rental companies allow you to pick up or drop off vans out of office hours, so you may need to pick up your van the day before, or return it a day later. This may seem expensive but the trick is to work out your pick up and drop off times to make the best use of the 24 hour hire periods offered by rental companies. Pick up your van as late in the day as possible so that you don't have to return it until a convenient time on your final day.

To search and compare van hire prices local to you use our van hire price comparison engine.

We compare van hire prices at hundreds of locations in the UK and Ireland, helping you find cheap van hire deals in your town. You'll be able to choose from a range of vans available from compact and small vans to large long wheelbase and Luton vans.

Compare van hire prices


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 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.

Check out our Van hire Excess Insurance page for more information and to compare van hire excess insurance prices.

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.


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

Take your driving license and any other documents required.

If you have any questions, ask. Any decent hire company will understand that you are not used to vans and be happy to help you.

Driving a hire van & filling it with fuel

Modern vans are increasingly like cars to drive. Most now have short, dashboard-mounted gear levers. 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. Bigger vans have bigger fuel tanks - typically 60-70 litres. A good rule of thumb for long trips is to budget for 30mpg (6.8 miles/litre) - that way you can calculate your fuel costs in advance and work out the total cost of the hire.


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:

Packing & loading a hire van

Luton van

If you are moving house yourself, 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.


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.

Check out our Packing Tips For DIY House Removals and our How to Load Your Hire Van When Moving House Yourself guide for more hints and tips.

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