Man loading boxes into van

3-in-10 small businesses suffer breakdowns each year

Man loading boxes into van

It’s no secret that some small businesses work their cars and vans hard. When you combine that with the normal wear and tear seen in ageing vehicles, it’s not surprising that breakdown rates appear to be higher than those suffered by private car owners.

According to the RAC, there’s a 31% chance that one of a small firm’s vehicles will break down each year. Batteries and tyres top the list of problems, followed by clutch and alternator issues.

Breakdowns are inconvenient at the best of times. But for a small business they can be extremely costly, as Nicky Brown of the RAC explains:

“Any downtime for a small business is likely to be extremely costly as it represents a serious loss of productivity, missed appointments or late deliveries. And, the smaller the business is, the worse the problem.

What can you do to avoid breakdowns?

Unfortunately, some breakdowns are inevitable. But many are avoidable. Here are a few tips.

  • Batteries: 18% of all RAC SME breakdown calls to relate to batteries. Batteries can reach the end of their life and ‘die’ without warning. But if your car or van turns over slowly on cold mornings or you suffer flat batteries after a long weekend, consider replacing the battery. Ask for the battery to be tested each time your vehicle is serviced. If reliability is critical, you could consider replacing batteries more than five years old.
  • Tyres: 13% of SME callouts relate to tyres. Although some blowouts and punctures are unavoidable, many are caused by tyres that are incorrectly inflated, damaged, worn out or overloaded. The solution is to visually inspect tyres and check tyre pressures weekly. With many vehicles now lacking a spare tyre, punctures can be very inconvenient.
  • Mechanical and electrical problems: These can be hard to spot, but such problems sometimes display ‘early warning signs’ that provide clues something is going wrong. Examples are strange noises or vibrations, or perhaps difficulty changing gear. Train drivers to report these symptoms when they appear, rather than waiting until they become bigger issues and cause breakdowns.

Do you need that old vehicle?

Finally, if you’re running old vehicles in your business and paying for regular repairs, consider replacing them. If you can’t afford new replacements than long-term car and van hire is increasingly affordable.

This offers a number of advantages. You’re not responsible for maintenance costs and as most hire vehicles are new, breakdowns should be unlikely.

Hiring a car or van is also more flexible — you can add vehicles at busy times and return them when they’re no longer needed.

If you operate in Central London and are now forking out £12.50 per day for the ULEZ charge, then renting a modern Euro 6 van would enable you to avoid this charge. For many urban operators doing restricted mileage, this saving could be enough to pay for your daily petrol or diesel usage!

Renting can be cheaper than it seems — it could be worth a look.

Astley Van Hire logo

Greater Manchester van rental with Astley Van Hire

Independent van hire firm Astley Van Hire has been supplying local businesses and residents with rental vans since 1986.

The Greater Manchester company is a long-time advertiser on vanrental.co.uk. Based in Astley, near Swinton and Atherton, Astley is open from 7.30am to 7.30pm, seven days a week.

This is good news for anyone wanting to hire a van for the weekend — with many companies you’ll be forced to return it on Monday morning, which isn’t always convenient. But Astley’s seven-day opening policy means that you can pickup on Saturday morning and return Sunday evening. Ideal for hosue moves, DIY, university runs and much more.

Astley offers a full range of services, including:

  • 4 hour rental
  • Daily van hire
  • Weekly hire
  • Contract hire
  • Van leasing

The firm’s rental fleet ranges from small vans through to large, high roof vans and luton vans with tail lift. All vans are modern, well-maintained and include AA cover. Unlettered vans are also available.

For more information or to make a booking, contact Astley Van Hire direct:

Beat the ULEZ with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV van

The new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Commercial. This plug-in hybrid is exempt from the London ULEZ and the Congestion Charge
The new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Commercial. This plug-in hybrid is exempt from the London ULEZ and the Congestion Charge

Have you been caught by the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone charge? Are you now looking for a newer van that will be exempt from this £12.50 daily charge?

If you’re looking for a used van that meets the standard then your choice of diesel vans will be limited to Euro 6 models — as a general rule, those registered from September 2016 onwards. (You can check whether any vehicle meets the ULEZ standards here)

However, for low-mileage urban use, modern diesels aren’t ideal. The diesel particulate filters (DPF) used to reduce emissions tend to clog up fast if they don’t get regular long runs to burn off the soot that builds up.

For many city van drivers, a petrol or electric van makes sense. But while there’s a growing choice of new models on the market, availability of used models is very limited. If you only need a small van, one suggestion you might not have considered is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV commercial. In terms of size and shape, this is similar to the old Vaxuhall Astra/Ford Escort vans of the 90s and noughties.

Inside the Outlander PHEV Commercial – it’s basically like a large estate with the seats folded down and boarded out rear windows for security and privacy.

The difference is that the PHEV — or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle — is powered by a combination of petrol and electric motors that make it ideal for short journeys, where you can run on electric power alone.

As you’d expect, this green machine is exempt from the London ULEZ. But according to Mitsubishi, it’s also exempt from the London Congestion Charge. That means you could save £24 per day (£12.50 ULEZ and £11.50 Congestion Charge) by switching from an older diesel van.

I’m fairly sure that older models of the Outlander PHEV should also be exempt from the ULEZ and Congestion Charge – but check before you buy. This model was introduced in 2013, so there are a growing number to choose from. Although commercial (van) variants are rarer, you might be able to manage by simply tinting the rear windows on a standard Outlander PHEV and folding the seats down.

Although you’ll need a charging point at home to keep the batteries topped up, driving this PHEV SUV around town should save you money compared to petrol or diesel. It could be worth a look.

Volkswagen Crafter

Here’s how you can hire a van for £1

New 2018 Ford Transit Custom

What can you get for £1 these days? Not very much. But one thing you can do is hire a van (or car) for just £1 from major hire companies through the driiveme.co.uk website⇒*.

What’s the catch?

Here’s the deal. Big hire companies need to ‘rebalance’ their fleets. That means moving cars and vans from one location to another so that they’re available to hire in the right locations.

One way to do this is for the companies to pay drivers or vehicle transporters. But that’s expensive for them and a bit wasteful too.

driiveme.co.uk logo

The other alternative is to rent out the vehicles for £1 to customers who want to travel those routes.

The advantage of this is that it saves a wasted journey — you want to travel from A to B and the van (or car) needs to be moved from A to B. So it’s a win-win situation.

The £1 charge is only needed to activate the hire vehicle’s insurance. Apart from that, all you have to pay for is fuel.

Obviously there is a catch: you have to take the car or van between two fixed locations, usually within 24 hours. But if the route works for you, then this can be a brilliant and cheap way to move around the UK.

To find out more, take a look at the driiveme.co.uk website⇒* and see what’s on offer today.

*driiveme.co.uk website⇒ This is an affiliate link. If you book a hire with driiveme.co.uk after clicking on this link, we’ll receive a small payment.

How to adjust van seat

Don’t let your hire van give you a bad back

How to adjust van seat
How to adjust your van seat – source: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles

According to Prab Chandhok, chiropractor and member of, British Chiropractic Association, “Many people now point to driving as a trigger for their back or neck pain”.

Here at vanrental.co.uk, we don’t think that modern vans are likely to give you a bad back. But there’s no doubt that long periods at the wheel can aggravate an existing problem and possibly make it worse.

The good news is that modern vans are more comfortable and ergonomic than ever. Van manufacturers are going to increasing pains to ensure that there vans are at least as comfy as their cars. After all, many van drivers spend far longer at the wheel than the average car driver.

For drivers, we believe that the key to a healthy, pain-free back is to make sure that your seat is adjusted properly so that you’re in a supportive and stress-free position when you’re driving. Van manufacturer Volkswagen has put together some tips to help you get comfy behind the wheel:

  1. Height: Your thighs should be as parallel to the floor as your seat will allow, and where possible try to get your hips higher than your knees. You should also adjust the thigh support if you have one to ensure you have the maximum surface of your thighs touching the seat.
  2. Pedals: You should be able to push the pedals to the floor with a bend in your knees.
  3. 110°: Bring your seat all the way up so it’s straight and then take it back until you are comfortable whilst maintaining a 110 degree angle between your back and thighs.
  4. Lumbar Support: The lumbar support should be adjusted so you can feel it support the hollow in your back but so it’s not causing your spine to arch more than is normal for you.
  5. Head Restraint: The height and angle of your head restraint should be adjusted so you can feel the centre of the support touch the middle of the back of your head, although it does not need to be touching at all times
  6. Steering Wheel: Once in correct seating position, bring your arm up in front of you and position the centre of the steering wheel to be in line with the fold of your wrist.
  7. Rear Mirror: Lift up your chest by five degrees and then adjust your mirrors to help stay in an upright position on long drives.

If this all sounds complicated, here’s how you should look when everything’s adjusted right:

Driver sitting in correctly adjusted van seat.
Your thighs should be parallel with the floor, arms comfortably bent at 10-to-3 and legs bent slightly even when you push the pedals to the floor.

And if you have any tips for avoiding back pain, please share in the comments below to help your fellow van drivers stay pain free.

Questor Insurance logo

Questor Insurance discount code – exclusive!

Questor Insurance logo

One of the easiest ways to save money on van hire is to buy van hire excess insurance from a specialist provider, not from the rental firm.

So I’m very happy to reveal that we have a new exclusive discount code for Questor Insurance, one of the top providers of van hire excess insurance.

Here are the details:

  • Offer: SAVE 7.5% with Questor Insurance
  • Valid from: 2nd April 2019
  • Expires: 30 June 2019
  • DISCOUNT CODE: VAN2291
Buy Questor Insurance

Terms and conditions may apply, see Questor website for details

ULEZ sale at BCA

Rental advantages stack up as emissions net tightens

ULEZ sale at BCA
Demand is high for ULEZ-compliant Euro 6 vans. Auction group BCA recently held its first ULEZ sale.

With less than three weeks to go until the London ULEZ (Ultra-Low Emissions Zone) comes into force on 8 April, van emissions are a hot topic at the moment.

The disruption caused by changing emissions rules doesn’t stop there. Last year’s switch to the WLTP emissions testing regime for new cars and vans caused disruption to new vehicle supplies across Europe, as the new testing system caused bottlenecks for manufacturers.

The introduction of the ULEZ in London means that anyone who isn’t driving a Euro 6 diesel will face a £12.50 daily charge for driving inside the congestion zone (the area will be expanded in 2021). Realistically, this isn’t a viable choice for daily operation — doing so five days a week would cost £3,250 per year.

Should you switch to rental?

Of course, drivers using rental vans don’t have any of these problems. The majority of hire companies are already operating Euro 6 vans. And increasingly, companies such as Europcar are also offering petrol and electric choices as well.

With cities such as Birmingham and Leeds due to introduce Clean Air Zones in the next few years, the emissions problem isn’t going away. But operators wanting to update their fleet to Euro 6 models may find that supplies are limited and prices rising, even for used models.

Auction group BCA recently held its first dedicated ULEZ van sale, where all vehicles were Euro 6 compliant or electric/hybrid vans. As part of the sale, BCA guaranteed that all vans being sold would be able to enter the Ultra Low Emission Zone without charge.

A total of 148 vehicles went under the hammer, selling an average of 104% of their CAP book price — i.e. they sold for more than their book value. Some used dealers at the auction confirmed that they are now only retailing Euro 6 models.

With such strong demand, used van prices are likely to remain high, in my opinion. I think many van operators could be better off outsourcing their vehicle supply to large rental firms and focusing on their core business.

Indeed, all of this brings to mind a famous quote from oil baron J Paul Getty, once the world’s richest man. Talking about business, Getty said:

“If it appreciates, buy it. If it depreciates, lease it”

There’s no doubt at all what category vehicles fall into. From the day you buy them, they depreciate and cost you money to maintain. If you’re still running Euro 5 or older vans, I think there’s a real risk that their used value will collapse over the next few years. I suspect that no one will want to buy vans that are effectively banned from many major towns and cities.

In my view, unless transport is a core part of your business, van operators are better advised to consider long-term flexible rental deals such as those from Europcar and Northgate.

If you’re looking for daily van rental quotes for your business, you can compare prices with our independent van hire price comparison engine.

Citroen Berlingo L2 electric van

Europcar van fleet update adds electric power and luxury

Citroen Berlingo L2 electric van
The Citroen Berlingo electric van in L2 (long) wheelbase.

It’s good to know that once in a while, I’m actually right about something. Back in July last year I predicted that “van hire companies may soon need electric van fleets“.

Fast forward eight months, and I’ve just learned that Europcar has started buying Citroen Berlingo Electric vans for use in urban areas, especially London Congestion Charging zone. When the London Ultra-Low Emissions Zone comes into force in April 2019, electric vans will qualify for a 100% discount.

Alongside this change, the company has also ordered 100 new Citroen Berlingo vans in Enterprise specification. This high-end spec includes the kind of equipment list that’s more usually found on cars.

Standard spec for the Berlingo Enterprise includes air conditioning, rear parking sensors, cruise control, speed limiter, automatic electronic parking brake, alarm, one-touch electric windows, heated and electrically-operated folding door mirrors, front fog lights with cornering function and tyre pressure monitoring. 

Europcar says that private rental customers increasingly expect the comfort and convenience features of a modern car. Meanwhile business customers, who increasingly use rental vans for long periods, want to ensure that their drivers are well-supported and able to do their job comfortably and efficiently.

Vehicle exhaust

Are your vans ready for the London ULEZ on 8 April 2019?

Vehicle exhaust

The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) comes into force on 8 April 2019. Vans which don’t meet Euro 6 emissions standards will have to pay a daily charge to travel within the ULEZ.

Initially, the ULEZ will cover the same area as the Congestion Charge.

Vans entering the ULEZ from 8 April 2019 onwards will need to meet Euro 6 emissions standard or face a £12.50 daily charge. This will apply 24/7/365.

Transport for London says that the charge will be applied based on the declared emissions of the van, not its age. Transport for London has provided a ULEZ Vehicle Checker service you can use to look up your vehicle’s Euro emission rating online.

You may also be able to find your van’s emissions listed on its V5C registration document.

What can I do if my van isn’t compliant?

Very little. You can’t modify your van to change its emissions rating. If your van isn’t compliant, you only have three choices:

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but even some quite new vans won’t be able to enter the ULEZ from 8 April 2019 without paying the daily charge.

ULEZ will expand to N/S Circular in 2021

From October 2021, the ULEZ will expand to include all areas inside the North and South Cricular roads. Broadly speaking, this includes all of the following areas:

  • Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Hackney, Cmaden, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith, Fulham and Haringey

Plus PARTS of these areas:

  • Brent, Barnet, Enfield, Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Newham, Greenwich, Lewisham, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Richmond Upon Thames, Hounslow and Ealing.

For van operators who drive regularly in central London, the obvious conclusion from these changes is that the best way to stay ahead of tighter regulations is to get a zero-emision vehicle — an electric van.

If this isn’t practical, perhaps because you also do longer journeys, then I’d suggests short-term leases of 2/3 years or long-term van hire, which is usually available on a rolling one-month contract.

These choices mean you can avoid the risk of being stuck with a van that becomes unviable to operate in your working territory.

Man loading boxes into van

Watch the weight! Vans take longer to stop when loaded

Man loading boxes into a van.

You hire a van to move house and drive it home empty. It seems almost like a car, quick to accelerate and easy to stop.

What you may not be prepared for is how much longer it will take to stop when you’ve loaded it up with the contents of your house.

New research by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles have shown that a mere 500kg of weight will increase braking distances by up to 36%.

At 30mph, VW found that braking distances increased by 33% with a 500kg load. That’s an extra two metres, which is a lot in heavy urban traffic.

At 60mph, the braking distance only increased by 19%, but because of the much higher speed VW found that their vans needed an extra five metres to stop. That’s roughly the length of a medium-sized van.

Even that may not be enough. If you’re moving house, you might find your load weighs considerably more than 500kg. A typical 3.5t luton van or long wheelbase Transit will carry around 1,000kg. And you might be surprised how the weight of your furniture and other belongings adds up.

With this extra weight on board, I’d expect your stopping distance to be considerably longer than the figures suggested by Volkswagen.

As a rule of thumb, the more heavily loaded your van is, the more space you should leave to the vehicle in front, especially when in town or on busy high-speed roads like A-roads and motorways.

For more tips, check out our first-timers guide to driving a van.