Vehicle exhaust

Why the new London T-Charge probably won’t affect van hire customers

Vehicle exhaust

The London T-Charge has now taken effect, as of 23 October 2017.

Anyone driving into the London Congestion Zone between 7am and 6pm Monday-Friday will now be required to pay an additional £10 surcharge if their car doesn’t meet certain emissions standards.

The new charge applies to cars, vans, minibuses, motorhomes, horseboxes and almost all motor vehicles except motorcycles.

Which vehicles are affected?

The good news is that anyone driving a hired van probably won’t be affected. That’s because the new charge only applies to cars and vans which don’t meet Euro 4 (IV) emissions standards.

Broadly speaking, this means any vehicle (petrol or diesel) registered before 2005, although there are a few exceptions.

You can check if your car or van is affected on the T-Charge website here.

Will rental vans be affected?

Hired vehicles are covered by the T-Charge. But the good news is that almost all rental vans are much newer than this. Most are less than three years old.

Indeed, here at, we have never heard of a reputable van hire company offering 12-year old vans. So van hire drivers heading into London shouldn’t need to worry about the new charge.

This is one more reason to consider hiring a van for occasional use, rather than owning one.

Does this replace the congestion charge?

No! The existing London Congestion Charge is unchanged.

Drivers hit by the T-Charge will still need to pay the congestion charge, meaning they will have to pay £21.50 per day to drive into the city.

Coming in 2019

There are two further changes planned for 2019. Both will hit drivers of older cars and vans.

5 more low emission zone cities: London isn’t the only UK city with air pollution problems. Birmingham, Leeds, Derby, Southampton and Nottingham are all required to setup Clean Air Zones (CAZ) by 2019. So charges and/or restrictions are likely for drivers of older vehicles in these cities.

London gets tougher: The T-Charge is an intermediate solution that will be replaced in 2019 by the London Ultra-Low Emissions Zone. This is expected to be expanded to include more vehicles than the T-Charge. Presumably this means that vehicles will need to be Euro 5 or even Euro 6 compliant — we don’t know yet.

Flying Fish Seafoord Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van

Mile-munching Sprinters stay fresh with Reman engines

Flying Fish Seafoord Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van

Mercedes-Benz Sprinters have a reputation as being some of the most reliable vans you can buy. But when you run a fleet of vans each doing at least 100,000 miles per year, you’re bound to run into problems occasionally.

That’s the situation Flying Fish Seafoods finds itself in. Based by the A30 in Indian Queens, Cornwall, the company’s drivers spend the day collecting fresh seafood from Cornish fish markets, before making overnight deliveries throughout the south of England.

High mileages mean that the vans need routine servicing every couple of months. And while Logistics Manager Harry Squires is at pains to stress that “the vans are superbly reliable”, the company gets extra peace of mind by having access to Mercedes Reman engines in addition to standard warranty repairs.

What this means is that if a van suffers a fault that will require a time-consuming repair, the dealer has the option of fitting a Reman — or remanufactured — engine to the van instead. This means it can be put back on the road quickly and in a predictable timeframe. Essential for high-value, tightly-scheduled delivery work.

Use of a Mercedes-Benz Reman engine means that the vans’ three-year, unlimited mileage warranty is unaffected. Food for thought.

Volkswagen Crafter Luton

Van hire drivers must be aware of low bridge risk

Vehicles which get stuck under low bridges are most commonly lorries. So it’s tempting for drivers of hire vans to think they don’t need to bother about this risk.

However, as a Bristol driver found out last week, low bridges pose a real risk to van drivers too. As you can see in the video footage above, this luton van got stuck under a low bridge in the Brislington area of Bristol.

The bridge in question was labelled with an 11′ height restriction. That’s about 3.3m.

Although this is high enough for most vans to pass under safely, some large box vans such as the Luton model shown in the video do exceed this height.

What to do: If you hire a van with a high roof, it should have a height sticker in the cab area. If it doesn’t, ask the hire company how high the van is — or measure it yourself.

If you get stuck under a low bridge or suffer any other height-related damage, you will usually be liable for the cost of the resulting damage. So it’s worth taking care to avoid a hefty repair bill.

Zipcar petrol-powered VW Transporter in London

Car-sharing firm Zipcar adds 10 petrol vans to London fleet

Zipcar petrol-powered VW Transporter in London

Car sharing network Zipcar is trialling 10 petrol-powered Volkswagen Transporters in London.

Car-sharing network Zipcar has added 10 petrol-powered Volkswagen Transporter vans to its London-based fleet.

The 10 new Transporter models, all T28 Trendline panel vans with a 2.0-litre TSI 150 PS engine and manual gearbox, will be available to hire from Zipcar’s London-based fleet locations. They join the 400+ diesel-powered vans currently on offer to those who need a vehicle on a flexible basis, from an hour to a day or more.

Zipcar petrol vanThe new vans will be operated on a year-long trial in the capital, as part of a move to re-introduce petrol power to the van market.

Commenting on the petrol van pilot, Jonathan Hampson, General Manager of Zipcar UK, said:

“The Mayor of London recently outlined plans to actively reduce the use of diesel in the capital. We have already completed the removal of diesel from our car fleet, and whilst this is significantly more complex in the commercial vehicle market, we’re delighted to partner with Volkswagen to continue with this process.

The vans have been wrapped with a special livery which makes it clear that they aren’t diesel — including a graphic reminder on the fuel flap.

Changes are coming

Petrol power was once commonplace on vans, but the torque and efficiency of modern turbo-diesels means that petrol engines have more or less disappeared from the European van market since the early 1990s. But in the face of concerns about diesel pollution and the unsuitability of DPF-fitted vans for low-mileage operation, manufacturers are starting to reverse this situation.

Commenting on the shifting market, VW Commercial Vehicles Head of Marketing Sarah Cox said:

“The van market is currently dominated by diesel, but we know that customers are aware of changes to legislation and looking for other options.”

“They’re scanning the market for guidance on what will be right for their fleets not just today or tomorrow, but in three or five years’ time. We’re pleased to be able to offer customers, in collaboration with Zipcar, the chance to try something new.

Zipcar is owned by car rental giant Avis Budget, so it has significant purchasing power and access to major corporate hire customers. Feedback from this trial could well result in petrol vans gaining a larger presence in daily van rental fleets over the next few years.

One potential advantage is that they’re cheaper to buy. As we reported in July, the new petrol-powered models are around £1,000 than equivalent diesel models. Although fuel consumption will be higher and residual values are — for now — less certain, petrol already makes a lot of sense for low mileage drivers in my opinon.

Given the strong performance of the latest generation of petrol turbo engines, I expect to see a lot more petrol vans on the road in the next 3-5 years.

BCA LCV auction September 2017

Used van deliver record prices in September

BCA LCV auction September 2017

Used vans being sold at a BCA auction in September 2017.

Used van prices reached record levels in September, according to figures from auction group BCA.

The average price of a used van sold at auction last month was £6,651. That’s a 5.1% increase from August and an 8.3% increase the same period last year:

All vans Avg Age (mnths) Avg Mileage Avg Value
Sept 2016 54.15 71,509 £6,140
Sept 2017 51.92 64,901 £6,651

Source: BCA

Of course, some of these price increases are cancelled out by this year’s lower average age and mileage. As shown in the table above, vans sold in September had an average of around 6,500 miles fewer on the clock and were nearly 3 months newer. BCA says that this is a reflection of higher volumes of ex-rental vans and corporate stock being sold.

Duncan Ward, BCA’s LCV Operation Director, says that the demand for used vans is broad based and growing:

The LCV market has seen continued value and volume growth throughout much of 2017. There has been steady demand for vehicles to service online shopping delivery, the construction and civil engineering industries and the small business and entrepreneurial start-up sector. BCA continues to experience plenty of demand for tippers and dropsides, Lutons and larger panel vans, the latter often going back to work to service the online shopping sector.

One way of reading this is to suggest that the real domestic economy is in good shape at the moment. But there is another possible interpretation. Registrations of new vans fell by 4.2% in September, according to recent figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Are small business van buyers trading down — from new to ex-fleet, and from ex-fleet to (older) part-exchange models?

It’s too soon to say if new van sales are in a downtrend. But one point of interest relating to used van sales is that cheaper vans are seeing increasingly strong demand. Prices for dealer part-exchange models — which are usually 6-7 years old — rose sharply for the second consecutive month.

These cheaper, older models fetched an average price of £4,359 in September, up from £4,226 in August and £4,012 in July. To put that in context, the average price of an ex-fleet or lease van was £7,491 last month. So opting for older part-exchanged models is certainly a way to free up cash for companies.

I’ll be keeping an eye on these figures over the next few months, looking for correlations between new van registrations and the different classes of used sales. Although the surge in P/X vans may simply reflect couriers buying cheap extra vans for festive deliveries, it could be the start of a more worrying trend.

Questor Insurance logo

[EXPIRED] SAVE 10% on Questor Insurance van hire excess insurance this week

Questor Insurance logo

New for October 2017, we have an exclusive 10% discount code  for Questor Insurance.

This offer is exclusive to

This really is a great discount. We don’t often get the chance to offer a full 10% discount.

However, this code is only available for a limited period — so if you need car or van hire excess insurance later this year, remember you can buy now and set your policy start date for a later date.




Terms and conditions may apply. See Questor Insurance website for details.

Questor Insurance logo

Questor Insurance discount code for October

Questor Insurance logo

If you’re hiring a van (or a car) and are concerned about the risk of being hit with a big excess charge for any damage, then you may want to consider taking out excess protection insurance.

Most car and van hire companies sell this product, but it’s often cheaper to buy from an independent supplier.

One of the top choices in this sector is Questor Insurance. 

To help you cut the cost of van hire even further, we have a Questor discount code for October:

  • Offer: SAVE 5% on motor and travel policies with Questor Insurance
  • Valid from: 1 October 2017
  • Valid until: 31 October 2017

Buy Questor Insurance




Terms and conditions may apply. See Questor Insurance website for details.

2018 new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Mercedes-Benz says new Sprinter will deliver “leap forward”

2018 new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

The first picture of the new 2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van

Mercedes-Benz has released the first details of the next-generation Sprinter van, which is due to be launched “during the first half of 2018”.

The design sketch above is all we’ve got to go on so far, but it’s clear that externally, at least, the new model will be an evolution not a revolution. That’s no bad thing, given how popular and effective the current van is.

It seems the main changes will be under the skin, in terms of configuration choices and safety and telematics systems.

Merc says the new vans will offer “full-spectrum mobility solutions for different sectors”. One change will be a comprehensive range of “driving assistance systems and connectivity services in combination with new telematics”.

This will bring a “leap forward in efficiency for vehicle and fleet management”. I’d expect a new level of specification, combining the driving assistance systems previously found on luxury cars with advanced commercial telematics.

Not all drivers will like this, but I suspect transport managers and van operators will be very keen; the new systems should cut costs and improve safety and accountability.

Mercedes says the that new van will be launched in Europe during the first half of 2018, with other markets to follow. Further details should be available come over the next few months.

Aquaflow Mercedes-Benz Sprinters

Super-clean drainage engineer rewarded with gold Sprinter

Aquaflow Mercedes-Benz Sprinters

Aquaflow’s two new Sprinters — a gold Sprinter 314 CDI and a replica of the firm’s original van, a 1999 Sprinter 310D

When long-serving Aquaflow drainage engineer Neil George returns his vans at the end of a three-year replacement cycle, they are — in the words of boss Keith Borrett:

invariably as clean as the day he took delivery, if not cleaner

As a reward for taking such good care of his equipment, Neil has been allocated a one-off gold Sprinter, which is the firm’s 100th Mercedes-Benz van. This striking vehicle is fitted with black alloy wheels and a personal registration, MY 100 TH.

The new van has been fitted with a high-performance jetting machine for clearing blocked drains.

To celebrate its long relationship with vans beating the three-pointed star, Aquaflow has also acquired and restored a first-generation 1999 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which is now an exact replica of the firm’s first ever Mercedes van.

Nearly 20 years later, the company now runs a fleet of 45 vans, of which 35 are Mercedes. Managing Director Mr Borrett describes the Sprinter as “the foundation stone on which we’ve grown the company” and comments that out-of-hours servicing and great reliability means the vans are “always available for work when we need them”.

Aquaflow operates from a head office in Canterbury and a depot in Erith. It provides a comprehensive portfolio of plumbing, drainage, pump, tanker and mechanical services, as well as undertaking excavations and CCTV surveys.


BCA van auction August 2017

Used van prices fall in August on lower ex-rental volumes

BCA van auction August 2017

Used van prices fell slightly in August, according to the latest sales data from auction group BCA.

The average used van sale price at auction fell from £6,553 in July to £6,420 in last month. However, some or even most of this decline may have been due to a reduction in used van volumes from daily rental fleets.

The big van rental companies supply a significant proportion of used vans under three years old. Whereas many big fleets operate vans for 3-4 years, hire companies often have shorter replacement cycles. This is due in part to their relationships with vehicle manufacturers, who allocate a significant amount of supply to rental fleets each year at preferential prices.

BCA’s figures show that the average age of the vans sold rose by one month in August relative to July. Although a small difference, I’d suggest this could explain the £133 price fall seen last month:

All vans Avg Age (mnths) Avg Mileage Avg Value
August 2016 53.66 70,853 £6,089
August 2017 50.48 65,273 £6,420

Source: BCA (July average age: 49.6 months, July average mileage 65,881)

Commenting in the August sale figures, BCA’s LCV Operations Director, Duncan Ward said:

“While the headline average figure declined in August, demand remained strong and sold volumes improved, month-on-month.   Dealer PX values climbed sharply to a new record level, although there was some pressure on fleet & lease stock values, largely as a result of declining volumes from the daily rental sector, alongside some duplication of stock and condition issues.”

Mr Ward emphasised that as always, good condition is essential for strong pricing:

“Condition has always been the overriding factor for professional buyers and is critical to achieving first time conversion rates.  What buyers want is clean condition, well maintained stock with all the relevant documentation direct from vendors who price their vehicles realistically.  Taking condition out of the equation, there will always be demand for vehicles with rare and unusual specification, or those finished in a good retail colour with a high specification.”

The bulk of the used vans passing through BCA’s sales halls come from corporate and lease fleets, including rental companies. If we separate out the age, price and mileage figures for this sector of the market, we can see that average sale prices have risen slightly since last year, when measured against manufacturers’ list prices:

Fleet/Lease Avg Age (mnths) Avg Mileage Avg Value Sale vs MRP
August 2016 40.35 63,282 £6,780 34.49%
August 2017 39.27 59,073 £7,052 36.23%

Source: BCA

It seems that despite rising volumes, demand for good quality used vans remains strong. With new van registrations under pressure, it remains to be seen how the used market will fare as we head into 2018.