The driving licence requirements for driving a van are fairly simple, but we do get a lot of questions and search traffic asking about driving licences for vans, so I thought I would take a closer look to help clarify the situation.
(In addition to driving licence category entitlements, most rental companies also require you to have held your licence for a minimum period – click here for more info).
Driving a Van: the short version:
If you have a car driving licence (category B) than you can drive vans.
The only exception is vans that have a gross weight (also called Maximum Authorised Mass, or MAM) of more than 3,500kg, which you cannot drive, but most hire companies do not offer these, so it’s unlikely to be a problem.
Driving a Van: the slightly longer version:
If you are a car driver, your driving licence should include category B entitlement.
Category B enables you to drive all vehicles up to 3,500kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) and with up to 8 passenger seats. This includes vans, large people carriers and small minibuses, as long as they do not have more than eight passenger seats.
The vans operated by van hire companies normally have a MAM (traditionally known as gross weight) of no more than 3,500kg. As a rule, long wheelbase panel vans and luton vans will be 3,500kg, smaller vans are likely have a MAM of between 2,000kg and 3,000kg.
1,000kg = 1 tonne, so a 3,500kg van is a 3.5t van.
Driving Vehicles over 3,500kg (C1)
To drive a vehicle with a MAM of between 3,500kg and 7,500kg (3.5t – 7.5t) you need category C1 entitlement on your driving licence. This enables you to drive 7.5t lorries, of the kind that are offered by many van and truck hire companies.
If you passed your car driving test before 01/01/1997, you will have C1 entitlement. If you passed you car driving test after 01/01/1997, you will not have C1 unless you have taken a seperate C1 driving test.
However, not all van and truck rental companies will not allow you to hire their 7.5t vehicles, even though you meet the driving licence requirements. The reason for this is simply that 7.5t trucks are significantly more difficult to drive than cars, and many car drivers do not have sufficient experience in larger vehicles – in other words, some hire companies think it is too risky.
You will also not be able to hire a 7.5t (C1) vehicle for business use unless you have goods vehicle operator’s licence. You do not need an operator’s licence for personal use, such as a DIY house removal.
Driving a Minibus
Driving licence rules state that you can drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats using a car driving licence, as long as it is not for ‘hire or reward’ – in other words, as long as no one is paying for the minibus service to be provided (cash in hand for fuel, for a social trip is ok).
To drive a minibus for hire or reward, you need category D1 on your driving licence.
Hiring a minibus: Some rental companies will only allow drivers with D1 entitlement to hire a minibus, regardless of whether the minibus is going to be used for ‘hire or reward’. As with some companies’ restrictions on hiring C1 vehicles, this is likely to be due to insurance and risk restrictions.
Disclaimer: All information was believed to be correct at the time of writing (12/08/2013) but no responsibility can be taken for any errors, omissions for future changes to the rules that may not be notified on this page. If in doubt, check directly for yourself before driving or hiring a vehicle – the gov.uk website has an excellent guide to driving licence categories.