Small van

How the van hire business really works

Compact van

How do van hire companies make money?

It might seem logical to think that most of their profits come from hiring out vehicles. But that’s not the whole story.

The big van rental companies are really trading operations that buy and sell thousands of vans each year. Last month’s 3.9% increase in new van registrations was almost certainly influenced by deliveries to hire companies.

The income from hiring each van covers its depreciation, insurance costs and corporate operating costs. But corporate profits depend on minimising the buying price and maximising the sale price of each vehicle.

Here’s a quick overview of the life cycle of a rental van:

Buy: Large van rental companies buy vans in bulk, directly from manufacturers. They’re able to secure big discounts on list prices in return for regular large purchases. Care is taken to choose popular models with good specifications as these will be easy to sell on when they are de-fleeted.

Hire: The vans are then hired out to customers, usually on daily rental rates, but sometimes on weekly or monthly rates. This is a very competitive business, so these basic rental rates are kept quite low. The aim here is to cover the company’s insurance and operating costs plus the depreciation on the van.

Extras, such as more comprehensive insurance, sat nav hire or baby seat hire tend to be profitable. They’re a useful way for hire companies to improve the profitability of each rental.

Sell: This is where profits are made or lost. Big hire companies buy and sell thousands of vans each year. A lot of effort goes into maximising the sale price of each van, which is dependent on age, mileage, condition and the choice of sale channel (e.g. auction or retail).

A good example of this is a recent policy change at van hire specialist Northgate, which operates more than 97,000 rental vehicles in the UK and Spain. In February, the company announced plans to operate its vehicles for between three and nine months longer than previously. Their analysis suggests that doing this will improve the profit generated by each vehicle when it’s sold.

What about smaller companies? Big companies tend to own their fleets, using debt to fund part of the purchase costs. But smaller hire companies sometimes choose to lease their vans. They then aim to make a profit from the difference between their lease costs and the rental income generated by their vans.

Why we think you should compare van hire: Not all companies offer the same rental rates for the same vehicles. Some companies are cheaper for one type of van but may be more expensive for a different size van.

Another complication is that hire rates change regularly throughout the year. So the company that was cheapest in February might not be in June.

Our unique van hire price comparison engine helps you find some of the cheapest vans available across the UK. We think it’s the best on the market. Why not give it a try and see what you think? Just click here to get started.

One final comment – we often get asked if you should buy an ex-hire van.

Should you buy an ex-hire van? Popular legend has it that ex-hire vans are knackered wrecks that have been abused by drivers. The reality is somewhat different. Although rental vans are often worked hard, they usually have many different drivers, most of whom are careful to make sure they don’t damage the vehicle — as they or their employer will have to pay for it if they do.

Ex-hire vehicles are generally seen by trade buyers as very attractive. They’re always popular models, are relatively new and have normally been correctly maintained in-line with manufacturer requirements.

In our view, buying an ex-hire van can make good sense.

Giti Racing Truck

CV Show 2018 photo hightlights – vans and racing trucks


Here’s my belated write-up from the CV Show 2018, which took place at the Birmingham NEC at the end of April. It was a bit of a quiet year for new van models, but there were a few highlights, including a couple of new models which made their UK debuts at the show.

We start with the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks Stealth. Based on the 2016 D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35, only 10 examples of the Stealth will be made:

Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks Stealth

Only 10 examples of the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks Stealth will be made. Seen here @ CV Show 2018.

The changes over the standard D-Max include an extensive de-chrome pack with black roof bars, black side steps, black radiator grille, black front fog light surrounds, black rear bumper trim, black door mirrors, door handles, black front Isuzu badge and rear D-Max Arctic Trucks badges. You can see why they named it Stealth.

Moving on, Ford launched the latest addition to its popular Sport Van lineup, the Fiesta Sport Van:

Ford Fiesta Sport Van

The new Ford Fiesta Sport Van was unveiled at the CV Show 2018

This new model will be powered by a choice of 125PS, 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol or 1.5-litre TDCi diesel with 120PS.

The load compartment offers a length of “almost 1.3 metres” and a gross payload of about 500kg. A mesh bulkhead and sidewall trim are included, along with a rubber floor and four tie-down hooks.

Upfront, drivers will enjoy Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment system as standard, which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The SYNC AppLink feature means that lots of apps from your phone can be accessed through the vehicle’s own much larger touchscreen.

Ford Fiesta Sport Van front view

Ford Fiesta Sport Van

Naturally the new version of Ford’s star Transit Custom van also made an appearance, seen here painted in ‘hard to ignore’ orange, with Sport Van stripes:

2018 Ford Transit Custom

The new 2018 Ford Transit Custom at the CV Show

Meanwhile converter Cartwright showcased its lightweight Luton conversion, seen here in a fetching livery that riffs on the group’s own logo and emphasises its built-in-Britain credentials:

Cartwright lightweight Luton conversion

Converter Cartwright’s lightweight Luton body

One of the most memorable motorsports events I’ve been to over the years was a round of truck racing at Thruxton. Here’s one of today’s crop, the Giti Racing Truck:

Giti Racing Truck

The Giti Racing Truck at the CV Show

To be honest, this was probably one of the highlights of the show. Because there really wasn’t that much new in the van world this year. Virtually every van was a model I’d seen before, mostly at last year’s show.

One exception, I think, was this Mitsubishi Shogun Sport Van, which suggests that the Japanese firm hopes to continue dominating this small but useful niche – small vans with genuine off-road ability…

Mitsubishi Shogun Sport Van

Mitsubishi Shogun Sport Van – a vehicle with very few rivals.

… however, Japanese rival Toyota isn’t giving up without a fight. The latest version of the Landcruiser Commercial was on display. And for serious off-road use, the Landcruiser remains in league of its own:

Toyota Landcruiser Commercial

The Toyota Landcruiser Commercial at the CV Show

To round things off with a vehicle that’s on-topic for a van hire website, here’s one of car-sharing firm Zipcar’s petrol-powered Volkswagen Transporters:

Zipcar petrol-powered VW Transporter

One of Zipcar’s petrol-powered Volkswagen Transporter vans. These are used in London.

That’s it for 2018! See you next year.

Questor Insurance logo

May Bank Holiday Exclusive: Questor Insurance discount code [EXPIRED]

Questor Insurance logo

You’re probably warming up in the sun this bank holiday weekend. I hope you enjoy it after this long winter.

But if you do happen to be booking a rental van, then please check out our exclusive 7% discount code from van hire excess insurance specialist Questor Insurance.

Here are the details:



Please check our van hire excess insurance page for the latest Questor Insurance discount codes.


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

1956 DKW Auto Union Schnellaster Kastenwagen

Classic 1956 Audi van goes for sale at Silverstone auction

1956 DKW Auto Union Schnellaster Kastenwagen

This 1956 DKW Auto Union Schnellaster Kastenwagen shows the inspiration for modern van designs. This model will be sold at auction in June.

The best-known classic vans is probably the Volkswagen Transporter. But whereas most modern vans have their engines at the front and have front-wheel drive, the VW had its engine at the back and featured rear-wheel drive.

One of the earliest vans built to today’s one-box, front-wheel drive design was the 1950s DKW Auto Union Schnellaster Kastenwagen. Although its top speed of 43mph may not seem impressive by modern standards, it was competitive at the time. What’s more, the Schnellaster’s large load space and loading height of just 40cm made it one of the most capacious vans in its sector.

1956 DKW Auto Union Schnellaster Kastenwagen

A load floor height of just 40cm was class-leading at the time and would still be competitive today. The front-engine, front-wheel drive design meant that load space was maximised within a compact body.

Auto Union went on to become Audi, and the firm built just 3,727 vans and pickups before it decided to focus only on cars.

As a result, the Schnellaster Kastenwagen — which translates as Rapid Transporter — was not a particularly common model and is very rare today. But if you’d like to see one in the flesh then you’ll get a rare opportunity in June, when a refurbished model goes on sale at Warwickshire-based Classic Car Auctions.

Inside the DKW Auto Union Schnellaster Kastenwagen van

Inside the DKW Auto Union Schnellaster Kastenwagen van – this model will be sold at auction at the Warwickshire Event Centre on 2 June 2018.

Finding one of these vans on the open market is unusual, but this van’s rarity is boosted as it’s a right-hand drive model. Originally exported to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), it was imported to the UK in 2017 with just 17,000 miles on the clock.

Since refurbished, it is still mostly original except for a replacement floor. The van will be sold at the Classic Car Auctions sale at the Warwickshire Event Centre on 2 June 2018. The price estimate is £12,000 – £15,000. To find out more, visit the CCA website.

Questor Insurance logo

Exclusive: SAVE 10% on Questor Insurance excess protection

Questor Insurance logo

To celebrate the real start of Spring, we have an exclusive 10% discount code from van hire excess insurance specialists Questor Insurance.

We don’t often get a full 10% discount, so this is a good opportunity to book ahead and save cash!


Please check our van hire excess insurance page for the latest Questor Insurance discount codes.


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

Medium van

What size van should you hire?

Perhaps the most common question we get asked is “what size van do I need to hire?”

The answer isn’t always obvious but there are some simple rules of thumb that should help you choose the right-sized van.

Here’s a summary of the most popular sizes of hire van. (You can find a much more detailed size guide here).

Compact vans

Compact van

Compact vans such as the Citroen Nemo are the smallest vans you’re likely to be able to hire.

These tiny vans are good for small boxes, delivering documents or small items and for nipping around town.

With a typical payload of 500kg and a loadspace around 1.5m long and 1.2m high, they’re surprisingly flexible and can hold a lot of stuff, as long as it’s not too bulky.

Just don’t try moving house with one.

Small vans

Small van

Small vans like this Ford Transit Connect are bigger than they look.

One of the most popular sizes of vans is what we call the small van.

They’re not really that small anymore, as they typically have a maximum load length of about 1.7m. Payload (load weight) is normally between 600kg to 1,000kg, depending on the model.

Small vans aren’t much bigger than an estate car and are easy to drive and park.

If you’re living in a shared house or student room and don’t have any furniture, a small van like a Citroen Berlingo or Ford Transit Connect might be big enough to hold all of your stuff.

Medium vans

Medium van

Medium vans such as the VW Transporter (pictured) and Ford Transit Custom are big enough for most jobs.

If a small van isn’t quite big enough, a medium van probably will be. These are the smallest vans we’d recommend if you’ve got furniture to shift, rather than just boxes and other small stuff.

The most popular van in this class (indeed, the most popular van in the UK) is the Ford Transit Custom.

These models usually have headroom of about 1.4m in the rear, and a load length of around 2.4m. Width is usually about 1.7m, although it’s less between the rear wheel arches. These are popular with couriers and tradesmen and also a common choice for campervan conversions.

Large vans

Large van

Large vans such as this Ford Transit long wheelbase are pretty big inside.

Now we’re getting serious. Large vans like the Ford Transit long wheelbase (LWB to van geeks) have an internal length of 3m-4m.

They also tend to have higher roofs, providing more height for stacking large objects and — sometimes — making it possible transport wardrobes standing upright.

For a one-bed flat move, a large van may be big enough, as long as you don’t have too much large furniture. However, if you’ve got sofas and beds to move, we think you’ll probably want something bigger.

Extra-long wheelbase vans

Extra-long wheelbase van

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter XLWB is the Daddy of extra-long vans.

An extra-long wheelbase van (XLWB) is the same as a long wheelbase van, but with an extra bit stuck on the back. The end result is a van with an internal length of between 4m and 5m. Width is usually around 1.7-1.8m, and internal height can vary from 1.7m to more than 2m.

These load luggers are favoured by couriers and tradesmen and are also good for small removals, as you can fit a lot in the back. The only downside is that the sides of the van aren’t vertical and aren’t completely flat. So an XLWB van still isn’t quite as good for removals as our final choice, the luton.


A luton van

Lutons are the best choice for removals as they are designed to fit lots of large, bulky objects.

Named after the Befordshire town of Luton where it was first invented, the Luton is a box van with an additional storage area over the driver’s cab.

These vans are the first choice for small removals firms, as the wide, square load space they provide is ideal for bulky household items like sofas, fridges and wardrobes.

Internal height and width is normally 2m. A typical internal length might be 4m, although this can vary.

If you’ve got any questions about hiring a van, drop us an email or give us a shout @vanrentaluk on Twitter. Remember, you can find more information about different types of van in our size guide.

Thief stealing a van

5 ways to prevent theft from hire vans

Thief stealing a van

We’ve put together some tips to help you protect your possessions being stolen from your hire van.

Theft from vans can have a devastating impact on the victims. Lost tools can be hard to replace and cause small businesses to rack up big losses. And if you’re moving house and your possessions are stolen from your hire van, the personal impact can be even greater.

The obvious advice is to make sure you don’t leave anything in your van when it’s unattended. But as we all know, that’s simply not possible sometimes. So here are some tips that should help you minimise the risk of theft from your van, whether it’s a rented van or your own vehicle.

Out of sight, out of mind

Never leave anything on display. That means keeping the cab area and dashboard clear. If your van has a full bulkhead and doesn’t have any rear windows, then that’s all that’s necessary. But if you do have rear windows consider covering the rear windows or the contents of your van with a blanket, so that would-be thieves can’t see in.

Remember, even if glass is dark-tinted, you can still see through it if you shine a torch directly on the glass.

When you’re unloading your van — perhaps if you’re moving house — remember to remove your valuables, sat nav and phone from the front. Close and lock the van every time you come and go. Don’t be tempted to leave it open and unlocked unless it’s always in your sight.

Is it really locked?

This may sound obvious, but the widespread use of remote fobs and keyless entry systems means that many drivers just walk off without checking whether their van has actually locked.

I recently wrote about the growing problem of relay attack theft on vans with keyless systems.

But another problem for drivers with normal remote key fobs is that thieves can lurk nearby with signal blockers that will stop your van from locking.

Whatever type of locking system you have, make sure the van is actually locked when you leave it — watch for the indicators to flash and/or listen for the noise of the locks engaging.

Parking tips

Parking carefully won’t always deter professional thieves. But there are a few things you can do to help. Park under street lights where possible, preferably within sight of your home.

If you’re parking in a car park or on a driveway, park against a wall or back right up to the garage door if possible, to reduce access to the van’s rear and side doors.

If you’re in a hotel car park, try and make sure your van is in clear sight of any CCTV and is in a well-lit area.


If you’re moving house, check if your home insurance covers you while your possessions are in transit. If they aren’t covered, consider extending your cover to include this protection.

Protect your keys

It’s amazing how many people keep their keys and wallet by their front door. Yes, it’s convenient when you’re rushing out. But it’s also convenient for thieves.

Modern vehicle electronics makes it harder to hot-wire cars than it used to be. But if you have the keys, it’s very easy. Many thieves now target houses in order to steal their car or van keys.

Vans with keyless systems are also more vulnerable to being stolen by relay attacks when the keys are closer to the van, because the signal from them will be stronger.

Keep keys safe and make sure they’re not visible through windows or when you open your front door.

What should I do if my van is broken into?

The first thing to do is probably to notify the police and your hire company.

If the van has been damaged, the hire company will probably need a police incident number. They may also need to arrange for the van to be recovered to be repaired and for you to get a replacement van.

You’ll also need to contact your home or trade insurance company to see if you can claim for what’s been stolen. This won’t be covered by your hire company’s insurance. Don’t expect them to help with this.

What else can I do to prevent theft from vans?

If you own the van yourself, there are some other precautions you can take. But if you’re using a hire van I don’t think there’s much else you can do.

Tradesmen carrying tools are probably at the highest risk of theft. Such tools are expensive to replace, easy to carry and easy to sell quickly for cash. Household possessions aren’t so desirable.

So if you’re a tradesman using a rented van, remove as much as possible overnight and try not to make it too obvious what the van is being used for. Keep it clean, don’t leave work-related stuff all over the dashboard and make sure it’s locked every time you leave it unattended.

New van sales fall 5.6% in March as Ford retails #1 spot


New van registrations fell by 5.6% to 59,674 in March, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The biggest decline was seen in the 2.5t-3.5t sector, where new registrations fell by 10.5% to 59,764 vehicles. This is by far the largest segment of the market, accounting for around two-thirds of all van sales.

Van registrations March 2018

Van registrations March 2018 (source: SMMT)

Commenting on the figures, Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said:

“A decline in the important plate change month of March is a concern and we need the right economic conditions to restore market stability and encourage buyers to invest in new commercial vehicles. The new van market is a key barometer of business confidence and while uncertainty remains, a degree of fluctuation in demand is to be expected this year.

Ford stays on top

Although new sales may be falling, Ford’s number one spot in the market remains unassailable. The Blue Oval supplied more than one in three of all new LCVs registered in the UK in March, as these figures show:

Best-selling vans March 2018

Best-selling light commercial vehicles, March 2018 & year-to-date. Source: SMMT

What’s next?

The decline in new van registrations isn’t great news for new van dealers. But looking at this chart of registration numbers since 2012, I can’t help thinking that the natural level for new van sales is probably a little lower than the current level.

UK van registrations 03/12 - 03/18

UK van registrations March 2012 – March 2018 (source: SMMT)

In 2012, the UK was coming out of a deep recession during which many van purchases had been delayed. That backlog was cleared between 2012 and 2016, resulting in a terrific surge in sales. But it now seems logical that annual sales might fall a little. My feeling is that the natural level of registrations might be a somewhere just below 340,000 per year.

Please let me know what you think, especially if you disagree!

Ford launches mental health awareness campaign

Ford mental health campaign

Don’t let mental health be the elephant in the room — Ford’s campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Far too many people suffer mental health problems in silence. One common problem is simply that people never seem to find the right opportunity to discuss how they’re feeling.

To try and help with this problem, Ford has launched a national awareness campaign in conjuction with the Time To Change campaign, which is being run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

Around one in four people in the UK experience mental health problems each year. Young men are particularly at risk, but research shows that only one in three men are prepared to talk openly about their feelings. A similar number said that they would be “embarrassed” to seek help for a mental health problem.

A vehicle can be a very private and therapeutic place to talk. With no interruptions and no need for intense eye contact, two-thirds of people questioned by Ford said that they were “more comfortable” talking about problems when in a vehicle.

“A vehicle is a great place to start talking because it’s like your own private bubble, where you’re on a journey together and you’re shoulder to shoulder,” says Ford engineer and employee champion, Matt Loynes, who came through the lowest point of his mental health issues with the support of a friend. “This is about getting everyone on-board and making it part of the culture to take a moment to listen to friends, colleagues and family, to understand and to find the right help for them.”

If you have a friend, loved one or colleague who is affected by mental health issues, it’s not always easy to know how to help.

To give you some ideas, Ford and Time to Change have created five ‘top tips’ that could help you spot the signs and offer the necessary support:

  • Text/Call Reach out – start small
  • Find a good time and place
  • Go for a coffee
  • Ask how they are – listen without judging
  • Treat them the same

Ford Mental Health Awareness van

PSA/Vauxhall van factory in Luton

Van hire fave Vauxhall delivers Brexit win with Luton factory upgrade

PSA/Vauxhall van factory in Luton

The existing Vauxhall Vivaro plant at Luton will be expanded to produce 100,000 vehicles per year by mid-2019.

The UK’s uncertain progress towards Brexit has left many of our homegrown automotive businesses concerned about the future.

But the new owner of Vauxhall and its European sibling Opel plans to increase investment in the group’s Luton plant in order to increase LCV production capacity from 60,000 to 100,000 vehicles per year by mid-2019.

The factory is currently the home of the Vauxhall Vivaro, the only volume-manufactured van that’s still built in the UK.  Many van hire firms and operators like to buy British, so it’s good news that the choice of UK-built vans is likely to increase following the changes to this plant.

More new vans built in UK

French firm PSA Group plans to invest in the Luton plant to enable it to build LCVs based on the firm’s EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform) vehicle platform. Vans already based on this platform include the Citroën Berlingo, Vauxhall/Opel ComboPeugeot Expert and Toyota ProAce, plus various passenger derivatives of these vans.

EMP2 is a core part of the PSA product lineup and is also used for a number of popular Peugeot and Citroën cars including the Peugeot 308, 408, 3008 and 5008 and the Citroën C4 Picasso, C5, DS7.

The end of the Vivaro as we know it?

Today’s press release said the group was targeting “100,000 vehicles per year based on PSA Group’s EMP2 platform”. At present, that doesn’t include the Vivaro, which has historically been a joint venture between Opel/Vauxhall, Renault and Nissan.

However, reports suggest that the next-generation Vivaro will be built on the EMP2 platform. This should secure future production of the Vivaro at the Luton plant, maintaining its long history as “the home of the Vivaro”.

A coup for Luton?

Overall, this news seems to be a coup for the Luton plant. I believe it should guarantee the factory’s future for some years to come.

PSA says that the group’s proven expertise at building vans and its existing paint shop helped swing the deal. A “responsible social dialogue” with the Unite union is also said to have guaranteed “production flexibility”.