Van hire unlocks a selection of advantages, particularly during those moments in life when you need a little extra room in the boot, such as when you’re upping sticks and moving home. However, whilst the anatomy of a van is much the same as a family run-around, driving these larger vehicles for the very first time can be rather daunting.
Here we provide our top tips for driving a van for the first time so you can get from A to B safely and efficiently.
Know your safety essentials
Whether you are driving a family car or a van, safety is of course of the utmost importance. Whilst checks would have been completed by your van hire provider to ensure the vehicle is safe for use on the road, it doesn’t hurt to complete your own checks. Start by checking the van’s tyres and lights before heading under the hood to inspect oil, water and windscreen washer levels.
Make sure the van’s windows and mirrors are clean to ensure you get the clarity you need, whatever the weather throws at you on your journey. Check that there is breakdown kit too; equipment such as a spare wheel, jack and wheel brace. Bringing a torch for yourself is a good idea. If you are travelling abroad check that your hire provider has kitted you out with all the legal requirements such as high-vis jacket, first aid kit, warning triangle, spare bulbs etc. The requirements change according to the specific country you are travelling to or through. A fully-charged mobile phone will prove invaluable. Your hirer should provide this equipment (apart from your own mobile phone) and don’t be afraid to ask for it should you find it’s not there already.
Planning makes perfect
Regardless of whether your journey entails crossing the city or making your way across an entire country, planning your route will ensure you get to your destination in the safest and quickest way possible. In addition to considering what time of day is best for travel (avoiding rush hours and school runs could shave your journey time down significantly), consider investing in hiring a sat nav with your vehicle. Make sure that you know the vehicle height, length and width so that in the event you come across a narrow road or a bridge you are confident of proceeding or can choose a different route. Many public car parks have entrance height restrictions which often catch people out so always check that you’re going to fit! Remember your wing mirrors.
If you are on a tight deadline, leave earlier than originally planned to ensure you can make your trip in good time. Rushing is not a good idea, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the vehicle that you are driving.
Getting to know you
Familiarise yourself with the van and all its functions. As it is your first time driving a vehicle of this size, going for a test run and making sure you know where the indicators, headlights, hazard lights and wipers are before you set off is recommended. The gear system may also differ if you have hired a modern van, many makes and models come equipped with a sixth gear due to the increased load capacity. Be aware that in a larger and higher vehicle there will always be a sense of ‘sway’ so get to know the feel and take corners and bends gently at the start of your journey. If the van is loaded your stopping distance will be much farther than you are used to in a car. Make sure that your goods are secured inside the van so that nothing is free to move about and disturb the balance of the van or damage what you’re carrying. You will be driving like a pro in no time!