What is private van insurance?

Vans are often thought of as commercial vehicles used only for business purposes. However, many people own and drive vans for personal reasons and make use of the extra space for moving house, transporting hobby …

Vans are often thought of as commercial vehicles used only for business purposes. However, many people own and drive vans for personal reasons and make use of the extra space for moving house, transporting hobby equipment, family holidays, or even to live in.

With their big engines, heavy weights, and steep costs, the insurance premiums on vans have always been higher on average than regular car insurance. Commercial van insurance is especially costly as the van’s use is likely to be more strenuous and there is also a greater chance that it carries expensive cargo.

However, with the rise of van life, remote working, and domestic holidays, more and more people are buying vans for private and personal use and insurers are aware that the drivers of these vehicles shouldn’t pay as much as commercial van users. For this reason, most vehicle insurers offer private van insurance.

In this article, we are going to take a look at what private van insurance is, what it covers, and how you can make savings on your private van insurance premiums.

What is private van insurance?

Private van insurance, also known as personal van insurance, is insurance taken out on a van that is strictly used for social, domestic or leisure purposes. So be in no doubt, if a privately-insured van is used for any commercial purposes at all, it will not be covered.

When insuring your van, it is crucial that you get the right type of insurance as you may end up saving money as well as ensuring you have the correct cover for your use of the van.

So let’s jump in and take a look at who needs private van insurance.

Do I need private van insurance?

Like regular cars, it is a legal requirement for all vans to be insured with third-party insurance at a minimum. The Continuous Insurance Enforcement rule means that all vehicles must be insured at all times. This is true even if you keep your van in a garage and only use it at certain times during the year.

However, if you do not use your van and declare it to be “off-road” with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN), you won’t need to insure it as you won’t be able to drive it.

If you use your van for personal reasons only, then you can buy private van insurance. However, if you use your van for any commercial purposes at all, then you will need business van insurance, which is sometimes also known as commercial van insurance.

What’s the difference between private and business van insurance?

A private van insurance policy covers you if you use your van for social or personal reasons. This may include using the van for holidays, shopping trips, school runs, social visits or for taking part in hobbies and activities.

Business van insurance is a legal requirement for any van that is used for commercial purposes. Commercial purposes include anything relating to work, such as commuting or equipment transportation. Even if you use your van predominantly for personal trips, you will still need business insurance.

Be careful! Getting the wrong insurance means you won’t be covered if you’re involved in an accident.

What does private van insurance cover?

The level of cover you’ll get with your van insurance policy depends on the type of policy you take out. This works in the same way as regular car insurance. You have three options:

  • Third-party. Third-party van insurance covers you for any damage you cause to another person, their vehicle or their property.
  • Third-party, fire and theft. Third-party, fire and theft van insurance includes everything covered by third-party insurance, but it also offers cover if your vehicle is stolen or damaged by fire.
  • Fully comprehensive. Fully comprehensive van insurance covers all of the above as well as all other damage to your vehicle – as long as it’s outlined in the policy.

Optional extra cover

Some private van insurance policies will offer extra cover. This may include:

  • Equipment and personal belongings cover. This covers any personal belongings or hobby equipment (such as sports or music gear) that gets damaged, lost or stolen.
  • Legal costs. This helps with any legal costs relating to an accident.
  • Personal accidents. This provides financial compensation if you’re involved in an accident and are subsequently unable to work for a certain period of time.
  • Courtesy vehicles. This gives you access to a courtesy van while yours is being repaired.
  • Driving abroad. This insures your van abroad and means that you can drive it in foreign countries.

Van insurance groups

The cost of your personal van insurance premium will be determined largely by the van insurance group your vehicle is in. In total, there are 50 such groups. Vans that were made prior to 2016 fill groups 1 to 20, and vans that were made after 2016 fill groups 21 to 50. The cheapest insurance in both categories is at the lowest level – so level 1 and level 21.

When any van is insured, it is assigned an insurance group based on multiple factors including:

  • The cost of repairs and replacement parts. The cheaper your van is to repair, the lower your insurance group is likely to be. If you have a specialist vehicle that can only be repaired at select mechanics, it is likely your premiums will be higher.
  • Overall performance. This includes things like the top speed and acceleration of the van. Vans with higher speeds are statistically more likely to be involved in claims, so they will be placed in a higher insurance group.
  • The van’s engine size. The bigger the engine, the more powerful the vehicle. Again, statistically speaking, powerful vans are more likely to get into accidents, so they’re also usually put in higher groups.
  • Weight. Heavier vans are often harder to control, especially in wet or icy conditions. This makes them a bigger claim risk and more likely to be in higher insurance groups.
  • Security features. Vans with more advanced security features are less likely to be stolen. So they are more likely to be in lower insurance groups.

Whilst the van insurance group plays a big part in determining the overall cost of the premium, it is by no means the only factor.

For instance, your premium will also be influenced by factors such as: where you park your van and how securely it is kept, how many miles you are likely to do in it, and how much of an excess you’re willing to pay. Also, your own driving history and any previous claims you have made or no-claims bonus you hold will be taken into account.

How can I save money on my private van insurance?

As with most vehicle insurance, there are a few tricks you can employ to help you save money on your private van insurance.

For example, you can:

  • Pay a higher excess. Every insurance policy comes with an excess payment. The excess is the amount the vehicle owner is willing to pay themselves before making a claim. By raising the voluntary excess, the insurer will be less likely to pay out for smaller claims and the overall premium costs will be reduced.
  • Reduce your usage and mileage. The less you drive your van, the less likely you are to be involved in an accident. Your insurance provider will be aware of your average usage and mileage, so if you reduce them, your premiums will be reduced too.
  • Buy a smaller van. Think about the size of van you will need for your requirements and aim to get the smallest van you can. Smaller vans are usually in lower van insurance groups and will have lower overall premiums.
  • Install a black box. Also known as a telematics box, a black box lets your insurer monitor your driving habits. So the better and safer you drive, the lower your premiums will be.
  • Improve security. Having up-to-date locks, tracking systems and alarms will increase the security of your van and lower its chances of being stolen, which will reduce the premiums. The same is true for keeping your van locked in a garage or in a driveway, rather than out on the street.

What to consider before buying private van insurance

Before committing to a private van insurance premium, there are a number of points you should consider:

  • Check your van insurance group. Knowing your van insurance group will give you a clearer idea as to just how much your private van insurance should cost. You can find your van’s insurance group online.
  • Determine your budget. Once you know the insurance group your van is in, you have a rough idea of how much your insurance will cost. You can then set the upper limits of your budget that fit in with whatever you can afford at the time.
  • How will the van be used? Make sure you are completely open and honest about the use of your van. If there is even a small chance that your van will be used for purposes outside of personal or private use, then private insurance won’t be suitable.


Choosing the right insurance for your van isn’t simple, but we’re here to help. At A-Plan, we do the hard work of comparing deals so that you don’t have to. You can be confident that a private van insurance quote from us will give you the right cover, at the right price.

A-Plan is one of the UK’s largest private van insurance brokers. 59% of our new clients save, on average, £139 with us on their van insurance. We insure nearly 350,000 motorists each year and offer private van insurance premiums that provide the right level of cover for every vehicle.