Cheap van hire

Looking for cheap or budget van hire? Our step-by-step guide will tell you how to get a good deal and avoid costly hidden fees and charges. 

1. Choose the best van for the job

Most people hire a van because they need it for a few days - or a few hours - to complete a job. However, it doesn't matter if you're planning to move house, clear out a garage or make some home improvements, you should always take time to choose the right van for the job. 

As a general rule, hire companies offer panel vans in three sizes:

Small vans - Usually the same size as a large family car, these offer between 3.0 - 4.4 cubic metres of loadspace. The best small vans will carry up to 1000kg and feature a side sliding door and a set of 'barn' rear doors that can be opened 180 degrees. High spec small vans also get a load hatch in the metal bulkhead, which makes it easier to carry long items measuring up to two or three metres.

Medium vans - These provide up to 8.3 cubic metres of load space, with maximum payloads ranging from 1000kg - 1500kg. A typical medium size van will have a load length of 2.5 or 3.5 metres, with the latter usually achieved with a bulkhead hatch that lets the driver use the space under the passenger seat. The majority of medium vans also get three seats in the front.

Large vans - The heavyweights of the van industry, a large van will provide up to 17 cubic metres of loadspace, while payloads range from 700kg to 3100kg. But be warned, the largest of these vans will stretch to three metres in height and eight metres in length. And that means they need a significant amount of space for parking, loading and unloading.  

2. Check your driving licence  

Can you drive a van on a car licence? In most cases the answer is yes, but the date you passed your test will have a bearing on the type of van you can drive. 

A standard full UK driving licence (category B) entitles you to drive a rigid-axle van that weighs up to 3.5 tonnes. This means most drivers can drive light vans with a car licence. 

If you passed your test before January 1997, you may automatically be able to drive larger, heavier vehicles weighing up to 7.5 tonnes (the back of your driving licence will tell you for sure). Anyone who passed their driving test after that date needs to pass an additional test in order to drive large vans heavier than 3.5 tonnes.

The only exception to the above rules are electric vans, with the maximum permissible mass for a category B licence holder – that of someone who holds a standard car licence – being 4250kg. The reason for this is down to the battery packs, which make electric vans much heavier than their diesel counterparts. 

3. Choose a reputable van hire firm

Always try and hire a van from a firm that is a member of the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA). This is a trade body for companies that hire vehicles as well as leasing and fleet management.

Members of the BVRLA are signed up to a code of conduct that (should) ensure customers are dealt with fairly and provided with a high level of service. What's more, if you have a problem, the BVRLA will step in and to help find a solution with its complaint resolution service.  

Membership of these trade body does not provide a cast iron guarantee of good service, it does mean you will have a clear path for recourse should thing go wrong.

4. Round trip vs one-way travel

If you're moving house then you probably will not want to waste an hour or two returning your hire van at a location that's close to your old address. This is where one-way rentals come into play, because they let you collect the van from one town and then hand it back at rental location in another part of the county. Sometimes these offers will cost more money, but if your time really matters to you then it may be a price worth paying.

5. Compare prices to find the best deal

There's no shortage of van hire firms in the UK, but how do you know you're getting a good deal? We've found quotes from some of the big rental firms to help you compare prices.

BudgetDownload (20)

 

How much does Budget van hire cost? 

Vehicle

1 day hire

7 day hire Weekend hire

Small van

£51

£211 £104

Medium van

£68

£261 £127 

Large van

N/A

N/A N/A

Prices based on August 2019 data for a customer aged 30+ renting a van from Birmingham. Weekend hire dates are Friday - Monday.

AvisDownload (10) (3)

 

How much does Avis van hire cost? 

Vehicle

1 day hire

7 day hire Weekend hire

Small van

N/A

£192 £108

Medium van

N/A

£237 £132 

Large van

N/A

N/A N/A

Prices based on August 2019 data for a customer aged 30+ renting a van from Birmingham. Weekend hire dates are Friday - Monday.

ThriftyDownload (10) (6)

 

How much does Thrifty van hire cost? 

Vehicle

1 day hire

7 day hire Weekend hire

Small van

£34*

£160* £102*

Medium van

£39*

£180* £116*

Large van

£72*

£303* £201*

Prices based on August 2019 data for a customer aged 30+ renting a van from Birmingham. Weekend hire dates are Friday - Monday.

EnterpriseDownload (10) (5)

 

How much does Enterprise van hire cost? 

Vehicle

1 day hire

7 day hire Weekend hire

Small van

£25

£180 £108

Medium van

£30

£216 £144 

Large van

£40

£235 £155

Prices based on August 2019 data for a customer aged 30+ renting a van from Birmingham. Weekend hire dates are Friday - Monday.

EuropcarDownload (10) (8)

 

How much does Europcar van hire cost? 

Vehicle

1 day hire

7 day hire Weekend hire

Small van

£90

£185 £157

Medium van

£104

£192 £213 

Large van

£118

£285 £224

Prices based on August 2019 data for a customer aged 30+ renting a van from Birmingham. Weekend hire dates are Friday - Monday.

6. Check the van thoroughly 

Always take time to inspect the van before you leave the hire centre. Check the bodywork for any scratches or dents and ensure the inspection is carried out with a member of staff from the hire company. A trustworthy firm will already list any pre-existing damage and point it out to you on the handover, but never leave this to chance. 

As much as you will be keen to get going once you have the keys, it is absolutely vital you take the time to check over the van inside and out, making notes and taking pictures of any damage.

Check the cabin and load area of the van, as the latter is an area that usually gets the most damage by careless drivers who don't take time to tie down payloads or load the van properly. Don’t leave the van hire centre without a signature confirming the damage was already present and that the fuel level is as agreed in the paperwork whether that is full, empty or somewhere in-between.

The terms and conditions will indicate what the hire company deems as fair 'wear and tear' and some of the bigger companies will accept damage within a certain size.

7. Understand the fuel policy

Another thing to watch out for is the fuel policy. The best scenario is full-to-full, where the van is handed over with a full tank and you refill the vehicle before returning it. If the hire centre is near to an airport then look up some alternative fuel stations because the on-site forecourt will probably be expensive. 

Avoid van hire firms that insist on charging for a full tank of fuel upfront or offer to refuel the vehicle for you. More often than not a service charge will be added, along with an extortionate price per litre. Check the cost before you return the van or better still, fill it yourself.

8. Organise your own excess insurance

A reputable van hire firm will always include some form of insurance in the price, which covers both the van and the driver in the event of an accident. However, while basic insurance will be included in the rental price and provide protection against a claim, it will always include some form of excess that you will have to pay.

In most cases the hire firm will ask you to take out excess insurance or pay a deposit. This means, if you don't take out the additional insurance, they will deduct the excess payment from your deposit.

Van hire companies will try to get you to buy their own additional insurance, to protect you against excess payments, but the cost will be much higher than shopping around for independent cover. The sales person may tell you it's mandatory or try to scare you with the prospect of huge bills if there is any damage to the van. However, no matter what they tell you, it's important to remember you are under no obligation to take out excess insurance.

The excess insurance offered by vehicle hire companies tends to be relatively expensive and - if you are able to stump up for the deposit - you can save money and get better cover by taking out independent excess insurance.

9. How much does excess insurance cost? 

Questor InsuranceDownload (22)

 

How much does Questor Insurance cost?

Policy

Excess reimbursement

Lost key cover

Miss-fuelling cover

Maximum hire period Cost (UK)

Daily van hire

£2500

£500

£500

180 days

£6.33 a day*

Insure my van hireDownload (23)

 

How much does Insure my van hire cost?

Policy

Maximum excess reimbursement

Lost key cover

Miss-fuelling cover

Maximum hire period Cost (UK)

Daily van hire

£6500

£500

£500

60 days

£10.99 a day

iCarhire InsuranceDownload (23)

 

How much does i Carhire Insurance cost?

Policy

Maximum excess reimbursement

Lost key cover

Miss-fuelling cover

Maximum hire period Cost (UK)

Daily van hire

£2000

Optional extra

N/A

14 days

£14.99 a day

10. Give yourself plenty of time to return the van

Always try and return the van during daylight hours. If this isn't possible, inspect the van thoroughly before returning it take photos of the load area and exterior to prove that no damage has taken place. Also double check the fuel policy before returning the van to ensure you are not hit by any preventable refuel charges. 

The fuel policy should have been outlined to you when you collected the van, but in most cases the cheapest option is to fill it up yourself. Keep the receipt for the fuel and either get a photo of the fuel gauge showing full or better still the acknowledgement of a member of staff that the tank has been filled.

Read the paperwork carefully before signing the return forms and ensure that a member of staff signs off on this and confirms there is no damage so that your deposit is returned. Ideally you want the deposit to be returned as soon as possible but it normally takes a couple of days - what is crucial is that you get confirmation that there will be no deductions.

Disputing a van hire damage claim

If you are accused of damaging the vehicle then remain calm and ask for the damage to be pointed out to you and photographed. The van hire centre should have a set of procedure for dealing with disputed damage and it's important to be aware of any in-house appeals process they may have. 

If you feel the damage claim is unfair, then start with a formal written complaint to the hire company, using a signed-for form of postage. Lay out the details of your complaint and provide as much evidence as you can to back up your argument.

Include the images you took when you collected and returned the van, the paperwork showing the damage report, even parking receipts that show when the van was in your possession - but always send good quality copies and not the originals.

If this fails to resolve the issue you can contact your credit card company (if you used the card to pay for the rental) and ask them to intervene on your behalf.

Under the Consumer Credit Act they may be able to rescind part or all of the deposit if you can provide them with the appropriate evidence.

Your last resort is to contact the appropriate trade body. In the UK this is the BVRLA, who have a dispute resolution service, while in Europe you can contact the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS).

* Sometimes we show a link with a * next to it. It means that it is an affiliate link and as a result helps HonestJohn.co.uk stay free to use. It's tracked to us and if you go through it, it can sometimes result in a payment or benefit to the site.

 

Ask Honest John

Value my van