• What size of self-drive van hire do I need?

What size of self-drive van hire do I need?

Discover uses for short-wheelbase vans, extra long-wheelbase vans, tipper vans, Luton box vans, and everything in between!

Choosing the right van for your needs is really important when it comes to hiring one. The size and style of van you require depends on the job at hand - and there are many different types to choose from. 

In this article, we explain the types of vans you can hire here at Rent Direct and discuss which suits what task. This is the ultimate guide to choosing the best type of van for your needs - read on to find out more… 

How do I choose the right type of van to hire?

There are several considerations when deciding what type of rental van you need. Size, use, and space are equally important, but there are many more things to think about before you book a vehicle. To help, here are some tips for choosing the right type of van to hire:

Consider what you need the van for and how much space you need

If you just need a van for a small move or transporting a few items, a standard short-wheelbase cargo van may work. But if you need to move lots of furniture or carry a large group of people, then a long-wheelbase van or a larger passenger van (also known as a crew van) will be a much better choice. 

Think about fuel efficiency

Typically, small-sized vans - such as car-derived models - will be more economical and will cover more miles to the gallon than the bigger ones, so keep that in mind if your rental is for a longer trip. If you’re on a budget, then you’ll want to choose a van that is more fuel-efficient and cheaper to top up when on the go. 

Make sure you understand the van's dimensions

If you’re not used to driving a vehicle larger than a car, bear this in mind when hiring a van. Depending on the size you go for, it is likely to feel much bigger than expected; the width, height, and length are all factors to consider. 

Know your load limits and towing capacity

Overloading a van can be very dangerous. Therefore it is really important to work out how much cargo you want to move and work within the vehicle’s weight limits. Too much weight will cause undue stress on the wheels and could also cause you to struggle to keep control. It is the same with towing; keep within the maximum kg and stay safe on the road at all times. 

Do you have specialist van requirements?

While most people want to hire a standard cargo van for moving or making deliveries (also known as a panel van), this doesn’t necessarily cater to everyone’s needs. Moving house will require lots of heavy lifting, so a Luton Box Van with additional tail-lift equipment is ideal.  

What type of van do I need to hire?

Most types of vans fall into small, medium, and large sizes, although there are specialist models too such as Luton Box vans, tippers, and dropsides. To help you decide on the best van for your needs, we’ve outlined what task suits which type of vehicle: 

Why choose a car-derived van?

A car-derived van (CDV) is pretty much the same size as a standard hatchback family car, but with a more box-like back and side panels where the passenger windows would be. A more cost-effective option for small businesses and sole traders, it will likely seat just two people and is commonly used for these purposes:

  • To carry tools, supplies, and materials efficiently
  • For accessible mobility, because some car-derived models offer wheelchair access via ramps or lifts
  • To fulfil deliveries such as local parts, mail/parcel transport, and food delivery
  • As an alternative to hiring a large-sized car for a holiday or trip away - especially if you have lots of luggage

Why choose a crew cab van?

A crew cab van is used to transport both people and equipment and is also known as a passenger van. It is similar to a minibus but with fewer seats so can be driven on a standard driving licence. Some common uses include:

  • Construction and trade work - They allow passengers to travel together to a job on-site along with all their tools, materials, and gear stored securely in the back
  • Shuttle Services - Such as airport drop-offs and pick-ups as there is space to accommodate people and their bags and belongings
  • Tourist trips and sightseeing - If you’re on holiday with a large family or groups of friends, then tourism trips and sightseeing opportunities are much more fun together

Why choose a short-wheelbase panel van?

A popular choice for many, a short-wheelbase panel van can accommodate a variety of needs. As a medium-sized van, it has many uses and is fairly easy to drive if you’re used to driving a car. Some of the common uses include:

  • Courier services - Their small size and maneuverability make them ideal for couriers and delivery companies operating in urban areas where parking and turning can be difficult with a larger van
  • Tradespeople - Electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc often carry a lot of tools and supplies, so the security and space of a short-wheelbase panel van works well. Plus, it’s easy to park near job sites
  • Promotional vehicles - Businesses and brands can use panel vans as eye-catching, maneuverable vehicles to travel to events and promotional tour stops. The body of the vehicle can also be used for advertising if necessary 
  • Transporting items - Whether you’re moving house or purchasing new furniture, a small-sized panel van may do just the job and is much easier to drive from A to B

Why choose a long-wheelbase panel van?

Much like a short-wheelbase panel van, this type of vehicle is ideal for carrying and transporting large items - especially if they are longer than usual! Here are some of their common uses: 

  • Delivery distribution - The extra-large cargo space allows these vans to haul sizable loads for delivery routes. They offer lots of room for stocking products, merchandise, and supplies of unusual length
  • Tradesman's vans - Electricians, contractors, telecom technicians, plumbers, and other tradespeople can stand up fully inside long-wheelbase vans as in most cases, the head height increases too
  • Moving large items - Make light work of moving house or business premises thanks to the amount of cargo space available

PS. If you need even more length in the rear, then an extra-long wheelbase van will be just the answer you are looking for. 

Why choose a Luton box van? 

Quite literally a box on wheels, Luton box vans are a number one choice when it comes to moving house. Here are four reasons why: 

1. Maximum cargo space - The box-like body and separate cab for driver and passengers provide abundant enclosed cargo capacity for transporting goods - such as furniture and household items. The square dimensions utilise all available interior space efficiently and safely

2. Easy loading - Box vans feature wide side doors and some come with tail lift equipment to simplify loading large, bulky items like pallets and stacked boxes. This saves unnecessary stress on people’s backs

3. Security - The fully enclosed box with lockable cargo doors provides security and weather protection for valuable contents. The separate cab also creates a safety barrier from the load in the rear

4. Storage solutions - Luton box vans can come complete with shelves and racking installed in the rear which will accommodate smaller items, as well as larger ones

Why choose a Tipper van?

Used by builders, scaffolders, and gardeners, tipper vans carry loads (such as building materials) in an open back, which means it isn’t enclosed like many other types of vans. They are equipped with an under-floor tipping system that can carefully unload materials, such as sand and dirt. Here are some of the key reasons to choose a tipper van:

1. Easier loading and unloading - The hydraulic tipping mechanism allows the entire rear of the van to tilt up for quick unloading of materials like sand, gravel, dirt, asphalt, etc. This system is much easier and less time-consuming than manual shoveling

2. Safer transport - Loose bulk materials often shift during driving. A tipper van enables you to control the material at the other end  

3. Material discharge control - The mechanical raise/lower function lets the driver precisely control the flow of discharged material for an even distribution across job sites

4. Saves labour costs - Without extensive manual shoveling involved, manual jobs get completed faster which helps lower overall labour expenses and reduces potential injuries

Top tip: If a full hydraulic tipper van isn’t necessary, then a dropside van will do just the job. The difference is that you will be able to open and drop the vehicle’s side partitions and tailboard for easier loading and unloading. 

What is the difference between a panel van and a crew van?

Although similar in appearance and size, there are some key differences between a panel van and a crew van. Typically, a panel van has no rear windows or side cargo windows, so will only have front windows for the driver and passenger(s). Panel vans are used strictly for cargo and commercial transport and will have just two to three seats in the front. 

By comparison, a crew van does have side and rear windows with seating in the back across one or two bench-style seats. This means there is not as much available space for extra luggage and cargo as with a panel van: think - panel vans for cargo and crew vans for people. 

How do I choose a work van?

If you’re selecting a hire van for work purposes, we’ve shared eight top tips for choosing a work van:

  1. Consider the cargo capacity you need. Measure the equipment, tools, and materials you need to carry and get a van that fits it all. Go bigger rather than smaller to avoid overloading the vehicle
  2. Consider configuration options. Do you need a van with shelving and drawer units installed or is an empty cargo area better? 
  3. Evaluate the access. Decide whether you need a van just with rear doors, or are side sliding doors necessary too? 
  4. Assess overall dimensions. Make sure the van will fit in your parking areas whether at home or work. Check it has adequate clearance heights for the areas you'll be driving
  5. Understand the weight restrictions. Review payload capacities and towing abilities if you are planning on hauling heavy equipment or trailers  
  6. Inspect driveability. If you’re not used to driving a van, it’s important to test drive different vans to assess visibility, handling, turning radius, acceleration, and other driving characteristics of larger vehicles
  7. Consider fuel efficiency. More modern vans tend to offer better MPG, especially if they have more aerodynamic profiles. Hybrid and electric models are also now available and can be an ideal alternative
  8. Discover what tech is available. Look for safety features like rear-view cameras, parking sensors, traction control, and stability assist.

What size van can I hire on a standard driving licence?

In the UK, you're only allowed to drive certain sizes of vans on a standard category B car licence. This means you can drive small vans up to 3.5 tonnes of gross vehicle weight. The van must have nine seats or under (eight passenger seats in total, plus the driver) - although, for a pure cargo van, this doesn't apply.

If you would like to drive a larger size van, you will need a category C1 driving licence that allows you to drive vans between 3.5 to 7.5 tonnes of gross vehicle weight.

Flexible van hire at Rent Direct 

When it comes to van hire, we can help you with the job at hand. Here at Rent Direct, we offer a range of competitively priced automatic and manual vans of all shapes and sizes. Whether you need a Luton box van for moving house, a short-term replacement van for work or pleasure, or a long-term business vehicle, we have got you covered.   

If you’re a sole trader or small business owner, read our article all about renting a van for business use. Are you moving house? Check out our transportation tips to discover the best way to load a moving van.