Third party or comprehensive van insurance
There are basically three levels of commercial van insurance: third party, third party fire and theft and comprehensive cover. A third party policy is the minimum legal requirement and covers the owner for any damage or injury to another person or their property. It does not include insurance for your own vehicle. In other words, you would not be able to claim on a third party policy if your van was damaged in an accident that was your fault, or if it was stolen.
Third party fire and theft is one step up from third party because it will pay out if your van is stolen or damaged by fire.
Fully comprehensive cover provides the maximum cover and often includes a range of useful extras such as windscreen cover and a courtesy vehicle. If your van is an intrinsic part of your business, it’s probably best to opt for comprehensive commercial van insurance. And it might not cost much more than a third party policy if you shop around and compare premiums.
Insurance and the law
You might be tempted to skimp on commercial van insurance if you rarely drive your van, or if you have several vans and one or two are frequently in the garage. But you should beware the rules on continuous insurance enforcement (CIE). It is now illegal to own a vehicle that is not insured, unless it has been officially declared off the road with a statutory off road notice (SORN).
Anyone found in breach of the regulations faces a stiff penalty, including a hefty fine, as the government gets tough on uninsured motorists.
Makes and models of van
Commercial van insurance companies cover most makes and models of van, though there is often a maximum weight limit of 3.5 tonnes. A big van with a large engine will typically command a higher premium than a smaller vehicle because insurers class vans into different groups according to accident statistics and repair costs.
Van Breakdown cover
Many insurers offer an accident recovery service as part of a comprehensive commercial van insurance policy, which could be invaluable if you need to get your van up and running as quickly as possible. You can also buy additional van breakdown cover. There are various different levels of van breakdown cover available so it’s important to choose the right policy for your needs, even if it does cost a little bit more.
Multiple drivers and vans
Several people might drive your business van – and they all need appropriate insurance. If you want maximum flexibility, you can insure your vehicle for any driver, though you will probably pay a higher premium. The alternative is to cover a number of ‘named’ drivers, which might work out cheaper.
You might also want to insure more than one van. Most insurers are happy to oblige with a fleet van insurance policy, and will even offer discounts on multiple vehicles.
Taking your van abroad
If you take your van abroad, you should check the details of your commercial van insurance policy. You might find that your are not covered at all for trips to the Continent, or the insurer will downgrade your policy from comprehensive to third party only. Don’t forget to also read the small print of any van breakdown cover as it too might not stretch to travel abroad.