Everything you need to know about van licences - explained

Everything you need to know about van licences - explained

If you’re thinking about choosing a vehicle from our daily van hire or flexi van hire services, amongst your first priorities will be probably be to find out whether or not you can use your normal driving licence. So, we’ll answer one of your most pressing questions straight out  of the gate - you don’t need a special licence to drive the majority of light vans. It’s only once they start getting heavier than 3.5 tonnes that you may need to start thinking about getting a special licence. 

Due to gradually evolving laws and legislation, as well as the differences between various van types, things can start to get confusing with van quali­fica­tions, so to make things easier we’ve answered some of your most common questions below. 

Can I drive a van with a normal car licence?

Yes. The standard UK driving licence is classed as Category B, which means that’s probably the one you hold. As long as you’ve got a full Category B driving licence (and not, a provisional one for example), that allows you to drive conven­tional, rigid-axle vans that weigh up to 3.5 tonnes, and have eight passenger seats. In case you’re wondering, that covers most normal light and medium vans. 

If you want to drive a van that’s any heavier than that, it’s first worth checking the date you actually passed your test. If you passed any time after January 1997, you’ll need to take an additional test before you can drive any van heavier than 3.5 tonnes. If you passed before 1997, though, you’re permitted to drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes without any further tests or examina­tions. If in doubt, you can always check the back of your licence to find out for certain.­ 

Why do some vans require different licences?

Put simply, one of the biggest reasons is that heavier vehicles are harder to drive, which can be unsafe unless you’ve got the relevant experience and quali­fica­tions. Therefore, you’ll need a special licence to drive particularly heavy or more specialised vans. Most drivers who want to drive vans over 3.5 tonnes will need to apply for a Category C licence. There are several types of Category C licence, including:

  • Category C1 - this enables you to drive vehicles that weigh between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes
  • Category C1E - this enables you to drive vehicles of up to 7.5 tonnes, as well as a trailer over 750kg (with a combined weight of up to 12,000kg). 

Don’t forget though, you may be required to fit a tachograph if your van weighs over 3.5 tonnes when fully laden, or when you’re towing a trailer. 

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What’s the minimum age for driving a van? 

As long as you’re 17 or over, you’re legally cleared to drive a light or medium van that weighs less than 3.5 tonnes (provided you’re fully qualified with a Category B licence, of course!). You can’t drive a van heavier than that until you’re 18 though, as that’s the minimum age required to apply for a Category C licence.

How can I tell what kind of licence I have?

Often it’s just a simple matter of checking your photocard ID, which will tell you for certain what vehicles you’re qualified to drive. As we touched on above, if you’ve passed your driving examination after 1997 can’t ever remember taking any additional tests, you probably hold a Category B licence. Either way, you’ll find four columns on the back of your driving licence:

  • The furthest left deals with ‘categories’ - i.e. tells you the specific sorts of vehicles you’re allowed to drive
  • The middle left column shows the start date for these categories
  • The middle right column shows the expiration date for these categories
  • The column on the right shows driving licence codes, and displays any conditions relating to your licence (such as whether you require glasses or corrective lenses)

If you’ve still got questions, the official Government website has full details about how check what kind of licence you have, and how to read the categories on it. 

Is there anything I need to know if I have an older driving licence?

There are just a few things it’s worth being aware of. The most recent overhaul was in January 2013, which just involved a few categories being tweaked so that everything was in line with EU rules. However, there were no significant changes to Category B, so it almost certainly won’t affect most drivers.

One more thing - driving licences that were distributed before June 1990 describe different vehicle types as ‘groups’ rather than categories, but the two terms mean the same thing. If you've got any further questions or concerns, the UK government website has a full breakdown of any extra information relating to older driving licences, so it’s worth checking there too. 

Can I drive a minibus on a normal driving licence?

No. Since they’re larger vehicles, you’ll need to meet certain minimum requirements before you can drive a minibus. For all 9 seater and 12 seater minibuses, drivers need to be over 25 years old with more than 2 years of driving experience. For 17 seater minibuses, drivers must have passed their test before January 1997, or have a D1 category on their licence.

Our FAQs section has full details on our driving licence requirements and policies here at Intack Self Drive, so feel free to head on over there if you’ve got any other pressing questions about our daily van hire or car hire services. Alter­natively, you can always ask a member of our team directly by giving us a call on 01254 57811 - we’re always happy to help!

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