What is private van insurance? Full UK guide

Written by Steve Cook

Published on

Whether you’re just starting out as a van driver or you’ve owned your van for years, chances are you’ve come across the term ‘“private van insurance”.

So, what is it?

What is private van insurance? Full UK guide

Private van insurance is a type of policy for van owners who only use their vehicle for personal driving. It’s also known as social, domestic and pleasure insurance, or personal van insurance. It doesn’t cover you for business driving, making deliveries or commercial activities (for that, you’ll need a separate type of insurance).

Private van policies come in similar levels of cover to standard car insurance, including comprehensive, third party fire and theft, and third party only.

But, there’s more to it than that. Keep reading to learn more, including what private van insurance covers you for (and what it doesn’t).

Private van insurance explained

As we’ve learned so far, private van insurance covers you for personal trips and social driving, but it doesn’t cover you for driving related to your work or business. So, if you have a van that you only use for social, domestic and pleasure driving — like shopping trips, weekends away or visiting friends — private van insurance is likely the right choice for you.

It’s similar to the insurance you’d buy for a car used for personal driving and social trips only, except it covers larger goods vehicles classed as vans.

It’s important to know that private van insurance differs from commercial van insurance, which you’ll need if your vehicle is used for any kind of work or business-related driving.

Types of private van insurance

Like car insurance, private van policies are available in three main types:


The highest level of cover, comprehensive insurance protects against damage to your own van and other vehicles, as well as theft, vandalism and fire. It also covers injury to other people and legal liabilities. While premiums are usually higher for comprehensive policies, they offer the most complete protection for your van.

Third party, fire and theft (TPFT)

A mid-level policy, TPFT covers damage to other people's vehicles and property, and injury to others, plus theft of or fire damage to your own van. However, it does not cover other accidental damage to your van. TPFT can be a good compromise between cost and coverage.

Third party only (TPO)

The minimum legal level of insurance, third party only policies solely cover damage to other people, their vehicles and property. Any damage to your own van is not included under TPO. While this is the cheapest type of insurance, it leaves you financially vulnerable if your van is damaged in an accident.

What affects the cost of private van insurance?

Lots of things can impact the cost of a private van insurance policy, including your age, driving history and any no claims discount (NCD) you might have. The make, model and age of the van also play a significant role, as does where the van is parked overnight. Annual mileage, optional excess and any add-ons will also affect your price.

Generally, more experienced drivers with clean driving records and low mileage tend to get the cheapest quotes, while smaller, reasonably priced vans are usually cheaper to insure than larger, more expensive models.

How can I get cheap private van insurance?

There are a few things you can do to get the best deal on your van insurance:

  • If you can, park in a secure area overnight, like a locked garage or driveway.
  • Try paying for your policy annually rather than monthly – it’s usually cheaper over the long run.
  • Drive carefully and build your no claims discount.
  • Choose a higher voluntary excess, just be sure you can afford to pay it in the event of a crash.
  • Consider a telematics insurance policy, which gives you lower prices when you drive safely.
  • Try installing extra security devices, but avoid modifying your van too much.
  • And always shop around and compare quotes to get the best deal at renewal.

What's the difference between private and commercial van insurance?

The main difference between private and commercial van insurance is the type of driving it covers you for. Private policies only cover personal driving, like trips to the shops or to visit family. If you use your van for work, even occasionally, you’ll need a commercial van insurance policy. This includes commuting to multiple sites, transporting tools or goods, making deliveries and attending business meetings.

Always be sure to declare how you use your van to your insurer — otherwise you might not be covered in the event of an accident.

Do I need private van insurance if I only use my van occasionally?

Yes, even if you only drive your van rarely, you still need insurance. It’s a legal requirement that all vehicles registered in the UK must be insured, unless they’re officially declared off-road with a SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notification). Driving without insurance is illegal and could result in fines, penalties and even having your van seized.

If you only use your van occasionally, you could consider a limited mileage or pay-as-you-go policy to help keep your costs down.