Can I drive a van? All you need to know about the rules, licences and tests

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Can I drive a van?
Under 21
Letters and numbers on your licence
Speed limits

It’s simpler than you might think to drive a standard van. There are no special tests or licences - but there are some rules you need to be aware of, especially if you want to drive a bigger model.

Here’s all you need to know 👇

Can I drive a van? The main rules to know

If you have a full UK driving licence you can drive any van that weighs 3.5 tonnes or less when it’s full. This is called the maximum authorised mass (MAM) of a van.

To put that in real terms – most vans you’ll come across will have an MAM of 3.5 tonnes or less. For example, you can drive any of these vans with a full UK driving licence:

  • Ford Transit
  • Mercedes Sprinter
  • Renault Master

New rules introduced during Covid mean that you can now also attach a trailer that has a max weight of 3.5 tonnes or less when it's full to a vehicle with a MAM of 3.5 tonnes.

You’ll be able to find out the van’s MAM by looking at its manual – and it can also usually be found on a plate or sticker inside the van. If you’re hiring a van, the rental company will tell you if you can drive it with your licence.

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Can I drive a van if I’m under 21?

You can drive vans that weigh 3.5 tonnes or less from the age of 17 (in other words, as soon as you have your driving licence).

Some van rental companies won’t let you hire a van until you’re over 21, though, so always double check.

Not got your driving licence yet? You might find our driving test checklist useful 😌

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What do the symbols, letters and numbers mean on my driving licence?

You’ll notice that there are a bunch of symbols, letters and numbers on the back of your plastic UK driving licence. These are just to show which vehicles you’re allowed to drive with your licence.

See how there are dates listed next to certain letters and numbers? These show which vehicles you can drive. The dates are when you passed your test, and when your licence expires (that’ll be the day before your 70th birthday).

When it comes to driving cars and vans, the important rows to look at on the back are:

  • B1 – with a regular licence, this will have dates next to it, meaning you can drive motor vehicles with four wheels up to 400kg unladen - or 550kg if they’re designed for carrying goods.
  • B – with a regular licence, this will have dates next to it, meaning you can drive cars - or some other vans and trailers (under new rules outlined below).
  • C1 – this will only have dates next to it if you’ve taken an extra test for driving C1 vehicles (heavier commercial vehicles with a maximum authorised mass of 3.5-7.5 tonnes).

Note: B1 and B licences have been upgraded to B+E (also known as BE). This means you can know attach a trailer with a MAM of 3.5tn to a vehicle with a MAM of 3.5tn.

It's easier than you think to drive a van
It's easier than you think to drive a van

Are there different speed limits for driving a van?

Yep – larger vans do have to stick to slightly different speed limits. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Speed limit for vans

  • Built-up area – 30mph
  • Single carriageway – 50mph
  • Dual carriageway – 60mph
  • Motorway – 70mph

Speed limit for vans with trailers

  • Built-up area – 30mph
  • Single carriageway – 50mph
  • Dual carriageway – 60mph
  • Motorway – 60mph

Speed limit for smaller vans and cars

  • Built-up area – 30mph
  • Single carriageway – 60mph
  • Dual carriageway – 70mph
  • Motorway – 70mph

Vans that are classified as ‘car-derived vans’ are allowed to drive at the normal car speed limits. They just need to be listed as CDV on their V5C registration form. For example, the Ford Fiesta Van and the Vauxhall Corsavan are both ‘car-derived vans’.

You don’t need a special licence for driving smaller vans
You don’t need a special licence for driving smaller vans

Tips for driving a van and how to stay safe

  • Make sure you get your wing mirrors in their proper positions before you set off and remember you won’t have a rearview mirror!
  • Get familiar with all the van’s controls – like for switching on lights – before you set off. Things might feel quite different to a car because of the space being bigger.
  • Remember the speed limits are different for bigger vehicles – check out the section on van speed limits above ☝️.
  • Load heavy items into the van first so they’re on the floor – tying them down can help, too.
  • Position yourself a bit wider at junctions so you don’t clip the curb.
  • Remember that the van’s brakes are designed to work when the van is loaded to full capacity, so if it’s empty they might be super responsive!

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Updated on 31st May 2023