Moving Home with a Hire Van

Van hire
This guide is full of essential information about hiring and driving a removal van.

Choosing to move home entirely by yourself is a big decision to make and one that would not have been taken lightly.

If you have already made that decision, or are pondering over doing so, one of the critical aspects to get right when moving home yourself, is knowing how to load a removal van safely.

Of course, the other big question that a self-move raises is: What do I need to know about driving a van?

Here we will guide you through the crucial aspects of the legal requirements, loading, and driving of a self-drive hired home removal van.

What size Van Do I Need to Move House?

These are the recommended sizes of vans for moving the average sized home. Bear in mind that how you load the van will influence whether you run of out space, and the weight of the contents will determine if you exceed the weight limit of your vehicle. Both scenarios may result in multiple trips and therefore you may want to hire a larger vehicle than is recommended.

  • 1-2 Bedroom Home – 3.5t (3500kgs)
  • 2-3 Bedroom Home – 7.5t (7500kgs)
  • 3-4 Bedroom Home – 7.5t

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What Driving licence do I Need to Drive a Hire Van when Moving Home?

If your driving licence was issued before 31st January 1997:

  • You can drive a vehicle up to 3.5t (3500kgs) on a standard category B car driving licence.
  • If your driving licence entitles you to drive category C vehicles you can drive a van up to 7.5t.
  • Category C will also allow you to tow a trailer up to 750kgs.

If your driving licence was issued after 31st January 1997:

  • You may be required to take additional tests to allow you to drive a vehicle over 3.5t.
  • A further test may have to be taken to allow you to tow a trailer.

The categories you are entitled to drive can be found on the rear of your driving licence.

Driving a vehicle with the wrong driving licence will leave you liable to a fine of up to £1000 and 3-6 penalty points.

Further advice can be found at this UK government webpage

Can I Tow a Trailer on my Car Driving Licence?

For some home moves it may be that a trailer is needed. Here are the laws relating to towing a trailer, whether by car or van.

If your driving licence was issued before 31st January 1997:

  • You are entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination that does not exceed 8.25t (8250kgs)

If your driving licence was issued after 31st January 1997:

  • You can drive a car or van up to 3.5t (3,500kg) towing a trailer of up to 750kg
  • You can tow a trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3.5t (3,500kg)

You can find out if your licence entitles you to tow a trailer from the categories on the rear of your driving licence. Or you can view your driving licence entitlements by following this link.

Does my car insurance cover me to tow a trailer? It is best to check with your insurer directly.

For safety tips on driving with a trailer follow this link.

Keep within the Law when Driving a Van or Towing a Trailer

What are the speed limits for vans?

The speed limits that apply when driving a van or towing a trailer are listed below.

Vehicle Built up area* Single carriageway Dual carriageway Motorway
Van 30 mph 50 mph 60 mph 70 mph
Car-type van 30 mph  60 mph  70 mph 70 mph
Van and trailer 30 mph 50 mph 60 mph 60 mph

*Unless road signs indicate otherwise, all roads with street lighting have a 30 mph limit.

You can be fined up to £1,000 (£2,500 for motorway offences) and get 3 to 6 penalty points for speeding.

Further advice can be found at this UK government webpage.

What is the maximum legal weight a van can carry?

There is a maximum weight that the van is permitted to carry. This is known as the laden weight, gross vehicle weight or design gross weight, they all refer to the same calculation.

Vehicle + driver & passengers + contents + fuel

The weight limit of your vehicle can be found on the VIN (vehicle identification number) plate, usually in the engine compartment or by the footwells. Check with your hire company to ensure you know where the VIN plate is.

Warning: Overloading the van can make it unstable when being driven and will affect its performance.

How do I know if my van is overloaded? If you are unsure if your vehicle is overloaded take it to the local weighbridge.

The address of your local weighbridge can be found here

You can be fined up to £300 or issued a court summons if your van exceeds its maximum permitted weight.

What is the best way to load a removal van?

Country Lane
Plan your route to your new home carefully.

To ensure the safe handling and stability of your removal van, it must be loaded correctly. Follow our expert loading tips to maximize the space in your home moving van and ensure your home contents arrive unscathed.

How to load furniture onto a removal van.

  • To prevent the edges of furniture being damaged stand them on old folded blankets.
  • Try to load the van by spreading out the weight evenly, from front to back and side to side.
  • Load the largest furniture and appliances first.
  • Load appliances evenly, for example washing machine on the left wall and tumble dryer on the right-hand wall.
  • Load settees vertically as they will take up less space.
  • Mattresses and long pieces of furniture will fit best along the side walls of the removal van. These should be tied with rope or straps to the side walls to prevent movement.
  • Slide large mirrors or valuable paintings between mattresses as an extra layer of protection.
  • Furniture with drawers should be loaded in a way that prevents the drawers from opening, facing the van walls for example or facing a mattress.
  • Heaviest items should be loaded against the walls of the removal van.
  • Use old blankets to pad between items to ensure they cannot move in transit and to protect their surfaces.
  • Use all available space by packing between chair legs for example.

Bonus Tip: Furniture made from chipboard should always be dismantled as it is not designed, nor able, to withstand the stresses inflicted upon it during transit.

How to load boxes safely in a removal van.

  • Load the heaviest boxes on the floor first, followed by medium, and then lighter boxes on top.
  • Try to load similar sized boxes at the same time to maximize the use of space.
  • Use loading straps between each vertical layer to prevent movement.
  • Boxes of fragile items should be stacked last on each layer to prevent crush damage.
  • Alternatively, use the boxes of fragile items to fill the gaps beneath table tops or chair legs so that the table tops offer protection to the fragile items.
  • Use rubbish sacks full of clothing or soft furnishings to fill the gaps between boxes and the roof of the van.
  • Load awkward shaped items last if they are not used to fill crevices, or stack across the top of boxes to maximize space.
  • Pack everything as tightly as possible without causing any crush damage.
  • Ideally, there should be zero movement within the back of the removal van.
  • If you do not fill the removal van, load the van evenly from front to back, at a level height.
  • Before closing the van doors secure the load using loading straps.

Bonus moving tip #1: Load your Open First Box last so that it is the first thing to be unloaded.

Bonus moving tip #2: Removing the front wheel of pedal bikes ensures they cannot move whilst in transit. Loosen the handlebars too so that they fold flat in line with the frame.

Bonus moving tip #3: Wear appropriate clothing when moving home. Avoid loose fitting clothing which could get snagged on items. Opt for sturdy footwear with a good grip on the sole.

Bonus moving tip #4: Hiring a sack barrow or two will make the loading and unloading of your removal van easier, safer and quicker. Make sure you also have plenty of loading straps or rope too for securing your load.

Warning: Ensuring nothing can shift about in the back of the van will not only prevent damage to your possessions, but will prevent damage to the hire vehicle. Remember any damaged caused to the vehicle you will have to pay for.

How to Lift Boxes to Avoid Injury

To ensure you are not off work for the next six months with a back injury, here are our top tips to avoid straining your back and ensure that you lift boxes safely when moving home.

  • Test the weight of a box before lifting it by tilting it.
  • Don’t struggle – seek assistance.
  • Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other.
  • Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. If needed, put one knee to the floor and your other knee in front of you, bent at a right angle (half kneeling).
  • Keep your head up and looking forward, keep your back straight, your chest out, and your shoulders back.
  • Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back). Keep your back straight, and don’t twist as you lift.
  • Hold the load as close to your body as possible, slightly above waist level.
  • Use your feet to change direction, taking small steps.
  • Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move.
  • Set down your load carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.

For further advice on the right way to lift and carry heavy boxes click here.

Top Tips for Driving a Hire Van on Moving Day

Whether you need to know how to drive a van for the first time, or you just need a reminder, here is our guide to driving a self-hire van on moving day.

Before Setting Off to your New Home.

  • Van scrape
    Even the smallest dent could cost you a lot of money.

    Get familiar with where all the controls are, especially the indicators and windscreen wipers.

  • Adjust the side view mirrors. There is no rear view mirror, so getting the wing mirrors properly adjusted is crucial.
  • Adjust the seat and head restraint.
  • The gearbox is likely to have a 6th gear for economy driving on the motorway.

Home Removal Van Driving Tips

  • Slow down. A van is not a sports car and will not react to your inputs as a normal car would. It will take longer to accelerate and to stop.
  • Know how high your van is. Low bridges, overhanging branches and height barriers will need to have particular attention paid to them.
  • Take corners smoothly and at lower speeds than you normally would. Vans are liable to be unsteady if loaded incorrectly, the extra height also will affect stability going into corners.
  • Take corners wider than you normally would, the van is longer than your car.
  • Use your wing mirrors constantly, especially when changing lanes.
  • Keep a keen eye out for cyclists when turning left.
  • Always stick to the four-second rule when following another vehicle. The larger the vehicle the longer the braking distance needs to be.
  • The four-second rule is to count four seconds between a stationery object and the car in front of you passing that object. If it passes before you have counted to four, pull back.
  • When parking your removal van, you will need to use your wing mirrors and preferably somebody to guide you back.

If all the information above just seems too daunting, and as moving day looms on the horizon you are being filled with dread about transporting your household goods yourself, fear not, there is an escape plan.

Let a professional Removal Company load and transport your goods for you.

It is not too late to get an estimate for your home move by clicking here.

Final home moving bonus: These are other great tips and guides to help you avoid the most common home moving mistakes.

Have a safe home move!

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