When do I need a van driving licence?

License Banner

Relocating and need to shift all your belongings? Or maybe you’ve just (finally!) sold your old sofa suite on eBay and need to deliver it to the buyer? 

Hiring a van is the obvious answer to both of these conundrums. But if you’ve never driven one yourself before, there are a few things you’ll need to bear in mind. For starters, when do you need a van driving licence and when do you not? 

Here we unpack all the nitty gritty of van rental and driving rules. You can thank us later. 

If you’re staying in the UK, the rules are fairly cut and dry

Hiring a van to transport something across the UK? There are only a few rules you’ll need to bear in mind…

– You only need a special licence if your vehicle weighs over 3500kg. That’s right, depending on the weight of the van, you may not need to think about licences at all. A full UK driving licence (or Category B licence) allows you to drive pickups, rigid axle trucks or standard vans as long as they are under 3500kg. Sweet. 

– When we say weight, it includes everything. From your load to your passengers and even your fuel, the weight allowance of a van must include everything. You’ll be able to get a rough idea of the van’s weight on its own when you hire it. After that, it’ll largely be guesswork. Maybe forget the early morning McDonalds breakfast. 

– It’s a slightly higher limit for electric vehicles. Doing your bit for the planet by hiring an electric van? Well done you! You’ll have a bit more weight to play with. Currently, you can drive an electric vehicle that weighs up to 4250kg with a standard licence.

– Anything heavier and you’ll need a Category C licence. Moving lots of heavy-duty goods? You may need to apply for a Category C driving permit. This usually requires you to pass an additional driving test that proves you’re capable of taking the wheel of a larger vehicle.

– There are some exceptions. Received your licence before 1997? Check the back of it to see if it allows you to drive a van. The column on the left-hand side tells you what category of vehicle you can drive, while the one next to it lets you know the expiry date. 


Dreamstime Xxl 49285125

Cruising across the Channel? There are a few more bits and bobs worth noting…

If somewhere in Europe is your final destination, you might need to get to grips with some new rules and regulations.

You could need an International Driving Permit. Whatever type of vehicle you’re driving, you might find you need to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you go. While most EU countries will accept a UK driving licence, some (such as Norway) will want an IDP if:

– You only have a paper driving licence.

– Your licence was issued in Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar or the Isle of Man.

– The country you’re visiting requires one because of Brexit (check online if that’s the case).

– Your UK permit should cover you. If you’re hiring your vehicle in the UK and driving it into Europe, you should be covered to drive a van. Again, you’ll need to follow the UK rules on Category B or Category C licences. If you’re unsure, check with your rental agent when you pick up your vehicle. 

– There are a few extra things you’ll need now the UK isn’t in the EU. Because of Brexit, you’ll want to make sure you have a GB sticker on the rear of your van if it has UK number plates but you’re driving it in Europe. You’ll also likely need a Green Card for insurance purposes.

– Speaking of insurance, make sure you’ve got full coverage. When hiring a vehicle abroad (or in the UK to take abroad), you’ll want to upgrade your insurance so it covers you in Europe. You might find any existing policy already covers you for this. Some countries will require you to also have a Green Card (a globally recognised insurance document). 

– Don’t forget your documentation. When driving a van in the EU, you’ll need to make sure you carry around your full driving licence, passport, a copy of your DVLA driver record, travel insurance documents and any visas you might need (especially after Brexit). 


Dreamstime Xxl 123595998

Top tips for driving in the EU

– Remember to drive on the right hand side! Number one rule of driving in Europe: switch to the opposite side of the road or you’ll get yourself into some serious trouble with other drivers. 

– Watch out for toll roads. Many countries in Europe, including France, Germany and Italy, have super highways which are often tolled. Keep some spare change in your cab at all times.

– Driving in France? Watch out for Clean Air regions. Many cities in France are off limits to vehicles that produce lots of emissions. This could be the case if you’re driving a heavy-duty van, so you’ll want to double check the rules beforehand. Paris, Grenoble, Strasbourg and Lyon are all cities which require clean air stickers in order to drive through them. 

– There are also Low Emission Zones in over nine other nations. Yep, there’s a hefty handful of countries in the EU which have special zones where high emission vehicles can’t go. This, unfortunately, will include most vans and trucks, so you’ll want to do a bit of planning before you set off on your journey.

– Make sure you’ve got all the right safety equipment. In case of breakdowns or accidents, it’s a legal requirement in many EU countries to have certain equipment in your vehicle. This includes things like warning triangles, reflective jackets and even first aid kits.


Hiring a van to shift all your stuff into a new home? Check out our ultimate guide to moving house which should help take all the stress out of the big day.


See more articles

More from Europcar