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Van insurance is a bedrock product for the vast majority of UK tradespeople. Quite simply, without suitable commercial vehicle cover, most trades businesses would be unable to operate. Given its importance, it is little wonder that finding the cheapest possible van insurance is such a priority to so many start-up plumbers, electricians, builders and other tradespeople.

As such, any savings on the cost of insurance can make a real difference to the tradespeople concerned, a fact which has been brought into focus by a recent survey which revealed that 13% of all new trades businesses in the UK fail to last longer than two years.

Although start-up tradespeople are more likely to create a viable business in certain regions – all of London, Leicester, Nottingham and Birmingham have relatively good survival rates – there is a harsh reality: competition and financial pressures make for a tough financial environment whether you are a start-up carpenter, gardener, painter and decorator, double glazing installer, roofer or other tradesperson.

Some professions more secure than others

The study revealed that electricians and double-glazing installers have the highest survival rate after two years (89%). In the case of electricians, this may be because they have the highest day rate (£215); however, in the case of double-glazers, this explanation does not hold, as they earn an average of only £150 a day.

On the other side of security stand roofers, with roofing start-ups having the lowest national survival rate of all trades. The exception was in Sheffield, Nottingham and Cardiff, all of which had a 100% survival rate for roofers.

Van insurance, a significant cost

The cost of van insurance varies from trade to trade, with, at the high end, landscape gardeners paying an average of £1,424 a year and standard gardeners paying £1,392. At the lower end, painter and decorators paid an average of £870 and double-glazing installers an average of £889 a year. Electricians must be glad they are able to charge the highest day rate as they pay a yearly average of £1,183 for their van insurance.

 

One Derbyshire driver has been left to regret his failure to obtain any van insurance after he was stopped by Derbyshire Roads Policing who found that he was without cover and therefore illegally behind the wheel. When stopped, the driver said that he did not need van insurance cover, incorrectly believing that his fully comprehensive cover on another vehicle meant he had third-party cover for his van. However, the police informed him that this would only have been the case if another individual had been insured on the van; as such he was without any suitable third-party cover and had to face the music.

A mistake to avoid

Derbyshire police were keen to point out the van driver’s error in the hope of preventing other drivers from making the same mistake. A police tweet stated, "Tibshelf. Van is uninsured, but driver says he's fully comp on another car so he is covered third party. "Not the case as 1 - he owns the van and the car, and 2 - the van must be insured by someone else for third party cover to kick in. #seized "

Vehicle insurance is compulsory

It may be difficult for any driver to find cheap van insurance although it is particularly difficult for younger drivers and those who have previously been convicted of a road offence. However, motor insurance is mandatory for every driver and vehicle in the UK. It is easy to understand why it is a legal requirement: van insurance offers financial protection in the event of injury or damage in a road accident. The minimum level of cover is third-party insurance. However, more comprehensive levels of cover are advisable as third-party cover will only cover injuries and damage suffered by others in incidents where the policyholder is at fault. Those with the broadest and most flexible needs should consider any driver van insurance, while the owners of fleets will need fleet van insurance.

 

Brexit will inevitably have some impact on van drivers and the scope of their van insurance coverage.

Mainly, the likelihood is that van drivers will lose the ability to drive freely across the borders of European Union countries, including the ability to proceed across borders without inspections.

Crucially, van drivers will need to ensure that they have international van insurance that enables them to demonstrate that they are covered by their British van insurance for the duration of their stay in an EU country. These insurance green cards are free; however, they will need to be aware of the following:

  • The van insurance cover provided by the green card may not be comprehensive and it may be prudent to purchase additional short-term cover.
  • The green card should be applied for well in advance – ideally at least two weeks prior to your expected travel date.
  • You may be refused entry with your vehicle if you do not have a valid green card.
  • You will need to apply for multiple green cards if you intend on towing a trailer or caravan on your visit to the EU.
  • You will need multiple green cards if you have fleet insurance covering multiple vans.
  • You will need to ensure you display a GB sticker on the rear of your van when travelling in the EU.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) view

The ABI has urged all drivers to consider that EU regulations will demand a green card as proof of motor insurance unless any Brexit deal reached specifies otherwise.

Furthermore, the ABI says that any driver who travels without a green card in these circumstances risks both breaking the law and invalidating their existing cover, even when driving across the Irish border.

The ABI’s director general, Huw Evans, said that although motor insurance companies were well prepared for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, it was incumbent upon the government to offer greater clarification and support.

“With a no-deal Brexit still on the table, we want all insurance customers to know the facts about what this means for them so that they can take the necessary action,” said Evans.

Just as UK citizens driving within the EU will require a green card in the event of a no-deal, EU citizens driving in the UK will need to ensure the same.

 

The most ardent football fans in Britain could be inadvertently raising the cost of their any driver van insurance by fixing stickers of their team's crest on their vehicle.

This follows a piece of research by Auto Express that was carried out in conjunction with the British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) and a motor insurance company.

The study found that stickers could count as a modification as, under many insurer’s rules, a modification is deemed to be any change that is made to a van once it has been sold by its manufacturer.

As such, failing to declare a football sticker, satnav system or any other addition to the body or interior of a van could potentially invalidate a van insurance policy. In the case of a football sticker, some insurance companies may contend that it makes the vehicle vulnerable to vandalism attacks by fans of rival football teams. Furthermore, once declared, such modifications can add to the cost of a premium by as much as £100.

However, not all football-crest-related items are considered modifications. For example, a football club air freshener – a very popular product in the UK right now – is fine so long as there is only one and it does not interfere with the driver’s view.

If in doubt, notify your insurer

If you are in doubt as to whether something counts as a modification, it is always best to check in with your insurer so that they confirm its status. This is true even in cases where a modification is for the purposes of improving safety. For example, sometimes insurance companies used to increase the cost of a premium when drivers fitted winter tyres to their vans. However, in 2011, 70 percent of insurance companies became signatory to an agreement to not increase premium prices for drivers who fitted winter tyres to their vehicles – but most still wish to be informed.

The same is true of modifications such as tow bars and roof racks; it is unlikely they will increase the cost of your premium, but your insurer is likely to want to be informed regardless.

Furthermore, it is important to inform your insurer of any of the following modifications:

  • Tinted windows
  • Spoilers, skirts and valances
  • Extra lights
  • Upgraded upholstery
  • Upgraded brakes
  • Stripes, decals and badges
  • Replacement seats
  • Turbo/supercharging engine
  • Exhaust system changes
  • Flared wings, bonnet bulges
  • Specialised paintwork
  • Roof rack
  • Tow bar
  • Hand controls
  • Alloy wheels
  • Sat nav
  • Parking sensors

The theme here is clear: if in doubt about whether something constitutes a modification, let your insurer know.

 

Analysis by building services sector specialist ECIC has revealed that there has been a worrying rise in the economic value of tools theft from vans over the past twelve months, with the total value of such incidents up by 55% on the previous year.

What is interesting is that despite the cost of tools theft incidents rising dramatically, tools and van insurance companies are facing roughly the same number of claims as they did in the previous year.

One theory as to why this might be the case concerns the savviness of thieves; it is thought that they may have become better at identifying and targeting vans containing valuable tools.

Furthermore, it is thought that thieves have become both more brazen and more sophisticated in their tactics, with increasing numbers using the “peel and steal” method to saw vans open and steal the contents. Other popular methods include keyless entry system hacking and driver distraction techniques.

Alarmingly for drivers and their van insurance companies, ECIC says that the average value of tools theft now stands at £2,685 – a figure that outstrips the resale value of many of the vans that are targeted.

“The increase of thefts from vans and van thefts is widely recognised but showing no signs of abating. It is hugely disruptive to contractors, impacting work commitments and insurance costs,” commented a spokesperson with ECIC.

Prevention is key

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of tools theft is, of course, to remove all tools from your vehicle, storing them overnight or when you are not working. Van drivers who must take tools with them throughout their working day should ensure that they are stored inside a secure box that is fixed inside the van.

Taking such steps will not only ensure that you are less likely to be targeted by thieves, it will also help ensure that your van insurance covers you in the event that a thief succeeds in taking your tools.

Furthermore, ensure that you include goods in transit cover as part of your policy and that if you have any driver van insurance, every driver who uses the van has full training on how to keep the vehicle’s tools secure.