It's possible to speedily search over 30 providers in just 10 minutes to save £100s on your van insurance. You haven't got to wait until renewal. Provided you haven't claimed, most insurers allow policies to be cancelled with a refund (but ALWAYS check no penalties apply), so you can start saving now!
Also see Motoring MoneySaving for 40+ tips to drive down motoring costs
Step 1: Getting the right cover
The price of cover depends on the insurer, the level of cover and how risky you're perceived to be. Most of the issues for vans are identical to those for car owners, so read the dos and dont's in the Car Insurance guide too, such as getting your job right (see Car Insurance Job Picker tool to show the riskiest jobs).
However, a few issues are much more specific to van insurance.
DO act NOW if you're a man - gender neutral pricing now law
A change in the law now means all insurers must follow the European Court of Justice gender equalisation ruling. It means all things being equal, men and women must pay the same. Women have typically paid less than men, so can expect big rises in costs.
If you're a man, get a quote now and compare it against your last renewal, even if your renewal is months away. If it's less, consider cancelling and starting a new policy.
As long as you've not claimed, you'll get a pro-rata refund. But check and factor in any exit fees (approx £25-£50) and remember you won't earn any no-claims during that insurance year.
Use the system in this guide to hopefully beat your current price, or at least find the cheapest you can.
DO make sure you have business cover
It may sound strange, but if you're using a van for your business, make sure the policy includes business use cover, not just social and domestic.
If you don't, the cover will be useless and your insurance will be invalid. You should also check a policy includes any specific business requirements you may have. For example, declaring you're a delivery driver when you're actually a courier could land you in trouble - they two jobs aren't perceived to be the same thing.
The opposite applies if you're not using a van for business. Tick the wrong box and you could end up paying for unnecessary cover.
DO you need speedy repairs?
If your van is stolen, or damaged in an accident, it's likely to be out of action for a while, which could hit your livelihood. If this is the case, look for a policy that will carry out repairs as quickly as possible, or offers a replacement vehicle. More and more providers offer courtesy vans, but make sure it is the right vehicle for your business.
DO check if you can tow
With car insurance, basic third party cover is provided for the trailer. With vans, this is also normally included. but do check the policy allows you to tow a trailer. You will normally get basic liability cover towing a flat bed trailer but if it is a compressor or other mechanical type tool, do check. If you need full cover to protect you against accidental damage or theft, check with your insurer to see if the policy can be extended.
DO check the age restrictions
If you think you may need to add an under-25 in the future, check there are no age restrictions. Under-25s may find it difficult to get cover themselves, under-21s harder still.
DON'T presume contents are covered
Vans' lack of windows can make them more attractive to thieves gambling on a greater chance of finding hidden goods. If you carry tools, don't automatically expect these to be covered - it's likely they're not, so check. If you have materials in or on the vehicle, again don't expect these to be covered, so a quick phone call to confirm may be needed. If cover is needed, ask about a 'goods in transit' policy, or contact a local broker. Check the policy before buying to make sure anything you leave inside the vehicle overnight is covered.
DON'T carry hazardous goods
It may sound logical but with many insurers, it's a no-no. Many insurers stress the carriage of hazardous goods is excluded unless you've checked and cleared it with the insurer, as your policy may be invalid. If you're having trouble getting the cover, search on the British Insurance Brokers Association website for a local broker.
Beware monthly payment plans
Whoever you insure with, if it gives an option to 'pay monthly', be careful. This usually involves the insurer lending you the full cost, then charging you interest for the privilege.
The interest rates are usually hideous. So either pay it off in full, or if you can't afford that, it's actually cheaper to pay with a 0% credit card for spending and make the repayments to that.
When not insured, you must get Sorn
The Continuous Insurance Enforcement scheme, which began in 2011, means all motor vehicles must be insured - even if no-one drives them. It aims to crack down on uninsured drivers.
The only way out is to insure the vehicle or apply for a Sorn (Statutory Off Road Notification) declaring that your vehicle will not be used. See Gov.uk for how to do this.
Step 2: Find cheapest van insurance quote
As insurance prices depend on an individual's unique circumstances, there's no single cheapest provider. The key is to get the most quotes in the shortest amount of time, then investigate the cheapest ones further.
The quickest way to do this is via screenscraper websites. Here, you enter your details and their software automatically fills in the required info at a host of brokers' and insurers' websites, 'scraping' their data to grab you a quote.
It's a very quick and easy way to quickly cover a huge chunk of the marketplace in minutes. Yet there are big things to remember...
Always double check your results. What to check
Your data is being given to insurers. What insurers may do
Compare in the following order
1. The Van Insurer Searches from over 40 brokers.
Clearly shows the prices and benefits added or not included.
Simple list of insurers, with telephone numbers if needed.
'One click' option to get quotations on comprehensive, third party fire and theft, and third party only.
Clearly shows benefits included or not included.
Defaults to an excess of £500.
You need to unsubscribe or you'll be contacted for marketing purposes.
2. Gocompare Searches from over 40 brands.
This easy-to-use site has a handy 'compare and customise' system once you've got quotes, to help you find the one that suits.
Clearly shows benefits included or not included.
You'll be contacted for marketing purposes unless you unsubscribe.
Setting up a password to return to your quotes can be a bit fiddly.
Check the big 'uns they miss...
Aviva: As well as an online 10% discount for your van, insure a 2nd vehicle (which can be a car or van) and you could save up to 33% through its Aviva MultiCar discount. Both vehicles must be registered at the same address.
Direct Line*: Buy a policy by 9 Dec 2013 and you can get a 20% discount. Also, if you insure more than one van via Direct Line, you will get an extra 15% off per van. See Direct Line Together* for details how to get extra discounts on other Direct Line policies in your household.
3. MoneySupermarket Searches from 26 providers
Has a simple and clear layout for inputting your details.
A separate box lists the types of vehicles excluded.
Quick process - via a drop-down box - to get prices for comprehensive, third party fire and theft, and third party only.
Assumptions automatically completed.
Limited edit function.
Difficult to find the option to opt out of marketing contacts.
4. Confused.com Searches from 20 providers
Clear results layout.
Buy via Confused.com and you can claim 1,000 Nectar points.
Defaults to an excess of £250.
Very limited edit function.
Searching other comparison sites
Once you've found the cheapest
Once you've found the cheapest from the screenscrapers, there are two important checks to make:
Double-check the quotes
Click through to the insurance provider's own website to double-check the quotes. To speed up searches, comparison sites sometimes make a few assumptions.
Examine how you're covered
Is the policy suitable for you? If you want out-of-hours contact, is it included? It's worth playing around with some of the policy details to see the impact on the price. For example, try twiddling with the excess (the amount you pay towards each claim).
How screenscrapers and brokers work
Screenscrapers may seem like they're doing a similar job, as each search a number of different insurers, yet they're radically different beasts. My favourite analogy for this is to compare it to searching for the cheapest loaf of bread.
Each individual insurer is like a baker, so your choice is simply to buy the cheapest loaf it offers that fits your characteristics. Brokers are the equivalent to supermarkets; they stock a range of bakers' loaves and the price they charge depends on their relationship with the supplier.
Yet screenscrapers are like sending someone to speed round all the supermarkets and bakers to find the cheapest loaf from all of them.
What if my insurer goes bust?
The economic times we live in mean you never know which companies may be the next to have problems. Fortunately, insurance providers are covered by the Government-backed Financial Services Compensation Scheme, meaning if they go into default, you're protected.
The main way this happens is the FSCS will try to find another provider to take over your policy, or issue a substitute policy. However, if you have any ongoing claims, or need to make a claim before a new insurer is found, the FSCS should ensure these are covered. For full details, read the insurance section of the Savings Safety guide.
Step 3: Grab cashback and haggle
Using the system above should have found you a cheaper quote, but if you're a higher risk rider or just want to get a cheaper price, you can probably save even more.
Check special cashback websites
These are special sites carrying paid links from retailers and financial services providers. In other words, if you click through them and get a product they get paid. Importantly, they then give you some of this cash so you get the same product, plus a cut of its revenue.
Not all insurers are included, and you should never choose an insurer just for the cashback. But if your cheapest does pay out, why not grab it. If you're new to cashback sites, ensure you read the Top Cashback Sites guide for pros and cons before using them. If not, use the Cashback Sites Maximiser to find the highest payer for each insurer.
One thing to remember though - if you've used several comparison sites then buy your policy via a cashback site, it might not track unless you clear your computer's cookies first. Further information on deleting or controlling cookies is available at All About Cookies.
If you have an AA personal breakdown policy, you are entitled to a 5% discount. Also, if you are an AA car insurance policyholder, you'll also get a 5% discount discount for taking out an AA* van policy.
In addition to a 10% online discount for your van, insure a 2nd vehicle (which can be a car or van) with Aviva* and you could save up to 33% through its Aviva MultiCar discount. Both vehicles must be registered at the same address.
Insurance broker Be Wiser offers free RAC membership for policies bought via its website.
Although the van insurance market is not as competitive as for cars, all companies are desperate to retain business.
Once you've got a decent alternative price from a comparison website, get on the phone and try to haggle (unless cashback's available, as that has to be via the net). There's usually massive price flexibility, but be fully armed with the cheapest quotes.
The first port of call should be your existing insurer. After all, if it can beat or even match the best quote, it saves the hassle of switching policy. If that doesn't work, take it to other insurers.
Step 4: Remember next year
Don't let your annual renewal policy catch you up and simply sign up for another year with the same insurer. If you apply for cover from your existing insurer as a new customer, it's likely you'll be given a cheaper price.
This is because van insurers - like any company - will happily profit from apathy. That's why renewal notifications are sent a blink's length before you have to cough up, you're then pressured for time and less likely to try and find a cheaper price.
To avoid being forced to decide quickly, diarise a warning six weeks before your renewal date, so there's plenty of time to sort out a new provider. You can use our free Tart Alert to help you.