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How to check if your van is insured

Not sure whether your van is properly covered? We explain how you can find out.

Van driving by a bridge

If you use a van as part of your business, it can be easy to forget who you’re insured with or when your current policy is up for renewal.

Van insurance might often just one more administrative headache if you’re running a small firm.

As a result, it’s not unusual for van drivers to find themselves behind the wheel of a vehicle on which the insurance has run out.

But the consequences of this happening can be severe.

Anyone caught driving a car or van without the proper insurance could face a hefty fine, points on their licence or even a ban.

So how can you check your van insurance is up to date?


How to check if you have van insurance

There are a handful of ways of finding out if you have van insurance.

These days, most insurance companies send out paperwork like policy documents and renewal notices by email rather than in the post.

So start by having a trawl through your inbox, searching for ‘insurance’, ‘van insurance’ or ‘renewal’, for example.

If your insurer still corresponds with you through the post, look for any recent letters confirming your policy details. This should also tell you when your renewal date is.

Another option is to have a look at your bank statement. You’ll see either a lump sum going out to your insurer at the start of the insurance period, or monthly direct debit payments.

If your last lump sum payment was over 12 months ago, or if your insurance direct debits have stopped, it’s likely your cover has lapsed.

If these approaches don’t turn up any evidence of an insurance policy, you can check with the Motor Insurance Database (MID).

They have a simple tool to help you check if your van is insured.

All you have to do is type in your van’s registration number and it’ll tell you if you’re currently insured or not. It’ll also tell you what make and model of van this registration plate is linked to.

If these details are wrong, you should contact your insurance provider -once you’ve tracked them down- to inform them of the mistake.

If the MID confirms that your van is currently insured, you should be able to wait to hear from your present insurer at renewal time.

At this point, it is well worth shopping around to see if you can get a cheaper quote from another provider.

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How to check if my van has tax and MOT

You can also check online to see whether your van has up-to-date road tax – known officially as vehicle excise duty (VED) – and an MOT certificate.

Visit this part of GOV.UK to input your registration details and find out.

This’ll tell you whether or not you have tax and a valid MOT. It’ll also tell you when your next year’s tax is due and when your current MOT expires.

The same web page will let you check the tax rates for your van. VED tax levels typically depend on the type of vehicle and the carbon emissions it produces.


What if my van doesn't have insurance?

If it appears that you don’t currently have a valid policy in place, you need to get insurance as a matter of urgency.

You should take the van off the road while you do so. The consequences of being caught driving without insurance can be potentially disastrous, especially if you use your van as part of your job.

If you’re found to be driving without insurance, you could get a fixed penalty notice and fined £300, with six points added to your licence.

If the police think an offence is particularly serious -for example if the driver is suspected of providing false information- the case is may be taken to court. If this happens, the potential fine is unlimited.

You could also face a ban or permanent disqualification from driving. And the potential problems don’t stop there.

When you try to buy insurance in the future, you’ll have to declare the incident. This is likely to increase the cost of your van insurance for years to come.

The police also have the powers to seize and even destroy your vehicle – although this would only happen in exceptional circumstances.


Do I need to insure my van if I’m not using it?

Generally speaking, yes – the legal requirement to have insurance applies to all vehicles, whether they’re being used regularly or not.

The only way you can get away without insuring a van that you’re not using is by declaring it officially as off the road.

This involves applying for a SORN – a statutory off-road notification – through the DVLA.

Getting a SORN means you no longer need to tax or insure your van, and there is no legal requirement to have an up-to-date MOT.

If your van has a SORN, it’s against the law to drive it at any time on public roads.

That is unless you’re heading to a pre-booked MOT test with a view to starting to use the van again.

Also, with a SORN you have to store the vehicle on private property – you’re not allowed to keep it parked on the street, for example.


How can I save on van insurance?

Research we carried out suggests that the earlier you renew your insurance, the more money you could end up saving.

In fact, waiting to sign up for a new policy until the day your insurance is due could be costly. Our study found that your van insurance could be almost a third more expensive if you wait around.

You can usually find the best deal around three weeks before your renewal date.

As well as getting the timing right, there are other steps you can take to reduce the cost of cover.

For example, increasing the voluntary excess you’d be willing to pay in the event of a claim could substantially reduce costs in many cases.

The excess is the amount of money your insurer deducts from any payout from an incident where another driver is not shown to be at fault.

If another road user is responsible for an accident you’re involved in, you can normally claim from their insurance and you won’t be charged the excess.

The higher your excess – which comprises your voluntary excess as well as the insurer’s compulsory excess – the less the insurance company pays to you. But opting for a higher excess will reduce premiums.

Insurance providers take risk into account when they work out your premiums. So, you should look to take steps that reduce the risk of you being involved in an accident or having your van damaged or stolen, for example.

It’s also worth investing in van security. The more security measures you have, the lower your insurance costs should be.

If your van has a powerful engine, this is also likely to push up the cost of cover.

So if you don’t need such a large or high-performance vehicle, consider trading it in for a more modest model.

Certainly, this is something to bear in mind if you’re on the lookout for a replacement van.

The way you use your van will also have an impact on the size of your premiums. For example, you may pay less if your van is only for private use rather than for business or commercial purposes.

Cutting your annual mileage can also help cut the cost of cover – but make sure you’re honest when it comes to applying for van insurance.

Any mistakes you make – whether or not they are honest – could result in your policy being invalid.

For more tips, have a look at our guide on how to save on your van insurance.