If you have just bought a van for the first time, the prospect of actually driving it can be somewhat daunting. Certainly, driving a van presents a number of challenges that do not necessarily apply when driving other vehicles, but at the same time, vans can also be an extremely useful and convenient mode of transport.

In this article, we take a look at some practical tips that can help you with the transition towards driving a van.

1. Familiarise yourself with the van

The first step is to familiarise yourself with the inside of the van and learn about how it differs from a car. For example, it is worth taking the time to get used to your dashboard and where things like the indicator and windscreen wiper switches are positioned. You should also be sure to position your seat and headrest properly.

Of course, the biggest difference when driving a van is the absence of a rear view. This is off-set with larger wing mirrors, which will more than compensate, as long as you adjust them properly to give you a view of both sides. Some vans have a sixth gear, so check if this is the case before setting off.

2. Load the van carefully

If you are driving a van, there is a good chance you are going to be carrying a reasonable load. However, many van drivers do not take the necessary level of care when actually loading their van. If the load is too heavy or is badly positioned, it can impact upon the vehicle’s stability, making it more difficult to drive.

Keep your load under the maximum weight allowance and try to spread it evenly. If you have any items that are significantly heavier than the rest of your load, try to place them in the middle. The heaviest objects should, of course, be placed at the bottom, with lighter objects stacked on top. Make sure doors are securely locked.

3. Drive with a degree of caution

Since you are driving a vehicle you are not used to, it is important that you exercise a degree of caution and take your time. Remember, your van is likely to have slower acceleration than a car, so time spent in the outside lane on motorways and dual carriageways should be kept to a minimum.

When planning your journey, give yourself a little bit more time than you would if you were driving a car. Use your wing mirrors to stay aware of your surroundings, pay attention to low bridges and other overhead objects, remember that stopping times will be longer, and keep in mind the need to slow down more before sharp turns.

4. Take your time with parking

Finally, one of the aspects of driving a van that can cause the most stress is parking it, especially when it comes to the ever-difficult parallel park. Aside from taking into account the extra length of your vehicle, the lack of a rear view will also factor in here once again.

When you are nervous, it is common to try and rush things, but this is a mistake. The key is to take your time, use your wing mirrors and open your window so you can put your head outside and improve your view. If you are driving with a passenger, do not be afraid to ask them to get out and guide you in.