Everything you need to know about driving a hire van

Driving a Hertz rental van for the first time is easier than you think. But it pays to be prepared. Here’s how, according to Hertz.

The latest vans from Hertz are simple to drive, surprisingly refined, economical and super safe. In fact, most are just like a regular road car, right down to features like ABS brakes, stability control systems, steering-wheel airbags and even stereo systems.

You’ll find the steering wheel and controls operate just like a standard car. Hertz vans in the B4 and C4 groups even ride and handle just like the cars they’re closely related to, such as the Ford Fiesta. Where things differ are the larger D4, G4 and I4 group vans, the Ford Transit and Ford Transit Luton. The latter, in particular, is much larger, heavier and taller than a conventional car. But don’t panic, just be prepared!

Planning and preparation

The key to driving any Hertz van, especially the larger models, is just like a car only more so. It’s all about smoothness, observation and planning. That means gentle inputs on the main controls, scanning the road ahead for hazards and obstacles and then adjusting your driving to suit. It also means carrying less speed and leaving more space for braking than you would in a conventional car.

Watch out for the roof

While you don’t need to worry about height for the first three rungs up the Hertz van hire ladder - they’re comparable in size to conventional cars - the largest I4 group vans may be too tall for the very lowest bridges and other overhanging obstacles including barriers to car parks and multi-storey car parks in their entirety.

The turning circle

Width can also be an issue for the larger van classes. That applies to both fitting through gaps and the width you need to leave when turning. The bigger the van, the more space you need to leave as you enter a corner or make a turn around an obstacle. Remember, there’s more vehicle behind you that you’re used to. Again, it’s all about forward observation. If in doubt slow or come to a complete stop to assess any obstacles.

Also bear in mind weather conditions on the day. For the most part, vans perform as well as cars in poor weather, with the previous provisos regarding lower speed and leaving larger margins. But very high winds can be hazardous for empty vans in particular. Consult with you Hertz rental location if in doubt.

Lock and load

The other major dynamic issue to be aware of is the difference between driving an empty and fully loaded van.

For starters, the large storage bay and carrying capacity means a van can accommodate very heavy loads.That makes a significant difference to all aspects of performance from acceleration to braking and handling. In short, err on the side of caution and leave even greater margins to other road vehicles, carry less speed and allow more space for braking when driving fully loaded.

Loading the van

An overloaded, or poorly loaded, van can be dangerous. So take note of the van’s maximum load capacity and make sure that all items and materials are loaded securely, spread evenly and as low as possible in the bay to ensure both safety and to minimise damage. Loose materials can be a serious hazard and the higher up items are stored, the more likely they are to both cause stability problems and break lose and become damaged. At all times, bear in mind your cargo when driving.

It’s behind you

Rearward visibility is another major difference between vans and cars. Hertz’ smallest van group, which includes the Ford Fiesta Van, is very similar to a car in this regard save for the rear-quarter or the over-the-shoulder view, where a steel panel replaces the rear side windows. As a consequence, be aware of the blind spots over both shoulders created when merging into lanes.

The larger vans on the Hertz fleet have the same rear-quarter blind spots but also more limited direct reward visibility thanks to the omission of the centre rear-view mirror. Instead, you must rely upon a pair of extra-large wing mirrors. Just remember that the larger a van is, the more likely it is that cars and other small vehicles following closely behind may be partially or entirely obscured.

Parking up

If getting from A to B is one thing. What about parking up when you arrive? The challenges here are twofold and involve size and visibility. Again, the larger the van the more adjustments you’ll need to make compared to parking a standard car. The smaller group B4 and C4 vans are just like parking a car. The larger models in groups D4 and above require more care.

Having a co-driver on hand helps significantly, as they can disembark the van and help guide you safely into parking slots. If you’re travelling solo, simply take it step by step. A good method where traffic conditions allow is to stop the van completely, get out and assess the space fully.

You’ll then be able to make better sense of both the space available and what you can see in the wing mirrors. If in doubt, you can always stop, exit the vehicle and reassess the situation, again taking care of traffic conditions. Also, if the location is busy, don’t allow other vehicles to pressure you into rushing. Take your time and don’t feel embarrassed to abort and retry if you aren’t confident the van is lining up correctly. Better to suffer a few toots from impatient road users than a parking prang or worse.

Need to hire a Hertz van? Find out more and book here.