The business van insurance implications of helping out a friend

A friend in need is a friend in deed. Well as it turns out, if you’re driving a business van, then a friend in need could invalidate your insurance...

We all like to help out our friends whenever we can, safe in the knowledge that your good turn will be reciprocated somewhere down the line, usually in the form of a couple of drinks once the work is done. This sense of kinship can be a lifesaver in a tricky situation, but not when it comes at cost; particularly not if that cost is the invalidation of your van insurance.

In a recent survey, 81 per cent of 450 commercial van drivers admitted to helping out their friends or family by using their van to run errands, transport bulky equipment or simply nipping down to the tip after work. However, a third of these drivers were unsure whether they were covered by their business van insurance to carry out these altruistic chores.

The research found that 34 per cent of those using their vans to assist their friends were helping them to move house, while 18 per cent were transporting furniture. In itself this does not present a problem, but when you consider that many policies don’t cover a van’s contents, then it becomes more of a concern.

Of course so long as you don’t need to make a claim then there aren’t any problems, but what if you are helping a friend transport his beautiful television to his new home and it is damaged en route?

17 per cent of requests for help were to transport equipment for somebody else’s small business. This is another sticking point for many insurers, which consider this as a part-time or secondary occupation - something for which few insurers provide cover.

Whilst many van drivers overlooked this aspect of their insurance, the research showed that the vast majority understood that allowing a third party to drive their van, unless they were named on the policy, would invalidate their cover. It is not uncommon for people to be insured to drive other vehicles on their own insurance, although the cover provided will usually only be third party.

The moral of this story is to carefully check the wording of your policy before handing over your keys, or whether or not it is worth helping out a friend at all, even if you are the one behind the wheel; after all, the result of a theft or accident if you’re not properly insured will easily outweigh any savings your friend makes by not hiring a professional in the first place.

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