Is Driving a Van Hard? [What you need to know before you hit the road]

Vehicles come in many shapes and sizes. Driving one is nothing like driving another. If you have been driving a small sedan for a few years, but now need to drive a big van (maybe for a job, a group trip, or a move), you're probably concerned about whether driving a van is hard. Not to worry, we have researched all the information you need to put your mind at ease.

Driving a van is not hard, the fundamentals are similar to driving a car. Because a van has larger vehicle dimensions than a car, drivers need to make adjustments like positioning the driver's seat and mirrors, slowing speed, and allowing ample space for passing, changing lanes, and parking.

Continue reading, and we will explain how to make these minor adjustments to your driving style so that you drive safely when you get behind the wheel of a van. We will also share some other key factors to be aware of when maneuvering a van.

A van traversing the highway at high speed, Is Driving a Van Hard? [What you need to know before you hit the road]

Van Driving: What To Expect?

Although it is not your first time driving, getting behind the wheel of a van can prove slightly different from driving a small, mid-size, or even large sedan. Vans are substantially larger than most cars, being wider, taller, and longer. So, you will have a few additional adjustments to make in how you position the driver's seat, make turns, and park. Awareness is key when driving a van, and taking it slow and steady is typically the safest way to proceed. 

If you have never driven a van, take some time to practice in a safe location like an empty parking lot. Less experienced drivers will be thankful to have had the extra practice when a situation arises in real-time, so you will be prepared! Meanwhile, keep reading as we delve into everything you need to know before you get settled into the driver's seat of a van.

Is Driving a Van Different From Driving a Car?

If this were your very first time operating a large vehicle, we understand. You're taking up more space on the road, so your sense of judgment will need to be better, along with a few other details that we will discuss.  

Once you get behind the wheel of a van, you'll begin to realize that the fundamentals are the same. You still have to adjust the seat to your comfort, need to check mirrors, be mindful of surroundings, and such.

Your awareness behind the wheel of a van is where the difference comes in. Awareness for other drivers and road hazards needs to increase because obviously, you're driving a larger vehicle. For example, Motor Land Enterprises explains that the Ford E-350 extended length van is 6,013-mm (19.7-ft.) long. That's roughly 1,000 to 1,600-mm (3 - 5 ft.) longer than the typical sedan. 

That noticeable increase in size means that you'll need to have good judgment when merging lanes or making turns. Thinking that you have enough space to change lanes when you actually don't can cause minor to medium-sized accidents. Turning too widely may disrupt the flow of traffic. Turning too sharply risks you hitting a curb, which can mess up the van's axles or tires. 

Don't be fearful about driving a van, though. It's roughly the same as driving something else. You'll only have to adapt to the size difference.

small passenger van hurry up on highway at city street traffic with urban cityscape and sunset sky on background

Can 17-year-olds Drive a Van?

Drivers that are this young should not be operating vehicles this large until they get more experience behind the wheel of a normal-sized car. 

Seventeen-year-old employees are typically not allowed to drive a large van. The U.S. Department of Labor restricts 17-year-olds to only driving cars and small trucks weighing up to 6,000 gross pounds. Even under these conditions, young drivers can't spend more than one-third of the shift, or 20% of the entire workweek, driving a vehicle. 

For leisure purposes, there's not a restriction on driving a van. But it's strongly not advised to young drivers. Culture of Safety recommends that a driver should be 21-years-old and have five years of road experience to drive a van.

At any age, it does help to find a location to practice driving that large a vehicle. Check out our other article to find the best locations to practice driving. The more practice you get, the more confident you'll be on the road.

What Do I Need To Know Before Driving A Van?

Before you even start the ignition, make sure that you're fully comfortable. That means adjusting the seat to the optimum position. It's going to be a tad different from a car because you're elevated higher. You should also adjust your mirrors; if it's your first time driving a van, you may need to make slight adjustments as you go, and that's okay. Remember that you only have the outside mirrors to rely on, at least with most vans, so your judgment must be strong.

After starting the ignition, check the roads to make sure nothing is coming. Don't try to pull out faster than the approaching vehicle can reach you. You're driving a much larger vehicle, meaning you won't be able to just take off like you can with a car (which you still shouldn't do). 

When you're on the road, pay attention to your surroundings because it is slightly more difficult to see things alongside of you. Feel free to adjust your mirrors at this point, especially if it's hard to view traffic alongside. Additionally, always follow speed limits. According to Tempcover, speed limits for vans are a tad lower. On highways, you can't go over 70 MPH. In built-up areas you can't go over 30 MPH. Be mindful of your speed regardless of the speed limit. Because a van is heavier, it may not brake as easily as a car. So remember to keep an increased, safe distance behind other vehicles. 

Parking may be the hardest part of the ride. Because of the size, the decreased visibility makes it difficult to see the parking spot, whether it be parallel or pull-in. If someone else is in the van, have them exit the car to guide you. Go backwards as slow as possible since there's the chance of slightly grazing another vehicle or object; the slower you go, the less potential damage caused. 

Two white vans on the road

What Is The Biggest Van You Can Drive On A Car License?

Drivers in most states possess a class C or D non-commercial driver's license (or non-CDL). Owning one means you can drive any vehicle less than 10,000-pounds in gross weight. It also means you can drive a van that holds no more than 15 passengers.

To drive a vehicle that weighs more than 10,000-pounds or holds 16 or more passengers, you'll need a commercial class C license. Career Trend says some states will endorse your license with a "P" to show you're able to transport passengers. If you obtain a class B or A commercial license, all you'll need is the endorsement and you can drive any passenger vehicle.

Can New Drivers Drive Vans?

Are you a brand-new class C or D license holder ready to get on the road? Want to drive that van straight away?

We're here to let you know how poor of an idea that is. There isn't a specific law restricting an allowed age for driving vans. Once you obtain your license, you're technically allowed to drive a van. But considering our previous warnings, and the fact that you should have approximately one year of prior driving experience, it's just not ideal. 

Additionally, not everybody thinks driving is easy. For people who struggle with driving, don't even bother going near a van until you get used to a car. This article that can help you make the process of learning how to drive a little less troublesome. 

If you're eager to drive a van, please take the advice we gave earlier. Find a place to practice, get used to a normal car, and get some years of driving experience first.

Final Thoughts

For the experienced driver, you have no reason to worry. All you're doing is driving a larger car with probably less rear-view mirrors. For newbies, wait a few years. It's for the safety of you, other drivers, and especially your passengers. 

But once you feel confident, have fun van driving!

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