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What to Know About Driving a Moving Van

Whether you're moving across town or across the country, driving a moving van can be a nerve-wracking experience even for the most cautious of drivers. While you might prefer a van because it seems easier to handle than a big moving truck, it's still important to be prepared for what you might encounter on the road. Taking some time now to prepare yourself for driving a moving van will ensure that you enjoy a smooth, efficient move.

Preparing for moving day requires more than just packing up your possessions. Identify how much you'll need to move, how many miles you'll be driving and whether you'll be towing a car. You'll also need to decide if you'll be hiring helpers or asking friends to lend a hand or packing and unpacking the moving van yourself. This information will help you select the right vehicle for your needs.

Familiarize Yourself with the Van's Controls

Getting comfortable with the moving van's controls is the first step toward driving the vehicle with confidence. Be sure to identify where the headlights, windshield wipers, horn and window controls are located. Take some time to adjust the seat position as well as the rear-view and side-view mirrors. You'll feel more relaxed while driving if you're sitting in a comfortable position with all-around visibility. (It'll help to know how to adjust the climate controls quickly as well.

Adjust Your Mirrors to Alleviate Blind-Spot Worries

When you first step into most moving vans, one major difference you'll notice between the van and your car is the lack of a rearview mirror. Most vans have bulkheads behind the seats, so the mirror is typically removed since you wouldn't be able to see anything anyway. This can be slightly intimidating at first, but there are a few measures you can take to make your drive simple and stress-free.

  • Try parking the van once before you leave the facility. This will help you adjust to the mirrors and the van's overall feel. Plus, it helps cut down the stress of parking the van for the first time outside of your new home.

  • Remember, the only way you'll be able to know what vehicles are behind you is through the side mirrors. Be sure to check both mirrors more than you normally would, especially if you're changing lanes. This especially applies if you drive on the highway.

The Tappet brothers, hosts of the popular NPR radio show Car Talk, note that "by moving the side mirrors farther out, you can line up your mirrors so that they have minimal overlap." They provide a convenient tutorial explaining to drivers how to adjust their mirrors for minimal blind spots. This technique is useful for small personal vehicles and large moving vehicles. While this was written with rearview mirrors in mind, tips 2 and 4 still provide a good guide for aligning your side mirrors.

Spend Time Driving Around Before and After Loading the Van

An empty moving van will handle much differently than a loaded moving van. Size also plays a part in handling. Before you hit any major highways or streets, drive the van around. Keep these key points in mind:

  • Vans handle much differently than passenger cars thanks to their size.

  • Vans can be top heavy, meaning that they may tip over if you take turns too quickly.

  • It will take longer to stop in a van than it does in a standard car. Allow even more stopping time when the van is loaded.

  • Be mindful of passing other vehicles on highways. Limited visibility makes lane changes uncertain.

  • Speed limits for moving vans may be lower than speed limits for passenger cars. Pay attention to road signs and check with local law enforcement if you are unsure of the speed limit.

It also helps to practice making turns in the moving van because it has a wider turning radius than most cars. Moving guru Nancy LaFever recommends that you "flip on those turn signals earlier than you normally would and don't make last-minute lane changes."

If you're towing a vehicle, account for even more turning room. As a rule of thumb, stick to the far right lanes on highways and interstates when towing a vehicle. Of course, if you're planning to tow a vehicle, learn how to use the hitch. Ask your rental agent double-check the hitch or help you hook up the lighting. After all, you want to protect yourself and your vehicle by making sure everything is hooked up as it should be.

Ease Worries by Choosing Parking Spaces with Care

You'll be able to rest easy once you've arrived at your final destination, but you can ensure that you'll truly be worry-free if you choose parking spaces with care. One of the nation's largest truck and moving van rental firms suggests that you "always look for an area that provides 'drive-through' parking spaces" and "avoid backing up as much as possible." In addition to choosing a parking spot that is easy to enter and exit, find a space that provides a good level of security. Check with your new neighbors or your realtor to find out where you should park your van.

Remember that driving a moving van doesn't need to be difficult. In fact, the process of moving to a new home should be exciting. You should be able to enjoy driving your van on the open road. You can make this journey a lot less stressful by simply preparing yourself mentally. Be sure get a good night's rest and make regular pit stops so that you're refreshed and ready to handle any challenges on the drive. And if you need to keep your belongings in storage on either of the journey, you can search for nearby self storage units online.