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Alchemy Cars Ltd - Helpful Hints for Van Rental & Moving

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The geography of your start and finish points:

  • Are there width restrictions - no point renting a 2m wide van if you have a 1.8m width restriction.
  • Are there height restrictions - an inconvenient bridge or an archway entrance into some estates can mean a very long walk with your things. If there is no marked height restriction and this is common on private gateways and arches try to measure it yourself.
  • Check for overhead hazards such as low tree branches, protruding balconies and low archways.
  • Is there likely to be enough space for one large van or would two smaller vans be more practical. This particularly important in streets where, whilst there maybe no legal restriction, cars parked on both sides of the road
  • Now choose the van that will fit in the space available and is most suitable to the job.

Choose the right van for the job Click here to see the rental van sizes available. If you are moving a single item that is pretty straight forward - the cheapest van into which the item will fit. However, if you are moving a single very heavy item consider:

  • If you choose a low roof van are you likely to damage your back in the struggle to get it loaded (see also our hints on moving heavy items.)
  • Is it an item that should be kept upright – this particularly important for freezers that can be damaged by being transported for extended periods horizontally.
  • If the item is of value it maybe better to use a Luton van where the item can be strapped securely to the side slats inside the van.
  • If the item is particularly heavy might it be easier to put the item onto a trolley (we rent those too) and lifted up to the van floor on a hydraulic tail lift (we have Luton vans equipped with these).

If you are moving multiple items work out the floor space you need to accommodate the items. One false economy is to rent a small van and do multiple journeys. For instance: a small “Transit” sized van is cheaper to rent than a Luton however, the Luton will take 3-5 times more than a transit.

  • If you are moving house or a large number of items consider what the total weight will be. It is illegal and dangerous to overload a van.
  • Rent multiple vans if you need to get everything out by a set time or arrange with the agent/ incomer that you can return later to remove anything left behind.

If you undertake 4 runs back and forth in a transit your helpers will become bored very quickly, it might take you hours longer (never underestimate the ability of London traffic to move at snail's pace and how long it might take to find a parking space every time you stop) and your fuel consumption might use up the rental saving between a small and large van.

Move without getting a ticket

There is something about rental vans that acts as a traffic warden magnet. Some simple precautions and you can protect yourself from parking tickets. By the way, if applicable, do not forget to pay the congestion charge.

  • At BOTH ends of the journey check out what the parking restrictions are the common problems are:
  • Loading/ unloading restricted between certain hours
  • Double yellow lines
  • Single yellow lines with specific restrictions on time of parking
  • Bus lanes
  • Red routes
  • Parking meters

Our extended hours give you the flexibility to rent a van at a time that avoids you incurring a fine for illegal parking.

  • Parking restrictions can be suspended for this you need to apply for a parking dispensation. Parking dispensations are issued by the local authority where the address is located. DO NOT FORGET TO GET A DISPENSATION FOR BOTH ENDS OF THE JOURNEY. It is vital to apply for these as soon as you have a date for the work some councils require 7 days notice or longer
  • When arranging for a dispensation ask for one to cover the whole day. You never know what hitch might crop up and there is nothing worse than getting a ticket because your dispensation lapsed an hour earlier.
  • An all day dispensation gives you the chance to pace yourself and more importantly your helpers can take a breather and a cup of tea!
  • If you have parking meters in the way always ask for TWO meter bays to be suspended. This will give you plenty of space to park a large van and also to give yourself access into the rear with lumpy items like sofas.

Planning your move:

Great so you have sorted the geography and the parking and size of rental van now what about the logistics of moving.

  • Download and use our moving checklist.
  • Let your neighbours know that you will be moving and if meter bays or parking restrictions are going to be created. Antagonistic neighbours can make a moving day total misery so get them on your side. (They might even offer to help!)
  • Get your helpers lined up well in advance. Make sure you have plenty of soft refreshment and food if it is a large job. (Avoid beer. It slows everyone down and remember the drink drive laws.)
  • How many helpers? The more you have the easier it becomes particularly if you have a large number of small items/ boxes and a number of flights of stairs. There is also the chance that some of your helpers may drop out in advance.
  • Always have one person minding the van during the move. It is amazing how quickly thieves can steal!
  • Arrange transportation for your helpers to your destination most of our vans can legally only carry driver plus 2 passengers (small vans only take one passenger). Helpers sitting in the back of the van is illegal and may render you liable to a fine if caught.
  • If you have small children and pets try to have them anywhere but around whilst the moving is happening.
  • For heavy items such as fridge, washing machines, plasma TVs and multiples of boxes a trolley is very useful. If you don't own one, rent one from us.
  • Get everything packed in advance.
  • Have sufficient blankets to put between items - furniture rubbing together will destroy its value in moments. You can improvise with cardboard or newspapers.
  • Buy straps or rope to secure items
  • When packing boxes do not overfill - keep boxes to 10-15kgs
  • Books are heavy! An average paperback will weigh 400-500g so around 30 books per box is a reasonable rule.
  • Avoid overlarge boxes - these will tempt you into overfilling or will waste space
  • Book a time with the landlord for a final inspection and handover
  • Do not underestimate how long it will take to move. The earlier you start the better particularly in the summer when you can get loaded before the sun starts really beating down. If the weather is bad you have the leeway to pause the operation whilst it is pouring with rain.
  • If it is likely to be icy underfoot get a bag or two of salt and put it down falling over whilst carrying 15 kgs can really spoil your day.
  • Moving a long distance? Plan your journey remember that a van will take much longer on a journey (around 30% longer than a car journey) and if the weather is bad, particularly when there are high winds, it will take even longer.
  • Modern vans are still much noisier than a car. This will add to the fatigue levels so, on a long journey, either arrange for an extra driver to be insured or take regular breaks.

Loading and driving the van (click her for additional van driving tips). A poorly placed bulky item can drastically reduce what you can load into the van. To maximise the space in a Luton van:

  • Tie or ratchet strap bulky items to securing points in the van.( If using ratchet straps DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN , doing so can damage your item and pull the securing bars from the side of the van causing expensive damage.)
  • Wherever possible breakdown furniture into flat pack state
  • Mattresses should be tied vertically to the slats in the van
  • Load the bulky square items such as washing machine etc. first. Secure them with packing to the side of the van(cardboard, blankets etc) between each item.
  • Wherever possible upend sofas and secure them vertically.
  • Remove draws from chests of draws do try to move fully loaded chests of draws they will be both very heavy and at the wrong angle the draws will shoot out probably breaking
  • Load boxes with tough items, such as books, first and then on top of those you can place boxes containing fragile items.
  • Do not stack boxes more than chest high
  • If the van is getting full take a look at the rear tyre walls are they starting to show signs of being squashed flat. If they are you are probably starting to overload the van.
  • Stack higher toward the from of the van and lower as you fill towards the rear, this will be safer for when you open the rear up again and it reduces the chances of the load shifting and jamming the rear shutter mechanism
  • The last items to load are plants and individual fragile items
  • Always drive with the rear shutter down
  • Secure items and wedge boxes together - the more yor load moves the greater the opportunity for damage.
  • When you drive (see also our van driving tips) keep your speed down. As you turn corners and go over speed humps your load is liable to move.
  • When you arrive at your destination, if your load is stacked high, open rear doors with care there is a chance that items may have moved and topple down as the shutter is lifted.
  • If you stop en route remember that opportunist thieves love unattended vans.


  • Confirm the date of your move
  • Tell your landlord the date of moving
  • Arrange a time for final inspection
  • Arrange parking dispensations
  • The most common mistake is to forget to book one at the destination
  • Arrange goods in transit insurance
  • This maybe covered but it is as well to double check as well as insurance to cover injury to your helpers
  • Book your helpers
  • If a helper is going to drive the rental van make sure they bring a licence
  • Start accumulating boxes from stores
  • Assemble the materials you will need for moving (boxes; tape; bubble wrap; blankets; ties for securing in the van; felt tip pens to clearly mark boxes)
  • Dispose of as much "junk" as possible
  • Start boxing non essentials up
  • Clearly mark boxes as to fragile and the contents
  • Start dismantling items into flat pack form
  • KEEP NUTS AND BOLTS AND ANY FIXINGS SAFE - quite often they are literally irreplaceable
  • Dig up any garden plants
  • Wrap the roots in plastic to avoid contaminating the van cling film is great!
  • Take down curtains and blinds
  • Book an electrician if needed for disconnections
  • Clear and defrost the fridge and freezer
  • Book a plumber if needed for disconnections
  • Anyone with whom you have an outstanding delivery
  • When disposing of old correspondence ensure it is shredded
  • Leaving personal information behind can help fraudsters
  • Tell everyone you are moving:

Who to inform

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Milkman and newsagent
  • Colleges/ Schools
  • Doctor
  • Dentist
  • Optician and other health providers
  • Bank
  • Building Societies
  • Credit Card companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Cancel insurance cover in respect of cover from the date you vacate the property. Share registrars
  • Store and reward card providers
  • TV Licensing 08705 246 246 or online
  • Royal Mail redirection 08457 740740 or online
  • Gas supplier
  • Ensure that a final meter reading is taken before leaving Local authority (rates)
  • Don't forget to make a reclaim if you have paid the rates in advance Local authority (electoral roll)
  • Local authority (parking)
  • Electricity supplier
  • Ensure that the final meter reading is agreed before leaving
  • Water Company
  • Ensure that the final meter reading is agreed before leaving Telephone company (Landline)
  • Check before you leave that the phone line has been disconnected Mobile telephone company
  • Inland Revenue
  • Satellite provider
  • Broadband provider
  • Driving Licence Centre 0870 240 0009 or online
  • DVLA for change of vehicle registered address or online
  • Publications
  • Club memberships
  • Motoring organizatons
  • Charities
  • Blood donor register
  • Business associates
  • If you are running a business from home tell clients and suppliers

Moving heavy objects safely

This page is unashamedly placed here for our own self-interest! We don't want you blowing loads of money on Osteopath fees to repair your damaged back. That is just wasted cash! Instead, move without hurting yourself and use a small amount of that saving on one of our hire cars. Go off to the beach and enjoy a well earned rest after your move. We much prefer the idea of you flat out on the beach than flat out on the Osteopath's couch. So, some simple tips to avoid damaging your back and other injuries:

  • Keep the weight of packing boxes down to 15 - 20kgs or less. Borrow a trolley or rent one from us. It will speed up your move and considerably reduce the risk of accident.
  • If you are carrying a large piece of furniture with draws strip out as much as possible
  • Wherever possible reduce furniture back into flat pack.
  • Get plenty of help - a small expenditure in beer and pizzas is a good investment
  • Washing machines and freezers can be awkward to carry if you don't have a trolley (sack barrow) borrow or rent one from us.
  • Remove obstructions from the path (particularly stairs) before you start. Remove rugs and if there is any loose carpet, remove or secure it down.
  • Covering your sofa can be a good idea if you are moving it into storage however, if it needs to be carried downstairs or a long way, slippery plastic sheeting can cause you to lose your grip on it.
  • If you are moving a heavy object take a breather mid-way and reposition your grip.
  • Keep the load close to the waist. The load should be kept close to the body, with the heaviest side nearest. If a close approach to the load is not possible, try to slide it towards the body before attempting to lift it.
  • Employ good posture. At the start of the lift, slight bending of the back, hips and knees is preferable to fully flexing the back (stooping) or fully flexing the hips or knees (squatting)
  • Don't flex the back any further while lifting. This can happen if the legs begin to straighten before starting to lift the load.
  • Avoid twisting the back or leaning sideways, especially while the back is bent. Shoulders should be level and facing the same direction as the hips. Turning by moving the feet is better than twisting and lifting at the same time.
  • Don't lift or handle more than can be easily managed. There is a difference between what people can lift and what they can safely lift. You might be able to bench press 200kgs but you can easily hurt your back moving a 40kg armchair if you need to twist your body awkwardly to get a good grip of the object.

Driving your rental van safely

You may be daunted by the prospect of driving a hire van for the first time. Don't be. Here are a few tips to help you pilot your rental van safely. The main points to remember are:

Picking up the rental van:

  • Pick your hire van up in good time avoiding the need to rush around in unfamiliar vehicle
  • Listen to the advice that you are given at our offices when picking up your rental van.
  • If your vehicle has one, pay particular attention to the safe operation of the tail lift.
  • Take notice of the height of the vehicle
  • Sit in the cab. When you are in a comfortable driving position look at each of the wing mirrors particularly the passenger side. If you cannot use the mirror without moving your position ask a companion or a member of our staff for help in adjusting the mirrors.
  • Adjust wing mirrors so that you can see the rear corner of the van.
  • Make sure that you are totally familiar with the location of the controls.
  • As with a car, you and your passengers are obliged to wear seat belts.
  • Become familiar with the size and feel of the van. Perhaps try some basic manoeuvres in a quiet, nearby side street.

Driving the van:

  • Plan your route. Large vans are not the type of vehicle to swerve across a motorway lane because you have missed a junction. To help you plan get a route from
  • Do not overload the van. It is illegal and highly dangerous for you and any passenger.
  • Know the height of the van. Watch out for height warning signs and overhead hazards such as low branches and archways on private estates and shop awnings.
  • The area on a rental van most likely sustain damage is mid way along its length. Allow for the length of the van when turning left or right. Turn too sharply and you may collide with a bollard or lamp post. Check your mirrors and swing out a little to give yourself more space.
  • When you are turning keep an eye on the mirror on the side closest to obstacles. If you feel you are going too close get out and check to see if you will be able to manoeuvre past the obstacle. If you cannot, reverse and swing out a little more.
  • Be especially careful when turning left into side roads. If the rear wheels run over the kerb edge you may strike a pedestrian waiting to cross the road.
  • Be very careful when entering or leaving fuel stations they can be a minefield for vans. It is not unknown for rental vans to simultaneously demolish a fuel pump with the offside and for the nearside rear corner to hit a car parked alongside the van. (By the way make sure you put in the right fuel. ALL OUR VANS ARE DIESEL!!)
  • Make use of the increased visibility from a higher driving position and remember to use your exterior mirrors more often than you do in a car.
  • Take tight bends slowly as tall vans can tip more easily due to their height and increased centre of gravity.
  • Taking bends quickly may cause your load to shift risking damage to your load and the van.
  • Control your speed and never follow other vehicles too closely, vans require a much greater braking distance especially when travelling at speed, carrying a heavy load or in wet or icy weather conditions.
  • Pay extra attention when reversing or parking and only attempt to do so if you are confident or, preferably, ask another person to guide you.
  • When you have asked someone to guide you ask them to make sure that they can see your mirrors at all time. If they cannot see your mirrors, you cannot see them. If the person disappears from view, STOP and assure yourself that they are safe.
  • Be extra careful when changing lanes or turning left or right, the van you are driving may have blind spots. Pay particular attention for motor cyclists and cyclists.
  • Pull up to junctions as near as possible at 90 degrees to the give way/stop line. If you turn the van slightly in the direction you intend turning you will create a very dangerous blind spot. When you come to pull out you will be trusting to luck, observation and the kindness of other drivers.
  • When undertaking any manoeuvre remember that you van will probably be slower than your car. Take that into account in all manoeuvres.
  • Cross winds can be very disconcerting and very dangerous.
  • If you see traffic signs warning of side winds or you feel the wind blowing against the side of the van SLOW DOWN. High winds can catch you unawares propelling you out of your lane.
  • When you are approaching a toll charge tunnel head for the correct booth vans generally attract a higher charge.
  • Whatever the manoeuvre, take a little extra time and care.
  • As you drive it will become more at ease and may become complacent, remember…over-confidence causes crashes!
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