The stereotype of the ‘white van man’ is under threat, due to a recent van buying renaissance where the van has broadened its appeal to women and for many occupational and leisure pursuits.
A study by Auto Trader shows that women now make up 32% of van owners. Female driving licence applications for a C1 or C1E licence, which entitles the holder to operate vehicles between 3,500 and 7,500kg, have increased by 29% over the last three years, suggesting it’s not just small white vans that are seeing more women in the driver’s seat. This new gender diversity reflects the growth of small internet businesses and the self-employed in both traditional and contemporary industries.
But it’s not just occupational needs that are fuelling demand for vans. Of the 1.4 million or so households in the UK that own a van, 40% of van owners claim they use the vehicle for other activities in addition to business purposes, such as weekend hobbies and activities.
Furthermore, the study (of 2,000 households) also found that that van drivers are more likely to read a broadsheet newspaper than a tabloid, and that the middle classes now make up 37% of all UK van drivers.
“The van has many benefits beyond couriering work equipment, and now with modern interiors, better technology and connectivity, and an overall driving experience that’s becoming more comfortable, car buyers are increasingly turning to vans to meet their occupational and lifestyle needs,” Auto Trader’s Editorial Director, Erin Baker, said.
The demand for vans to facilitate lifestyle and weekend hobbies, where the van is increasingly becoming considered a cost-effective alternative to larger cars or SUVs, could also explain the robust health of the used van market, which increased by 4.4% in Q3 2017. This is evident from the total volume of van searches on Auto Trader as well. Van advert views increased by 47% from January-October this year, with 10.5 million van adverts being viewed on average per month.
Erin Baker added: “Van drivers have probably suffered at the hands of the ‘white van driver’ stereotype for too long. But our study shows a revival for the van community which celebrates van drivers of all backgrounds, genders and ages – which is good news for everyone.”