In 2014 I'd been doing gardening work for about a year, and had thought about starting a van business to keep me going through the winter when gardening work tends to go quiet. So as an experiment while I was still doing gardening work, I did few van bookings by renting a van by the hour from what was then City Car Club. Doing it this way wasn't going to make it a viable business but it was a good way to see how it would work, and see how I felt about doing this kind of work. After a while I found out that an aquaintance was a member of a small group of people that shared the use of a van and that they had space for someone to join. So I joined this and started doing van work more regularly.
After a few months of using the shared van, I had a booking going from Bath to London. Unfortunately the van, which was quite old, lost it's exhaust pipe on the outskirts of Bath. Not Van OD's finest moment! I was able to get the van and the customer to Bath train station so she could get the train to London to meet her mother who was already on her way to London. So I waited outside Bath station for the recovery truck to arrive and get the van back to its home in Bristol.
While I was waiting for the recovery truck, I rang my friend who I'd arranged to visit while I was in London just to let him know what was happening. To my surprise he said "Well you know my friend Joel's got a van that he doesn't really use anymore?". So I spoke to Joel, who lives in London but was happy for me to borrow his van. At this point my priority was doing whatever I could to get my customer's belongings to her address in London as quickly as possible. So later that day I got the coach to London, and the following morning I drove Joel's van to Bristol, loaded it up from the other van and drove back to London to drop off at my customer's new address.
While I was having a drink with Joel that night he mentioned that he was thinking about selling the van and asked me if I was interested. At that point I didn't have any money to buy a van but he told me that was ok because he didn't really need the money at the moment and I could just pay it off as and when I was able to. What a lovely human.
So off the back of what felt like a disaster, I now had a van that I wouldn't have been able to get otherwise to properly start a business. Eight years on, in contrast to these chaotic beginnings, I have built up a business that continues to grow and has a reputation for reliability and professionalism. But after all, you've got to start somewhere.
If you need to move a large item, or even if you're doing a full house removal you might consider van hire, or using a van available from a car club, sometimes situated outside large shops such as Ikea or B&Q. Both of these options have advantages and disadvantages. Here's a breakdown of those pros and cons and why we think our "taxi for things" service covers all the bases.
|Van Hire||Car Club||Van OD|
|Experienced van driver|
|Pay per hour|
|Van comes to you|
|Choice of van sizes|
For most people, if they need to move a large object such as a piece of furniture or do a small house removal their initial reaction is to look into van hire. While this can sometimes be the cheapest option for long distance transport, for local transport a "man with van" service like ours usually works out cheaper and is far more convenient.
When you book a van with us, your van will arrive at the pickup location at the time you've booked and we'll only charge you for the time the van is being used for your booking. No need for time consuming travel halfway across town to pick up a van and return it again afterwards.
Traditional van hire companies require a deposit, which can be as much as £500 and have ID requirements, which in some cases are on a par with what you needed to join Blockbuster video (remember them?).
With a fleet of vans, and with most of our bookings being 1-2 hours there's a high chance we'll have a van available when you need it, even the same day. If you've ever tried to hire a van at the last minute, especially on a Saturday, you'll know it can be quite a challenge. (We know because we've tried!)
Help from our driver to load and unload is included in the price, meaning many of our customers can move house without even needing to rope in any friends to help for as little as £25. We can also provide additional helpers if needed.
If you've never driven a van before, driving and especially parking it in some of Bristol's narrow streets can be quite challenging, especially if it's on top of the stress of moving house. With us there's no need to worry, as our experienced drivers get your items safely to their destination.
Our drivers are highly experienced at "Van Tetris" - packing items to make the most efficient use of the space, and packing the van in a way that makes sure fragile items aren't damaged in transit.
Put the kettle, a few mugs and your tea making supplies in a separate box and clearly label it. When you need a well earned break you don't want to have to be digging through boxes to find these essential items.
When you've got everything into your new place, assemble your bed before you do anything else. Moving is exhausting, and you'll be glad you did this when you decide you've had enough and it's there waiting for you to collapse on.
Treat yourself to a takeaway. If there's one time you deserve a takeaway, moving day is it. If you're moving to a new area it's worth looking up what options there are beforehand.
Spread out heavy items like books over several boxes with lighter things in the top, otherwise you could end up with one box that's impossible to lift!
Use sturdy boxes or plastic crates and avoid using boxes that are too big as they may be awkward for one person to easily lift. Plastic crates are the best (and our favourite) because they stack really easily and you can put them on top of each other in any order without worrying about anything getting squashed. Don't trust the handles! Many cardboard boxes have handles on the sides, but it's usually best to hold boxes from the bottom just in case, especially if they've been used before. Office archive boxes are a popular choice for moving, but these boxes are generally quite weak and we've seen more than one customer end up with fragile items smashed on the floor because the bottom gave out. This can also be true with folding plastic crates if you put too many heavy things in them.
Rope in some friends or family to help. Even if you hire two movers to help you, it's still good to have extra pairs of hands especially if the place you're moving in to is up a few flights of stairs. If for example you are moving onto a fourth floor, if you have four people you can move things upstairs in relay doing one floor each. Beleive us it's much less tiring climbing one flight of stairs 20 times than climbing four flights 20 times! The only downside to this is that you will probably have to help them when they move!
Before you move, think about whether any furniture you want to move was built in the room where it lives. This is quite a common problem with flat-pack wardrobes, where once they are constructed they won't go out of the room whole, and it's easy to forget if it's a long time since you bought it.
Like most cities, if you're looking for man with van service in Bristol, there are quite a few to choose from. Services vary from literally one man with a van, to companies with a small fleet. So here's our guide for things to check to choose between them.
Check to see if they have received good reviews from previous customers. This might be on their Facebook page, or on their listing on sites like Yell. The quickest way to find this information is to Google their business name, or simply their phone number if they don't use a trading name. It's also worth asking around for personal recommendations.
There are 3 type of insurance a man with van service should have:
(1) Hire and Reward
Anyone who gets paid to move goods should have a vehicle policy that covers them for "hire and reward". These policies tend to be significantly more expensive since the assumption is that they're going to be doing a lot more driving than say, a plumber. If the vehicle is not covered by this type of policy then they are effectively uninsured should anything happen.
(2) Goods in Transit
It's also advisable to have "goods in transit" insurance which covers the items that are being transported. This normally covers accidental damage and damage in the event of vehicle crash, fire etc.
This insurance covers customers and members of the public against injury and usually also damage to buildings.
So it's worth asking if they have "hire and reward" insurance at a minimum and preferably the other two as well.
Whether it's advertised on their website or facebook page, or simply agreed over the phone, make sure you are clear on what you'll be paying, and whether it's a fixed price or by the hour. It's also worth checking what level of service you can expect, such as whether you're getting just the driver or two people to load the van, and if carrying items up/down stairs is included or extra. It's also worth being sure if the van you're getting is going to be big enough!