With so many options to choose from, finding a van that suits your needs and circumstances can sometimes be tricky.
It’s not as simple as leasing a car, where you usually pick one that you like and that’s it. With a van, it needs to be practical, too.
And depending on what you need it for will often define which van is right for you. But there are also other factors you should consider before deciding.
In this guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know, including what to look out for when searching for the right van, the different types of vans and sizes and the best van for your wants and needs.
Factors to consider before choosing a van
Before choosing a van, there are some things you need to consider to make sure it’s the right one for you.
The right size is obviously crucial when choosing the best van for you.
Do you regularly transport large or bulky objects? Do you often carry lots of items at once? If so, a medium-sized or big van may be best for you.
But if you only need it to transport a few smaller objects, then there’s no point overpaying for space you’re never going to use – so a small van could be your best option.
Do you have a headline figure or monthly budget in mind? Is your company VAT registered meaning you could claim up to 100% of the VAT back on your van lease? Do you want to lease without paying a deposit?
Having a budget in mind is important before you start shopping around. Without one, you may end up paying more than you’re comfortable with.
Read our complete guide to van leasing.
A payload is how much weight a vehicle can carry, including its passengers. It’s crucial to know the payload you need before choosing your van as not only is it illegal to exceed your maximum payload, but it’s also very dangerous for both you and other road users.
Accessibility applies to both the van and your surroundings. Do you need a van which can also double as a family vehicle? If so, a crew van with a second line of seats may be your best option.
You also need to consider whether you’ll be driving around tight streets or meet height or weight restrictions on your frequented journeys. If so, your hands may be tied to a small van or a pick-up truck.
If your journeys only consist of short trips around town, you may find that an all-electric van is a sensible option to help keep costs low.
Much like getting your payload right, finding a van with enough load space is equally important.
A van’s load space is often measured in litres or square metres, but remember, the width of the van will be smaller in parts to account for the rear wheel arches.
Locks and security
If you’re leaving items in your van overnight, extra security is highly advised. Some vans come with separate locking systems for the crew and load bay, making it tougher for thieves to break in.
Although it’s important to think about weight and dimensions, you shouldn’t forget you; the driver.
You’ll likely want a space that’s comfortable and appealing, especially if you’re spending a lot of time in your van.
Most vans nowadays have a spec which is fitted with luxury car-like amenities including leather seats, cruise control, reversing camera, sat-nav and air conditioning, all of which make driving and living with your van easier.
What are the different types of van and what are their typical dimensions?
When it comes to choosing what type of van you want, you have several options available.
A small van is perfect if you don’t need the loading bay of a medium-sized or large van but still want more space than an everyday car.
Because of their smaller stature, they’re usually well-powered but economical, making them both great around town or on longer jaunts.
Who would benefit from a small van?
Due to their compact size but still-generous load bay, most tradespeople would benefit from a small van, such as DJs, plumbers, electricians, roofers, sports coaches, local delivery drivers and videographers.
Small van dimensions
|Typical load space dimensions:||Length: 1.6 metres. Width: 1.3 metres. Height: 1.2 metres|
Three of the best small vans
The Peugeot Partner is a well-equipped small van which is both comfortable and great to drive.
It comes in two forms; Standard and Long, with the latter featuring 2.1 metres of load length and 1.2 metres of load height.
Depending on which model you choose, the Partner comes with an up to 1000kg of payload capacity and thanks to its 1.5-litre diesel or 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine choices, is great for both around town and the open road.
Based on the same platform as the Volkswagen Golf, the Caddy is the most up-to-date small van on the market.
With touchscreen tech, a smooth ride and plush interior, it dwarfs its competitors when it comes to the cabin.
And it terms of space, the longer Caddy Maxi still sits comfortably ahead of the industry average, with a 2.1-metre load length and 1.2-metre load height, although its 855kg payload is below what you’d expect from the top end of the market.
Ford Transit Connect
The Ford Transit Connect it’s undeniably the best drive in the small van market. Like most Fords, your connection to the road is unparalleled, and the sharp steering makes it a joy to pilot.
The interior isn’t to everyone’s tastes and seems a little outdated; however, on the long-wheel-base model, a monstrous 2.1 metres of load length and 1.5 metres of load width make it a great all-round workhorse.
Although not strictly a van, several pick-up trucks are classed as commercial vehicles thanks to their 1000kg payload capacity.
Once considered too American, pick-ups have fast become an alluring alternative to a van, thanks to their car creature comforts and added practicality.
Who would benefit from a pick-up truck?
Anyone who is thinking about a small or medium van may find a pick-up truck suits their needs.
With ample load space, large payload capacity and room for the family, it’s a great all-rounder, and they’re usually much better equipped than most vans.
Pick-up truck dimensions
|Typical load space dimensions:||Length: 1.5 metres. Width: 1.5 metres. Height: 0.5 metres|
Three of the best pick-up trucks
The Ford Ranger sets the bar when it comes to pick-up trucks. Sharp in styling and assured in drive, it’s the most popular truck on UK roads.
The Ranger comes in a variety of forms, from the entry-level two-seater to the family-friendly crew cab, it can be the vehicle you need it to be.
There’s also a huge range of spec inside, from a spartan, workhorse style trim to a luxury sports-minded finish with leather seats, touchscreen display, climate control and driver aids.
Read the complete Ford Ranger review.
Once a feature only found at farms and construction sites, the Toyota Hilux has built a reputation for incredible durability and reliability.
However, nowadays, it also features a more plush interior, with a slick touchscreen infotainment display, manual or auto gearbox and a modern and clutter-free cabin.
Like the Ranger, the Hilux comes in many forms and can be customised to your tastes, which gives it a big advantage over most vans.
The Mitsubishi L200 has been around for more than 40 years, and its development in that time is remarkable.
Still featuring a rugged, no-nonsense exterior, the Mitsubishi pick-up is ready to take on any terrain with switchable four-wheel drive, a low range gearbox and off-road assistance features.
And with a 1000kg payload as well as an impressive loading bay – even as a double cab – it’s proven itself to be a more than capable rival to almost any small or medium van.
A medium van is probably the most common type of van you see on the road. Perfect for almost any trade, it offers considerably more space than a small van but still returns good fuel economy and drive.
Typically, a medium van will have two loading areas – a sliding side panel and rear doors – and often comes equipped with room for three in the front.
Who would benefit from a medium van?
A medium-sized van is perfect if you need to transport bulkier or heavier items than would be suitable for a small van.
Most professions which require extra space, such as electricians, plumbers, painters and decorators, window cleaners, food transporters and landscapers would find benefit in a medium-sized van.
Medium van dimensions
|Typical load space dimensions:||Length: 2.4 metres. Width: 1.3 metres. Height: 1.5 metres|
Three of the best medium vans
Ford Transit Custom
Possibly the best-known medium van, the Ford Transit Custom is Britain’s best-selling van.
Like most Fords, it drives well and is extremely comfortable. And on top of that, it also boasts the largest payload capacity in its class – topping out at 1.5 tonnes – which is higher than many large vans.
In the short-wheel-base model, there’s also plenty of space, with 2.5 metres available in length, 1.7 metres in height and the same in width – all of which easily exceed the industry average.
With the Transit Custom, there’s also a huge range of customisation options available, including full interior redesigns and exterior body kits, such as the Sterling Automotive Transit Custom.
The Vauxhall Vivaro is a noble challenger to the Ford Transit Custom, albeit its ride is slightly less assured and there are fewer customisation options.
However, in terms of practicality, although the Vivaro only offers 1,000kg of payload capacity – 500kg less than the Transit – there’s still 2.5 metres available in length, 1.6 metres in width and 1.8 metres in height – which is slightly taller than the Transit.
The Volkswagen Transporter is something of a fan favourite. Released more than 60 years ago, it’s developed with the times; providing a comfortable ride and 2.0-litre powertrain producing 196bhp.
With a payload capacity of 1200kg, it doesn’t stand out against others such as the Ford Transit Custom, but it remains practical enough – featuring a 2.5-metre load length, 1.4-metre load width and 1.7-metre load height.
Most notably, though, is the Transporter’s ability to hold its value better than most in the medium-sized van market. So, it can turn out to be one of the cheapest options to lease or buy.
Read our complete guide to van depreciation below.
A large van is ideal for those who need more space or a bigger payload.
Typically, a large van’s payload sits between 1200kg and 1500kg and they offer, on average, almost an extra metre in load length.
That extra length makes large vans trickier to drive than a medium or small van, but like anything, once experienced enough, it’s almost hard to tell the difference.
Who would benefit from a large van?
A large van would be the ideal solution for those who haul longer, bulkier or heavier items than would be suitable for a medium-sized van, but don’t need the extra space a Luton Van offers, for example.
Construction workers or parcel delivery drivers often find that a large van is a solution to their needs.
Large van dimensions
|Typical load space dimensions:||Length: 3.3 metres. Width: 1.4 metres. Height: 1.65 metres|
Three of the best large vans
The Ford Transit van is one of the world’s best-known carriers. Thanks to its car-like interior, easy manoeuvrability and great driving feel, it’s still as popular now as it was at first release over 50 years ago.
It’s one of the most economical large vans available, too, ranging between 32 to 41mpg.
However, the Transit isn’t the biggest large van available, with a maximum payload of just over 2100kg – so if size is all that counts, you may want to look elsewhere.
Substantially more practical than the Ford Transit is the Volkswagen Crafter. With a more than a 2500kg payload and up to 4.8 metres in load length, 2.1 metres in load height and 1.8 metres in load length, the Crafter is one of the more spacious vans on the market.
Also, the Crafter offers almost untouched refinement in the large van world, packed full of features and tech which have become so popular in VW’s car range – including intelligent parking, ergonomic suspension seats and a touchscreen infotainment system.
As you’d expect from the three-pointed star, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a durable and high-quality van featuring many niceties not found towards the lower end of the large van price bracket.
A smooth and consistent nine-speed automatic gearbox opens your world to either a 2.1-litre diesel producing 143bhp or 163bhp, or a 190bhp V6 CDI.
The Sprinter also delivers on the practical front, with a max payload of over 3100kg and a max load length of 4.7 metres.
A crew van, as you may have guessed by its name, is a van designed to transport people as well as larger items than you’d be able to fit in a standard car.
Often designed as a minibus, it’s great if you need to transport a team of workers or want your van to double as a family vehicle, with the seats also removable if you need to carry larger items.
Who would benefit from a crew van?
Any profession which requires the transportation of a team would find the Crew Van most useful, such as construction or even a sports coach. However, it may also be the perfect compromise if you want to have a van and family vehicle in one.
Crew van dimensions
|Typical load space dimensions:||Length: 1.5 metres. Width: 1.4 metres. Height: 1.2 metres.|
Three of the best crew vans
A dropside van usually features an open-air loading bay which is surrounded by hinged boards which drop below the loading platform – hence the name, dropside.
It’s typically used to transport items which aren’t a weather risk, such as stone or soil, and thanks to its large load capacity, is an essential tool for many trades.
Who would benefit from a dropside van?
Those whose items don’t need protection from the elements are best suited with a dropside van thanks to their added space.
Landscapers, scaffolders and construction haulage companies can all find value in a dropside van.
Dropside van dimensions
|Typical load space dimensions:||Length: 3.4 metres. Width: 2 metres. Height: 0.3 metres.|
Three of the best dropside vans
A Luton van is a long-wheel-base van which comes with a large loading box attached.
Usually supplied with a hydraulic lift, a Luton van is much larger than most other vans, providing more space but therefore harder to manoeuvre.
Who would benefit from a Luton van?
Luton vans are widely used across delivery and removal trades, with the hydraulic lift allowing the easy lifting of heavy household items such as white goods.
Luton van dimensions
|Typical load space dimensions:||Length: 4 metres. Width: 2.2 metres. Height: 2.2 metres|
Three of the best Luton vans
Find the right van for you
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