Getting a used van that fits your business as snug as one of Elvis’s jumpsuits is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make. The choice will totally depend on what your trade is as that will dictate how big it needs to be and how much weight you’ll be carrying. And how about those all-important running costs like insurance, fuel and repairs? It’s a tricky balancing act. So whether you’re new to the world of vans or just overwhelmed by the choice, here to help you is our guide to the vans around and the types of trade they suit.
Get measured up with van sizes
First things first, let’s quickly run through all the shapes and sizes of vans around.
To start with, what we think of as the archetypal van is the panel van which comes in small, medium and large sizes with a variety of length and height options to choose from and so they’re used by a whole range of trades from couriers and electricians right up to construction.
Car-derived or compact van:
Small but flexible and often used for light deliveries or by self-employed trades who don’t need to carry too much weight.
Small or light van:
Able to carry more than a car-derived van and compared to a panel van is usually easier to manoeuvreand generally leaner on fuel costs because of their size.
Crew van / Combi:
When you need to regularly drive a team around these are the perfect choice with two rows of seats – often used by road gangs and scaffolders.
A small two or four-wheel drive truck that has an open back with low sides. Delivering off-road capability and solid towing ability, they’re a good fit for gardening, landscaping and forestry work.
Some businesses require something a bit more specialised for their trade. From a load more space to greater access there’s a van to suit.
Vans with a large cube-shaped load area behind the cab. A favourite of couriers and delivery drivers who find that boxy shape handy for large parcels or bulkier loads.
A box type body that extends over the top of the cab to create extra load space compared to Box Vans – which explains the popularity with removal firms.
These are split into chiller and freezer models, so you need to know the right temperature range for what you’re carrying. And if you need to chill and freeze, there are some vehicles with dual compartments – so you don’t need two vans! A popular choice in catering, but chiller option also used by florists.
delivering huge access thanks to the sides being constructed from folding canvas making it a lot easier to load and unload large or heavy items.
Frequently used on construction sites A hydraulic ram raises the front load area up allowing heavy materials to literally be tipped on to the site.
Behind the cab these vans have an open top load area with shallow sides that drop down for easy access, so ideal for carrying and unloading bulky items/materials. Often used in building and horticulture trades.
Which van is right for your job?
The good news is that there are plenty of really good used van options out there. Now let’s see who delivers exactly what you need and name names!
Vans for Builders
Medium panel vans are definitely built with this trade in mind with good access and payloads of around one tonne. The Ford Transit L3, Volkswagen Transporter and Mercedes L2 Sprinter are very popular choices along with Peugeot Boxer L3 and the Renault Master LWB. Builders often opt for the versatility and ruggedness of a tipper carrying sand and stone to site. Tipper formats are available with models like the Citroen Relay, Renault Master, Ford Transit, VW Crafter and Vauxhall Movano.
Vans for Carpenters
This is one trade that demands a large number of tools to get the job done and even bigger demands on space if you ever want to carry sheets of wood. So it’s definitely worth checking if you can fit smaller sheets on the floor of the van between the wheel arches. Vans with good useable load space will be a must – and possibly high roof models for the really bulky items. Vans to look at will include more compact models like the NV200 and the Citroen Dispatch if you regularly work in a busy city with some narrow routes to navigate. Right up to models like the Fiat Ducato, Renault Trafic, VW Transporter T6, Vauxhall Vivaro and Ford Transit LWB.
Vans for Couriers
Some very specific requirement here with vans needing to combine the right capacity/payload, comfort and fuel economy for all that stop-start driving or long motorway journeys. There’s everything from smaller and economical vans like the very frugal Ford Fiesta or the Fiat Fiorino, through to the Citroen Berlingo and its sister van the Peugeot Partner (take a look at all those Royal Mail vans on the road). Other strong choices include the Vauxhall Combo, Fiat Doblo and Ford Transit Connect. And if you’re hauling more bulky, heavier items have a butchers at the Vauxhall Vivaro. For more help there’s our Vans for Couriers guide.
Vans for Electricians
Another trade where your choice depends on the scale of your typical jobs, but for a start the compact Ford Transit Connect is a big hit with sparkies as a solid all-rounder. For smaller scale jobs, some good choices include the Fiat Fiorino, Citroen Berlingo and VW Caddy. For larger-scale jobs, like a house build, then the amount you’ll be carrying means a medium van would suit you better – so that would include options like the Vauxhall Vivaro, VW Transporter and the Ford Transit Custom. But if you’re regularly carrying a whole load of kit, including ladders, then maybe go for a bigger van like the iconic Ford Transit or the popular Mercedes Sprinter.
Vans for Gardening & Landscaping
Again, demands here are very varied – and challenging – so a hard-working van like the Vauxhall Vivaro or Ford Transit will be essential. But if you’re regularly having to shift heavy tools as well as large amounts of soil, branches and foliage then a good old tipper makes sense. Everyone from Citroen and Renault to Ford, VW and Vauxhall have models in their ranges.
Or meet in the middle with a tough, versatile pick-up with the pulling power to tow any heavy machinery or trailers. Choices include the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200, Toyota Hilux, Isuzu D-Max, Volkswagen Amarok and the Nissan Navara.
Vans for Painters and Decorators
The key decision will be how big you go. You can go for all the convenience and economy of a smaller van that’s easy to park up and drive around town or narrow lanes and can be adapted with a roof rack to carry ladders. So some suggestion would be the Volkswagen Caddy, Citroen Berlingo and Fiat Doblo, each with plenty of room for all those brushes and tins. But if you do want to go bigger – and longer – have a look at the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter or the Peugeot Boxer with up to 17 cubic metres load space.
Vans for Plasterers The choice of van you’ll need will depend on the scale of jobs you take on and whether you have larger items like plasterboard panels delivered to where you’re working or if you actually carry them, so the list for you would extend from smaller vans like the Citroen Berlingo or Mercedes Citan up to bigger vans like the VW Transporter T6, Renault Trafic, Vauxhall Vivaro and Renault Master.
For more help on sizing up a van for you see our Payload Guide and Calculator.
When you want extra guidance, feel free to talk to our specialist dealer partners. They supply thousands of vans every year and with all their experience they’ll always be happy to help. Alternatively, search for your latest van, here.