What size van do I need?

If you run a small business and you work in one of the trades – perhaps you’re a carpenter, plumber, electrician, or you work in construction for instance – one of the biggest financial outgoings you’ll have is transport.

For trades, vans are one of the most practical and versatile vehicles and there are dozens of different makes and models from which to choose. To help you get started we’ll take a look at some of the main van types that are popular among the trades.

The compact van

Compact vans are increasing in popularity among traders who don’t require masses of storage space, but nevertheless need to move a few things about. A compact van nevertheless boasts a fairly decent load space and because it is close to being a car-based van it is also fairly economical to run. Look out for models like the Citroen Nemo, Fiat Fiorino or the Peugeot Bipper. A compact van generally has a payload of between 500kg - 600kg and is ideal for traversing and parking in small city spaces.

The small van

Whether you deliver parcels or flowers for a living, or you heave around a fair bit of kit to do your job, you’ll probably opt for a small van to go about your business. Load space is fairly generous and fuel economy is also decent at 40-50 mpg in the typical small van, which makes running costs manageable for the small business owner. A small van is also a straightforward drive thanks to its similarity to a car. Many buy or hire popular makes like the Ford Transit Connect, Vauxhall Combo or VW Caddy because of their generous 600kg - 800kg payloads.

The medium van

The payloads of medium vans vary between 900 kg - 1200 kg. Medium vans are handy for those who want a large load space that’s practical, which makes them a popular choice for the trades. A short wheelbase Ford Transit isn’t much bigger than a car, so it’s still easy enough to drive around a built-up area or a building site. Modern turbo-diesel engines provide fuel economy of 30 mpg - 38 mpg, which makes fuel consumption fairly reasonable for a vehicle of its size.

Long or extra long wheel-based van

If you’re shiting larger or heavier loads then the long-wheel-based van is the next obvious step up. In one of these you get around 9 cubic meters of load space and 3.5m of internal length as well as fairly high load space. Naturally payload is higher (between 1400kg - 1600kg), and running costs are too at 25 mpg - 35 mpg. Even as an experienced driver you’ll want to go easy on the bends, and make sure all your cargo is properly secured to stop yourself being thrown about.

Luton van

If you’re wondering what size van you need to move house, then the Luton van is your typical go-to moving vehicle. Professional removal companies for the average house move might elect the Luton van, but if you’re not sure just do a quick online search for a van size calculator and you will find several free tools that will help you determine the vehicle you need for the load. One of these vans permits you 2m of height and around a 1000 kg - 1200 kg payload. As with the long wheel-based van remember to go easy on the corners.

Dropside or tipper van

Dropside or tipper vans are most practical for construction workers who need to transport garden materials, building materials and scaffolding. In these vehicles the load can be easily released through a tipping mechanism, or unloaded by dropping down the side board of the vehicle. These features make loading and unloading very efficient as they minimise the manpower. Some dropside and tipper vans also have generous or double cab sizes that make transporting crew easy too.

Pick up van

If you need to rescue or transport other vehicles then a modern pick up van with a double cab (so you can transport the other vehicle’s passengers if needs be) is a popular choice. Loading space in a typical pick up 1.5m x 1.5m and supports a payload of 1,000 kg - 1,100 kg. Obviously pickups are towing vehicles, but if you’re hiring one for this purpose be sure to check you’re allowed to with the hire company. Purchasing a pickup might be your preferred option if that’s a common aspect of your work.

There’s a huge range of vans on the market, some of which are better for transporting crew than load, and others have a happy balance of the two. The best way to find out what suits your business is to try out a few options and get a handle on them before you make a big investment.

Running a small business requires more than a financial investment; it also demands big commitments in time, energy and your other resources, therefore you’ll want to make sure that your investment is looked after. Find out more about getting the right level of small business insurance  so you can put your mind at rest if things do go wrong.

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