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How to Choose the Right Van

Choosing the right van for the job is key, but with so many different options available it can be a challenging task.

Choosing the wrong vehicle can have a negative effect, for example choosing a van that's too small could impact vehicle and driver performance - the vehicle could be overloaded, or the driver could have to make too many trips. However, choosing vehicle that's too big can have a direct impact on the cost of your operation - larger vehicles are more expensive and less economical.

It's important that you have a good idea of what you want the vehicle to do and what you're going to be carrying. Our team of experts recommend you consider the following:

Load Length

How do you calculate load length? Consider the following:

  • Quantity of cargo
  • Size of cargo

What is the largest thing you're going to be transporting? E.g. a Euro pallet is 1200mm x 800mm.

How often is the largest thing being transported? Is it only required once a week, so could it be more cost effective to have it delivered by courier?

Could the item be stored on the roof during transit? This could result in a saving as you might be able to reduce the size of the vehicle you need.

Load Height

How do you calculate load height? Consider the following:

  • How an operator is expected to interact with the vehicle
  • Where the vehicle is expected to operate
  • The size and quantity of the cargo

Does an operator need to carry out work within the vehicle? The internal height should be adequate to allow the operator to work comfortably for a long period of time.

Is an operator required to access roof cargo? It can be extremely difficult for an operator to safely access roof equipment.

Will the vehicle be likely to operate in areas with height restrictions? Height restrictions can prevent vehicles from accessing certain areas, such as underground car parks. Working in an urban area could easily become quite difficult.

How often will you be transporting your largest cargo? Is it only required infrequently, so could it be more cost effective to have it delivered?


As a van operator, it's essential you are aware of the vehicle's maximum weight limits. It can be a confusing area, with some people mistaking the gross vehicle weight for how much the vehicle can carry.

The gross vehicle weight is the maximum total weight of the vehicle: which includes driver, any passengers, fuel, the vehicle itself, and any cargo you want to carry.

For example:

Gross Vehicle Weight 3,500kg
Unladen weight 1,800kg
Weight of passenger & driver (assume 85kg each) 170kg
Weight of fuel (100 litres = 1kg per litre) 100kg
Load that can be carried (Payload) 1,430kg


The drivetrain is how power from the engine is delivered to the wheels. Generally there are three available:

  • Front Wheel Drive: This sends power to the front wheels. This is the most common specified drivetrain, and best suited to vehicles that transport light to medium loads.
  • Rear Wheel Drive: This sends power to the rear wheels, and best suited to heavy cargos and vehicles that are required to frequently tow.
  • All Wheel Drive: Sends power to all wheels, which gives better traction on rough and slippery terrain.
Vehicle Usage Drivetrain
The vehicle operates solely on the public highways and does not go offroad FWD
The vehicle transports heavy cargo over the rear axle, putting the rear axle close to max weight RWD
The vehicle tows infrequently at low loads that are less than 60% of the allowance FWD / RWD
The vehicle tows frequently at high and variable loads RWD
The vehicle operates off road AWD
If the vehicle operates off road and is required to tow AWD


Will you be travelling inside a Low Emission Zone? Would you rather your business adopted a low carbon emission policy? Consider the following:

  • CO2 emissions of the vehicle
  • The fuel source of the vehicle - petrol, diesel or electric

Electric vans are generally more expensive to lease or buy, however the cost can be offset with lower running and maintenance costs, and lower taxation charges.

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