What Size Van Should I Get?

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Last Updated on December 31, 2020

We’ve all fantasized about getting a van at some point – either for that landscape business you’ve always planned on starting or undergoing a radical lifestyle change whereby you sell your house and travel around the world on 4 wheels.

When you have your very own van, the possibilities are endless!

But if you are planning on picking up a larger vehicle for transportation, you’ll already be plagued by numerous questions.

Questions like: how much space will you need in the van? How many seats should you have? What kind of van has the most power and how much can you modify your van?

Well, van-lifers and business owners need not worry, because we’re going to give you a better insight into the world of vans and which van will be suitable for your specific needs.

Whether you’re using it to get your produce from A to B or you’re thinking of traveling from one end of the globe to another, by the end of this article, you’ll know which is the right vehicle for you.

What Size Van Should I Get?

What Will You Be Using Your Van For?

If it’s a business that you’re planning on using your van for, then you’ll need to first figure out how much of a payload you’ll be looking to deliver.

If you’re going to be delivering larger construction materials, for example, then you’ll be needing a larger van that can carry and balance heavy items.

The payload of a van is the maximum amount that a van can safely carry.

This is usually specified by the manufacturer. Here is a list of average weights and sizes of some materials that are often transported by road:

  • Bag of sand – 1330 kg per cubic meter
  • Pallet – 1200 x 800 mm
  • A bale of hay – 225 kg per cubic meter
  • Bag of cement – 25 kg or 50 kg
  • Sheet of MDF – 2440 x 1220 x 15 mm
  • Bag of potatoes – 50 kg
  • Tin of paint – 7 kg

It will be worth finding some estimates of these items and adding them all together until you have a total weight. Then you can run this against the maximum payload specified by the van manufacturer.

The amount that a van can carry is usually measured in liters or square meters. If you know that you’ll be transporting a lot of items, then you’ll probably want to buy a van with a larger capacity.

You’ll also need to consider how your payload will be accessed. If you have a lot of heavy pallets, you might want to think about having a ramp that can be retracted into the body of the van itself.

However, if your van is going to be parked in a variety of different locations, then you’ll probably want a door on the side as well as the back, for extra versatility.

How Many Seats Will You Need In Your Van?

Calculating the number of seats you plan on having in your van will depend on the number of passengers that you’ll want to carry.

If you have a team of people in a workforce that will be using your van, for example, then you might need a row of seats in the back.

However, if you are using the back of the van as a living space, then seats won’t be ideal, except for one front and one passenger seat.

You can choose to remove all the excess materials from the back of your van and have a bed fitted too. If you are planning on using your van as a living quarters, we’d recommend the more space, the better.

You’ll also need to think about the comfort of your driver. If you are going to be driving a short distance, then seat comfort might not matter too much.

However, if you’re doing long haul driving for hours, then a comfortable seat will be crucial for avoiding aches, pains and more serious conditions like sciatica that will develop after repeated driving.

You’ll also need to think about the types of journeys that your van will be taking. Short trips in urban areas will be less stressful on a van’s suspension than long drives across variable terrain such as gravel or dirt path.

If you are carrying people or objects will also make a difference in the size of the van you’ll want. People are generally lighter than furniture and building supplies, so you’ll probably want a larger, more heavy-duty van for shipping the latter.

What Kinds Of Van Can You Buy?

Car-derived Or Compact Vans

These types of van are often built on the platform of a car, with seats removed in the back to create more load space.

You can use these car-derived vans for lighter deliveries such as catering and small payloads.

You can also use it if you’re a self-employed tradesman and need something in which they can transport their tools.

Small Vans

These vans can carry a much heavier payload than a car-derived van.

These vans are much easier to maneuver, coming in models that are generally more efficient on fuel.

Fuel costs will be very important if you’re planning on doing a lot of long-distance driving.

Small vans are favored by people in professions that require a small amount of gear, such as plumbers, florists and photographers.

Specialist Vans

These kinds of vans are specially adapted for professional use and have unique features that enable the transportation of delicate goods.

Here are a few examples of specialist vans, along with the purpose that they usually serve:

  • Luton vans – these are popular with removal firms, with an extendable body that gives you extra load space.
  • Refrigerated vans – these have onboard refrigeration units that are most often used by catering firms to keep certain foods chilled on a way to a venue.
  • Curtain-side vans – the sides are this van are made from canvas that facilitates easy loading, perfect if the entire side of a vehicle is needed.
  • Tippers – This has a hydraulic ram that pushes the front load area upward. They are useful for transporting and delivering heavy materials directly onto a specific site e.g. construction sites.


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