How to choose a van for your business?

29 Jan 2021 by Lisa Simm

Whether you are starting a new business, expanding your existing business or want to replace an old van, it is important you choose the right van for your business.

You not only need to think about how you use the van now but how you may use it in the future. Picking the wrong van can have an impact on how your business evolves and expands. So with so much riding on your choice, it can be hard making the decision.

Luckily we’re here to help and have put together this guide to help you make the best decision when choosing a van.

To get you started we take look at the different types of vans available below.

Different Types of Van

There are quite a few different types of van available. So if you are choosing your first van, then a good place to start if by finding out a bit more about the different types of van:

Panel Vans; are one of the most popular and versatile van types on our roads and are available in a wide range of body styles so provide a balance between load carrying and ease of driving.

The panel van is popular amongst a wide variety of trades from electrician and plumbers to delivery drivers. With small, medium and large panel vans available, there is good flexibility to get the right model no matter what your business needs.

Car-derived/compact vans; car-derived vans are built on the platform of a car, so offer good manoeuvrability. In car-derived vans the rear seats are removed to increase the load space, so you can still pack plenty in. It is the ideal option for light deliveries or self-employed tradespeople who only need to carry a few tools to each job.

car derived van

Small/light vans; small or light vans have a better load capacity than car-derived models, yet they are still easy to manoeuvre and can offer good fuel economy. Small/light vans tend to be favoured by trades with low load requirements.

Crew vans; crew vans come with an additional row of seating behind the front seats to enable you to carry additional passengers, making them ideal for work gangs. Many crew vans are modified panel vans which are also known as double cabs.

Specialist vans;

  • Curtain siders – the sides of the vehicle are made from canvas to make loading easier
  • Luton vans – have a box type body which extends over the top of the cab for additional space
  • Refrigerated vans – vans with refrigeration in the load space to enable you to keep items chilled, ideal for caterers or those transporting food
  • Tipper vans – a tipper van has hydraulic rams which can push the front load area up to make unloading loose items like soil or aggregates easier
  • Drop-side vans – have an open top with shallow sides which drop-down allowing you easy access to load

How to choose a van that is right for your needs?

One of the first things to consider when buying a van is your daily business needs, for example, the goods you will be carrying regularly. So it is essential to consider the payload.

Thinking about Payload

The payload is the maximum amount of weight you can carry in your van as specified by the manufacturer. Exceeding the payload of your van is illegal and can result in significant fines and even court action.

Fines for breaching payload:

  • minimum £100 Fixed Penalty Notice, rising to £300 if you exceed the limit by more than 15%
  • drivers exceeding their vehicle’s maximum payload by more than 30% face a potential court summons.

Overloading your van is also very dangerous as it can increase braking times, put undue pressure on the vehicle, especially the tyres and can affect the steering. So you must think about the kind of things you will be carrying regularly and work out what payload suits you best.

delivery driver with parcels in back of van

Quick payload guide to some common loads:

A dry bag of sand – 1330kg per cubic metre

Tin of paint – 7kg

Bag of cement – usually sold in 25kg or 50kg bags

If you very rarely carry heavy equipment, it might be more economical to buy a smaller van and hire a larger model if ever needed. However, if you know you plan to grow over the next year, it might be worth investing in a bigger van capable of carrying more now.

Load Space

So once you’ve thought about the weight of the loads you are likely to be carrying, you need to think about the load space you will need.

Generally smaller vans have a lower payload than bigger vans. So if you carry lightweight items, a small van may have the payload capacity you need. However, it may fail to offer the actual physical space you need if what you are carrying is lightweight but large.

The available space inside a van is often provided in litres or square metres. This can be quite an abstract figure and be difficult to visualise. Therefore, the best thing to do if you are unsure about the kind of load space the van may offer is to go and look at different types of vans to get a feel for the load area.

The importance of the wheelbase

The wheelbase of a van is the distance between the front and rear axles. The wheelbase has a direct impact on the length and capacity of a van. It can also impact the manoeuvrability of a van.

Some vans are available with different wheelbases (short, medium and long) to allow you to specify the right option for your business needs.

panel vans at quayside

So what about height?

The height of the van may also be a deciding factor, depending on what you will carry. For instance, a removal van is likely to need to have a good height to fit in larger items of furniture like a wardrobe. Whereas, someone carrying tools is unlikely to need so much height unless they wish to fit racking to permanently house equipment.

Most manufacturers’ offer three different roof heights; low, medium and high. Bear in mind though these heights are not necessarily standard across manufacturers. So it is a good idea to check specific measurements if comparing similar van types from different manufacturers.

What will your journey be like day to day?

Thinking about the types of journeys you will be making is essential as it can affect all kind of choices from what fuel is right for you to how manoeuvrable the van is.

If you regularly make long trips, diesel may likely be the best option for your van. However, those making shorter trips in more urban environments may prefer a petrol engine or even consider hybrid all fully-electric vans.

Another consideration is the manoeuvrability of the van. If you mainly drive in the city, you may need something more agile. You might also want to consider whether side loading doors will help you unload in tight spaces.

How Many Seats Do you Need?

Do you work mainly on your own or do you need to carry a whole team of workers? Again you may want to consider any planned expansion of your business. If you only have a couple of workers a van seating three will be adequate. However, if you know you will soon be taking on more workers you may want to consider opting for something with rear seating.

Bear in mind that extra seating eats into your load space, so you need to weigh up whether load or passenger space is more imperative. If you need both, then the only solution may be getting two vans.

You may also want to think about whether you will use the van personally at all, because this again may have an impact on your choice. For instance, a pick-up type van may offer decent cabin space for your family, yet have the load space and payload you need to manage your workload during the week.

fiat doblo passenger van

Thinking about Comfort

Gone are the days when having a van means putting up with uncomfortable journeys. Nowadays the majority of vans come equipped with car-like conveniences and comfort. But with so many features on offer, it is worth taking some time to consider what functions will benefit you.

If you regularly complete long journeys, then comfort is likely to be quite important. You may want to look at models which offer a good range of seat adjustability and lumbar support. Or if you have several different drivers, you may want to consider a van with memory seat settings.

However, if staying up to date is imperative to your business, a model with the latest infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is likely to be beneficial. Meanwhile, other functions like air conditioning, heated seats and steering wheel and automatic wipers and lights all help boost your comfort and convenience on the road.

Running Costs

We have touched on this briefly above, but you must think about running costs before committing to a purchase as not doing so can leave you out of pocket.

If you cover lots of miles, a diesel engine will likely remain the most effective choice when it comes to fuel. Newer diesel models are more efficient than ever before, so if diesel is likely to be your choice, you may want to consider a new model for better Benefit in Kind (BIK) tax rates.

For those driving in more urban environments, petrol is likely to be the most popular choice. Yet again the same holds true though. The newer the model, the more efficient it will be, so it may pay to spend a bit more initially.

However, those driving in urban environments may also need to consider potential charges as more cities look to introduce Clean Air Zones (CAZ). In a CAZ charges may apply for entering if your vehicle does not meet strict emissions. Such fees can add a significant burden to running costs, so are a factor to consider when looking to buy or upgrade a van.

Hybrid models are becoming increasingly popular with van owners and offer good flexibility, delivering emission-free power on short journeys, but they are still capable of going further when necessary.

Electric vans are the most economical choice, as recharging costs significantly less than re-fuelling (even when using public charging points). Also, the BIK rate is currently zero per cent, you don’t face charges for entering a CAZ and maintenance costs are lower.

Electric vans are likely to gain popularity in the coming years, especially with people driving from one destination and then home. However, they might not yet have the range to keep up with the schedule of busy delivery drivers having to navigate all day everyday.

Should you choose a new or used van?

Whether you decide to opt for a brand new or a used van may depend on your finances. Used vans are cheaper to buy outright than a new van. However, if you are looking for finance, you may find better deals on brand new models.

The important thing is to do your sums before you start looking at potential vans, so you know exactly how much you can afford. Therefore you should explore the different types of offers available to see which is best for your business.

At Stoneacre, we can offer personalised finance deals, so if you don’t see the right option, get in touch. Our team will then work with you to find a finance package that better suits your circumstances.

What is the right buying option?

When buying a commercial vehicle, you have a few options, including cash, finance or leasing.

CASH: You can pay cash outright and become the owner of the van immediately, the van becomes an asset of your van.

FINANCE: You apply for finance on your chosen vehicle to spread the cost over more affordable monthly payments. With personal contract purchase finance, you only pay towards a portion of the van’s worth so get lower monthly repayments. However, you face a larger balloon-type payment at the end of the agreement if you want to own the vehicle.

With hire purchase, the cost of the vehicle is spread evenly over the agreement. So once the final payment is made you own the van.

LEASING: Leasing is a popular option for businesses as it offers good flexibility. You can exchange the van at the end of the contract for a newer model which means if you plan to expand, you can change vehicles. Another plus of leasing is that it prevents you from having a depreciating asset on your books.

So which van will you choose?

Hopefully, this article has given you a good insight into the things you should consider when buying a van.

Here at Stoneacre, we can offer various vans from some of the most-trusted manufacturers, so you can rest assured in the quality whether buying new or used.

However, if you would like any further advice, you can get in touch with your local Stoneacre van centre. With years of experience in the industry, our friendly team can answer any specific questions you may have to ensure you get the right van at the right price for your business.

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