Types of Vans: What You Need to Know

Despite declining auto sales, the light truck segment saw over 9% more vehicles sold compared to last year. This classification, which includes vans, minivans, and SUVs, made up 80% of motor vehicle sales in February 2023.

Vans are a popular choice for both leisure and commercial activities. That means you’ll find a great deal of diversity to choose from if you decide to buy a van.

Keep reading to find out more about the different types of vans to help you decide.

Chassis Van

Chassis vans are the most basic type of van. These vans roll off the factory floor with nothing more than a cab and a ladder chassis.

They’re the foundation for a wide range of van conversions, including RVs, ambulances, and food trucks. Most van manufacturers sell these types of vans, but the best-known ones are:

  • Ford
  • Freightliner
  • GM
  • Hino
  • Isuzu
  • Kenworth

Flatbed Vans

A flatbed van is an extension of a chassis van, with a cargo space over the ladder chassis and no roof. The cargo space is shallow, although it’s longer than that of a pickup truck.

Flatbed vans aren’t much use for keeping goods secure, but they’re a good choice for hauling tall items. As such, they’re common in the building trade.

These vans typically weigh over 3,500 kg, and you’ll need an upgraded driving license for the larger ones. They’re another popular choice for conversions.

The most popular upgrades for flatbed vans are:

Tipper Trucks

Tipper vans are little more than a flatbed with a hydraulic mechanism for lifting and tipping the load area from front to back.

These vans work very well in the gardening and construction industries, where you might want to offload large quantities of aggregate or materials.

Dropside Vans

Another version of the flatbed van, the dropside van, has sides that flip down for offloading cargo. Tradespeople favor these vans for transporting and offloading heavy, bulky items with ease.

Mercedes-Benz, Ford, and Iveco are the most prominent manufacturers of flatbed vans.


Pickups are popular for business and leisure. Farmers, hunters, and tradespeople alike rely on pickup trucks to earn their daily bread.

They have an open-sided load space behind the cab, and you can choose from a single or double cab.

Many pickups, like the 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter, have a 4×4 transmission. These vehicles are a popular base for van conversions for comfortable off-road adventures.

Some of the best-known ones include:

  • Volkswagen Amarok
  • Toyota Hilux
  • Ford Ranger
  • Mitsubishi L200

Many of the most popular pickup trucks feature a host of advanced electronics and convenient extras, as well as superior offroad performance.

Soft and hard tonneau covers serve to protect items transported on the back of a pickup truck, but you have to order these separately.


Campervans are a type of RV, with a small living room, a kitchen, and a simple sleeping area. They’re becoming a popular choice for vacations, as hotel prices soar by 6% to 8% this year.

You can choose between ready-made or custom-built campervans, or even DIY the conversion if you’re extremely budget conscious.

Unlike large, expensive RVs, camper vans are easy to park and drive and provide a cozy haven at the end of the day.

Nowadays, you can arrange for a campervan conversion on almost any type of van, but the most popular models for this are:

  • Mercedes Sprinter
  • Ford Transit
  • Volkswagen Transporter
  • Renault Trafic
  • Fiat Ducato

Panel Vans

Panel vans are one of the most common types of vans on the road today. They’re known for having no windows along the sides or back, and are an excellent choice for transporting goods securely.

These vans are low to the ground, so they’re great for small light loads, but their enclosed cargo area makes them unsuited for transporting bulky, heavy loads.

Access to the cargo area is via a side sliding door or hinged back door.

You can choose from the following options when buying a panel van:

  • Low roof
  • High roof
  • Long-wheelbase
  • Medium wheelbase
  • Short wheelbase

The term ‘wheelbase’ refers to the distance between the front and back of the van.

Panel vans are a top choice for delivery vans and can haul loads of up to 2,500 lbs.

You can use them as mobile offices, storage facilities, or food trucks. You can change the interior to suit your needs and even add workstations, shelving units, and storage to the design.

Popular panel van models include the Ford Transit and the Volkswagen Transporter.

Luton and Box Vans

Luton and box vans are like panel vans, except they don’t have wheel arches. This helps maximize the interior space of the van, but they’re higher off the ground than panel vans.

To compensate for the extra height, luton, and box vans may have a loading platform that you can lower and raise as required.

Luton vans have an extra storage area above the cab of the vehicle.

Cargo Vans

Cargo vans can transport both freight and passengers. They usually have a passenger compartment in front, and a cargo area in the back.

They have sliding doors on one side and high rooflines for transporting large items like building supplies or furniture.

Some have shelving units to store smaller items more easily. This setup works well for large-scale deliveries.

Moving companies and shuttle services often use cargo vans in their daily operations.

Crew Vans

A crew van is basically a box van modified to transport people. These vans typically have a large hinged back door for loading and unloading goods.

They perform well when used as shuttle vehicles or for transporting employees for work purposes. Crew vans are less costly than cargo vans, but they lack the storage capacity of the former type of van.

Passenger Van

These vans look like cargo vans except they have side windows and several rows of seats. They have tall, boxy bodies, which create ample interior space.

Passenger vans also go by the name Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPVs) or People Carriers and may have between five and seven seats.

Mini Van

A minivan is a passenger van with seven or eight seats and a sliding door on the side. They’re an effective way to transport children, work commuters, or employees.

These vans may have shelves and storage and work well when used as small mobile offices.

These are the best-selling minivans nowadays:

  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Kia Carnival
  • Toyota Sienna


Minibusses usually fall into the category of multi-purpose vehicles. These vans can transport between nine and seventeen people at a time.

You need a permit and upgraded driving license to drive a minibus with passengers unless you’re doing it for free. If you’re not receiving compensation from the passengers, you can transport up to sixteen people with your normal driving license.

Minibuses have limited space for cargo and are an effective solution for school drop-offs, sports teams, or airport transfers.

Major auto manufacturers like Ford, Mercedes, and Iveco all make minibusses.

Car Derived Vans

Car-derived vans are a type of van/car hybrid. They look exactly like the original car minus the rear passenger seats and windows.

These small, compact vehicles have a maximum load weight of 2 tonnes and are an effective solution for small deliveries in cities and towns. Examples of car-derived vans include the Vauxhall Corsavan and Ford Fiesta van.

Step Van

As their name suggests, step vans have two or three stairs to allow easy access to the vehicle from a side door. Like passenger vans, these vehicles may contain both seats and a cargo area.

They’re a good option for deliveries or for use as shuttles. You can equip the interior to serve as an ambulance, office, or delivery vehicle.

These large vans provide plenty of choices for business owners wanting to mobilize their workforce.

Morgan Olson is the major manufacturer of step vans, but Mercedes Benz also has a step van model.

City Van

City vans are easy to maneuver and park on narrow city streets and parking lots or garages. They’re made for transporting staff, equipment, and products.

They’re unsuited to transporting large groups of people and the narrow tailgate doesn’t open as wide as other, larger cargo vans.

You can customize a city van to accommodate larger loads by adding storage options to the original design.

Club Van

Club vans have a longer wheelbase than city vans and also serve to transport both cargo and passengers. They’re ideal for moving small groups of people incognito but lack the luxury finishes for VIP transportation.

Due to their extra size, club vans are slower and more challenging to handle in small areas.

Refrigerated Vans

Refrigerated vans play a prominent role in the food and medical logistics industries. They keep produce cool in transit and are a popular option for medication and food deliveries.

Some models are flexible enough to accommodate sections for chilling and freezing foods as well as an ambient section.

These vans have an airtight cargo compartment with a compressor that removes hot air from inside the storage area. High-grade insulation prevents hot air generated by the van or the environment from entering the cargo hold.

Manufacturers attach the cooling unit to the top of the van, under the bonnet, or the chassis.

Mobile Catering Vans

Food trucks are all the rage right now, with vendors selling their produce from all manner of vehicle conversions. Vans are perfectly suited to this job, whether you’re selling coffee, ice cream, or hot meals.

Ice cream vans may contain a freezer, counter space, and a soft-serve machine. Food trucks usually feature a mini onboard kitchen.

These vans usually have a side panel that works as a serving hatch for customers.

Other Ways to Classify the Types of Vans

In most cases, manufacturers classify vans simply as small, medium, and large, but there are a few other ways to tell the difference between them.

According to Regulation 2019/631, all cars and vans must cut their CO² emissions completely by 2035. So, it makes sense that you can further classify vans according to their fuel sources.

In this regard, vans fall into the following eco-friendly categories:

Electric Vans

Electric vans operate on battery power alone and you must recharge them after a certain number of hours on the road. You can do this at EV stations dotted around the country, or buy your charging unit.

The following are examples of electric vans:

  • Nissan e-NV200
  • Peugeot Partner Electric
  • Citroen Berlingo Electric
  • Renault Kangoo ZE

Electric vans aren’t yet suited to long-distance deliveries but they’re an excellent, cost-saving way to transport goods around town.

Hybrid Vans

Like hybrid cars, hybrid vans run on a combination of two motors. They have a gasoline-powered engine as well as one that operates on battery power alone.

A range extender hybrid uses a gasoline engine to recharge the batteries while the electric motor drives the wheels. Plug-in hybrids use either of the engines to drive the wheels.

Ordinary hybrid vans have smaller batteries and are best suited to short trips as they can’t go very far on battery power alone.

Choosing Your Van

It makes sense to consider all the available types of vans according to your priorities. Choosing the right van for the job will enhance your convenience and save you money in the long term.

Some things to take into account include your budget, cargo expectations, and passenger preferences. While you can customize your van to a degree, it’s always best to start out with the correct platform for your needs.

Are you interested in streamlining your business performance? Would you like to explore more travel options?

Continue browsing our website for an awesome variety of useful information.

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