Reviewed for 2018
If you’re currently wondering what van you should buy, then we’re here to help. With so many different business vans on the market, deciding on the right one for your needs can be tricky.
Whether it’s price, size, wheelbase or mileage, there are a number of factors that come into play when making a decision. And depending on your trade or business, a van is likely to be one of your biggest investments and most important assets.
- The best self-employed business ideas
- 12 Google suggestions that are ridiculously unfair on tradesmen
- How to register as self-employed with HMRC
- Do I need public liability insurance?
But before you get your search started, there are a few important questions that you need to keep in mind.
Brand new or used van?
Firstly, set yourself a budget. The best business vans on the market can cost a small fortune, and failing to set yourself a maximum price could see you forking out more than you can afford.
New vans are, of course, significantly more expensive, but that doesn’t mean you should rule them out.
Commercial vehicles are built to last - well, they’re supposed to be - and this means you should be able to get plenty of years work out of any new van. And this is important given your van will likely take plenty of punishment, including long drives up and down the motorway.
Keep this in mind if you’re considering a second-hand van. Whilst vans are sturdy and reliable, the chances are it’s been put through its paces. The mileage may be an indication of how hard it’s been worked, but you’ll want to conduct a thorough inspection of any used van before making a purchase.
How big does your van need to be?
You’ll also need to decide on the size of van you’re after. If you’re going to be shifting heavy items, from furniture to plant machinery, then you’ll need a larger van with a high payload capacity (the maximum weight a van can transport).
Similarly, if space is important then you’ll be after a high capacity van, while a long wheelbase vehicle will be essential for the likes of scaffolders.
If, however, you’re only likely to be working on private jobs where tools and materials are minimal, a small or medium van should suffice.
Do I really need a van?
The final question you should ask yourself is ‘should I get a van?’
Wanting and needing a van are two different things, and knowing the difference could save you thousands of pounds. If you’re just starting out, consider using your existing vehicle for a period to see how it goes.
Once you’ve built a steady customer base and it becomes clear a car will no longer cut it, then go out and get yourself a commercial vehicle. Buying an expensive van before testing the water is risky, they’re a huge investment - especially when you’re just starting out - and like most vehicles, struggle to hold value.
The best commercial vans on the market
Choosing the right van for your business is crucial, and your specific needs will determine the ‘best’ van on the market. We’ve taken a look at some of the best small, medium and large vans below.
Best small van
Although small van sales have dipped in recent years (thanks mainly to the popular shift to medium-sized commercial vans), their fuel efficiency and lower prices still make these some of the best business vehicles on the market.
Ford Transit Connect
For a long time, the Ford Transit Connect has been a firm favourite for small van drivers. Comfortable, good to drive and reasonably economical, it’s no wonder the Transit Connect is ranked as one of the best small vans on the market. You’ll also get a reasonable bang for your buck, with the likes of DAB radio and USB ports as standard on newer models.
Fiat Doblo Cargo
The first small van to offer a one-tonne payload, the Doblo Cargo still suffers from lingering doubts about its build quality and reliability. But realistically, this van offers excellent capacity for its size (depending on model) and boasts a better mpg than many of its competitors.
Certainly one of the better looking vans out there, the Caddy also boasts an interior far more modern in feel than many of its equivalents. While all this means that the van tends to hold its value well, that’s also reflected in cost - expect to pay a small fortune for the Caddy both new and used.
Also worth a look:
- Renault Kangoo
- Peugeot Partner
- Vauxhall Combo
- Citroen Berlingo
Best medium van
Medium-sized vans are now the most popular size of commercial van in the UK. Big and sturdy enough to deal with all but the most specialist of trades, they offer a happy medium of space and performance.
Volkswagen Transporter T6
The sixth instalment of what has always been a highly popular van with the self-employed - so popular in fact, that it’s sold over 12 million units since the first Transporter was released. Efficient, practical and with a touchscreen display as standard, the van recently won the Autoexpress.co.uk Van of the Year.
Ford Transit Custom
The best-selling commercial vehicle in the UK, the Transit is now something of an institution. And it’s not hard to see why - the Transit is affordable (from purchase through to insurance and running costs) and drives well. You may want to push the boat out for a premium model, however, as the basic Custom is, well, basic.
You know what you’re getting with a Mercedes van - build quality, exceptional safety and a driving experience better than most. You’ll get a lot of features as standard, but the Vito does sit at the higher end of the price spectrum. The lack of a high-roof model may also put some off.
Also worth a look:
- Vauxhall Vivaro
- Nissan NV300
- Citroen Dispatch
- Renault Trafic
Best big van
Most people who decide to buy a big van, know they need a big van. Usually pricier than their mid-sized cousins, big vans offer a huge amount of variety, so you should be able to get a vehicle that suits your exact needs - whether that’s a specific capacity, payload or wheelbase.
The original in the Transit series, this large Ford model offers unparalleled comfort on long drives. Admittedly you can find vans with better payload attributes, but the Transit’s engine is still a major selling point if you’re not after the best payload on the market.
Another long-time favourite with big van drivers in the UK, the Sprinter offers a premium feel and comes with a desireable 4x4 transmission on the smaller models. Sprinter drivers have come to expect a good level of onboard tech as standard, while a high driving position gives a good view of the road.
The Ducato won’t be everyone’s favourite large van, but it does have some huge selling points. Its payload is up there with any large van, and it’s extremely fuel efficient - Fiat claim it will do over 44mpg. For drivers wanting the best ride possible, the Ducato might not be top of your list, but the 3.5t van’s 1,655kg payload rating is mightily impressive.
Also worth a look:
- Volkswagen Crafter
- Vauxhall Movano
- Renault Master
- Nissan NV400
Commercial vehicle leasing
Another option for those unsure about buying a business vehicle is to lease. This could be a good option if you’re struggling to find a big lump sum to buy a van, as you can instead stage the payments over a fixed-term contract. Many of the maintenance costs could also be covered by the leasing company.
If you’re unsure, check out our guide on whether you should buy or lease your business van.
This article is just a guide. Before making any purchase you should conduct your own thorough research.
Looking for self-employed insurance?
With Simply Business you can build a single self employed insurance policy combining the covers that are relevant to you. Whether it’s public liability insurance, professional indemnity or whatever else you need, we’ll run you a quick quote online, and let you decide if we’re a good fit.