Businesses large and small are finding that work vans are one of the most versatile options for rounding out their fleet of vehicles.
While cars, pickup trucks, and heavy-duty trucks are still a big part of what makes a fleet tick, work vans are bridging the gap between fuel economy, maneuverability, and cargo handling.
In this article, we discuss the best work vans for small businesses to help you find the right one for your fleet.
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How To Pick The Right Work Van
Before we start breaking down the features of each work van option, let’s start by going over some of the criteria business owners and fleet managers should look at when deciding which option is right for them.
There is no definitive best “one size fits all” work van. It all comes down to the unique needs of the individual business. For example, a catering company has very different needs than an HVAC repair company.
With that in mind, here are the essential factors any company in the market for work vans needs to consider.
Of course, the most basic and critical requirement in selecting a work van is that it has to be able to carry the load that your business needs it to carry. However, there are a lot of specific things to consider under the general umbrella of “carrying capacity.”
How many cubic feet of interior cargo space does the van have? What is the roof height? Can it be fitted with extra rows of seats to accommodate larger work crews? What is its towing capacity? What is the maximum payload weight?
Depending on the type of business you’re in and the type of tasks you need your work vans to perform, some of these considerations might be more or less important than others.
For example, a company that wants to use its work vans to deliver small items probably doesn’t need to worry about roof height as much as a company that will need to carry bulky items like water heater tanks.
In the same way, many businesses will never tow anything with their work vans, while for a landscaping company that needs to bring lawn mowers on trailers to a job site, towing capability is an essential criterion for selecting the right vehicle.
Door And Interior Configuration
A closely related consideration to carrying capacity is door and interior configuration.
The number, size, and type of doors matter more than you may think. Simply put, it doesn’t matter how much your work vans can carry if it’s difficult or impossible for your employees to load and unload them.
Depending on the type of business you’re in, you may also need “uplifts” for your work vans — specialty interior options, such as refrigeration equipment. You’ll need to look into the availability and cost of these options for each type of work van on your list.
Safety should be a top concern for any business that operates a vehicle fleet. Road accidents are a leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States. And repair costs, insurance premium hikes, and legal bills after accidents can cost your business severely.
Although you can expect any modern work van to have the same standard safety features as passenger cars, such as anti-lock brakes and airbags, some go the extra mile in keeping your employees safe on the road with advanced driver-assist systems.
While no driver-assist system can take the place of hiring and training safe drivers, advanced safety features can still be a good investment.
The cost of gas to fuel your fleet looms large in the mind of any business owner who relies on a fleet of company vehicles to keep their business running. Fuel efficiency will be a major concern for most small businesses looking to acquire work vans.
As you compare the specifications of various work van options, you may notice that many vehicles in the class get very similar gas mileage, maybe even only a single mile per gallon apart.
However, you have to keep the big picture in mind. When you’re operating five, 10, or maybe 20 vehicles and putting thousands of miles on them each week for years to come, that seemingly small difference in fuel efficiency really adds up.
You should also remember that the fuel efficiency specifications that vehicle manufacturers report to the EPA and market to buyers always represent a best-case scenario. In real life, most vehicles of any class rarely achieve their claimed EPA mileage.
This is why it can be helpful to get impressions from other business owners or fleet managers who already operate the vehicles you’re considering. Any effective fleet operation will already be closely tracking gas mileage, so you can find out what to expect in real-world conditions.
As electric vehicles (EVs) continue to gain popularity, some manufacturers are introducing electrically-powered work vans. When considering EVs, be sure to consider range and research how widely available charging infrastructure is in the area where your fleet will be operating.
Available All Wheel Drive
If your fleet is going to be operating in areas where severe weather conditions can be expected for a significant part of the year, then four-wheel drive for your work vans can be a highly desirable feature, if not an essential one.
Four-wheel drive might also be a feature worth having if your fleet vehicles are required to regularly operate off of paved roads, such as in rural areas.
Keep in mind that all-wheel drive will almost certainly increase the price of the vehicle and tends to also have a slight negative impact on gas mileage. So be realistic about whether it would actually be enough of an advantage to be worth the added costs.
Good fleet managers are always looking for more data they can use to optimize every aspect of their fleet operations. Knowing exactly where all of your vehicles are at all times can bring you greater peace of mind.
Fleet telematics is the process of using onboard diagnostic equipment and cellular or Wi-Fi data to constantly collect data on a vehicle’s location, speed, and condition and transmit it to be reviewed via a desktop or mobile app.
Using fleet telematics can help you monitor driver behavior, improve the efficiency of your fleet’s routes, and optimize your preventative maintenance schedule.
There are many fleet telematics systems available. Some work vans come with factory-installed telematics equipment. So, if you plan to utilize fleet telematics, research compatibility for all of the work van models you’re considering.
Every business has a budget. Picking the right work van for your company is an exercise in figuring out how to get the most for your money, not just picking the option with the best specs and most features.
However, properly weighing cost as a criterion takes more than just looking at the “sticker price” of each model you’re considering. To get a more complete picture of which work van is the best deal for your business, analyze the total cost of ownership and cost per mile for each option.
The total cost of ownership for each vehicle in your fleet can be calculated with the formula:
Total Cost Of Ownership = Fixed Vehicle Costs + Variable Vehicle Costs.
Fixed vehicle costs include things like the cost of acquisition and what you’ll need to pay for insurance, licensing, and permitting. Variable vehicle costs are things like the cost of fuel and maintenance.
By dividing the total cost of ownership each month by the number of miles you expect the vehicle to drive each month, you can determine the cost per mile.
Doing calculations like these can give you a deeper insight into which work van is actually the most cost-effective option for your business.
Now that we’ve reviewed how to pick the right work van for your business, let’s look at some of the top ones you can choose from.
Best Work Vans For Small Businesses
1) Ford Transit Cargo Van
The full-sized Ford Transit Cargo Van is one of the best-selling work vans in America.
This van comes standard with a 10-speed automatic transmission and a choice of engine options to suit all your needs.
You can also configure the van with a second row of seats so your crew can ride with you.
Even with that extra row, the van has plenty of room for racks, bins, storage utility, equipment, tools, and anything else you could need.
The Ford Transit Cargo Van also offers several vehicle configuration options, including:
- Three roof heights (83.6”, 100.8”, 110.1”)
- Three body lengths (Regular, Long, Extended)
- Two wheelbases (130.0” and 148.0”)
- Three engines
- Optional All Wheel Drive
Ford also offers factory-installed telematics so you can monitor your fleet with ease.
2) GMC Savana Cargo Van
The GMC Savana Cargo Van retains the shape that traditional work vans have had for years, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less capable.
With competitive payload and towing capacities, available extended wheelbase, and a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, the GMC Savana Cargo Van is ready for whatever the job requires.
Feature highlights include:
- 283.6 cubic feet of cargo space
- Three engines
- Advanced safety features
- 2500 and 3500 models
- Swing-out passenger side doors
- Spray-in cargo liner
And, if you’re concerned about keeping your fleet fueled, the GMC Savana Cargo Van has the largest fuel tank capacity on the list at 31 gallons (along with the Chevy Express Cargo Van).
3) Chevrolet Express Cargo Van
The Chevrolet Express Cargo Van is similar in size, shape, and performance to the GMC Savana Cargo Van.
The Express has been around so long, chances are that everyone on your team has driven one at some point in their life. That type of familiarity is certainly beneficial when it comes to taking the van onto the job site.
In addition to its well-established reputation, the Express gives you the choice between two wheelbases and four engine types.
Like the GMC Savana, the Express only comes in one roof height (cab high), but unless your team hauls lots of tall equipment, wants the maximum cargo capacity, or needs the ability to stand up inside, the roof height isn’t an issue.
Other features include:
- Available 464 foot-pounds max torque
- Choice of three engines (two gas, one diesel)
- Standard rear swing-out doors
- Available sliding side cargo door
- Available 401 max horsepower
- 4,280 pounds max payload
The Express also offers a choice of two transmission options for all of your hauling and towing needs.
4) Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van
The fourth entry on our list of the best work vans for small businesses is the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van.
The Sprinter comes in four configurations:
- 144” wheelbase with standard roof
- 144” wheelbase with high roof
- 170” wheelbase with high roof
- 170” wheelbase with extended body and high roof
Depending on your business needs, you can choose from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine or a 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel engine.
The Sprinter Cargo Van even comes with optional four-wheel drive to get your team through all types of terrain.
5) Freightliner Sprinter
The Freightliner Sprinter is a full-sized cargo and work van with an impressive capacity to haul whatever you need.
The Freightliner Sprinter comes in two wheelbases (144″ or 170”), two roof sizes (standard or tall), an extended length option, and an available 4×4 drive train.
It’s available with your choice of diesel or gas engine and has been optimized with a more efficient belt-drive system that produces less internal engine friction. These features help keep fleet costs low and maximize productivity.
In addition to capability, the Freightliner Sprinter offers a long list of safety features, including:
- Active Brake Assist
- Active Distance Assist Distronic®
- 360° Camera
- Attention Assist
- Traffic Sign Assist
Freightliner has been producing medium- and heavy-duty trucks for years and knows a bit about what makes a vehicle good for business. With the Sprinter, they now offer a regular-duty option to round out your fleet.
6) Dodge Grand Caravan
The Dodge Grand Caravan is the first mid-sized option on our list.
This traditional passenger hauler also makes a great cargo van. Just fold down the seats, stow your gear, and go.
Though the Dodge Grand Caravan has been discontinued from regular production, it’s still one of the most affordable options on the list. Gently used models can be found for half the price of most of the other vehicles on this list.
The Dodge Grand Caravan features a classic design, a single V6 powertrain option, and a matching six-speed transmission.
So, if you are looking for a vehicle that’s easy to navigate down city streets and in tight spaces but offers plenty of cargo and passenger room, this van might be the perfect addition to your fleet.
7) Ford Transit Connect
The Ford Transit Connect is another mid-sized addition to our list of best work vans for small businesses.
In fact, many say that the Transit Connect feels more like a car than a van. Even with two wheelbase options and plenty of room for all of your cargo, it can still fit in most residential garages.
The short wheelbase model has 104.8 cubic feet of cargo space and a maximum payload rating of 1,510 pounds.
The long wheelbase model has 127.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats and a maximum payload rating of 1,550 pounds.
Other features include:
- Driver and passenger side sliding doors
- Split side-opening rear doors
- Overhead interior storage
- A wide range of available interior technologies
- EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway
Businesses such as florists, caterers, contractors, and field service technicians that don’t need the hauling and towing capability of a larger model will benefit from the Transit Connect’s smaller size and higher fuel economy.
8) Nissan NV200
Like the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Nissan NV200 has been discontinued from regular production.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from this vehicle’s utility and capability. Buying a gently used NV200 can help you save money while still providing the vehicle your team needs to get the job done right.
The Nissan NV200 is a mid-sized model that’s more akin to a minivan than some of the other full-sized options on this list.
The NV200 offers:
- Dual sliding side doors
- 2.0-liter engine
- 25 combined mpg
- Up to 122.7 cubic feet of cargo room
- Easy loading doors
- Fold-down passenger seat
- Under-seat storage
If your team needs plenty of cargo space in a small footprint, the Nissan NV200 might be just the solution.
9) RAM ProMaster City
The RAM ProMaster City is another work van that drives more like a car.
The ProMaster City is a mid-sized option that has the cargo space of a traditional passenger minivan (with the seats folded down, of course). Even though the ProMaster looks like a minivan, it’s built for business.
The ProMaster comes standard with a nine-speed automatic transmission, dual sliding side doors (with more than two feet of access), and best-in-class cargo capacity.
If you need more utility in your fleet vehicles, the RAM ProMaster City cargo van is also available as a window van, a chassis cab (no rear enclosure), and a cutaway version (no rear enclosure and no rear cab wall) so you can customize your vehicle for your business needs.
RAM even offers factory-installed telematics and numerous upfits (built-in equipment) for:
With all these configurations, you’re sure to find the options that are right for your team and your business.
10) Mercedes-Benz Metris
The Mercedes-Benz Metris is the smaller alternative to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van (mentioned earlier in this list).
It features high cargo capacity on a small frame that was made to navigate through urban environments, city streets, and tight spaces.
The advanced ECO Start/Stop feature makes city driving even more economical by turning off the engine when the vehicle isn’t moving to conserve fuel.
If your business could benefit from a safe, comfortable mid-sized work van with room for your cargo, the Mercedes-Benz Metris may be what you’re looking for.
11) Ford E-Transit
The Ford E-Transit is the newest member of Ford’s popular Transit family of full- and mid-sized work vans and the first EV work van to hit the mainstream U.S. market.
The E-Transit is available in cargo van, chassis cab, and cutaway models. Three length options and three roof height options are available. And a courier van option is also set to be added to the Ford EV work van lineup soon.
This work van is powered by a single electric motor that generates a respectable 266 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque.
Ford claims a range of 100-126 miles on a full battery charge, depending on the model. To put this into perspective, it can get 30 miles of range from just 10 minutes of charging with a DC charger.
As an option, the E-Transit can be fitted with a “pro power” system that allows your crews to plug in power tools to recharge while the van is on the road.
Ford also offers their own fleet telematics system on the E-Transit, with no subscription cost for the first three years of ownership.
This work van can also be equipped with a full suite of modern technology features, including:
- Standard 12” display with Ford’s Sync system
- Adaptive cruise control
- Automatic high-beam headlights
- Enhanced active parking assistance
The Ford E-Transit will be an attractive option for businesses that want to avoid costly fuel expenses, and running a zero-emission vehicle fleet can be good for your company’s image. However, range and charging infrastructure concerns will deter some businesses.
Managing Your Work Vans
Whichever vehicle your team uses, manage your work vans — and your entire fleet — better with the Coast fleet card.
The Coast fleet card provides controls and visibility that work for your business, as well as an online expense management platform that empowers you with real-time information related to your fleet.
For more information on how Coast can help you control fleet costs and streamline your fleet management program, visit CoastPay.com today.