The (not quite) A to Z of different types of vans

    red van parked up

    Vans come in a wonderful array of shapes and sizes! Whether for commercial use, leisure, or both, knowing the different van types will help you pick the perfect model for your needs, whether for commercial use, leisure, or both.

    Check out this glossary (which isn’t quite A to Z!) of the different types and brands of vans that are more commonly found on our roads, and what makes them what they are. Whether you’re in the market for a new van, looking to sell an existing van, or just curious, read on to get Motorway’s advice.

    Box vans: The classic choice for securely transporting items 

    Box vans have a fully enclosed cargo area, offering protection from the elements. They are ideal for transporting goods that need to remain secure and dry. Logistics and delivery companies commonly use box vans.

    Crew vans: Combining work with personnel transport

    Crew vans offer the best of both worlds. They can seat up to seven people while still having plenty of cargo space.

    Perfect for businesses that transport workers and equipment. 

    Dropside vans: Versatility on the move for easy loading and unloading

    Dropside vans have sides that can fold down, allowing for easy loading and unloading of whatever is being transported in the tray. They’re spot on for transporting:

    🧱 Building materials

    🌳 Landscaping supplies

     🛏️ Bulky items

    Electric vans: Sustainability meets efficiency

    EV van charging in London
    Developments in battery technology have significantly increased range. This means electric vans are getting more popular! 

    Electric vans provide the same utility as conventional vans but with zero emissions, making them ideal for businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Advances in battery technology have also significantly increased the range of vans, resulting in vehicles like the Nissan e-NV200 being able to compete with internal combustion engine (ICE) vans in terms of reliability and usability. 

    Ford Transit: The boss of UK vans

    Launched on these shores in 1965, the trusty Ford Transit is the most popular van in the UK market. Highly reliable with an impressive payload, the Transit is ideal for commercial and personal needs, and it consistently leads the way in sales.

    Minibus: Efficiently taking care of group travel

    Minibuses are designed to transport larger groups of people. They have multiple seating rows and are commonly used for shuttle services and as school vehicles. 

    Panel vans: The multi-purpose workhorse

    a small white panel van
    Panel vans have large, enclosed cargo spaces and are perfect for transporting goods securely. 

    Panel vans are versatile vehicles with enclosed cargo spaces, ideal for transporting goods securely. They come in various sizes and suit a variety of industries, such as:

    🪚 Trades

    📦 Delivery services

    👷 Other businesses that need a reliable, spacious vehicle

    Pick-up trucks: Rugged utility meets everyday driveability

    Pick-ups have an open cargo bed, making them useful for work and leisure. Popular among tradespeople and outdoor enthusiasts.

    Luton vans: Maximising space for bulkier cargo

    a luton van
    Luton vans have additional storage room over the cab, so they’re often used as removal vehicles. 

    Luton vans feature a large, boxy cargo area that extends over the cab, which makes the most of the storage space. They’re perfect for moving bulky items, making them popular for removals and large deliveries.

    Factors to consider when purchasing a van

    Roof height

    When looking to buy your next van, you should consider roof height, which is the vertical space inside the van. Standard roofs are adequate for most tasks, but high roofs are essential for standing upright inside. This makes them ideal for mobile workshops or transporting tall items. 

    Sizes of vans

    Choosing between small, medium, and large vans depends on your space and usage needs. 

    Small vans

    🛻 Example: Citroën Berlingo

    🏙️ Suited for: City driving. 

    ✅ Known for: Excellent manoeuvrability and fuel efficiency.

    🤝 Best for: Small businesses, couriers, or tradespeople with limited cargo. 

    Medium vans

    🛻 Example: Ford Transit Custom

    🛣️ Suited for: Larger roads and multiple uses. 

    ✅ Known for: Versatility & balancing size and capacity. 

    🤝 Best for: Anyone!

    Large vans

    🛻 Example: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

    🛣️ Suited for: Larger roads and multiple uses. 

    ✅ Known for: Maximum cargo space and payload capacity. 

    🤝 Best for: Substantial deliveries, moving services or businesses requiring significant storage. 

    Smart features 

    Several smart features have been launched in the last few years that have significantly boosted functionality and safety in vans:

    🚗 Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking, help prevent accidents and reduce driver fatigue. 

    ⚡ Connectivity features, like integrated GPS and real-time traffic updates, improve route planning and fleet management. 

    📦 Enhanced cargo management solutions can include modular storage systems and load-securing technology, to maximise efficiency. 


    Like roof height, wheelbase should be a consideration when buying a new van. It’s the distance between the front and rear axles, and it affects the van’s handling, stability, and load distribution. A longer wheelbase provides better stability and more cargo space, but it can be harder to manoeuvre. 


    What’s the most common type of van?

    The most common type of van is the panel van. Known for its versatility, it features an enclosed cargo area and is widely used by tradespeople, delivery services, and businesses needing reliable, secure transport for goods and equipment.

    What’s the name of open-back vans?

    An open-back van is commonly referred to as a pick-up truck. It features an open cargo bed at the rear, which is ideal for transporting bulky items and materials. It’s favoured for both work and leisure activities.

    Yes, you can legally live in a van in the UK, provided you comply with local regulations. To avoid legal issues, ensure you have permission to park overnight, adhere to waste disposal rules, and respect residential areas.

    Ready to sell?

    Want to read more about owning, valuing and selling your van?Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from depreciation and maintaining your van’s value. Understand your car’s worth in the wider market.