A guide to different vehicle types

Different types of vans

Different types of van are appropriate and best suited to different types of job. Below are the different categories of the most commonly used light commercial vehicles

Micro vans

Micro vans tend to be better suited to town driving i.e. busy city centres, tight streets. Due to the small size of this type of van, tall drivers may find that they are a little cramped, however, the amount of cargo that can be held is fairly reasonable. Micro vans may not be suited to long journeys and may not have the best fuel economy compared to other vans. Examples include the Suzuki Carry van and the Daihatsu Hijet. 

Car-derived vans

Car-derived vans are exactly as the name pertains, the rear seats and seat belts will have been taken out and a new floor panel will have been fitted in the back to make a load area. Car-derived vans have maximum payloads of around 500kgs so that when combined with the weight of the vehicle unladen (normally around 1.4 tonnes) the maximum laden weight of the whole vehicle will not exceed 2 tonnes. Fuel economy tends to be good on motorways, and around town, however car-derived vans are unable to carry heavy or bulky loads. Examples include the Fiat Punto van and Vauxhall Astravan.

Light vans/Hi-Cube vans

Similar to Car-derived vans with a cube-shaped storage compartment that is wider and taller than the front of the vehicle to allow more volume and weight. Fuel economy for this type of van tends to be good and is most suitable to carrying small to medium loads. Examples include the Fiat Doblo or Vauxhall Combo.

Small panel vans

Small panel vans fall between light vans and large panel vans. They can shift a respectable amount of cargo by weight and volume but don’t take up too much space in the high street. Small panel vans tend to be fuel efficient and have reasonable operating costs. Examples include the Citroen Dispatch or Peugeot Expert. 

Large Panel vans

Large panel vans can be categorised under three roof heights – low roof (LR) or standard roof (SR), medium roof (MR) and high roof (HR) and three lengths – short wheelbase (SWB), medium wheelbase (MWB) and long wheelbase (LWB). Built for higher volume and higher weight but driving in tight streets maybe difficult. Examples include the Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter.

Pick ups

Pickups are an enclosed cab with an open load area. There are several different types of cabs. Single cabs have two doors and two seats, super cabs have two doors with two front seats plus a rear bench seat or two individual seats and double cabs typically have four doors and four seats. Most pick-ups are four-wheel-drive and although this can be good for rugged terrain they can be a bit unrefined on the road. Examples include the Mitsibushi L200 and Nissan Navara.

Chassis cabs

Chassis cabs are cabs on a bare chassis base without a bed  which allows for a bed to be chosen. Various different types of backs include tippers, flatbeds, dropsides and lutons (box vans) but depending on the use, a bespoke chassis bed could be added. Examples include the Ford Transit and Renault Master.  


Minibuses tend to be normal standard vans that have windows instead of opaque panels and between 8 to 16 passenger seats. Minibuses can have certain modifications such as wheel chair lifts or ramps. Examples include the Ford Transit and Fiat Ducato.