It's often said that there isn't a bad van out there, but different trades need different things. A typical domestic builder or commercial building contractor in the UK needs a great combination of payload & body size. It needs to be economical, reliable to avoid costly downtime & project a good image to prospective customers.
What Makes A Good Builders Van?
A great payload. Bags of cement & bricks weigh a lot & are what a builder needs on site to carry out his or her work. With payloads of up to 1500kgs, & typically being able to carry up to four Euro pallets, a medium van such as a Ford Transit Custom or a Vauxhall Vivaro can be the perfect solution.
As payloads being offered on medium vans these days have improved, a larger van such as a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or a Volkswagen Crafter will offer more loadspace but potentially the same or even less payload than a medium van. This makes it quite easy to unintentionally overload larger vans. Most medium vans will allow a builder to carry the standard 8' x 4' sheets of board flat in the van, between the wheel arches.
Some builders like to 'customise' the interior of their van to suit their own specific needs – there are various van racking solutions available from companies specialising in this aspect & van racking kits can be ordered directly for DIY fitment. Metal van racking in particular is durable & can be transferred from an old van into a brand new one.
Of course, basic ply lining is essential to protect the van from those nasty 'dings' from the inside out, & which can devalue a van faster than almost anything else - any van you lease from Vanarama comes with ply lining fitted free of charge. & if your van doesn’t have one fitted as standard, a sturdy bulkhead will ensure that the driver & passengers aren’t joined during the journey by a pallet of bricks or a bag or two of cement.
Which Large Vans Are The Best For Builders?
Ford Transit L2H2.
An obvious choice, but with a payload of up to 1472 kgs, an internal body length of almost 3.5 metres & packed with driver aids, it has to be on the shopping list.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter L2H2.
With legendary reliability and, in its latest guise, brimming with state-of-the-art technology, it's a driver’s favourite. A payload of up to 1235kg, a load length of 3.4 metres & a capacity for four Euro pallets ensures that it is designed for work & is not just a pretty face.
Fiat Ducato 35S L1H1.
While maybe not the newest kid on the block, the Fiat has probably the highest payload of all the best builders' vans at 1605kgs. The L1H1 is shorter than some, but longer versions are available with payload only reduced slightly. Great engines too.
The rear-wheel-drive Master has a load length of well over 4 metres - a vital dimension for builders carrying kitchen worktops, for example - but the front wheel drive version has an impressive maximum payload of over 1400kgs.
Is Volume Or Payload More Important?
If you take a look at these medium vans - smaller but by no means less capable than large vans - you’ll see that smaller volume often means higher payload:
If you plump for the L1 3100 model, you’ll still get almost 1.5 tonnes in the back in the 5.3 cubic metres of loadspace, & twin side doors allow for easy access to the 2.5 metres of internal length. Four trim levels are available, if you fancy something with lots of extras, or perhaps just a no frills version. Make sure you check out the Peugeot, Citroen & Toyota equivalents too.
Fiat Talento L2H1 (or Renault Trafic / Nissan NV300).
If the Fiat looks familiar, that’s because it’s pretty much the same van as the previous generation Vauxhall Vivaro - one of the most popular vans on UK roads. Fiat continues to market their slant on this classic & it’s no wonder: 1264kgs of payload & over 2.9 metres of internal length are there for the taking. A nice choice of three diesel engines is also available.
What we like about the Custom is the huge amount of choice - be it body styles, engines, trim levels or weights. For the builder who needs a workhorse, the L2H2 offers over 2.9 metres of load length, 8.3 cubic metres of volume & up to a whopping 1400kgs of payload.
So, it’s important to get the right sized van for your needs, after all, no one wants to arrive at a job to be met with this sight when opening the doors.
What If I Need More Seats?
Fortunately, many manufacturers produce dual purpose vans, which is great news for builders. Called Double Cab, Kombi, Crewvan, Crew Cab or Combi vans, the hint is in the words. Typically, these vans will have a row of seats behind the driver with or without side windows or bulkhead - behind this is a conventional load space. Almost invariably, these vans will retain a 1000kg+ payload to ensure they are still classed as a commercial vehicle for taxation purposes.
In some of these vans, the arrangement is fixed. In others the seats are removable or foldable, allowing for more load space when seats are not required. In some vans the bulkhead can even be moved forward to create customisable space.
Which Are The Best Panel Vans For Signwriting?
Medium panel vans are a fantastic platform for advertising your business. Sign writing is a cheap, effective method of promotion - it makes your operation look professional & can be removed relatively easily when you're ready to change your van for a new one. Find out more about van signwriting with our top 5 tips article.
What Tax Benefits Are There To Having A New Van?
How much tax you can claim back on a new van depends on the new van finance option you choose. Check out our articles in our van leasing explained section to find out more.
Generally speaking, as they are classified as ‘plant & machinery’ for tax purposes, 100% of the cost can be used to reduce tax liability against profits. The VAT paid is normally reclaimable for VAT registered businesses, & if the van is used for personal use, a much reduced level of personal tax is payable compared to a car.
What Is Super-Deduction Tax Relief?
In April 2021, the UK Government introduced additional temporary tax relief for businesses purchasing ‘plant & machinery’.
The scheme gives allowances of 130% on most new ‘plant & machinery’ investments that ordinarily qualify for 18% writing down allowances.
A first year allowance of 50% on most new ‘plant & machinery’ investments that ordinarily qualify for 6% special rate writing down allowances.
The scheme is due to end on 31st March 2023. We will always recommend taking advice from your accountant to see if you can benefit from this measure.
If you're looking for more advice on choosing the ideal van for your buisness, take a look at our in-depth guide.