Vans come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and just like people they can be hard to understand. Here is a simple glossary of terms used in the van industry to describe various types of vans.
Beavertail: A versatile van with a folding rear flap that doubles as a ramp, making it ideal for transporting small vehicles and garden machinery. It gets its name from its appearance as the folded down ramps can look like a beaver's tail.
Box van: A van with a large square load space, ideal for carrying bulky items. Box vans are usually completely square or rectangular and have huge carrying capacities. A box van body is also used to describe a solid walled trailer pulled by an HGV.
Car-derived van: A small van based on a car platform, with a low carrying capacity. These vans are ideal for small businesses that only need to carry a few items. A typical example of a car-derived van is the Toyota Corolla Commercial which looks like a car, but car platforms can be used and adopted to be more usable commercial vehicles like the Ford Transit Courier.
City van: The general term used for most small vans, typically under 2.5 tonnes and can carry around 700kg. Examples include the Ford Transit Connect, Volkswagen Caddy, and Vauxhall Combo. They get their name because, you guessed it, they are often found in cities.
Converted van: Any van that has been modified by a bodybuilder, ranging from refrigerated vans to Luton vans. One of the most popular conversions is for motorhomes, with the Fiat Ducato and Peugeot Boxer being the most common choices.
Crew van or double cab: A van with an additional row of seats, usually consisting of a fixed bench in the second row with a solid bulkhead behind them. Most crew vans seat five to six people. They have a modest payload allowance because additional seats and occupants eat into the carrying capacity.
Curtainside van: These vans look like small trucks. They have a solid roof but use canvas or plastic-coated curtains along the side to protect the load they carry. The curtains can be pulled back to reveal the length of the loadspace which also allows forklift trucks to side load the vehicle.
Chassis cab: This is the name for a van without a body on the back of it. There is a cab mounted to the chassis. The chassis rails extened out of the back and this is where a range of different bodies can be added to the rear. Typical bodies include tipper, Luton and motorhomes.
Dropside: A van with hinged gates on the side, allowing for extremely easy access to the load bed. These vans are often used by gardeners and the building trade because of their easy access from all sides.
Electric van: A van powered by an electric motor that takes its energy from a battery. Electric vans, also known as EVs, emit zero emissions from their tail-pipe and are therefore generally thought to be less polluting. One of the first mass-market electric vans was the Renault Kangoo E-Tech popular electric models are now made by Maxus and Ford.
Flatbed: A simple flat load deck area without sides, regularly used in the construction industry and often with a crane mounted behind the cab or at the rear of the load deck. Flat bed vans will have tie-down points or lashing bars to ensure that sheets and straps can be used to secure the items being carried.
Four-wheel-drive van (4x4): Vans with four-wheel drive provide off-road access into fields, gravel roads and forested areas. These vans can be dedicated permanent 4x4s or versions that have selectable four-wheel drive. They are regularly used by utility companies that which to access sites like electrical substations or sewage treatment works. These provide an alternative to pick-up trucks with a contained and larger cargo area.
Hybrid vans: Hybrid technology is occasionally found in vans and usually use a small petrol engine to recharge a small battery. Most are capable of operating for a short distance as purely electric vehicles.
Luton van: A box van with an additional usable storage area above the cabin of the van, commonly used by removal companies, offering even more storage capacity and for long international travel a self-contained sleeping pod.
Microvan: These small vans are not as common as they used to be but are still popular in Asia where parking and space in urban areas is limited. Popular examples are limited but include the DFSK Loadhopper, DFSK EC35 and past models like the Toyota Hiace.
Minibus: Converted vans with seating options for usually 9 to 17 people, similar to the ones used in schools. These are generally based on large vans or medium vans, but have more seats than regular passenger carrying vans.
Panel van: The general term used to describe a generic van. The sort of van that has solid metal sides and doors that open at the rear and side. As a general rule, all of our van reviews are of panel vans.
Pick-up: A commercial vehicle with a cabin, seperate load area and usually a four-wheel-drive drivetrain. Many variants can have single cabs, double cabs, or XL cabs that get a small amount of rear storage inside the cabin where the rear seats would normally be. Often there are options for hard tops and roller covers to make the load space secure and watertight.
Quadricycle: These are not technically vans or cars. A quadricycle is a small vehicle that is speed limited to less that 28mph. It doesn't have to conform to the same crash test regulations as a car of van. The electric Citroen Ami Cargo is an example of a quadricycle van.
Temperature controlled van (aka fridge van): Refrigerated vans can come in all shapes and sizes and are used to move anything from online food shopping to important medical supplies. These vans can have frozen, chilled, or ambient sections and operate at a range of temperatures.
Tipper: Vans used most often used in the construction trade. They have a hydraulic ram under their load bed to allow them to eject materials. There is often a hinged tailgate or side gate. Materials are usually ejected out of the rear of the body, but depending on the position of the hydraulic tipping equipment, it is also possible to eject sideways.
Transporter: A van used to transport cars. Van-based car transporters are often only capable of moving one car at a time. Transporters can be flat beds with tail ramps, or have slide decks that lower a platform to the ground to allow the car to be driven or winched onto it. The entire platform is then loaded onto the transporter. This type of transporter enables really low profile cars, like supercars, to be recovered without the need to drive them up steep ramps.