Vehicle classifications can vary widely between manufacturers as there are no industry standards clearly defining the different types of van, truck or special-purpose vehicle.

Today there is also considerable overlap between features in different models – and even those built by the same manufacturer, as modular designs are re-deployed extensively.

Features that have historically differentiated different types of vehicle to describe , and even different models may share features traditionally associated with other types of van or truck.

Our short guide nevertheless explains some of the key differences (and similarities) between the different vehicle categories.

Van Classifications

Determining the transportation needs of your business is essential for maximising fuel efficiency and minimising whole-life costs (which are those associated with the acquisition and operation of these light commercial vehicles – as well as ongoing servicing, maintenance and repairs or "SMR").

Most manufacturers produce vans with four, distinct body and wheelbase profiles based on a combination of payload and internal loadspace, in order to meet the diverse needs of companies, trades and alternative end applications.


The term microvan is used to describe car-derived vans as well as vehicles that are purposely designed with a small footprint to facilitate driving in urban environments.

Indeed, microvans (which are often referred to as "city" vans) are typically marketed for their car-like road handling and fuel performance (which is a legacy of the chassis, powertrain and critical components they share with their passenger vehicle variants).

They are generally best for transporting smaller loads of up to 500Kg across short distances.

Light Vans

Light vans (also referred to as hi-cubes since their earliest designs simply added a high-cubic metre volume loadspace to the rear of car-derived vans), offer many of the same benefits as microvans including car-like manoeuvrability as they are often built on the same wheelbase.

Higher load capacities and a bigger choice of more powerful engines, make these vehicles ideal for transporting small as well as medium-sized cargoes over longer distances.

Compact Panel Vans

Compact panel vans (which manufacturers also market as "small panel vans" – panel van is the name given to rigid-bodied vans without side or rear windows), are a hybrid between light vans and large panel vans, offering bigger payloads than the former but better manoeuvrability than large panel vans.

They will typically be built on a wheelbase that will accommodate alternative body length variants.

In addition to better fuel efficiency, most compact panel vans offer better levels of internal trim and comfort than their larger cousins.

Large Panel Vans

The largest panel vans are available with multi-configurable options that will typically include alternative wheelbase lengths – ranging from extra-long (XLWB), long (LWB) and medium (MWB) to short (SWB), and a selectin of internal loadspace heights.

Large panel vans are the least economical light commercial vehicles to operate and also the least manoeuvrable.

Care should be taken in the selection of these vehicles as the needs of most businesses can be accommodated through alternative (and usually more cost-effective) configuration decisions.

Contact our team on 01656 374274 if you require advice or assistance.

Special Purpose Trucks


A truck designed with a rear platform that can be raised at an angle to enable the discharge of a load.

Tippers usually feature strong lightweight bodies to enable the transportation and disposal of loose loads.


With collapsible sides, dropside trucks are designed to facilitate loading and unloading of cargoes, and are perfect for transporting bulky objects that cannot easily be accommodated in vans.

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