Best Cargo Vans for Small Businesses: Gas Mileage, Cargo Space and More

30th Jul 2019

For many small businesses, the cargo van, whether it is small, midsized or large, is the backbone of the operation a veritable workhorse that transports all the equipment, tools and workers to wherever the work awaits, such as a job site or a customer's home.

As a result, your purchase has much to do with the kind of work you do, as well as your customers and your employees. It’s essential you buy a good-quality vehicle that meets the demands of your particular trade.

In this guide, we provide an overview of the best work vans for businesses, the kind of gas mileage you can expect, the amount of space in the cargo area, payload capacities, powertrains and even resale values.

1. 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van

It’s expensive, but if you’re looking for a van to deal with lots of heavy-duty work, this is a good choice. It also has a large loading capacity and some attractive extra features. Its maintenance costs can be high, but its high top and great gas mileage mean you can get a lot done. The Sprinter comes in three different body lengths and two different roof heights. Normally only available in diesel, it is now also available with a gas engine.

  • Starting price: $33,790 for 1500, as much as $44,390 for 3500EX
  • Gas mileage: 19 miles per gallon
  • Cargo space: 568 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 6,735 pounds

2. 2019 Mercedes Metris Van

This van is another offering from Mercedes-Benz that gives you excellent gas mileage. It’s a great buy if cargo van fuel economy is a concern. Although relatively new to the American market, it has been available in Europe since the mid-'90s. It’s about the size of a minivan, but its generous payload capacity makes it one of the best large cargo vans.

  • Starting price:$31,200
  • Gas mileage: 21 miles per gallon city/24 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo space: 199 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 2,500 pounds

3. 2019 RAM ProMaster Van

While this van has only been available in America for a few years, European customers have been able to buy the ProMaster for more than three decades as the Fiat Ducato. Unlike many other full-sized vans, the ProMaster features front-wheel drive. The ProMaster comes in three models — 1500, 2500 or 3500 — can come with either a standard roof size or a high roof and also comes in a variety of lengths. The ProMaster offers the best options for step-in height and a comfortably low load floor.

  • Starting price: $30,000 for the 1500 up to about $36,000 for the 3500 model
  • Gas mileage: 13 miles per gallon city/18 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo space: 259 to 436 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 5,230 pounds

4. 2019 RAM ProMaster City Van

The ProMaster City is one of the work vans with the best MPG, so it's an excellent van for fuel economy if your business requires you to travel over a large area. Also based on the Fiat Ducato, this van features a nine-speed automatic transmission that helps it obtain that money-saving gas mileage. You can also outfit it with special features like GPS navigation, Bluetooth and Internet connectivity, as well as a rear-view camera.

  • Starting price:$24,295
  • Gas mileage: 21 miles per gallon city/28 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo space: 137.1 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 1,833 pounds

5. 2019 Ford Transit Van

One of the Transit’s best features is that it can carry a lot of cargo, which is probably one of the reasons it remains the best-selling commercial van in the United States. When you purchase a high roof option, an individual as tall as 6’ 5” can stand up in the cargo space. You can also purchase it with dual sliding doors and rear cargo doors to provide you with lots of space to get cargo or tools out safely. Ford says you can create nearly 60 different configurations of the Transit van.

  • Starting price: $33,135
  • Gas mileage: 14 miles per gallon city/18 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo space: 487.3 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 4,650 pounds

6. 2020 Ford Transit Connect Van

Smaller vans like the Transit Connect have been popular in Europe for many years. You can choose between swing-out rear cargo doors that provide 180 degrees of clearance or a rear liftgate. You can also select a variety of advanced convenience and safety features, such as Ford MyKey, which allows owners or administrators to preset speed or audio volumes. An alarm goes off when a driver exceeds these limits.

  • Starting price:$24,275
  • Gas mileage: 19 miles per gallon city/27 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo space: 128.6 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 1,600 pounds

7. 2019 Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna

The Express and its GMC counterpart, the Savanna, have been around for many years because this van is a true workhorse with some impressive abilities. These are heavy-duty vans for heavy-duty work. These General Motors vans still come with a sliding or split-swing door that is only available on the right side. These big vans also have a remarkable towing capacity and excellent gas mileage. Both the Express and the Savanna are available in regular or extended versions.

  • Starting price: $31,900
  • Gas mileage: 24 miles per gallon city/26 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo space: 239.7 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 4,100 pounds

8. 2019 Nissan NV

The Nissan NV offers a variety of configurations and is available in a high roof size. It offers lots of cargo space in either the regular or high-roof versions. And even though the NV van’s ground clearance is 8.1 inches, it has an amazingly low liftover height of 28.5 inches. There are two engine sizes for the NV, and when you equip it with the larger 5.6-liter V8, it can tow almost 9,500 pounds.

  • Starting price:$30,835
  • Gas mileage: 11 miles per gallon city/15 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo space: 234 to 321 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 2,630 to 3,859 pounds

9. 2019 Nissan NV200

This compact work van has the lowest starting price of any other similar van, and offers notable gas mileage totals. Its liftover height is a low 21.1 inches, and it offers decent cargo area for a compact van. It also has an excellent flexibility feature – 20 standard reinforced cargo mounting points. That means you won’t have to drill into the walls to install shelves or racks.

  • Starting price:$22,300
  • Gas mileage: 24 miles per gallon city/26 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo space: 122.7 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 1,480 pounds

Price Range

The price range of any vehicle will depend on the configuration you choose and the added features you desire. But to help you determine the best prices for work vans, here are the 2019 starting manufacturer suggested retail prices, without any options, from lowest to highest, in each category.

Large Vans

  1. Nissan NV: $30,835
  2. RAM ProMaster: $30,000
  3. Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna: $31,900
  4. Ford Transit: $33,135
  5. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: $44,390

Compact Vans

  1. Ford Transit Connect: $24,275
  2. RAM ProMaster City: $24,295
  3. Mercedes-Benz Metris: $31,200

Which Cargo Vans Have the Best Gas Mileage?

The prominence of gas mileage can go one way or the other in the mind of an owner or fleet operator. No one wants to get bad gas mileage, but it might be secondary to having more cargo space or the ability to tow a larger object. The industry you work in and the location of your business will also be critical factors when it comes down to deciding how heavily to weigh a vehicle's gas mileage stats. The following figures come from fueleconomy.gov.

Large Vans

  1. Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna: 24 miles per gallon city/26 miles per gallon highway
  2. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: 19 miles per gallon
  3. Ford Transit: 14 miles per gallon city/18 miles per gallon highway
  4. Nissan NV:11 miles per gallon city/15 miles per gallon highway
  5. RAM ProMaster: 13 miles per gallon city/18 miles per gallon highway

Compact Vans

These smaller vans can go a lot farther on a gallon.

  1. RAM ProMaster City: 21 miles per gallon city/28 miles per gallon highway
  2. Mercedes-Benz Metris: 21 miles per gallon city/24 miles per gallon highway
  3. Ford Transit Connect: 19 miles per gallon city/27 miles per gallon highway

Work Vans With the Most Cargo Space

When you’re buying a van for your business, you need to know how much workspace you’re going to have for cargo and tools. All the work vans we previewed above offer cargo space of differing sizes. Here’s a rundown of the vans that offer the most room in large and compact categories.

Large Vans

If you need a big vehicle with a lot of work van cargo space, here are the top three in order.

  1. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: Its SuperTall Roof version offers a cargo space of 586 cubic feet.
  2. Ford Transit: The most extensive configuration offers 487.3 cubic feet of cargo space.
  3. Ram ProMaster: The largest configuration offers a cargo space of 436 cubic feet.

Small Cargo Vans

Don’t need a big van, but like the idea of generous cargo space? Here are your best options.

  1. Mercedes-Benz Metris: A considerable 199 cubic feet of cargo space
  2. RAM ProMaster City: 137.1 cubic feet of cargo in a space that measures 60.4 inches by 87.2 inches by 51.8 inches

Remember, lots of cargo space and payload can also become pluses or minuses when you compare them to other features you are looking for.

Best Resale Value

Most vans lose half their original value within three years of their purchase and retain only one-third of their value after five years of use. Resale value, of course, comes down to several factors that include not only how the manufacturer constructed the truck, but also how you treated it. If a commercial work van has adequate protections for its floors and walls, you’re likely to get a decent resale price, regardless of the make or model you choose.

That said, here are the top vans in each category with the best resale value.

1. Large Van: RAM ProMaster Van

The ProMaster offers lots of cargo space for any commercial job. It may cost a fair bit of coin upfront, but that means you will get the highest resale value when you need to sell.

2. Compact Van: Ford Transit Connect

The Transit Connect has several features owners of small businesses will love. It has lots of cargo space for a compact van, but also drives and has fuel economy like an ordinary car. It has seen strong resale values.

Other Considerations for Work Vans

Of course, these aren't the only factors to consider. Here are some other points to note in your cargo van comparison.

Large Vans

1. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

This van has built a reputation for reliability. It doesn't need service until it's gone 20,000 miles, but it does have high maintenance costs. It has a large cab and a variety of custom packages. It costs more than the others, but promises more as well.

2. RAM ProMaster

The ProMaster has the best turning radius of any model and a wide selection of configuration options. It has huge side mirrors, but not everyone is a fan of its European design.

3. Ford Transit

This diesel van provides a lot of towing power. It drives and handles well and has very low emissions. The interior is attractive, but there isn't much legroom if you're tall. The standard roof option on the base model does not provide a lot of cargo height, either.

4. Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna

The Express has a low cost of maintenance and a plethora of dealerships in the U.S. for easy access to service. The design is a little outdated, but it has lots of towing power and a five-year powertrain warranty if purchased new.

5. Nissan NV

The Nissan NV has the best warranty of all the vans surveyed, with a five-year or 100,000-mile warranty if purchased new. It's impressively reliable, very affordable and has lots of towing power, but could use an updated design in and out.

Compact Vans

1. Mercedes-Benz Metris

The compact Mercedes has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 208 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. It also has a seven-speed automatic transmission. That's a lot to offer, but it comes at a high price — it's the most expensive of all the compact vans surveyed.

2. RAM ProMaster City

Small businesses across the country rely on this popular van. It has the same chassis as Fiat's Ducato, lots of cargo capacity for a compact vehicle and impressive fuel economy.

3. Ford Transit Connect

Ford's Transit Connect is the top-selling compact van in America. It has front-wheel drive and excellent fuel economy, but lacks the maximum payload of other small commercial vans.

The Top Three Vans to Consider

So which is the best van to buy? That is, of course, a personal decision. What one buyer may love, another small business owner may hate. When you’re choosing a cargo van, you need to take many different factors into the equation, complicating your decision.

Taking all these factors into consideration, here are three vans, chosen from both categories, you can always count on.

1. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

This van is expensive, but very well-designed and put together. If you’re looking for an excellent large cargo van that also offers low gas mileage, reliability and exceptional resale value, the Sprinter is the vehicle for you.

2. Ford Transit

Though lacking the overall package of the Sprinter, this workhorse also offers a lower starting price, many more Ford dealerships for needed repairs, lots of cargo space and decent fuel mileage. It has lots of standing room in the cargo area and configurations that make a substantial payload possible.

3. Ram ProMaster City

For all the reasons mentioned above — loads of cargo space for a compact, great gas mileage and a very reasonable MSRP — make this the best buy when you're looking for a smaller van.

Should You Buy a Van for Your Business?

Anyone who owns a business, particularly a small business, has probably wondered about the wisdom of buying a van. There are many questions: Which van should I buy? Do I buy a van based on cargo space or on gas mileage? What about reliability? Most importantly, what about the cost? Can I afford a van?

Buying a van can be a valuable and strategic addition to your business, but you need to ask yourself whether your company will benefit from owning one van or maybe more. Whether you have been in business for only a year or for decades, it is always a good time to consider your organization's needs when it comes to purchasing a van.

Here are some questions you might want to consider:

  • Do you use your vehicle to run business errands or to complete an on-site job? If you do, does it have enough room for everything you need?
  • Does the lack of a reliable work van contribute to a general feeling of disorganization, either at your office or on a work site?
  • Do your employees complain about a lack of warehouse space to store the tools and materials they use day in and day out?
  • Do your employees complain about having to return to the warehouse again and again to get a particular piece of equipment they need to complete a job?
  • Have your employees overheard customers complaining your service doesn’t look very professional because you don’t own any vehicles explicitly designated as part of your business?
  • Do you believe you need a van for your business, but you're worried it might be outside your budget at this moment?

These are all good questions, but let's cut to the chase. The foremost concern of a small business owner who has not bought a van is financial. However, getting a good work van will cost you less than purchasing a newer-model minivan. You can get a reliable van for between $20,300 and $35,000, depending on the size you need and where you will be using it. Also, as you can see from the figures above, companies have worked hard to improve gas mileage, and you can now choose from among several different models that get over 20 miles to the gallon.

When buying a van, other issues you should consider are towing capacity, cargo space, headroom, configuration and any specifications needed to benefit your business.

Buying a work van is a savvy idea for any business owner. Whether you are a caterer, florist or a plumber, buying a van for your business offers a wide range of benefits.

Benefits of Vans for Small Businesses

Buying a van might be a tricky decision for a small business owner. It shouldn’t be, however, because the numerous benefits a van can offer.

1. Commuting

If you work in a city or a community where the weather may be a concern, owning a van for your business can help your employees make it to work on time and lower the chances they will be absent because of these weather-related travel issues. That is especially the case in winter months, when cars are particularly susceptible to cold, snow or slick roads. Many vans can pull double duty as a work van and a passenger carrier. If you use a van to pick up employees and give them a ride to work, it becomes a bonus for them to work for your company.

2. Moving Material

If your business requires you to regularly move large quantities of materials, such as lumber, food, flowers, etc., owning a van will cut costs. You have less need to rent a vehicle to move the goods, and you can also look forward to significant time savings. That means you can access the materials you need when you need them, and not be at the mercy of another company's schedule.

Every time you don’t make a wasted trip or force your employees to travel back and forth to get the right quantity of materials, you save yourself money.

3. Advertising

When you apply your logo to the side of a van or apply a van wrap, you're assuring yourself of lots of free advertising. The more eye-catching you make these advertisements, the greater the benefit to your business. Whether you live in a small community, town or city, logos or a van wrap could put the name of your business in front of 30,000 to 70,000 people per day. Imagine what it would cost you to achieve the same level of visibility by buying ads in your local newspaper or radio station or on Facebook.

4. Looking and Acting Professional

When your employees arrive at a customer’s home or business, showing up in a branded van leaves a memorable first impression. Think about how you'd react if someone drove up in a personal car, and then took the materials they’re going to use to either fix your home or business out of the trunk. In many cases, you could find yourself thinking about using somebody else next time.

Vans also eliminate the problem of having to return to the warehouse to find the right part. With a newer, up-fitted van that takes advantage of the many different configurations possible in each model, your employees will never have to worry about telling a customer they will be back in a few minutes after they’ve gotten the part they need to finish the job.

5. Taxes

As a small business owner, if you purchase a van to use for your business, you can deduct it on your taxes. Usually, this means amortizing it over several years, so you get a little bit of a break every year. While tax breaks won’t cover the entire cost of the new van, they could make a difference you if you are right on the edge of wondering if you can afford to buy such a vehicle.

6. Resale Value

Many of the models we reviewed above have excellent resale values. These values can increase if you’re taking proper care of the van, giving it regular maintenance and outfitting it with panels that prevent dents and scratches.

An older van in good condition is also a smart buy for any small business owner who is concerned about the impact on their bottom line. Buying a used van as your first vehicle will give you a chance to see how it can benefit your business, so the next time you want to purchase one, you might consider a newer model.

Small Work Vans vs. Large Cargo Vans

Questions about size, potential passenger capacity and cargo space depend a great deal on the nature of your business. Here’s a look at some of the better smaller vans and some of the better large vans.

Smaller Vans

1. Mercedes-Benz Metris

  • MSRP: From $31,200
  • MPG: Up to 21 city/24 highway
  • Dimensions: 202″ L x 76″ W x 74-75″ H
  • Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
  • Payload: 1,874 pounds
  • Engine: 2.0 liter four-cylinder

Slightly larger than a minivan, the Metris offers you a choice of a rear door with either a tailgate or a pair of barn doors to access any cargo. Even when outfitted to haul passengers, the Metris passenger van still has 38 cubic feet of room to put luggage behind its last row. While getting good gas mileage, the Metris also can handle a larger payload.

2. 2019RAM ProMaster City Van

  • MSRP: $24,295
  • Gas mileage: 21 miles per gallon city/28 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo space: 137.1 cubic feet
  • Max payload: 1,833 pounds

As a compact van with a great MPG, the ProMaster is an excellent van for fuel economy. It features a nine-speed automatic transmission that helps it obtain that great gas mileage. You can also outfit it with special features like GPS navigation, Bluetooth and Internet connectivity, as well as a rear-view camera. What really sells the ProMaster City is the MSRP. With this van you'll get a lot of bang for your buck.

3. 2020 Ford Transit Connect

  • MSRP: From $24,275
  • Dimensions: 174-190″ L x 72″ W x 72″ H
  • Cargo volume: 77.6 to 123.2 cubic feet
  • Payload: 1,188 to 1,549 pounds
  • Seating capacity: Two, five or six

While it is probably not the vehicle to choose if you want to transport passengers or employees, the Transit Connect has been popular in Europe for decades. The rear cargo doors provide 180 degrees of clearance. As an owner, you can include features like Ford MyKey that allow you to preset audio volumes or van speeds. When a driver exceeds these preset values, an alarm will sound. The Transit Connect doesn't offer a lot of cargo space for a smaller van, but provides the kind of fuel savings you can find in a regular car. It also has a high resale value.

Larger Cargo Vans

1. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

  • MSRP: From $33,790 to $44,390
  • Gross vehicle weight rating: 8,550 to 12,120 lbs
  • Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles basic, five years/100,000 miles powertrain
  • Seating capacity: Two, five or 12
  • Max towing rating: 5,000 pounds
  • Engine: 2.0 liter four-cylinder, 3.0 L V6 diesel

The Sprinter is the crème de la crème of larger vans. While the MSRP is around $33,000, that won't get you much. You’re more likely to pay around $35,000 to $40,000 by the time you’re ready to drive it off the lot. This Sprinter van has a lot of room – a six-foot-four individual could walk upright in the back. Mercedes once only offered diesel, but now makes all models available with gas engines. It has 265 lb.-ft. of torque. You might pay more for a Mercedes Sprinter, but it is the most reliable cargo van and it will spend far less time in the shop than other models might.

2. 2019 Ford Transit

  • MSRP: From $33,135
  • Dimensions: 174-190″ L x 72″ W x 72″ H
  • Cargo volume: 77.6 to 123.2 cubic feet
  • Payload: 1,188 to 1,549 pounds

The Ford Transit, a true workhorse, is another van that started its life in Europe and is highly customizable. Even the smallest version can still fit eight passengers. You can get it with a robust five-cylinder turbo-diesel that has 185 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque. It also boasts impressive pickup, thanks to its Eco-Boost engine that allows the Transit to go from 0 to 60 in 7.5 seconds. It rides and handles much more like a minivan, which makes it a breeze to move around crowded spaces in urban areas.

3. 2019 RAM ProMaster

  • Dimensions: 195-251″ L x 81″ W x 89-99″ H
  • MSRP: From $30,645 to $36,000
  • Towing capacity: 5,100 pounds
  • Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles basic, five years/60,000 miles powertrain
  • Curb weight: 4,554 to 5,021 pounds

The ProMaster offers one unique option – it has front wheel drive. It's a smart choice if you need to move a lot of people, especially during the winter. The front wheel drive gives it an added advantage. It only comes in one model with an extended 159-inch wheelbase and a taller roof, so compared to the Transit and the Sprinter, there’s a lot less versatility. The ProMaster handles more like a commercial van and can be stiff when empty, but its front-wheel chassis keeps it low to ground level, so it's no problem to move passengers or cargo in and out.

What Is the Average Lifespan and Reliability of Work Vans?

The average lifespan of a work van depends on several factors, including:

  • Will you use it more in the city, or in rural areas?
  • How heavily loaded is it when it goes over curbs or bumps?
  • Most importantly, will you commit to getting regular maintenance?

The key question is the maintenance one. A well-maintained van will normally cover 200,000 to 250,000 miles in a lifetime. When you think about it, it is like orbiting the Earth five or six times.

Reliability also depends on several factors, including the model, how you drive it and whether you have invested in paneling that protects it from scratches and dents. As we noted above, the Mercedes Sprinter is the highest-price van, but spends less time in the shop than many other vans. The RAM ProMaster, on the other hand, has a history of reliability issues and mechanical problems that can sometimes undermine its cargo capacity and price.

Research is your best bet. You’ll find lots of good articles on the internet from a variety of sources that will give you clues about lifespan and reliability for every van on our list.

What Industries Should Consider Buying a Cargo Van?

Almost every small business can benefit from the purchase of one of the top-rated cargo vans on this list, but there are several for whom a van is specifically ideal. For example, cargo vans for locksmiths help them serve the needs of customers all over town, while delivery vans for florists can help them brighten every recipient's day. Let's look at some other industries that benefit from having vans.

1. Plumbing

A well-outfitted van means a plumber will be able to get the job done faster and more reliably. That means more jobs done in a day and more positive word of mouth, all of which will improve the bottom line of your business. Whether you run an individual plumbing service or you operate a larger business, the best cargo vans for plumbers can have an enormous impact on your bottom line.

2. HVAC

Technicians who work on fixing or installing air conditioning and heating systems need a van that can carry the many parts required to replace worn-out or broken equipment, as well as larger pieces of equipment needed for installations. When you take time to outfit it appropriately to ensure everything is in its place and there’s a place for everything, the best work vans for HVAC can make your employees a star in their customers' eyes.

3. Delivery

Whether you’re delivering flowers, cakes, balloons for a birthday party or auto parts needed for a body shop, choosing the right size van can make an enormous difference to your bottom line. A van will allow you to carry more goods and thus make more deliveries, thus saving time and money and making your clients happy.

4. Electrical

Like a plumber, an electrician with a well-outfitted van – a van where they know where everything is and they can find it at a moment’s notice – means more jobs in a day and more satisfied customers. Properly outfitted work vans for electricians also save on the wear and tear of important tools and result in fewer lost parts.

5. Catering

No one wants to bring food to another person’s house in their car. Even transporting food in a minivan lacks a professional look and often means the caterer must come and go several times to carry all the items needed. The right size cargo van eliminates the many back-and-forth trips, and makes your business and you look much more professional.

6. Painting and Drywall

A van will help you transport the materials you need, when you need them. An adequately outfitted van with racks on the tops and sides will help you transport as many ladders as you need to get the job done. A van with the appropriate cargo space means you can transport all the other materials you might need, such as drywall, paint and floor and furniture coverings.

Other industries that can benefit from having a van include:

  • Construction
  • Mobile showrooms
  • Environmental protection
  • Surveying
  • Recreational
  • Municipal/government

Let Advantage Outfitters Help You Select the Best Van Equipment for Your Business Needs

The best cargo van for your small business is a personal choice. It also depends upon the industry in which you work. The right van for an HVAC technician might not work as well for a plumber or a delivery person. The same is true for cargo van equipment. At Advantage Outfitters, we can help you compare work vans, determine which one may be right for you and get it equipped with all the organizers you need.

Contact us if you have questions on the best van or equipment for your business needs. You can call us at 866-925-4844, browse our inventory online to order today or subscribe to our email list for exclusive offers.