2018 Best Cargo Vans for Small Businesses: A Guide to Gas Mileage, Cargo Space and More

17th Sep 2018

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 work needs to be done such as the jobsite or a customer's home.

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

In this guide, we provide an overview of what vans are available for your small business, the kind of gas mileage you can expect, the amount of space in the cargo area, payload capacities, powertrains and even resale values.

Some of the Most Common Cargo Vans for Small Businesses

Here is an overview of some of the most common cargo vans and some key stats on their performance.

1. 2018 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.

  • Starting Price: $42,000
  • Gas Mileage: 19 miles per gallon
  • Cargo Space: 568 cubic feet
  • Max Payload: 5,574 pounds

2. 2018 Mercedes Metris Van

This is another offering from Mercedes-Benz that gives you great gas mileage. It’s a great buy if fuel economy is a concern. Although relatively new to the American market, it has been sold in Europe since the mid-90s. It’s about the size of a minivan but has plenty of room for cargo and a large payload capacity.

  • Starting Price: $26,000
  • Gas Mileage: 21 miles per gallon city/24 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo Space: 199 cubic feet
  • Max Payload: 2,500 pounds

3. 2018 RAM ProMaster Van

Only sold in America for a few years, the ProMaster been marketed in Europe for more than three decades as the Fiat Ducato. Unlike many other full-size vans, the ProMaster features front-wheel drive. The ProMaster comes in three models (from smallest to largest) — 1500, 2500 or 3500 — can be outfitted 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 load floor that is quite low.

  • 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: 5,160 pounds

4. 2018 RAM ProMaster City Van

The ProMaster City offers great gas mileage, so it's a great van for fuel economy if your business requires you to travel over a large area. Also based on the Fiat Ducato, the nine-speed automatic transmission 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 review camera.

  • Starting Price: $24,000
  • Gas Mileage: 21 miles per gallon city/28 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo Space: 137.1 cubic feet
  • Max Payload: 1,833 pounds

5. 2018 Ford Transit Van

One of the Transit’s best features is that it can carry a lot of cargo. Is probably one of the reasons that 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: $32,200
  • Gas Mileage: 14 miles per gallon city/18 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo Space: 487.3 cubic feet
  • Max Payload: 4,650 pounds

6. 2018 Ford Transit Connect Van

Smaller vans like the Transit Connect have been widely used 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 choose between a variety of advanced convenience and safety features such as Ford MyKey that allows owners or administrators to preset speed or audio volumes. An alarm goes off when they are exceeded.

  • Starting Price: $23,100
  • Gas Mileage: 19 miles per gallon city/27 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo Space: 128.6 cubic feet
  • Max Payload: 1,600 pounds

7. 2018 Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna

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

  • Starting Price: $30,750
  • Gas Mileage: 24 miles per gallon city/26 miles per gallon highway
  • Cargo Space: 284 cubic feet
  • Max Payload: 4,100 pounds

8. 2018 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 L V8, it can tow almost 9,500 pounds.

  • Starting Price: $27,700
  • Gas Mileage: 15 miles per gallon
  • Cargo Space: 234 to 321 cubic feet
  • Max Payload: 2,630 to 3,859 pounds

9. The 2018 Nissan NV 200

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

  • Starting Price: $22,000
  • 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 upon the configuration you choose and the added features you desire. But here are the 2018 starting manufacturer suggested retail prices, without any options, from lowest to highest, in each category.

Large Vans

  1. Nissan NV: $27,700
  2. RAM ProMaster: $30,000
  3. Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna: $30,750
  4. Ford Transit: $32,200
  5. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: $42,000

Compact Vans

  1. Nissan NV200: $22,000
  2. Ford Transit Connect: $23,100
  3. RAM ProMaster City: $24,000
  4. Mercedes-Benz Metris: $26,000

Which Cargo Vans Have the Best Gas Mileage?

The importance 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 important 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

The larger cargo space usually means sacrificing gas mileage.

  1. Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna: 24 miles per gallon city/26 miles per gallon highway
  2. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: 19 miles per gallon
  3. Nissan NV: 15 miles per gallon
  4. Ford Transit: 14 miles per gallon city/18 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. Nissan NV200: 24 miles per gallon city/26 miles per gallon highway
  2. RAM ProMaster City: 21 miles per gallon city/28 miles per gallon highway
  3. Mercedes-Benz Metris: 21 miles per gallon city/24 miles per gallon highway
  4. 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 vans that we previewed above offer cargo space of differing sizes with some models offering more, some less. Here’s a rundown of the vans that offer the most space in large and compact categories:

Large Vans

If you need a big van with a lot of 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 largest configuration offers 487.3 cubic feet of cargo space.
  3. Ram ProMaster: The largest configuration offers a cargo space of 436 cubic feet.

Compact 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 very large space of 199 cubic feet
  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 that lots of cargo space and payload can also be seen as pluses or minuses when it comes to other features you are looking for.

Best Resale Value

Most vans lose half of their original value within three years of their purchase and retain only one-third of their value after they been used for five years. 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 is outfitted properly so that there are protections for the floors and walls of the cargo van, you’re likely to get a good resale price regardless of the type of van you use.

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

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 greatest resale value when you need to sell.

Compact Van: Ford Transit Connect

The Transit Connect has several features that 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 with the top vans:

Large Vans

1. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

This van is very reliable. It doesn't need to be serviced 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 extremely 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 pounds per foot 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

This popular van is used by many small businesses across the country. It has the same chassis as Fiat's Ducato, lots of cargo capacity for a compact and great fuel economy.

3. Ford Transit Connect

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

4. Nissan NV200

Like its larger sibling, the Nissan NV200 also has an excellent five-year or 100,000-mile warranty. It has very good fuel economy, an affordable base price and hill-start assist, but its small hight means limited cargo space.

The Top Three Vans to Consider

So which is the best van to buy? That is, of course, a personal decision and 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.

It can be a complicated decision.

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

1. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Expensive, but very well designed and put together. If you’re looking for a great large cargo van that also offers really good gas mileage, reliability and a good resale value, then the Sprinter is the vehicle for you.

2. Ford Transit

The workhorse. Not quite the overall package of the Sprinter, but 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 very large payload possible.

3. Nissan NV200

The great warranty, superb gas mileage and the very affordable starting price make this an attractive selection. It has excellent fuel economy and decent cargo space for a compact model. The integrated cargo mounting points eliminate the need for drilling in your van. Don’t forget that there are also six exterior mounting points for roof racks.

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

The best cargo van for your business is a very personal choice. It also depends upon the industry in which you work. The right van for somebody who does HVAC might not be the right van for a plumber or a handyman. The same is true for cargo van equipment. At Advantage Outfitters, we can help you determine which van may be right for you and get your van 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 1-866-925-4844, browse our inventory online to order today or subscribe to our email list for exclusive offers.