10 Steps to Upfitting Your Van Correctly
26th May 2022
Getting your van ready for working in the field means tailoring the vehicle to your job's needs — or upfitting it. Upfitting a commercial van for your business can be daunting for service business owners and technicians. To get the best results, you'll need to know what you need to start the process and how to do the right steps in the right order.
Advantage Outfitters, LLC is a professional vehicle outfitter company here to help you understand how to upfit your work van. Learn the 10 steps to a commercial vehicle upfit that will benefit your business.
What Is a Van Upfit?
An upfit refers to the accessories and additions you can add to your work van. It is the process of taking an empty cargo van shell and customizing it to a specific application. A correctly upfitted work van maximizes available space while making its operator safer, more organized, and more efficient. Upfits can also increase an organization’s competitive advantage by reducing vehicle damage, improving professional image, and ensuring technicians have everything they need to get the job done the first time. Ways to upfit your work van include installing partitions, ladder racks, rubber floor mats and shelving.
Benefits of Upfitting Your Work Van
The advantages of commercial vehicle upfits are:
- Safety: Upfit products like partitions are designed to restrain items and protect the driver from injury.
- Ergonomics: Reduce strain and bending with drop-down ladder racks and side door drawer systems.
- Organization: Ensure you always have what you need in your van to prevent wasted trips for supplies.
- Professional Image: A properly upfitted work vehicle conveys to customers that you are a true professional who understands their trade.
- Customization: You can upfit with van accessories tailored to your specific job.
- Standardization: You can install the same accessories across your entire fleet so all employees work with the same configuration. Standardizing your vehicles also standardizes excellent service.
- Efficiency: Upfitting with accessories can improve your organization and create an efficient work environment since you can easily find what you need.
- Productivity: Well-organized work vehicles can help your drivers be more productive. By giving this level of attention to your employees' work environment, your business can attract qualified job candidates.
- Protection: Upfitting gives all your tools a secure holding place for storage and transportation, protecting them and your vehicle so they'll last longer.
What to Consider Before Upfitting Your Van
Understanding vehicle upfits is necessary before you start installing upfit accessories in your work van. Here are our tips for commercial vehicle upfitters:
- Know what you need: Each upfitting project is custom because every industry and company has different requirements for their work vehicles. There are also a lot of upfitting accessories on the market. Know what you need for the job and match it to the best upfit solution.
- Know what you have: The upfit you choose for your work vehicles will depend on the vehicle style, the number of vehicles in your fleet, your budget and how long you need your upfit to last. Certain vehicle body styles may not have the upfit options you need.
- Consider your industry: Some industries have upfit accessories made for their specific trade that go beyond the general capabilities of standard upfit accessories. The fields with industry-specific upfit solutions include contractors, HVAC specialists, locksmiths, electricians, plumbers, telecommunications installers, and internet and cable installers.
How to Upfit Your Work Van
Here are our 10 steps for how to get started upfitting your work van:
1. Start With the Right Van
Before you can upfit your work vehicle, you must purchase a work van suitable for your application. When browsing the many commercial van options on the market, consider the roof height, length, payload capacity and factory options. Check out our vehicle layout guides to understand the space capacity of popular commercial vans.
2. Consider Factory Options
Selecting the best equipment for your cargo van starts with knowing what is in your van currently. Look at the window sticker in your van to see what options may have been included from the factory, which may include:
- Wall paneling
- Hitch receivers
- Rear steps
- Auxiliary batteries
- Partition bulkheads
- Lashing rails
- Upfitter switches
If the options you need aren't in your van already, or what is included doesn't fit your application, aftermarket alternatives are sure to work.
3. Know Your Vehicle
Knowing a few specifications of your vehicle will ensure you order the right upfit equipment. Take these measurements on your vehicle:
- Length: Most upfit products are wheelbase-specific — this the distance between the front and rear wheel centers. Some commercial vans have an extended wheelbase option with more length behind the rear axle for greater capacity.
- Roof height: The roof height also varies, as different models offer different roof height options. Most commercial vans have at least two, or sometimes three, roof height versions.
Another consideration for knowing your vehicle is the specialty variants your model may have. For example, some vans are available with dual rear wheels or double sliding doors. Others offer different door styles, such as rear hatchback or swing-open side doors instead of a sliding door. Knowledge of these features and options will help determine the appropriate accessories you can install.
4. Determine the Interior Finishing
Once you know your vehicle specifications, it's time to start installing. You'll first need to protect the walls and floor of your van with durable interior finishing options like rubber floor mats and wall, door and ceiling liners.
Check out the various floor options to see which would work best for you. Rubber mats have a cushiony base with a firm grip and are great for technicians who will be standing in the van for long periods. Composite floors offer similar traction to rubber mats. In addition, they also provide greater durability and a solid base for shelving and other heavy items like pallets. Composite floors are also more resistant to temperature changes and won't expand or contract in extremes.
Liners provide many different benefits to protect and insulate your van. If you're looking to keep your vehicle looking new, you can invest in vanLiner wall and door panels to prevent dimples on the exterior skin of your van. For an added upgrade, you can purchase DuraTherm liners for extra insulation and sound protection. Wheel well covers are another potential option that will help reduce noise and prevent damage. While protecting your interior, these additions will also give your van an added sense of professionalism.
Some vans come with flooring options from the factory, but oils and chemicals often break down these floors, and the underlayment can hold moisture and rot. For vans that do not come with factory flooring, the bare sheet metal floors become a dangerous slip and fall hazard when they're wet or oily. Bare walls can also dimple and rust, which will eventually need auto bodywork repairs.
Additional liners and flooring will help keep you and your van's interior protected.
5. Decide on Your Safety Partition
Van partitions will protect your drivers from falling and sliding cargo in the back, and they keep your products secure in the cargo area of your commercial van. The safety partition options include:
- Straight partition: A straight partition offers basic protection for safety and security.
- Swing door or sliding door partition: The swing or sliding door partitions give you access to the rear from the cab.
- Composite partition: The composite partition is available with or without a window, and it blocks dust and odors from the rear for ultimate climate control in the cab.
- Contoured aluminum partition: This partition type offers maximum seatback travel and cargo area floor space.
6. Specify and Add Your Shelving Layout
Shelving units keep your tools organized and maximize the storage space in your vehicle. These are also known as racks and bins for vans. The first step of deciding your shelving layout is choosing aluminum or steel. Aluminum and steel shelving are both excellent options. The main difference is that aluminum is lighter weight.
You may decide a shelving package is best for your needs. Choosing a shelving option based on your vehicle model and industry gets you an upfit compatible with your van and tailored to your trade. We offer packages made for HVAC technicians, plumbers and electricians, as well as general service and base packages ready for your customization.
Consider the large items that you'll need to fit in your vehicle. You'll want to get as much space out of your van as possible to make sure that these big tools — and everything else — have a place in your commercial van. Some ways you can modify your shelving layout to fit these large items include:
- Putting a gap between the partition and the shelving for a stepladder.
- Setting the first shelf higher off the floor to accommodate a large toolbox.
- Making room to balance heavy items left to right in the cargo area.
Once you've decided on the best shelving series, install it following your ideal layout.
7. Add Your Interior Accessories
Since many service technicians spend most of their workday in their vehicles, upfitting your van with interior accessories creates a productive and comfortable workspace. There are several interior accessories you can install in the cargo area of your work van. Some of your options include:
- Bins: The bins help organize small components that would get lost in bigger storage solutions.
- Cab organizer/paper holder: The cab organizer converts your driver's seat into a mobile workspace by holding and organizing your documents.
- Hooks and holders: With hooks and holders, you can maximize the space at the rear and side doors of your van.
- Lighting: Having good lighting in your van is essential if you work at nighttime.
- Locking doors: Turn any shelf into a secure cabinet with a locking door to provide better protection from theft and rough road conditions.
- Parts cases: Parts cases, or partskeepers, hold small parts, fasteners and hardware so you can keep these small items organized to find what you need easily.
- Safety equipment: Safety equipment includes a first aid kit to treat minor injuries, a triangle flare kit to mark your vehicle on the road, and a hard hat holder to keep your hat within reach.
- Seat covers: Seat covers protect your seat and your investment, which is especially important if you are leasing your vehicle.
- Shelf dividers: Shelf dividers create compartments in your shelves for more organization.
- Side door drawer system: With the side door drawer system, you can access the items you need without entering the van, promoting ergonomics and efficiency.
- Trade-specific accessories: Some interior accessories are made for specific industries, like welding tank restraints, refrigerant bottle holders and wire reel holders.
8. Choose Your Ladder Rack
Many commercial vehicles have a ladder rack since many jobs require using a ladder. The ladder rack options include:
- Cargo rack: The cargo rack is ideal if you carry one or two ladders and access them occasionally. It is best used with a rear roller.
- MaxRack: The MaxRack is a drop-down rack with side rotation and is convenient if you use your ladders regularly.
- Roof deck: If the roof of your van needs to carry multiple ladders, lumber or scaffolding, a roof deck is a flexible option with maximum capacity to haul this load.
Some vans have a high roof, so you may need to install a rear access ladder to access the roof rack. You can also add pipe and conduit carriers to any rack.
9. Add Your Exterior Accessories
Complete your upfit with exterior accessories. Some of your options include:
- Grill guard: This grill protects the front of your vehicle from extensive and costly damage in case of an accident.
- Rear step: The rear step provides easy, ergonomic access to the cargo area.
- Running boards: Running boards will help your drivers step up into the vehicle. They are an exterior accessory you should install if your van sits higher off the ground due to four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) configurations.
These accessories are different for each vehicle, so be sure to select an option that matches the specifications of your commercial van.
10. Load Your Van
Now that you have upfit your vehicle, it's time to load all the tools, equipment and products into your van. Be sure to put the items you'll use the most in a quick and easily accessible location. If you're hauling heavy items, maintain a low center of gravity by placing heavy objects on lower shelves and lightweight items on higher shelves.
Commercial Van Upfit Tips
Want to know more about how to upfit a cargo van? Here are some things you need to know about your upfitting project:
- Know your budget: Your budget will determine every aspect of the project, from what cargo van to buy to what upfit accessories to install. Look at your finances and decide how much money you can spend on your upfitting project before making any purchases.
- Browse upfit accessories for your vehicles: If you're looking to buy a new work van to upfit, research what upfits it comes with before buying. You don't want to buy a van only to realize it's too short to work with your plumbing tools.
- Make a management plan: How are you going to manage the upfitting process? You'll need to make time for the upfitting project while also running your business.
- Know your vehicle specifications: Each vehicle has different upfit options, so understanding how much room you have will set you up for success.
When you're choosing accessories to upfit your van, consider choosing brands that offer warranties for their products. You'll get the most out of your investment and can replace accessories that are defective or damaged. Some popular brands that offer warranties include:
- Ranger Design: Ranger Design replaces or repairs defective products at no expense to you. Depending on which product you purchase, your warranty can last up to one, three or 10 years.
- Legend Fleet: Legend Fleet offers a limited lifetime warranty on their core product lines damaged during the manufacturing process. You must report these defects before installation to qualify. All other products by Legend Fleet have a six-month limited liability warranty with the same conditions.
- Prime Design: All Prime Design products have a three-year warranty for defective or damaged products. Some conditions apply. For example, damage caused by negligence, acts of nature or lack of maintenance are not covered under warranty.
These are the things to avoid when you start to upfit your work van:
- Deciding on your own: From the service technician to the business owner, you should consult multiple people during the upfitting project. This tip is especially crucial if you are upfitting a fleet since your decisions will impact numerous vehicles and drivers.
- Hesitating to invest in upfitting: Upfit accessories and installation can be costly but will pay for themselves with increased efficiency and productivity.
- Tailoring the upfit for an individual driver: Though you should consult your staff when upfitting your work van, it is impossible to implement everyone's opinion in the final result. Make decisions that will please the majority of your employees.
Start Upfitting Your Work Van With Advantage Outfitters Today
Advantage Outfitters has the roof racks, shelving packages, partitions and more that you need to customize your van for your job. Each product has various options to choose from, so you'll get the right storage option for your van. In addition to our durable products, you can expect quick shipping rates to get your order right away and friendly customer service available to help you upfit your work van.
To get the accessories you need for your upfitting project, browse our upfitting accessories online and contact us for more information.