Vans have seen a marked surge in market share over the last few years, with many people choosing to ditch the traditional car in favour of a more unusual, yet practical, mode of transport. Used van sales have seen a general upward trend since 2014, and new models are proving equally popular with drivers from diverse backgrounds and professions.
So why is such a fuss being made over what has always been a functional vehicle?
The simple truth is that in the teenage years of the 21st century, vans solve a lot of problems. They can be many things to many people, offering a versatility that cars struggle to match. As newer, more improved models hit the market, prices are increasing in line with public interest.
Small vans are proving the most successful, with many drivers opting for a modest yet usable make and model. Don’t be fooled: larger vans definitely have their role to play, especially when it comes to transporting good – but it’s the compact, neat and efficient small vans that are finding themselves in the well-deserved limelight, for a whole host of reasons:
- Interior space
It’s obvious to state that vans are bigger vehicles than cars, but what’s not always understood is that this refers not just to external size but also internal size measurements. Put simply, they give you a more spacious interior.
What’s more, they offer total flexibility when it comes to that interior size. You can add seats in, take seats out, install cages or wall racks; create a portable desk space or even a mobile bedroom.
Small vans offer the ideal compromise, providing additional space and the flexibility to use that space as required without causing a headache when it comes to car parks or low bridges.
- Van reliability
Thanks to a design modeled around strength and equilibrium, vans are manufactured to withstand a variety of weathers, rough handling and heavy loads. As a result, they’re built to last and are tough cookies in the vehicle world.
That means you’re likely to spend less on fixing issues – though we highly recommend servicing your van at recommended intervals, as many smaller problems can be picked up and rectified at this stage before they are exacerbated. Visiting a specialist van servicing centre such as one of the UK’s many Volkswagen Van Centres means you’ll be given a quote for any work to be done, along with a price match guarantee and peace of mind knowing your van is well-looked after and less likely to break down.
- Security and safety features
Vans of all shapes and sizes have extra security features that often pass unnoticed or unremarked by car drivers. Firstly, the driving position is elevated thanks to being in a cab, which often affords you a better view of the road ahead – giving you more time to adjust your driving to suit approaching hazards.
Secondly, many vans forego windows in the rear or side panels – often for the sake of advertising, but also for added security. No windows mean no way of people seeing into the interior – so as long as you are sensible about how you store things in your van, they’ll be more secure than in a car, where everyone who walks past can look in to see what you’ve got.
- Small van practicalities
It might seem counterintuitive, but vans are generally easier for people with limited mobility to get in and out of. Travelling in a car requires lowering yourself into a seat that is a good 1ft (0.3m) below you, which can prove difficult if flexibility isn’t your strong point. Vans, on the other hand, require a step up – and while large vans can necessitate a boost up, small vans often only involve a small step, which can be negotiated with relative ease.
Many adapted vehicles are based on small van chassis for this very reason – as well as the simple fact that all that rear space is ideal for wheelchairs or other mobility equipment, as well as storing any ramps needed to access the van.
Even if you’re able-bodied, vans are incredibly useful forms of transport. The fact that they are designed to take heavy loads means they come in handy for transporting items, or moving house. They’re a great vehicle to take on holiday as you can store tents, cooking equipment and all your personal effects inside, as well as bikes and other toys for small children. Smaller vans strike a good balance between giving you a usable interior and still being compact enough to drive around towns or in traffic.
Most people naturally assume that vans, being larger, are less economical in terms of fuel consumption and wear-and-tear than cars – and to some extent this is true. However, what many drivers fail to appreciate is that a van, fully laden, will be more economical than a fully laden SUV. This is because the van is designed to operate with a full load, and has been optimised to maximise efficiency under those circumstances.
So if you’re a commercial van owner and are likely to be using it as a workhorse, then it definitely delivers more bang for your buck. If you’re more of a casual user, you may find that at times it’s less economical – but it’s unlikely that finances will be the only deciding factor when it comes to buying a van, so don’t let that put you off.
Furthermore, small vans are a surprisingly good value when it comes to insurance, as they’re seen as reliable, secure vehicles. To get a great deal and find a much cheaper quote on your van insurance, we suggest Compare Van Insurance.com who search through specialist industry providers in order to find the best insurance premiums available in terms of price and perfect suitability for your exact requirements.
- High comfort levels
Initially, you might be surprised – until you remember that van drivers, by trade, spend much of their day behind the wheel. Comfort, therefore, is a prime consideration, and manufacturers will frequently go the extra mile or two with their van designs. As a result, many features are more ergonomic, the interior is more spacious, well-proportioned and comfortable, and the ride tends to be smoother as well – an unexpected perk of the improved suspension that weight-bearing vehicles require.
If any of these points have made you seriously consider investing in your own small van, it might be useful to get an overview of some of the models available. Honest John reviewed the top ten small vans while Parkers give you the lowdown on the 20 best-selling vans ever, big and small, so it’s easy to find what you need. Then it’s just down to you to make your way to a dealer and drive away a happy van owner.
Photo Credits: Depositphotos