What Is the Best Van For Self-Employed Delivery Drivers?

Not every self-employed delivery driver is the same. Some, especially those who work on only certain days of the week or do the job to fill in when they are not doing their main source of work, will be quite content to hire a van for the days they are working. Others will want to take a much closer look at the van market and make an assessment based on fuel economy – something that is particularly important right now as prices are at an all-time high – as well as van capacity. Of course, those who will be expected to handle larger packages are necessarily going to need more storage room inside their vehicle than those self-employed couriers who deal with smaller parcels. There again, some drivers will only work a few miles away from their depot and their home when they are out delivering while others will need to eat up hundreds of miles on the motorway during the course of a working week.

As such, there is no single criterion you can judge vans on. To put it another way, there is no way of saying – definitively, at least – which the best van for self-employed delivery drivers really is. However, there are certain things that all owner-drivers want from their vehicles so it is still possible to make an assessment of the relative strength of the various vans there are on the market today. If you are considering purchasing a new van or want to explore the used van market to get away from hiring your working vehicle every day, then read on. This independent guide to courier vans will try to take as honest a look as possible at the current state of the van market in the UK today. Whatever you decide to buy, make sure you’re better informed about all of the options available to you.

Option 1 – No Van At All

Before we start looking closely at the most popular vans in the UK for self-employed couriers or multi-drop delivery drivers to own, it should be remembered that vans are necessarily the way forward. Many delivery drivers make a perfectly good living driving a car instead of a van. This may well be the best option for you if you also need a vehicle to transport your family around on the weekends and evenings you are not working. People with more than one child will often not be able to use their van for personal purposes due to the lack of seating. As such, a hatchback or an estate car with rear seats that fold down is often the preferred option and one you shouldn’t rule out. Although adding extra storage capacity with a trailer might not offer the security of product safety you need as a multi-drop delivery driver today, a roof box is a viable option for many. Remember, though, that insuring a car for delivery use will often be as expensive, if not more, than taking out a policy on a van. This is largely down to the higher residual cost that cars tend to retain, mile for mile, compared to most vans.

Option 2 – The Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta was first introduced way back in 1976 and it has been in almost continuous production in many territories around the world ever since. The three-door panel van variant of the hatchback has been around since the car’s first generation which remained in production until 1983 in the UK. Of course, there are very few examples of those still plying their trade on British roads. However, Ford still makes new Fiesta vans and this highly practical – if small – van is still a very good option, especially for localised deliveries in urban environments where getting in and out of residential streets rapidly would be a plus. Today’s Fiesta vans may only offer 0.96 cubic metres of storage but they are economical to run being rather light and relatively cheap to insure.

Option 3 – Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner

Sharing the same platform, the Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner are basically the same vehicle despite a few styling variations. Both French-made vans are extremely practical and provide owner-drivers with that all important fuel economy whether they are constantly stopping and starting with deliveries a few streets from one another or travelling between towns and cities on trunk routes. Although most of these vans are four-door panel vans, they are also sold as five-door passenger vans. The latter will compromise the amount of storage room you can use but this makes the two vans very versatile and even something that will work well as a family car. One of the most important things to note about the Berlingo, in particular, is that Citroen has included a sensor that will inform you when you have loaded too much into the back of the van. That’s good for both safety reasons as well as helping drivers to avoid excessive use of fuel by dragging around too much weight with them.

Option 4 – Ford Transit Connect

Although the Ford Transit is seen by many as the quintessential panel van design, the smaller and more efficient Transit Connect is often preferred by savvy courier drivers. It will accommodate medium-sized packages and offers a sliding side door for ease of unloading on a busy road. Okay, the Transit Connect won’t compete with a fully sized Transit but these vehicles are cheaper and there are plenty of good examples on the second-hand market. Transits tend to be used by construction firms and building contractors. As such, they can sometimes be worn out which is not ideal for owner-drivers. The storage capacity is just under 4 cubic metres, too, so that is usually more than enough space for a full day’s worth of deliveries for many couriers. With an expected fuel economy of about 55 miles per gallon, this is a good option for both city-based delivery drivers as well as those who’ll need to use their van on the motorway to get between drops.

Option 5 – Vauxhall Vivaro

This British-built van may not be a huge hit in European markets but it sells well in the UK and justly so. The Vivaro is a larger panel van offering owner-drivers more than enough storage space for multi-drop delivery routes. There are various versions available, too. Whether you opt for the longer, L2 version of the Vivaro or not, you can make use of the van’s handy through-loading facility, ideal for long, thin items that would otherwise need to be strapped to the roof. A 1.2-metre high by 1-metre wide door on the side of the Vivaro means that loading and unloading from any angle is rarely problematic. The third generation of the Vivaro is only three years old so you can find some bargains on the second-hand market for older versions. Even better, the Vivaro-e has recently been launched. Running on batteries, this version of the van is supposed to offer something like 143 miles of range. The practical reality for a delivery driver will be less but that’s still enough for many drivers who work in only certain neighbourhoods who don’t require a large range.

Option 6 – Nissan NV 200

The NV 200 is able to offer just about 4 cubic metres of storage in the back so it is able to compete very well with the likes of the Transit Connect and the Berlingo. However, it does very well because of its standard rearview camera, ideal for couriers who work in tight spots or who need a bit of extra electronic assistance when manoeuvring. Available in both four and five-door variants, the NV 200 provides sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle. This is especially useful when making deliveries in residential areas when parking for a moment on the wrong side of the street may be the only sensible option. The Japanese manufacturer has been producing NV 200s since 2009 and has even produced taxi versions of it around the world. This fact alone should tell you all you need to know about the van’s fuel efficiency. Both diesels and petrol versions are still around. However, if you want to run a zero-emission van, then the all-electric version of the NV 200 – the inspiringly named e-NV 200 – may be the best choice for you.

Option 7 – Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

There is a good reason you see so many Sprinters on the road being driven by couriers and it is because this van delivers in nearly all the departments that are important. Firstly, you get a raft of features with the Sprinter. Owners can expect things like hill start assistance, electrically powered steering and active brake assistance when cornering, too. With a storage capacity of 14 cubic metres, the Sprinter is ideal for all sorts of couriers, especially those who deal with larger consignments from time to time. The wide-opening of the rear doors makes loading and unloading a breeze while the sliding side door adds to the van’s reputation as a highly practical vehicle to drive. The third generation of the Sprinter, which is still in production, comes with a choice of a manual gearbox or three different automatic gearboxes, one of which operates as a nine-speed variant.