1926 Tatra 12 van
1965 Sava 213 vans

A van is a kind of vehicle used for transporting goods or groups of people.

In British English usage, it can be either specially designed or based on a saloon or sedan car, the latter type often including derivatives with open backs (such as pick-up trucks). There are vans in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the classic van version of the tiny Mini to the five metre long (LWB) variants of the Mercedes Sprinter van. Vehicles larger than this are classified as lorries (trucks).


Word usage and etymology

The word van is a shortened version of the word caravan, which originally meant a covered vehicle.

The word van has slightly different, but overlapping, meanings in different forms of English. While the word always applies to boxy cargo vans, the most major differences in usage are found between the different English-speaking countries.

United Kingdom

British English speakers will generally refer to a passenger minivan as a people-carrier or MPV, or multi-purpose vehicle, and a larger passenger van as a minibus. Ford makes a distinct line of vans with short bonnets (hoods) and varying body sizes. Minivans are the same vans but smaller. The driver's mate of a delivery van was sometimes referred to as a "vanguard." The Sun newspaper introduced the idea of "White Van Man", a typical working class man or small business owner who would have a white Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter or similar panel van. The Top Gear TV programme did a piece where the presenters had to buy a cheap panel van and then perform a series of tests. In reference to the reputation of van drivers' style of driving on British roads, one of the tests was to tailgate a car travelling at 60 mph as closely as possible.

United States

Full-size van in the United States
Minivan in the United States

In the United States, a van can also refer to a box-shaped trailer or semi-trailer used to carry goods. In this case there is a differentiation between a "dry van", used to carry most goods, and a refrigerated van, or reefer, used for cold goods. A railway car used to carry baggage is also called a van.

A vehicle referred to as a full size van is usually a large, boxy vehicle that has a platform and powertrain similar to their light truck counterparts. These vans may be sold with the space behind the front seats empty for transporting of goods (cargo van), or furnished for passenger use by either the manufacturer (Wagon) or another company for more personal comforts, such as entertainment systems (Conversion van). Full size vans often have a very short hood (bonnet), with the engine block moved to within the passenger cabin.

A cutaway van chassis is a variation of the full size van which was developed for use by many second stage manufacturers. Such a unit generally has a van front end, and driver controls in a cab body which extends only to a point aft of the driver and passenger seats, where the rest of the van body is cutoff (leading to the terminology "cutaway"). From that point aft, usually only the chassis frame rails and running gear extend to the rear when the unit is shipped as an "incomplete vehicle". A second stage manufacturer, commonly known as a bodybuilder, will complete the vehicle for uses such as recreational vehicles, small school buses, minibuses, type III ambulances, and delivery trucks. A large portion of cutaway van chassis are equipped with dual rear wheels. Some second stage manufacturers also add a third weight-bearing single wheel "tag axle" for larger minibus models.

The term van may also refer to a Minivan. However, minivans are usually distinguished by their smaller size and traditionally front wheel drive powertrain, although many now are being equipped with four wheel drive. Minivans offer similar seating capacity (traditionally seven to eight passengers), and better fuel economy than full-size vans, at the expense of power, cargo space, and towing capacity. In addition, many new minivans have dual side sliding doors.


Early Japanese vans include the Mazda Bongo and the Subaru 360 van. The Japanese also produced many vans based on the American flat nose model, but also mini-vans which for the American market have generally evolved to the long-wheelbase front wheel drive form factor first pioneered by the Nissan Prairie and Mitsubishi Chariot. Microvans, vans that fulfill kei car regulations, are very popular for small business. The term is also used to describe full-fledged station wagons (passenger car front sheetmetal, back seats, windows all around) and even hatchbacks with a basic trim package intended for commercial use.


In Australian English, the term van is commonly used to describe a minivan, a passenger minibus, or an Australian panel van as manufactured by companies such as Holden and Ford at various times.


In India, van is one of the most common modes of transport and is often used for commuting school children to and from schools as parents, especially working parents are too busy to themselves pick their children from school and when school buses are full and unable to accommodate other children.

A full size van used for commercial purposes is also known as a van; however, a passenger vehicle with more than 7 or 8 seats is more likely to be called a minibus.

Finally, the term van can sometimes be used interchangeably with caravan, which in the U.S. is referred to as a travel trailer.

The British term people mover is also used in Australian English to describe a passenger van. The American usage of van to mean a cargo box trailer or semi-trailer is used rarely, if ever, in Australia.


Roger Fenton's photographic van, Crimea, 1855

The precursor to American Vans would be the Sedan Delivery's of 1930s to late 1950's. The first generation of American vans were the 1960s compact vans, which were patterned in size after the Volkswagen Bus. The Corvair-based entry even aped the rear-mounted, air-cooled engine design. The Ford Falcon had a flat nose, with the engine mounted between and behind the front seats. The Dodge A100 had a similar layout and could accommodate a V-8. Chevrolet also switched to this layout. The Ford, Dodge and Corvair vans were also produced as pickup trucks.

The standard or full size vans appeared with Ford's innovation of moving the engine forward under a short hood and using pickup truck components and taillights. The engine cockpit housing is often called a dog house. Over time, they evolved longer noses and sleeker shapes. The Dodge Sportsman added a plug to the rear of a long wheelbase to create the 15 passenger van. They have been sold as both cargo and passenger models to the general public and as cutaway van chassis versions for second stage manufacturers to make box vans, ambulances, campers and other vehicles. Second stage manufacturers also modify the original manufacturer's body to create custom vans for the general public.

In the 1970s, songs like "Chevy Van", written and performed by Sammy Johns, and nicknames like "sin bin" or "screw canoe" became part of the culture as owners transformed them into rolling bedrooms and lounges. Conversion vans became a large market with plusher accommodations than factory seats.

Dodge ended production of their full-size vans in June 2002 (as 2003 models), and replaced it with the German originated Dodge Sprinter, which is based on a narrower, more fuel-efficient European design pattern with a 150 hp (110 kW) diesel turbo I5. Typical versions of the Sprinter are taller than other unmodified vans (tall enough to stand in), with a more slanted (aerodynamic) profile in front. They have been adopted primarily for delivery and lightweight Class-C van cab motor home applications.


In urban areas of the United States full-size vans have been used as commuter vans since 1971, when Dodge introduced a van that could transport up to 15 passengers. Commuter vans are used as an alternative to carpooling and other ride sharing arrangements.

A van equipped with professional carpet cleaning tools in Durham, North Carolina

Many mobile businesses use a van to carry almost their entire business to various places where they work. For instance, there are those who come to homes or places of business to perform services or to install or repair appliances. Vans are also used to shuttle people and their luggage between hotels and airports, to transport commuters between parking lots and their places of work, and along established routes as minibuses. Vans are also used to transport elderly and mobility-impaired worshipers to and from church services or to transport youth groups for outings to amusement parks, picnics, and visiting other churches. Vans are also used by schools to drive sports teams to intermural games. Vans have been used by touring music groups to haul equipment and people to music venues around the country; for example, the Portland band AgesandAges converted a 12-seat passenger van into a 15-seater to take the seven-member singing group on tour around the United States.[1]

Step Van

Another type of van, peculiar to North America, is the step van, so called because of the ease with which one can step in and out of it. Widely used by delivery services, courier companies and the parcel division of the US Postal Service and Canada Post, they are often seen driven with the door open, especially in big cities. Step vans have more obviously boxy shapes and higher rooftops than other vans, and they are rarely employed for carrying passengers.

A Postal Service step van
A Federal Express step van

Rollover safety

Recently, the larger passenger versions have appeared in news stories for having a tendency to roll over, particularly in the case of inexperienced operators. The van body is taller than the cab and bed of the pickup that uses the same style frame and powertrain resulting in the basic van having a higher center of gravity than a similarly loaded pickup from which it is derived. The suspension is also higher because of the extreme weight capacity of 15 passengers of between 150 lb (68 kg) and 200 lb (91 kg) each which may be over one ton of passengers alone. The seats in the passenger version raise the load, passengers, above the floor, further raising the center of gravity (and often shifting it rearward). The bench seats allow passengers to slide if safety belts are not used. In the United States it is common for only the front seat passengers to use their safety belts, perhaps because belted passengers feel they can still lean and shift a large amount. However, the NHTSA, cited below, has determined that belted passengers are about four times more likely to survive in rollover crashes.

Safety can be greatly improved by understanding the unique characteristics of 12- & 15-passenger vans and by following a special set of guidelines developed for drivers, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A summary of this information is available at "Reducing The Risk of Rollover Crashes in 15-Passenger Vans".[2] Among other things, this document advises that carrying 10 or fewer passengers (preferably towards the front of the van) greatly reduces the risk of rollover crashes, and it suggests that repeated operation by the same drivers tends to increase their ability to handle these vehicles more safely over time. Car rental companies have also started adding stickers to warn renters about the difference in handling while compared to standard cars. Items should not be added to a roof rack of an already top-heavy vehicle.

Safety equipment

Many vans are fitted with cargo barriers behind the front seats (or rear seats, if fitted) to prevent injuries caused by unsecured cargo in the event of sudden deceleration, collision or a rollover. A cargo barrier can also help prevent a collapse of the vehicle roof in the event of a rollover.[3][4][5] Cargo barriers in vans are sometimes fitted with doors permitting the driver to pass through to the cargo compartment of the vehicle.[6][3]

Models of vans by manufacturer



  • Asia Topic
  • Asia Towner

BMC Commercial Vehicles


Chery Automobile

  • V5 (codename B14) minivan
  • Karry a small panel van.









Dodge Sprinter



Freight Rover

  • Freight Rover Sherpa
  • Freight Rover 200 Series
  • Freight Rover 300 Series



  • FSC Żuk A 03, A 05, A 14, A 09, A 11, A 15, A 07, A 18, R, M, A 151 C, A 16 B
  • FSC Lublin 33, II, 3, 3Mi


  • ZSD Nysa N57, N58, N59, N60, N61, N63, 501, 503, 521/522



  • GMC Gaucho
  • GMC Gypsy
  • GMC Rally STX, Wagon
  • GMC Safari
  • GMC Savana
  • GMC Vandura 1500, 2500, 3500


Grumman Olson

  • UPS P-600 - chassis only
  • UPS P-800 - chassis only


  • Hanomag L28
  • Hanomag Kurier
  • Hanomag-Henschel F20







  • Kia Bongo
  • Kia Carens/Rondo
  • Kia Carnival/Sedona
  • Kia Carstar/Joice
  • Kia Pregio



  • Leyland Sherpa


  • Lloyd LT 400, 600









Opel / Vauxhall



  • Plymouth Voyager



Riga Autobus Factory

  • RAF-251
  • RAF-08
  • RAF-10
  • RAF-2203
  • RAF-22031
  • RAF-3311
  • RAF-33111
  • RAF-977







  • Tatra 12
  • Tatra Beta


  • Tempo Rapid
  • Tempo Wiking
  • Tempo Matador


Vauxhall and Bedford

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles

Alternative propulsion

Since light trucks are often operated in city traffic, hybrid electric models are very useful:

Wheelchair accessible

Some vans can be converted into wheelchair accessible vans for mobility impaired people:

  • Wheelchair Van Information[10]

The following vehicles may be used in yards or in historic city centres:

See also


  1. ^ Casey Jarman (May 4, 2011). "Best New Band 2011: The 10 local acts Portland’s music insiders are talking about (and listening to).". Willamette Week. Retrieved 2011-05-08. 
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  3. ^ a b "Retrieved 2011-09-02". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  4. ^ Milford Industries web site. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011-09-02
  5. ^ Cargo Barriers. (2011) Accessed 2011-09-01.
  6. ^ Caddy Cargo Barriers web site (n.d.). Retrieved 2011-09-02
  7. ^
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^[dead link]
  10. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  11. ^ "" (in (Italian)). Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  12. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  13. ^[dead link]
  14. ^ "" (in (Italian)). Retrieved 2011-11-20. 

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  • Van — /van/; for 1, 2 also Turk. /vahn/, n. 1. Lake, a salt lake in E Turkey. 1454 sq. mi. (3766 sq. km). 2. a town on this lake. 88,597. 3. a male given name. * * * I City (pop., 1997: 226,965), eastern Turkey, on the eastern shore of Lake Van. The… …   Universalium

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  • VAN — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom …   Wikipédia en Français

  • VAN — steht für: das olympische Länderkürzel für Vanuatu Vereinigte Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Naziverfolgten Bund der Antifaschisten, Hamburg. Landesorganisation der VVN. Value Added Network, ein Datennetz mit Mehrwertdienstangebot Flughafen Ferit Melen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • van — VAN, Ă, vani, e, adj. (livr.) Zadarnic, inutil, fără rost. ♢ loc. adv. În van = în zadar, degeaba. ♦ Neîntemeiat; iluzoriu. – Din lat. vanus, it. vano. Trimis de bogdanrsb, 11.08.2002. Sursa: DEX 98  VAN adj. 1 …   Dicționar Român

  • van — van1 [van] n. [abbrev. < VANGUARD] short for VANGUARD van2 [van] n. [ME vanne < MFr van < L vannus, van, FAN1] 1. Archaic a winnowing machine 2 …   English World dictionary

  • Van — puede referirse a: VAN, Valor Actual Neto. Los Vanir, dioses escandinavos. Van (o furgoneta), medio de transporte de pasajeros, o en particular, remolque para caballos. Abreviatura científica para el botánico V.M. Van 1950 Lugares de Turquía La… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Van — Van, n. [L. vannus a van, or fan for winnowing grain: cf. F. van. Cf. {Fan}, {Van} a wing {Winnow}.] [1913 Webster] 1. A fan or other contrivance, as a sieve, for winnowing grain. [1913 Webster] 2. [OF. vanne, F. vanneau beam feather (cf. It.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • van — (van) s. m. 1°   Instrument d osier pour séparer la paille et l ordure d avec le bon grain. •   Il prendra le van en main, et il nettoiera son aire, SACI Bible, Évang. St Luc, III, 17. •   Arcadiens, qu est devenu le temps où les Atrides étaient… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • van — S3 [væn] n [Date: 1800 1900; Origin: caravan] 1.) a vehicle used especially for carrying goods, which is smaller than a ↑truck and has a roof and usually no windows at the sides ▪ a delivery van ▪ a van driver 2.) AmE a large box like car that… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Van — Van, n. [Abbrev. fr. vanguard.] The front of an army; the first line or leading column; also, the front line or foremost division of a fleet, either in sailing or in battle. [1913 Webster] Standards and gonfalons, twixt van and rear, Stream in… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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