Van Upfits: The Hot New Trend for Tradesmen

by Jake Poinier

Pickups may be the traditional choice within the trades, but Euro-style vans are an increasingly hot trend thanks to fuel efficiency, low overall cost of ownership, and customizability—otherwise known as upfitting.

Every major automaker now has models configured with gas or diesel engines, different power trains, payload and towing ratings, doors, and interior height and wheelbase-length choices.

“The idea is to make it very easy and cost-effective for a tradesman to build the perfect vehicle for their business,” says Yaroslav Hetman, brand manager for the Ford Transit/Transit Connect/E-Series.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van Interiors

In addition to vehicle specifications, decisions can also be made for how to configure your van. Here are a few of the most popular upfitting options:
Ladder racks. While smaller minivans may only be able to accommodate a stepladder inside, some of the larger vehicles—such as a Ford Transit with a high roof and long wheelbase—can fit an extension ladder as long as 14.’ Yet, there’s still enough room to be able to walk around comfortably without bumping your head. If a ladder is too long for your vehicle, some aftermarket companies make roof-mounted external ladder racks that swing down for easy loading and unloading.
Organization systems. Upfitters can install a system of drawers, racks, shelves, bins, and tool benches that fit your needs efficiently within the interior space. Rather than just a vehicle to get you from point A to point B, a van can become a mobile warehouse that doubles as an on-site workshop.
Cargo partitions. When you’re carrying paint, chemicals and heavy equipment, you want them to stay in place. Mesh partitions can keep them from sliding, while a solid bulkhead divider offers increased driver safety by keeping out chemicals and items that get dislodged in motion.

In addition to organization, transporting equipment inside a vehicle offers a couple of advantages over an open-bed system: better mileage (due to less wind resistance), and protecting equipment from weather as well as theft.

Whatever customization is needed, you can work through your dealer’s certified upfitting program for financing and incentives—and create the perfect fit for your business.


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