A guide to van bodystyles

Today, the select manufacturers who offer commercial vehicles can be configured to fulfil all kinds of tasks, supporting a large variety of different businesses’ needs.

Whether you want to carry a large number of passengers or a particular type of cargo, there will already be a suitable van bodystyle. Here’s our guide explaining the numerous different van bodystyles available today.

Panel van

The most common bodystyle on van seen on UK roads, panel vans are a popular commercial vehicle used for transporting goods for normally short distances.

Panel vans are distinguished by their large square loading space at the rear and the absence of windows on the side or rear of the van. To compensate for the lack of windows, larger than average side mirrors should be attached to a panel van.

Current popular commercial vehicles offered in panel van specification include of course the iconic Ford Tranist, plus also the Vauxhall Vivaro and the Renault Trafic.


Vans categorised as a double-cab-in offer not only two or three seats at the front row but also an extra row of seats further back. Two side windows are fitted to separate the second row of seats from the loadspace, so there’s more surrounding visibility then compared to a standard panel van.

Obviously as a consequence of the extra seats you will probably be unable to fit as much in to the loading bay. Overall though a double-cab-in van is ideal if you plan on regularly carrying more than one or two passengers on-board.


Similarly to the double-cab-in-vans the Combi has an extra row of seats behind the front. However Combi vans typically have much more flexible seating arrangements and extra windows at the side plus clearer visibility at the rear.

The loading space available in a Combi van is much smaller compared to say a panel van. However, the Combi specification can prove ideal for anyone needing an especially versatile passenger vehicle.


The term minibus is most commonly used for big vans with long wheelbases which have been configured to have enough seats to carry many passengers.

Minibus models can typically carry as many as eight or nine passengers, more than any normal family car on the market. The ever-popular Ford Transit is one of the commercial vehicles available in minibus form.

Dropside van

Dropside vans are ideal for workers looking to transport large and heavy items which would be difficult to move in the more enclosed loading bay of a panel van.

The folding side panels allow you to load and unload large items such as pipes, pallets and containers. The loading height is especially designed to be convenient for handling materials into and out of the loading bay.

Tipper van

Tipper vans are similar in design and principal to the previously mentioned dropside vans. They also have an open top and shallow side panels which can drop for easy access to the loading area.

The key difference with a tipper van, however, is it has a hydraulic ram which can raise one side of the load area to allow its contents to be emptied quicker.

Chassis cab

The chassis cab is a bodystyle commonly found on new larger van models on sale today. It is deliberately a very basic bodystyle to allow customers the freedom of customising their van.

Rather than giving the customer a pre-assembled cargo container or other type of loading area, a basic cab at the rear with just the chassis rails is found. Therefore buyers can easily install aftermarket equipment for various purposes beyond just transporting goods.

For example an organisation which might want a vehicle with fire apparatus attached could start with a chassis cab van. A platform sometimes referred to as ‘platform’ cab also offers similar possibilities.

Pick-up truck

The pick-up truck is a light commercial vehicle with an integrated open loading area and low sides for easy access.

While bodystyles like dropside van and tipper van are created by modifying existing commercial vehicles, the pick-up trucks are factory built from the ground with just one kind of loading area in mind.

A prime example of a new pick-up truck available now is the award-winning Ford Ranger, currently priced from £18,670.