Van for work and towing

Hey,

Wondering if anyone is running a van for their work vehicle and have any real world experience with towing? And in general how you like it as a daily driver.

I'm will need to by a new truck in the next year(new to me but used). I have thought about getting a van and making it somewhat versatile for camping trips as well as work. But I will need to tow with it on occasions. I have a trailer that runs around 3500lbs and on occasions will need to tow 7500lbs.

Any thoughts would be great.
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
Experience from another era...

I bought an '82 E250 with a heavy duty suspension brand new. It went to the junk yard with 250k on it. It never let me down and did everything I expected.

My stable has always had vans, rarely a pickup. Having gear inside, secure and out of the weather is critical.

ALong the way I had a one ton cube van. IDEAL! There were racks for all the gear I needed. Hauling capacity too. I added a set of inflatable springs for those times when I was loaded. Flat walls and a high ceiling made outfitting so easy. The outside makes for a nice billboard too.

The Euro style vans these days look great.

Given the low annual mileage for a typical urban tree service vehicle I'd be reluctant to look at diesel.

My '82 converted to a camper too. The changeover took a little while because I learned [the hard way] that a good cleaning was important. Tree gear and debris stinks!!!! Gear racks casme out and cabinets/bed went in.

You might be moving up to the Uhaul type box truck in order to get the hauling capacity you need. When I started looking for a cube to convert into an RV I talked with a few people who bought used Uhaul trucks. None were disappointed. They expect to have repairs done but that's part of used vehicles. One thing that you get from Uhaul is the complete repair/inspection record.

My current van started life as Jonny Lang's first gear truck. It was bought by a potter and the front third was converted into an RV. Back half had racks to store his wares for the art fair circuit tour. Its a '97 E350 V10. Its been said that the V10 passes everything on the road...except a gas station. LOL. Heck, its a big truck, who thinks about MPG?
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
Most trucks/vans these days are factory prewired for trailer lights and electric brakes. All you would need to do is buy the controllers. Plug n Play under the dash. You might have to put a plug on the rear end.

This might be a deal maker/breaker if you compare two vehicles.

E Trailers has been a HUGE help to me.
 

Jonny

Been here a while
Location
Buffalo
The biggest advantage I’d see for a van is security. Power locks working with an alarm would be so sweet on the east side of Buffalo.
Bonus points if I can just drive it into the garage at the end of the day and be ready to go the next day.
I wonder how many hours of my life I’ve spent loading and unloading tools and gear.
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
Some variation on these puck locks and no side windows is about as secure as you can get. Be sure to lock all of the time...even during the work day.

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27RMT0N

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
WA
I like vans, and my current personal vehicle/daily driver is a pimped out 2014 E350, had a 1996 E150 before that. Ford is what I'm most familiar with. I imagine you are looking at full sized work van type things, yah? The E-series are certainly made to work hard, and you see tons of them with 250,000 miles and still going strong. As far as towing, they do well, but not the same as the F-series trucks. My E350, the last year of that line of vans, is "only" rated to to about 8,000 pounds, where as my 2001 F350 diesel is rated to tow 12,500 I think. The newer trucks tow even more. So even though they are both 'one-ton full sized' vehicles, the towing ability is very different.

The best thing about vans is just the large amount of dry and secure storage. Depending on your needs, you can get that same benefit from a service truck, allowing for tool access from the outside as well as tons of interior space to store gear. Go to Commercial Truck Trader and you can find a ton of interesting options:

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RyanCafferky

Branched out member
I have been using Sprinter vans for work since 2007. They aren’t the best vehicles for towing but their payload capacity inside the vehicle is really good. I certainly like the feeling of security I get with the van. I don’t have windows on my work van and I have a bulkhead between the front and back. It is set up so I can lock the sliding door from the inside and also have a puck lock on the back doors. It wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be difficult to break into without using a grinder or torch.

My 2016 4x4 van which I use when I’m doing consulting work in California gets around 16-18 MPG

The 2003-2006 Sprinters ( I have an 2006 2500) get around 23-25+ MPG. This vans have the legendary 5 cylinder so called million mile engine.
 

Reach

Been here a while
Location
Atglen, PA
I like vans, and my current personal vehicle/daily driver is a pimped out 2014 E350, had a 1996 E150 before that. Ford is what I'm most familiar with. I imagine you are looking at full sized work van type things, yah? The E-series are certainly made to work hard, and you see tons of them with 250,000 miles and still going strong. As far as towing, they do well, but not the same as the F-series trucks. My E350, the last year of that line of vans, is "only" rated to to about 8,000 pounds, where as my 2001 F350 diesel is rated to tow 12,500 I think. The newer trucks tow even more. So even though they are both 'one-ton full sized' vehicles, the towing ability is very different.

The best thing about vans is just the large amount of dry and secure storage. Depending on your needs, you can get that same benefit from a service truck, allowing for tool access from the outside as well as tons of interior space to store gear. Go to Commercial Truck Trader and you can find a ton of interesting options:

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What he said. I’ve never run a van, largely because we run chip trucks with a lot of storage, and we don’t have a lot of use for vans.

If you’re planning to tow with it, the numbers your talking, a one-ton van will do it. The small trailer will be fine behind a one ton van, but the van won’t be too crazy about the big trailer. Vans are just not made to tow like trucks are.

I’ll second the recommendation to consider a service truck/utility body truck. You can buy one with inside storage you can sleep in on occasion, or you may be able to find a pickup camper that will fit in one (not sure, maybe) or just tow a camper along. Being able to access most or all of your tools from the ground is worth something, rather than climbing around inside a van to go gear hunting. My former-electrician-self says that vans get annoying quickly. What you need is always in the front, and you have to go digging/burrowing/climbing for it every time. Trucks with outside toolboxes allow you to just walk up to the side, open a door, and grab what you want.
 

27RMT0N

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
WA
I have been using Sprinter vans for work since 2007. They aren’t the best vehicles for towing but their payload capacity inside the vehicle is really good. I certainly like the feeling of security I get with the van. I don’t have windows on my work van and I have a bulkhead between the front and back. It is set up so I can lock the sliding door from the inside and also have a puck lock on the back doors. It wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be difficult to break into without using a grinder or torch.

My 2016 4x4 van which I use when I’m doing consulting work in California gets around 16-18 MPG

The 2003-2006 Sprinters ( I have an 2006 2500) get around 23-25+ MPG. This vans have the legendary 5 cylinder so called million mile engine.

Sounds like a cool setup, I'd be curious to see it.

My E350 is something I'm building into my 'ultimate utility vehicle' that can move big things, do medium duty towing and then throw in a bed platform for road trips, all while being a comfortable daily driver with lots of modern technology added to it. If my work truck is down for some reason, I can toss tools in the van, still tow the chipper with it and keep on working, though it's obviously no where near as convenient as my dedicated service truck. I'd love to do a 4x4 conversion, but at about $20k, that's not happening any time soon.

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Sounds like a cool setup, I'd be curious to see it.

My E350 is something I'm building into my 'ultimate utility vehicle' that can move big things, do medium duty towing and then throw in a bed platform for road trips, all while being a comfortable daily driver with lots of modern technology added to it. If my work truck is down for some reason, I can toss tools in the van, still town the chipper with it and keep on working, though it's obviously no where near as convenient as my dedicated service truck. I'd love to do a 4x4 conversion, but at about $20k, that's not happening any time soon.

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This is more in line with what I was thinking. The 4x4 would be the ticket but I've looked at the conversion as well and it's a little pricey. Sweet looking ride
 

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