Weight limits explained and which vans are best for payload

There is a legal limit to the amount you can load onto any van. The police and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) regularly perform spot checks, stopping around 10,000 vans each year, and if your vehicle is found to exceed capacity they can prevent you from continuing with your journey and impose a heavy fine.

The current penalties are below:

5%-10% over £100
10%-15% over  £200
15-30% over  £300
More than 30% over Court summons

Overloaded vans are a common issue in the UK. Research commissioned by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in 2015 revealed that just under 50% of van drivers, which equates to around 1.2 million vehicles, are driving overloaded vans.

Unladen weight & gross vehicle weight

As a van driver, you need to stay within the weight limits. When a van is empty but fuelled, its weight is called the 'unladen weight' or sometimes referred to as kerb weight. Your van also has something called the 'gross vehicle weight (GVW)' or 'maximum authorised mass' which can be found on your VIN plate. This is the maximum weight that a van is legally allowed to weigh when loaded. It includes: the van, the fuel, you and any passengers and anything else you're carrying.

Calculating payload

To work out how much you can load onto a van (payload) and be within the legal GVW limit you need to do a simple calculation. You subtract the van's unladen weight from the van’s gross vehicle weight (GVW). 

So GVW could be 3500kg. The unladen weight of the vehicle is 2210kg.  3500 minus 2210  gives you a payload of 1290kg.

The figure you come to is the payload and is the total weight of what you can safely load into the van but remember this includes all passengers and their luggage. For example, if your vehicle is carrying three passengers weighing in at 12 stone each (76kg) this will use up 228kg before you even start adding any tools or cargo.

Safely loading a van

When loading a van it's important to note it's not the physical size of the boxes or how full the van is that matters - it's the boxes' weight and where they're placed that counts.

In the example above we've loaded a van with heavy boxes between the axles - and it's stayed within the gross vehicle weight. But if we move them towards the front of the van, the front axle could become overloaded.

What are the best vans for payload?

We've listed the van with the highest payload rating in the small, medium and large van categories.

Small van: Vauxhall Combo

Vauxhall Combo is the best small van for payload with a maximum payload of 1,028kg in 2300 1.6 CDTi 105.

Medium van: Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert

The Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert are joint best medium vans for payload. They share the top spot as the vehicles are in effect the same van. The XS (Citroen) or Compact (Peugeot) model with the 2.0 BlueHDi 150 engine have a maximum payload of 1,499kg, which is greater than some vans in the large class.

Large van: Fiat Ducato

Fiat Ducato is the best large van for payload  Limited to 3.5-tonne gross vehicle weight, the Fiat Ducato is at the top of the tree partly as a consequence of meeting Euro 6 emissions regulations without using an AdBlue tank. The short, low-roof SH1 variant with the 115hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel legally carries a colossal 1,655kg.