Ground transportation services as well as public transit agencies and school districts run vans as part of their diverse passenger fleets. Although buying passenger vans involve the same factors of routes, usage, loads, and service markets as for cargo/delivery vans, the criteria for buying the right one stands distinct from the other vans. That’s because the onboard loads are people.
Passenger vans come in three common forms: Full-size vans, minivans, and then the larger, extended mini-bus style vans with high roofs and longer cabins.
Minivans: The minivan comes in many shapes and sizes that include models that are suitable for delivery vehicles working within large metropolitan cities. Commonly known as, “soccer mom vans,” the minivan is ideal for use as a hotel shuttle vehicle with a smaller group of passengers, or for transporting children attending day care centers, after school programs, or small group field trips. The minivan is highly maneuverable making it ideal for inner-city driving, fuel economy and the ease of getting in and out of. Minivans have a capacity of 7 or 8 passengers, including the driver. To gain additional cargo space, look for models that have a quick-release seat in the back row.
Full size passenger vans: These are used every day to shuttle hotel guests to and from the airport and work crews to remote sites. They can be modified to work as an ambulance, a school bus or wheelchair transportation service. With seating for either 12 or 15 passengers, full size passenger vans are quite practical for transporting large groups of people. The rear seat is removable for more cargo and less people.
There are two types of removable rear seats: Quick-release and bolted to the floor. The latter creates much more work for removing and installing the seats. If you will do this frequently, make sure you get the quick-release option. Many full-size passenger van models now have a center aisle that makes it ideal for passengers entering and exiting the vehicle without having to crawl over or around seated passengers.
While the full-size passenger van market has been dominated by Ford and Chevrolet/GMC since the early 1960s, the Nissan NV and Mercedes-Sprinter have both had a serious impact in the passenger van market. NV models have a unique system for quickly removing seats – one at a time through a quick release system. While all passenger vans are capable of seat removal, NV makes it easy to convert from a passenger van to a cargo van in minutes. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van costs more than the other passenger vans and has the amenities you would expect from Mercedes-Benz. As with Ford and Chevrolet/GMC, the Sprinter is available in a 12- or 15- passenger version and can be ordered with a standard height or an extended height giving this van room to walk around in.
While Ford has retired their classic, Econoline and Clubwagon models, the new Transit model is a great replacement and provides similar space to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans. All 2021 passenger vans are eligible and included in fleet purchase plans.
Looking At Customized Specs
Once you have decided upon what type of van you are interested in purchasing, it is time to take a close look at the options you want. All manufacturers included in this guide allow you to build your van to your specifications through their respective websites.
Let’s take a look at some choices you should explore:
Colors: The two most popular colors for vans are black and white. However, except for Chevrolet which only offers black, white or silver, the other van manufacturers each provide a color palette of at least nine choices.
Towing: If you plan to use your vehicle for towing, there are many different hitch packages available and powertrains designed for towing.
Seating: There are many different types of seating and materials for your new van with many color options and schemes available. With passenger vans, you can select bench seating or “captain’s seating,” which is another way of saying individual seating. Your choices in material include cloth, vinyl or leather in most cases. While luxury ground transportation companies might prefer leather for their high-end clientele, vinyl might be a more practical choice for a church activity van.
Flooring: Flooring is another area that offers plenty of flexibility. From a bare metal floor to laminated hardwood floors, the sky is the limit for the flooring. It can be carpeted with commercial grade carpet or have vinyl flooring. If there will be times that you might need to hose your van out, bare metal or vinyl flooring is ideal.
Doors: Van doors are available in different styles for side doors and the back door. Options include side doors that slide open or double swing doors that open out. The double swing doors are also available for the back door or you can choose to have a hatch door that swings up as a single door.