Best vans for towing

Need a van that delivers with the ability to tow heavy loads without fuss? Check out the best small, medium and large vans for towing

James Wilson
May 19, 2022

Often vans are judged by the storage area behind their seats, but what if you need to haul a hefty trailer, caravan or large piece of equipment, too? For this, you will need one of the best vans for towing - as not all vans are equally suited to pulling heavy loads as carrying them onboard. Van manufacturers offer a range of models to meet the needs of those looking to hitch a load to their commercial vehicle, so keep reading for our selection of the best ones.

Vans - like cars - are normally quoted with 'braked' and 'unbraked' towing figures. Braked figures apply to trailers that have their own brakes, so are higher than unbraked figures, as these trailers are able to slow themselves. Unbraked figures, meanwhile, assume that whatever is being towed lacks brakes, meaning that these loads put more strain on vehicles' own braking systems.

The models below are picked from the best small, mid-size and large vans. There are a couple of pick-up trucks highlighted too, as these are often even more suited to towing than vans, as they typically offer higher towing capacities plus four-wheel-drive, which can assist when pulling off with a heavy load. Being that many businesses can claim VAT back, it is fairly common for commercial vehicles to be advertised excluding VAT. Therefore it is important to check whether the prices you're seeing are with or without VAT.

Maximum braked towing capacities are shown with each of the vehicles below. Apart from for the pick-ups, these are for panel van models. The towing capacities quoted are for the specific models shown, though figures may vary for different versions of the vans. This is because vans are typically available in a variety of different lengths, heights, body styles, engine and gearbox combinations which can all impact the towing capacity.

Best vans for towing

1. Volkswagen Caddy

Maximum towing capacity 1,500kg
Our pick Volkswagen Caddy 2.0 TDI
Used deals from £8,795

Few small vans are as practical and as desirable as the previous-generation Volkswagen Caddy. The different body styles include panel vans (Caddy), people carriers (Caddy Life) and something in between the two (Caddy Kombi). The maximum braked towing capacity is 1,500kg, which is available on models with a 2.0-litre diesel engine.

If you have your heart set on a petrol model, then the maximum you will be able to tow is 1,200kg. That said, if you can afford a latest-generation Caddy, of which the oldest models are from 2021, 1.5-litre petrol versions can tow up to 1,400kg (newer diesel variants are the same as the older versions). Being that the Caddy is so popular there is normally a great choice of second-hand models including different colours, trims and gearboxes, with both manual and automatic options available.

2. Fiat Doblo

Maximum towing capacity 1,300kg
Our pick Fiat Doblo 1.6 Multijet
Used deals Limited stock

The Fiat Doblo is a bit of a left-field choice in the small van world as alternatives such as the Ford Transit Connect and Volkswagen Caddy are the ‘go-to’ options. The Fiat is still a good choice, though, as it is a great workhorse for those looking to carry or tow big loads with a relatively small van. The Fiat is able to pull up to 1,300kg in 1.6-litre diesel form. Over the course of the Doblo’s life, Fiat has also offered a 1.4-litre petrol version along with 1.3-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines.

There are long-wheelbase models (these have ‘Maxi’ in their name) and short-wheelbase versions, but regardless of which one you opt for, the maximum towing capacity remains the same. One of the biggest negatives to buying a new Fiat Doblo is that it loses value quickly, but this becomes a big advantage for anyone shopping for a second-hand version, because even relatively new models can be notably cheaper than brand new ones.

3. Volkswagen Transporter

Maximum towing capacity 2,500kg
Our pick Volkswagen Transporter 2.0 TDI
Used deals from £13,990

Thanks to the smart styling, spacious load area and desirable image, the Volkswagen Transporter is popular with tradespeople, taxi drivers, large families and adventure seekers - with panel van, minibus and campervan formats available. The most recent version was launched at the end of 2015 but there was a significant update at the end of 2019 which modernised the styling, improved the cabin and tweaked some of the onboard technology.

What about towing? Well, as a general rule, panel van versions can pull up to 2,500kg, assuming they have a 2.0-litre diesel engine producing at least 150hp. VW has offered a number of different engines with the Transporter over the years, so make sure to double-check the towing capacity of any van you are considering buying. While there are larger vans and pick-ups that can tow more, the Transporter can tow more than all but the strongest SUVs and vans can handle.

VOLKSWAGEN TRANSPORTER BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Ford Transit Custom

Maximum towing capacity 2,800kg
Our pick Ford Transit Custom 2.0 TDCi
Used deals from £11,995

Launched all the way back in 2012, you could be forgiven for thinking the Ford Transit Custom might be showing its age against newer alternatives. The truth is that Ford has updated its medium-size van regularly over the years so even today it remains one of the best vans available.

There are diesel and hybrid models to choose from, including a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) which offers up to 27 miles of battery-powered driving per charge. While PHEVs are great for those who do lots of short trips - as this format enables drivers to complete many of their journeys on electric power alone (provided the battery is charged regularly) - Ford does not quote a towing capacity for these, so PHEVs are not covered here.

Understanding the rest of the Transit Custom range and how much each can tow is no small task. The maximum the Custom is able to tow is 2,800kg and there are a handful of models capable of achieving this. These include the L1 (280) version with a 105hp 2.0-litre diesel engine and the L2 (320) variant with 130hp.

5. Volkswagen Crafter

Maximum towing capacity 3,500kg
Our pick Volkswagen Crafter 2.0 TDI
Used deals from £23,995

This is where things start getting really serious, as the VW Crafter can tow up to 3,500kg. This is roughly the same as pulling 34,000 Greggs sausage rolls - more than enough for most people. Such a haul is only possible with certain rear-wheel-drive models (often shortened to RWD) but there is a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. On top of being able to tow heavy loads, the Crafter has a well-built and stylish cabin for a van, which is a comfortable place in which to tackle long journeys.

Rear-wheel-drive vans tend to be best suited to those expecting to carry and/or tow heavier loads. This is because, with a large load in the back there is more weight pushing the rear tyres into the road, providing greater traction when accelerating. If you are expecting to transport lighter goods or equipment, there are front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models rated at up to 3,000kg.

6. Ford Transit

Maximum towing capacity 3,500kg
Our pick Ford Transit 2.0 TDCi
Used deals from £14,695

Not wanting to be outshone by other large vans such as the Volkswagen Crafter, the Ford Transit can tow up to 3,500kg. Only Transit models with the more powerful diesel engines are able to pull this much, so be sure to check the details of any vans you are considering. Most of the Transit range is able to tow somewhere between 2,500kg and 3,000kg, so all models can be considered great load haulers.

There is a huge range of body styles to choose from, not just different lengths and heights of panel vans, either, as there are plenty of more niche options (such as models with an open back that can be tipped to empty the contents). One plus point of the Transit for commercial users is the network of Transit Centres spread throughout England. This means that if the worst happens and your van has an issue, there should always be expert help nearby.

7. Ford Ranger

Maximum towing capacity 3,500kg
Our pick Ford Ranger 2.0 EcoBlue
Used deals from £15,995

Pick-up trucks like the Ford Ranger are popular with a multitude of motorists, largely thanks to their versatility. They are practical enough to tow heavy equipment and caravans yet they can come with seating for five and an interior similar to that of regular cars. They also offer a high driving position and tough styling, and often four-wheel-drive and added off-road ability, making them desirable with drivers who might otherwise be looking for an SUV.

The Ford Ranger is one of the best pick-ups, not least for its impressive towing abilities. The majority of models are rated to pull 3,500kg, excluding those with the less powerful diesel engine. This is pretty much the maximum you can tow with an ordinary car, van or pick-up, so you'll need a pretty heavy duty machine to beat this.

Unusually for a practical vehicle like a pick-up or a van, Ford offers the Ranger in a sporty version. It is called the Ranger Raptor and it looks like something from a Fast and Furious film, thanks to its big off-road tyres and wide bodywork. Despite the meaty looks this can only tow 2,500kg but if you can live with the reduced towing ability Raptor models are unlike anything else on the road. Meanwhile, those wanting a more affordable and basic pick-up should shop for ‘XL’ or ‘XLT’ models.

FORD RANGER BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Toyota Hilux

Maximum towing capacity 3,500kg
Our pick Toyota Hilux 2.4 D-4D
Used deals from £19,948

The Toyota Hilux goes toe-to-toe with the best pick-ups for towing capacity as it can pull up to 3,500kg. Impressive stuff. What is perhaps more impressive is the warranty that Toyota offers, which can last for 10 years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first). This length of cover is significantly better than any rival and by quite some margin, making it a great choice if you're looking for a model that's more than three years old. Considering the tough lives many pick-ups lead, a warranty like this is well worth having.

As standard, the warranty lasts for three years or 60,000 miles no matter what happens. After this period every time the vehicle is serviced at an official Toyota garage the warranty is extended for 12 months up until the 10-year/100,000-mile cut off. Moving away from its warranty, the Hilux can carry at least 1,000kg in its load bed, making it practical whether you have heavy kit to carry onboard or need to tow a weighty trailer or caravan.

Additionally, the driving experience is relatively comfortable in the Hilux - although it's not as plush as large and expensive SUVs like the Land Rover Discovery - and the interior feels well built. If you want a seriously tough pick-up, but one that can be used every day with few compromises, therefore, it's a great choice.

TOYOTA HILUX BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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