Full-Size Cargo Vans vs. Compact Cargo Vans - GoShare blank

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Full-Size Cargo Vans vs. Compact Cargo Vans

For plenty of individuals and companies out there, a sturdy workhorse of a vehicle is required to support deliveries and transportation. When your business relies on something being picked up, transported, and dropped off in a timely manner, a reliable vehicle is a must-have. But, pickup trucks are too one-dimensional and sedans and SUVs don’t pack a large enough punch. This is where the versatility of full-size and compact cargo vans come into play.

Full-Size Cargo Vans vs. Compact Cargo Vans

Full-size cargo vans are the standard backbone of many small businesses’ operations – a sturdy workhorse that’s able and ready to transport and deliver cargo, equipment, and more at a moment’s notice. Full-size cargo vans are a unique type of vehicle, combining the comfort and agility of an SUV and the powerful capabilities of a truck into one. It’s no wonder these cargo vans have been a staple in the workforce in order to meet the strenuous and back and forth demands of running the logistics of a company. Several automobile manufacturers, ranging from Ford to Chevrolet, have produced full-size cargo vans to fit your everyday needs, depending on the type of trade you’re in. 

Compact cargo vans are among the new-generation of vehicle categories in North America, first introduced in 2009 by Ford with their 2010 Ford Transit Connect van. Other car manufacturers were quick to adapt to the constant change of consumer needs for greater flexibility and efficiency in vans. Fast forward 10 years later, compact cargo vans are now a dominant force in the automobile industry. Essentially a smaller version of a full-size cargo van, the compact cargo van compromises strength in exchange for added lightweight convenience.

Regardless of the core differences between these two types of vans, several other factors should be considered when deciding whether a compact or full-size cargo van is the right fit for you. Take a look at our compact and full-size cargo van comparisons prior to deciding which vehicle is right for you.


You can expect full-size cargo vans to be costlier than compact cargo vans due to their powerful infrastructure and carrying capacity. Here’s a list of the 2019 full-size vans based off the starting manufacturer’s retail price, from lowest to highest:

  • Ram ProMaster – $30,245
  • Nissan NV – $30,835
  • Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana – $32,000
  • Ford Transit – $33,135
  • Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – $42,900

In contrast, you can save roughly $5,000 to $10,000 by purchasing a small cargo van instead. It’s a wise choice for those who don’t need the functionalities of a full-size cargo van but still need an affordable van on a budget. Below are the 2019 compact vans based off the starting manufacturer’s retail price, from lowest to highest:

  • Nissan NV200 – $22,300
  • Ford Transit Connect – $24,100 
  • Ram ProMaster City – $24,545
  • Mercedes-Benz Metris – $36,000
Resale Value

There are several reasons as to why people believe that buying a used vehicle is often one of the smartest decisions you can make. Most vehicles lose 20% of their value in the first year, and 10-15% each additional year. Full-size cargo vans typically undergo more wear and tear throughout their lifespan, negatively affecting their resale price if they’re not properly taken care of. 

But, if you avoid the common mistakes that can potentially ruin a vehicle’s resale value, both full-size and compact cargo vans can offer terrific resale value. In particular, the Ford Transit and the Ram ProMaster are consistently placed at the top of Edmunds’ Best Retained Value Awards. These cargo vans offer reliable capabilities and host an array of customization features, ensuring that you get the most bang for your buck when you decide to put them back on the market.

On the other hand, the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 are great picks for compact cargo vans that hold over the long haul. Ranked high on Edmunds’ Best Retained Value Awards, the Transit Connect and NV200 provide stellar reliability for a reasonable price. These two van models allow you to maximize your money when the time comes to trade-in or sell.

Cargo Space and Payload Capacity

One of the great characteristics about a cargo van is their utility, the ability to accomodate equipment, such as a ladder rack placed on top with moving dollies and hand trucks on the inside, while remaining nimble on the road. If you’re a delivery professional engaging in the constant moving of heavy items, you’ll be happy with the generous amount of cargo capacity and space that full-size cargo vans have to offer. Check out our list of the top three 2019 large cargo vans that deliver outstanding cargo space and payload capacity:

  • Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – Maximum cargo space of up to 532.6 cubic feet and payload capacity of 6,735 pounds
  • Ford Transit – Maximum cargo space of up to 487.3 cubic feet and payload capacity of up to 4,640 pounds
  • RAM ProMaster – Maximum cargo space of up to 460 cubic feet and payload capacity of up to 4,680 pounds

Compact cargo vans can’t compete with full-size cargo vans in terms of sheer carrying capacity and space. However, these small vans still provide plenty of interior room to carry and fit a considerable amount of items. Take a look at our list of the best 2019 compact cargo vans for cargo space and payload capacity:

  • Mercedes-Benz Metris – Maximum cargo space of up to 199 cubic feet and payload capacity of up to 1,874 pounds
  • RAM ProMaster City – Maximum cargo space of up to 137.1 cubic feet and payload capacity of up to 1,833 pounds
  • Ford Transit Connect – Maximum cargo space of up to 123.2 cubic feet and payload capacity of up to 1,549 pounds

Due to the large carrying capacity, full-size cargo van owners qualify for a higher hourly wage on some on-demand delivery platforms, including GoShare. Compact cargo vans can also be used on the GoShare platform for courier and small truck projects. 

Fuel Economy

According to an Automotive Fleet article in 2014, Phil Schreiber, Otis’ fleet manager in North America, saw the potential in compact cargo vans and began to convert 60% of his van fleet to compact vans. With about 900 Transit Connects and 600 full-size cargo vans, he estimated his fleet was using 500,000 gallons less in fuel each year.

If you take a look at the hard facts, it’s clear that compact cargo vans are more fuel efficient than their full-size counterparts. Depending on your motive, the better gas mileage may be more useful than larger cargo space and capacity. We’ve listed the top three 2019 full-size cargo vans with the best gas mileage below (data taken from fueleconomy.gov):

  • Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana – 24 MPG in the city/26 MPG on the highway
  • Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: 19 MPG
  • Ford Transit – 14 MPG in the city/18 MPG on the highway

You’ll notice a positive jump in the amount of miles that compact cargo vans can go on a gallon. With better fuel efficiency, businesses may be more keen to manage a fleet of small cargo vans in order to realize their cost savings potential. See our list of the best 2019 compact vans for gas mileage performance below (data taken from fueleconomy.gov):

  • RAM ProMaster City: 21 MPG in the city/28 MPG on the highway
  • Mercedes-Benz Metris – 21 MPG in the city/24 MPG on the highway
  • Ford Transit Connect – 19 MPG in the city/27 MPG on the highway

At the end of the day, the debate of whether you should buy a compact or full-size cargo van comes down to preference. It’s clear that the full-size cargo van segment dominates in regards to total power, capacity and space. But, you can potentially save more money with compact cargo vans’ lower prices and better gas mileage. Your personal and work-related intentions, whether you enjoy traveling, own a furniture retail store, or anything in between, truly dictate the decision-making for these two types of cargo vans. Find and hit the road with your full-size or compact cargo van that’s a perfect match for your needs.

Additional Resources

Check out these other helpful articles to get more information on cargo van performance, reviews, and tips.

Opportunities for Van Owners

GoShare offers opportunities for pickup truck, full-size cargo van, and box truck owners to earn extra income by helping individuals and businesses in their communities with on-demand moving and delivery projects. If you are interested in earning extra income doing part-time or weekend projects, visit www.GoShare.co/Drivers to learn about our program.