Tailgate or Barn Doors for Vans

  • Most vans come with barn doors as standard
  • Tailgates act as a shelter and provide better vision
  • Barn Doors are more practical and easy to use

When it comes to finding the right van for you and your business there are many aspects to consider; body lengths, roof heights, engines choices, nominal gross vehicle weight, to name but a few. But one aspect that is often overlooked is one that could have a profound effect on usability, the choice of rear doors.

The two main types of rear doors are Barn Doors which are hinged on the side of the van and rotate about a vertical point and Tailgates which are hinged on the top and rotate about a horizontal point.

Whereas barns doors are a standard feature for medium and large panel vans, tailgates are more widely used on car derived vans, kombis and minibuses, but can often be chosen as a no-cost option on the larger panel vans.

Arguments for Tailgates

Van Barn Doors

Tailgates are seen as the lifestyle option, and users often cite the better visibility out of the rear window as one of the main reasons for choosing them. Unlike Barn Doors, there’s no central pillar in the rear window which means wipers are often also included.

Another surprisingly useful feature of the tailgate is its ability to create natural shelter in the rain, which is particularly useful if you spend a lot of time unloading and loading in exposed areas. Because the ‘attack angle’ for wind in the horizontal position is a lot lower, Tailgates are less likely to catch a gust of wind and slam shut too which has the potential to damage items.

Small Van Tailgate

On some vans there are no buffers either so if the wrong door shuts first, the lock or handle of the second could smash into the first which could result in the replacement of the whole door.

They’re also less likely to get bumped, as it lifts up and out of the way of people and materials, whereas Barn Doors often get caught in the way which results in scratches and dints. However, the flip side to this is when the van is parked facing uphill, or on a slant, and the tailgate could be held at a ‘head hazard’ height.

The final advantage of tailgates, albeit a small one, is aesthetics. Tailgates look neater than Barn Doors, with the hinges and electronics for the rear number plate at the top of the door and out of sight.

Arguments for Barn Doors

Barn Door Loading Van

The most obvious advantage of barn doors is that they’re a lot easier and quicker to open and shut. The doors are generally smaller too so require less room at the rear when opening and there’s no need to reach up to shut the door as everything is at hand height.

Joiners and plumbers prefer Barn Doors largely because they can store long pipes and planks out of the back with one door open and one door shut, which is legal as long as the number plate is on the door that is shut.

It’s also a lot more practical for those carrying pallets, as there are no barriers for forklift trucks whilst loading or unloading. A raised tailgate acts as an obstruction for the tall masts of forklifts so the only way to load would be through a side loading door, if there is one.

Big Van Barn Door Loading

There is also less chance of things falling out as the whole of the rear door doesn’t need to be opened. Many tradesmen often store items against the inner barn door without the risk of them falling out.

The final advantage for Barn Doors is for those who regularly use a roof rack. It’s easier to load and unload items on the roof as you can simple open the doors and step onto the load floor, whereas a tailgate would get in the way.