- Covering all van sizes and pickups
- Avoid unnecessary fines and downtime
- How to calculate payload and stay legal
There is a legal limit to the amount of weight – payload – any van or pickup is allowed to carry, and it’s important to be aware of this if you want to stay on the right side of the law.
The police and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) do perform spot checks, and not only can they prevent you from travelling further if your vehcile is overloaded, they can and likely will impose a hefty fine as well.
Contrary to elsewhere in Europe, overloaded vans are a common issue in the UK, and a large number of drivers are stopped and fined for breaking the law each year.
If you want to avoid falling into the same trap, you need to make sure that the van or pickup you drive is easily capable of accommodating the amount of weight you routinely carry – leaving spare capacity for those days when you need to cram in some more.
To help you with this, we’ve ranked every major van in order of maximum payload capacity across the three main van segments. Click the links below for the sector that most interests you:
- Best small vans for payload
- Best medium vans for payload
- Best large 3.5-tonne vans for payload
- Best double cab pickups for payload
How is van payload calculated?
In the simplest terms, payload is what’s left over once the van’s kerbweight – what it weighs with nothing in it but fuel and fluids – is subtracted from the van’s gross vehicle weight or GVW (sometimes also called gross vehicle mass or GVM).
The GVW will be clearly marked on the van’s official weight plate – usually located in one of the door shut areas or under the bonnet.
If a van’s GVW is 3,500kg (3.5-tonnes, the heaviest amount you can legally drive on a regular car licence) and its kerbweight is 1,900kg, the legal payload will be 1,600kg.
However, that 1,600kg includes everything in the van – including standard equipment (the weight of which varies with trim level), additional fixtures and fittings such as lining and racking, and of course, the people on board.
So you can’t just rely on the manufacturer’s basic kerbweight figures to be sure that you’re driving legally.
How do I work out the maximum payload for my van or pickup?
You could get the calculator out, weigh every single basic item and get your entire crew to stand on a set of scales.
Or, you could take your unloaded, but fully equipped and personnel-packed, van to a weighbridge. Take away the total amount shown here from the mandated GVW and the remaining figure will be the payload.
You’ll then just need to keep an eye on the weight of the extra goods that are going in. A bit of a hassle but probably better than a fine – not to mention the delay that will result in getting your overloaded van down to the legal limit at the roadside, should you be stopped by the police.
The government maintains a searchable list of weighbridge locations online, which you can access by clicking here.
What are the best vans for payload?
We have ranked lists for every van sector, but if you’re in a hurry, these are vans with the highest payload rating in each.
Small van with the highest payload: Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner
The brand new Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner have raised the bar in the payload stakes, with both offering a 1.050kg version. It's the BlueHDi 100 S&S model that offers the most carrying capacity, but there are two other versions that offer a payload in excess of 1,000kg, so you have a great choice from the two models' ranges.
Medium van with the highest payload: Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert
A tied finish in the mid-size van sector – but that’s hardly a surprise since the Dispatch and Expert are the same van. Pick the XS (Citroen) or Compact (Peugeot) model with the 2.0 BlueHDi 150 engine and maximum payload is a mammoth 1,499kg, better than some vans in the class above.
Large van with the highest payload: Fiat Ducato
Limited to 3.5-tonne gross vehicle weight (some large vans do go up to 7.2 tonnes), the Fiat Ducato is the champion – partly thanks to meeting Euro 6 emissions regulations without using an AdBlue tank. The short, low-roof SH1 variant with the 115hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel will be slow, but it legally carries 1,655kg.
Double cab pickup with the highest payload: Ford Ranger
The Ford Ranger can carry up to 1,217kg in its most basic 2.2-litre XL double cab specification - nearly 200kg more than some pickup rivals. The most popular pickup in the UK in terms of sales, the Ranger also offers a choice of rear axles in this specification, depending on whether you want to priorities fuel economy or towing. It's a versatile machine.