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What Is A 3.5 Tonne Van Exactly? Luton Or Panel Van?

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When you hear “3.5-tonne van”, you would be forgiven for assuming no further than a big box Luton. Although all Luton vans are classed as 3.5-tonne vehicles, the 3.5-tonne weight specification applies to a van’s gross vehicle weight and not to the weight of the van itself while empty, its kerb weight.

The gross vehicle weight (GVW) of a Ford Transit Luton is 3.5-tonnes. The gross vehicle weight of a Ford Transit 350 L3 panel van is also 3.5-tonnes. While a Luton van incorporates a heavy underside chassis and a 600kg Luton box, a normal panel van does not and what weight is saved by this can then be utilised in the form of payload capacity (how much weight the vehicle can legally carry).

Neither van should ever exceed its gross vehicle weight (3.5-tonnes).

3.5 Tonne Luton Van

White Ford Transit Luton Van
Ford Transit Luton 3.5 Tonne

You would assume that a Luton van, being bigger with more available loadspace, almost lorry-like, would be able to carry more weight in the rear. The truth is that, as I stated above, the Luton range vans are all fitted with a heavy underside chassis and a chunky 600kg (give or take) Luton box on top. That’s why we refer to them as chassis cabs.

All of this extra weight adds to the vehicle’s kerb (empty) mass and, as gross vehicle weight must not exceed 3.5-tonnes regardless of anything, this means that payload capacity among the Luton family drops dramatically. Especially on models fitted with a tail lift.

Ford Transit (Luton)

Let’s crunch some numbers on a Ford Transit Luton box van.

TypeKerb WeightPayload WeightGross Weight
Luton2,484kg1,016kg3,500kg

Kerb (empty) weight + payload weight = GVW.

Gross vehicle weight is the only number that doesn’t change here. A lower kerb weight means a higher payload weight and vice versa, but regardless of anything, these 2 weights combined must never exceed GVW 3,500kg or 3.5-tonnes.

Points to note:

  • A Luton Van Is Heavier
  • It Has Less Payload Capacity
  • It Has More Load Volume
  • All Luton Vans Have A GVW Of 3.5 Tonnes

3.5 Tonne Panel Van

Silver Ford Transit 350 Panel Van
Ford Transit 350 3.5 Tonne

A panel van, on the other hand, doesn’t have a heavy underside chassis, separate box, or a tail lift, which makes it a much lighter van off the shelf. A panel van, essentially, is just a metal box with wheels and a steering wheel.

It does, however, also have an identical GVW to its Luton counterpart but with the absence of a chassis etc, the available payload on these vans is much higher.

Ford Transit 350 L3 (Panel)

Let’s crunch some numbers on a Ford Transit panel van.

TypeKerb WeightPayload WeightGross Weight
Panel2,055kg1,445kg3,500kg

Again, Kerb (empty) weight + payload weight = GVW so, as you can see, by not being encumbered with a heavy box, roller shutter doors, a tail lift, and anything else not fitted to a panel van that you’ll find on a Luton, you add an extra 429kg to your available payload.

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Points to note:

  • A Panel Van Is Lighter
  • It Has More Payload Capacity
  • It Has Less Load Volume
  • Not All Panels Vans Have A GVW Of 3.5 Tonnes

Luton Or Panel Van – Which Is Best For Payload?

So, here’s a question, which is best for payload? A Luton van or a panel van? Well, let’s crunch even more numbers based on the 2 vans above.

TypeKerb WeightPayload WeightGross Weight
Panel2,055kg1,445kg3,500kg
Luton2,484kg1,016kg3,500kg
Difference429kg429kgNo Change

There are pros and cons to either type of van, however. Panel vans are smaller, faster, and easier to park and you gain hundreds of extra kg’s in payload due to the nature of their design.

The Luton van is heavier, slower, and you lose plenty of that juicy payload but there’s something to be said for having a wider, higher, and longer, load space that you can almost play tennis in. In the van world, sometimes size matters.

Note: We did a great article on the complete dimensions of a Luton van. If you would like to read that, click here.

In the end, it really comes down to what you’re van is used for. Luton box vans are for removals and pallet delivery networks and panel vans are for Amazon delivery drivers and tradesmen.

How To Find The GVW Of My Van

One thing you should absolutely note, however, is that not all panel vans are 3.5-tonne vehicles. Some have a GVW of 2,800kg whereas others have a GVW of 2,200.

To find the GVW of the van you’re operating, always check the VIN plate. It’s normally located inside the driver’s door well and it will tell you all you need to know about that vehicle regarding weight specifications.

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