So, what’s the best van for payload in the 3.5t range? You would be forgiven for thinking “Luton”, but it’s not. With its lorry-like build and chunky box, it seems you could ferry pallets of lead back and forth without a hitch but in reality, they’re actually the worst vans on the road for payload. At least among the 3.5-tonne family.
The van with the highest payload in the 3.5-tonne class is actually a normal, run of the mill, panel van.
The Vauxhall Movano has the highest payload in the 3.5t class, boasting a whopping 1620kg, but it is closely followed by the Renault Master with a no less impressive payload capacity of up to 1610kg. Next, the Fiat Ducato maxes out at 1605kg and Peugeot slips into 4th place with the new Boxer’s wholly respectable payload of up to 1570kg.
Points to note:
- Not all 3.5t vans are from the Luton range.
- Load volume & payload capacity have no bearing on each other.
- Lower kerb weight means higher payload – and vice versa.
- Higher payload means you’re less likely to overload your vehicle.
Prefer tables? See below for the top 10 best vans for payload in the 3.5-tonne range.
|Make / Model||Gross Vehicle Weight||Payload Capacity|
A Vauxhall Movano is simply a rebadged Renault Master so, by all means, is a solid, reliable, workhorse. With the highest payload of any van in its class – 1620kg, it beats out its Renault sibling by a mere 10kg.
With such a huge payload, 10kg seems negligible and is simply down to the Renault adding a touch of class with optional extras. Essentially, however, it’s the same van.
The Renault Master could possibly be my favourite van. With a payload of 1610kg, it has the second-highest payload on the list but I would be willing to ignore a 10kg loss to the Movano just for the Renault badge and the extra touch of refinement that comes with this big French bruiser.
It’s an all-around sexier van too, and with dimensions identical to both the Movano and the NV400 from Nissan, the only real question when choosing between the three is, which bumper & grill do you prefer on your front end. Other than some factory fitted extras, that really is the only noticeable visual difference.
Why choose between style and practicality? With the fully redesigned dashboard with ergonomic lines, Master offers you all of the style and design of a passenger car with no compromise.Renault.co.uk
The Fiat Ducato is more famous for motorhomes than it is for Amazon delivery drivers and in a respectable third place on our list of 3.5t vans with the highest payload, the Fiat offers a generous load capacity of up to 1605kg. It’s no slouch when it comes to lifting and shifting cargo.
And the fact that most homes on wheels are based on a Ducato, should be a testament to their strength and reliability – at least in theory.
I personally wouldn’t own a Fiat Ducato if my business was reliant on it, though. I’ve never driven the Fiat or have had any dealing with one, but, the Peugeot Boxer as well as the Citroen Relay, rebadged Ducatos, have both seen major reliability issues.
So, the Peugeot Boxer, with its 1570kg payload is basically a Citroen Relay which, in turn, is a Fiat Ducato. 3 vans I really don’t like.
Still, they’re on the road, some people buy them, and I must come to terms with that.
The Boxer, though, much like the Citroen hasn’t been without its fair share of problems – gearboxes and electrics in particular on higher mileage vans. Out of all the vans on this list, these have been among the least reliable vans on the road. Despite how awesome they look, and yes, they really do look proper cool, if my business relied on my vans to function then I’d likely opt for another make and model.
Being a rebadged Renault Master, you already know you’re getting a solid, powerful, workhorse in the Nissan NV400. And, just how darn awesome it looks.
The payload of the NV400 is 1566kg which is 54kg short of its sibling from Renault and 64kg shy of its cousin, the Movano. The only noticeable difference between the NV400, the Renault Master and the Vauxhall Movano is the front bumper and grill so where the other 54kg & 64kg went, respectively, is anyone’s guess. Factory fitted extras I would assume.
The Ducato, no, the Boxer, nope, wait, I mean the Relay. Yes, the Citroen Relay (who cares, really?), has a payload of 1545kg which is 25kg lower than the Boxer and 60kg lower than the Ducato, despite being the same, rebadged, van.
But perhaps I’m being a little too harsh on these 3 workhorses. Off the shelf, they are, of course, quality vehicles with high payload capacities that will do whatever you need them to do. The issue I have with this darling trio is their longevity, as in, they have none.
Not a problem if you replace your van every 3 or 4 years, but for tradesmen who tend to buy second hand and hang onto their vehicles for years, then you can end up spending just as much on repairs as you earn with these things. Plus, the depreciation – that’s a whole other thing.
The Volkswagen Crafter is a monster of a van and if this was a list of top vans for build quality and cool factor, the Crafter would be first to the top I’m sure.
The payload on a Volkswagen Crafter is a more-than-decent 1531kg too, which is certainly nothing to frown about but that heavier build quality comes at a price, and so, the Crafter lands four places from the bottom of our list of vans with the highest payload.
This only falls short of the payload capacity of a Renault Master by a mere 79kg so it’s not really a game-changer and what it lacks in payload it more than makes up for in build quality. If looked after, these vans will see you through 250k+ miles of trouble-free motoring.
Ugh! The Mercedes Sprinter with its “third from the bottom” payload of 1462kg.
Absolutely fantastic vans that run for hundreds of thousands of miles before they croak it, but I still don’t really like them. I’ve always felt Mercedes have had trouble refraining from over-engineering something that is supposed to be simple and do one job. And by doing so, overpricing it as well.
They’re amazing when they’re running, it’s when they break you have a problem. They’re expensive, like, overly expensive, while there are better, cheaper, alternatives like either the Volkswagen Crafter above or even the Ford Transit below.
Enter the Ford Transit – the king of kings in the van world. So famous that it has become a brand within a brand.
So, that being true, why, oh why, did it come second from the bottom on a list of the top 3.5 tonne vans with the highest payload? With a payload of 1445kg, it falls short of the Movano in pole position by a whopping 175kg.
Now, the LDV below, I can understand being at the bottom, but the Transit I don’t get. In a world where payload is everything, Ford should’ve just tried harder.
Is this just another case of relying on the brand selling itself? Or have they crammed it so full of factory fitted extras that losing such a chunk of payload became inevitable?
I’ll be doing a full review of the new Ford Transit in the coming weeks so, I guess we’ll find out where it went all Pete Tong on the payload.
Ahh, the LDV. The van everyone loves to hate.
I actually feel a little sorry for LDV. They’ve tried so hard but with such a checkered past, its new, reinvented self, is now made in China and is powered by the same Italian VM Motori Eco-D 2.5L turbo diesel engine that runs the famous London black cabs.
Don’t believe me? Check it out here.
Anyhoo, in last place, but still a relatively respectable position, the LDV V80 has a payload capacity of 1419kg which is only 201kg less than the Movano in the top spot. That said, the LDV is very much the budget option on this list with a base price of £16,000 – so, much cheapness.
What Does 3.5 Tonne Refer To?
A 3.5-Tonne vehicle is basically any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 3500kg. This is the empty weight of the vehicle itself + payload capacity, or in other words, the weight the vehicle should not exceed when it’s fully loaded with goods. We did an excellent article on kerb weight, GVW & payload weight here.
All vans listed here will do the job they’re designed to do, and they’ll do it well. The Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay are decent workhorses but are more likely to begin throwing you problems as they age and you rack up some serious mileage. And by association, it’s safe to assume the Fiat Ducato wouldn’t fare any better.
The Renault Master or the Nissan NV400, with their awesome payload capacities, would be my go-to vans if I were looking to buy. They’re strong, properly built vans capable of 200k miles without serious issues and if they do break, they’re much cheaper to repair than a Volkswagen Crafter or a Mercedes Sprinter.
The Mercedes Sprinter, as it happens, is over-engineered and overpriced in my opinion. It’s just a van after all, and you get what is arguably a better-built van with just as many bells and whistles in the Crafter.
If you’re on a budget, however, there’s always the LDV V80 to see you through 😁