Compact and Capable: A Guide to Car Derived Vans

Technology is picking up faster than we can imagine, and as it grows, we begin to demand more. More convenience, more efficiency, and more versatility. Car-derived vans have emerged as a popular answer to these demands because they can cater to urban life, small business needs and delivery services alike. It’s easy to be misled, but we are here to define exactly what is a car-derived van and which is the best for you.

What is a Car-Derived Van?

Car-derived vans (CDVs) have their names bang on the money – they’re vehicles with a design based on a passenger car but are modified to include more space and cargo, like a van. They are essentially compact vans with the driving characteristics of a car; proving themselves incredibly useful on the day-to-day since they take the best of both worlds.

Typically based on popular hatchbacks or compact family cars, Car-derived vans are a cost-effective option for many people due to not only the affordability of the original car but the relative affordability of the van modification. In this sense, they are classed as light commercial vehicles (LCVs) and are the smallest type you can buy.

Officially, a car-derived van ‘means a goods vehicle which is constructed or adapted as a derivative of a passenger vehicle, and which has a maximum laden weight not exceeding 2 tonnes’ according to the Department for Transport. So, why are they so popular?

What are Car Derived Vans Good For?

Car-derived vans naturally sacrifice some loading space compared to other vans due to the dimensions of their hatchback architecture, however, they gain a great deal of manoeuvrability, efficiency, and practicality over other vans too. Just like a regular van, CDVs will typically hold just one row of seats for increased rear space, and this newfound balance between passengers and practicality will need to be considered. Some benefits of car-derived vans include:

Familiarity and accessibility: For those that are seeking a comfortable stepping stone into the deployment of a van into their lives, CDVs offer a convenient solution due to their familiar driving style and easy learning curve. This makes CDVs incredibly accessible since, for example, the smooth hatchback driving feel that many of us are familiar with remains in a CDV. What’s more, CDVs utilise the latest onboard technology and exterior styling as found in regular cars that originally attracted such a wide fanbase. A less known benefit of CDVs is their ability to look just like a regular car, allowing them to be commonly perceived as passenger carriers.

Optimised space: Designed to be small and nimble, CDVs make city manoeuvring a breeze. The car-like dimensions allow CDV drivers to navigate narrow streets and park in tight spaces which also make them perfect for delivering goods in urban environments. A surprisingly spacious cargo area becomes available in CDVs due to their modifications. A flat loading floor gives the possibility of having easy access to moving packages to furniture.

Convenience of use: CDVs typically feature rear doors for greater access to the cargo area, allowing loading and unloading to become that much more streamlined. CDVs also retain many of the features and comforts found in passenger cars such as advanced infotainment systems, climate control, advanced parking/driving assistance technology, ergonomic sports seats and more.

Balanced Driving: CDVs gain the benefit of driving at a speed limit the same as normal cars, allowing them to be more time and money efficient. Regular vans are typically limited to certain reduced speed limits depending on their weight. CDVs additionally gain the economical features of regular cars, such as fuel-efficient engines, modernised components such as turbochargers and exhausts, and the option to choose many driving modes. CDVs also weigh less, meaning that even with additional cargo they can still be as efficient as other vans.

What is a Good Car Derived Van?

While it’s possible in theory to convert almost any car into a CDV, there are many considerations to make, especially when aiming to acquire a good car-derived van. The feasibility and practicality of such a conversion are dependent on the car’s original design, structural integrity, and the legal regulations and requirements surrounding the process and product. Cars with a larger size, convenient shape and potential cargo space will inevitably lead to a better car-derived van for you than others.

Due to this complicated process (which will be elaborated on below), it’s advised you speak to local authorities and experts in the field of these conversions. It would also be worth asking about the changes to the safety of the car due to the increased loading, weight limits, and thresholds. You should also consider the resale value of the CDV – whether such a conversion would enter it into a desirable state in the future or not.

How Can I Tell if a Van is Car Derived?

While car-derived vans may be deceptive in their appearance, there are a few pointers that can help you recognise them. CDVs:

  • Don’t have rear seats and show a payload area instead.
  • Lack of sliding/movable rear windows.
  • Will be recorded as such under the body type section of the vehicle registration.
  • Are designed to weigh no more than 2 tonnes.
  • Possibly have a grated section between the front row of seats and the payload area
  • Can be found on cars whose manufacturers don’t sell regular vans.

If you are familiar with conversions, then perhaps you may recognise the result of some of the processes a car has undergone to become a CDV. Again, we are not advising you to conduct these conversions yourself unless you are experienced as they can be complex tasks and require specialised tools.

CDVs have their rear seats unbolted and removed and a bulkhead partitioning installed between the cargo and passenger compartments. Bulkheads can be made of metal, wood, or other suitable materials. Floor protection is also installed in the cargo area to give it more resilience against loading and unloading. Adding anchorage points within the cargo area for securement is also common. Sometimes the rear door is modified for easier accessibility. Lighting and ventilation are usually installed too for easy loading and to protect perishable items. Shelves, draws, and compartments are added to the cargo bay for increased practicality.

CDVs may also be recognised by their use. Cars you see that being employed for a delivery service may indeed be a CDV, depending on the volume of deliveries they are storing and conducting. Their compact size enables them to navigate congested streets, ensuring timely and efficient deliveries. Contractors and tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians and carpenters also use CDVs to transport their equipment – they’ll typically have their trademark on the side of the CDV. CDVs are also commonly used by small business owners (such as florists and pet groomers) and individuals who need a little extra cargo room for their hobbies (such as mountain biking and surfing).

Want a Simple Way to See if CDVs are for You?

If you aren't so sure about how a CDV could work with your lifestyle and goals, don't stress. Here at Eden, we have plenty of vans from large to small that you can test drive or even temporarily hire via our Karzoom page so that you can get a feel for their utility. These avenues are an even easier stepping stone into the van market because there are no strings attached, while CDV conversions are a big commitment and sometimes hard to reverse. Feel free to visit our dealerships too for a chat - our team will be more than happy to help. Happy driving!