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Media post: Best Vans for Refrigerated Van Conversions in 2022/2023

Many businesses nowadays depend on refrigerated vans to transport a wide range of perishables. These include everything from florists and food transportation companies to the pharmaceutical industry.

Choosing the best van for your business needs can be challenging. Most new vehicles need to be converted which brings an additional cost as well as several issues to consider.

Choosing the Right Size Van

You need to consider the appropriate size of the van which is best for your fridge conversion. It’s worth going to an expert for this unless you have a clear idea of the specs that you require.

Yes, you can undertake the refrigerated van conversion yourself but it’s easy to get this wrong – with all the regulations that now go with transporting perishables, including carrying goods at exactly the right temperature, this could open you up to fines and even prosecution.

According to refrigerated van specialists FridgeXpress:

“One thing you need to consider is space in your van. Once you’ve added the insulation and cooling equipment, the size of the compartment is reduced significantly. That can mean opting for a bigger size van will better suit your needs. The other issue to consider nowadays is whether it’s time to go for an electric or hybrid vehicle.”

Even a basic chiller van will require around 50mm of high-quality insulation all around the cabin and you will be surprised by the amount of space this takes up. Then you have to add in other equipment such as coolers and freezer units that take up even more space.

Refrigeration Equipment

Refrigeration equipment that needs to be installed for your van conversion will depend on the set-up required for your industry. There are generally 4 different types to choose from:

– Insulation Only: This tends to be for smaller vans and non-perishables that are being transported over a shorter distance. These are often used by florists, particularly during the summer months, for flower deliveries. Insulation only is not suitable for food or certain medicines.

– Chiller vans: These have insulation of around 50mm but also incorporate a refrigeration unit that can achieve temperatures of around 0. This makes them suitable for a wide variety of businesses including those that transport perishables over short distances.

– Semi-Freezer Conversions: Many businesses carry goods that need to be kept at near-freezing conditions at around -15⁰ This includes companies that handle meat and poultry transportation.

– Freezer Conversions: With up to 75mm of insulation and a hot gas or reverse cycle freezing system as well as reinforced side or back doors can help keep temperatures at around -20⁰ These types of conversions are generally for frozen goods that have to be maintained over longer distances.

Your refrigerated van can also be tailored, depending on your needs. You may, for example, need a chiller unit and a freezer unit in the same vehicle which will dictate the size of the van you choose.

Small Van Conversions

Because of the amount of space that insulation can take up, smaller vans can have limited value when it comes to conversions. The best you are likely to achieve is a chiller van that can be used for transporting non-perishables. If you want to keep flowers fresh during delivery, this can work well as it helps maintain a temperature of between 5 and 7⁰C.

LWB vs SWB Van Conversions

Short wheel vs long wheelbase is another consideration you will have to make when converting to a refrigerated van.

In terms of transportation, LWBs will have more loading space as they are essentially a little longer. They tend to give a smoother ride and are better when it comes to fuel economy and stability. They are a great option if you are transporting goods over long distances.

SWBs tend to be more sporty but they have less space for transportation. You might need to take that into account when you are planning your conversion. Because they are easier to drive and manoeuvre, they are generally a good choice if you are transporting goods around a large town or city.

Medium-size vans such as this can be either back or side loading or both which can be a good combination if you carry multiple types of perishables.

Luton Van Refrigeration Conversion

If you need a larger vehicle for your business, then you will probably want to consider a Luton van conversion. These are often used by larger meat and poultry businesses that require space to, for example, hang sides of beef and lamb. They also come with additional lift assistance for getting heavy goods on and off the storage area.

The Cost of a Refrigerated Van Conversion

For a smaller van where you are just having insulation put in, your conversion could cost as little as a few hundred pounds. If you are fitting out a larger van with high-quality insulation, a refrigeration or freezer unit and some extra add-ons such as shelving, then you could be looking at around £2,500 on top of the cost of your vehicle.

Because of the size, it can cost a lot more for a Luton van conversion but you also have more scope to create different compartments if needed.

Electric vs Diesel vs Petrol Vans

What your new refrigerated van runs on may also determine your choices. More and more businesses are switching to EVs to lower their impact on the environment. These vehicles have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and are very efficient.

On the other hand, petrol and diesel vans are set to be phased out and you won’t be able to buy (or probably sell one) after 2030.

Buy or Contract Hire Your Van Conversion

There are a couple of options here. If you want to buy outright, then you will need to add on the cost of your refrigerated van conversion. Another option is to go for contract hire. This is where you pay a specialist a monthly amount to hire the vehicle you need and it is usually converted as part of the deal. You can also get added extras such as regular maintenance thrown into the deal.

New or Second Hand

There is something to be said for buying a refrigerated van that has already been converted and is on sale second-hand. You do have to take into account the maintenance and servicing of the vehicle and ensure that it meets all the right regulatory requirements, however.

Best New Models for Refrigerated Van Conversions

Almost any van can be converted for chilling, refrigerating or freezing and there are a lot of different choices out there. If you are planning to purchase a new model, here are some of the makes that you should consider in 2023.

1. The Peugeot Partner

If you are searching for a small van to carry non-perishables, the Partner has several advantages. For a start, it’s 100% electric so is likely to significantly reduce your carbon footprint. The modern design means there’s no compromise on space compared to standard diesel.

With a driving range of 171 miles and 80% charge is just 30 minutes it gives you reliability and efficiency. Standard and long lengths are available and the payload you can carry can be up to 800 kg.

2. Nissan NV300/Primastar

For those looking for a medium size van, the Primastar ticks a lot of the boxes. The panel van variant comes in two heights and lengths and sliding door options for ease of access.

The van includes a smart panel that also ensures great fuel efficiency in all conditions. With room for up to 8.3 cubic metres of storage, it’s a great option for businesses that transport perishables locally.

3. Mercedes LWB Vito

Mercedes are one of the leaders when it comes to van design and they’re a perfect choice for fridge/freezer conversions. The Mercedes LWB Vito is seen as something of a game changer for smaller businesses.

The L3 can take a payload of over 1,000 kg and includes a spacious driving cabin and easy-to-use sliding doors. With rear-wheel drive and state-of-the-art fuel efficiency it’s easy to drive and a favourite with a wide range of different sectors when it comes to refrigerated van conversions. An ideal all-around vehicle for both busy cities and long-haul deliveries.

4. Ford Transit Custom

If you are searching for a versatile van delivered by one of the leaders in the industry, the Ford Transit Custom may have everything that you need as a business and more.

Like Mercedes, Ford has a long history of van design and manufacture. With 8.3 cubic metres of space to play with and a maximum payload of around 1,400 kg, this is a model that will suit many small and medium-sized businesses that transport perishable goods.

5. Renault Master

The Renault Master is a large panel van that can handle a payload of around 10 cubic metres and up to 1500 kg. With 100% electric models available, you can also help reduce your impact on the environment. Even for their diesel models, they’ve introduced a range of technologies such as SCR that greatly reduces emissions and makes the engine more energy efficient at the same time.

6. Citroen Relay

Bigger vans are less fuel efficient but if you need one for your business the Citroen Relay is a good option. Depending on the model, it can handle 16 cubic metres and 20 cubic metres with a payload of up to 1,500 kg and it’s the perfect option for refrigeration conversion.

The design of the front of the van ensures it is more aerodynamic and the fuel efficiency has improved considerably over the last few years.

With a wide range of choices when it comes to the best vans for refrigeration conversion, it pays to take your time before you commit. It’s not just the size of the storage compartment once the conversion has been carried out but the fuel efficiency and ease of handling that are going to be important. There are a lot of different aspects to consider but all the major manufacturers such as Mercedes and Ford have high-quality vans that are suitable.

It’s worth working with a fridge van conversion specialist in the first instance, not least because it ensures that your vehicle is compliant with the rules of your particular industry.

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