Luton van vs Panel van: The complete guide

Written by Steve Cook

Published on

Whether you need a van for your work or just for personal trips, it's important to know the differences between all the vehicle types out there.

Among the most popular choices in the UK are Luton vans and panel vans, each with their own unique designs and features.

In this guide, we compare tese two types of vans, and give you everything you need to make the right decision.

Let’s dive right in.

Van driver walking past parked vans

Cargo space and capacity

Luton vans are renowned for their spacious cargo area and distinctive "Luton peak" over the cab, which offers an extra space for storage. This design maximises the volume available for transporting bulky items, making Luton vans ideal for house moves or delivering large furniture.

Panel vans, on the other hand, provide a more compact cargo space, designed primarily for transporting tools and equipment, or for making deliveries in busy urban environments. Their enclosed, windowless design allows for customisable interiors, and makes them a good choice for tradespeople, contractors and small businesses.

Handling and driving

Luton vans tend to be larger and require more careful handling, especially in tight urban spaces. Their size may pose challenges for parking and navigating narrow streets, and their larger capacity makes them better suited for bigger, less frequent hauls.

Panel vans offer better manoeuvrability, making them a preferred choice for businesses looking for ease of navigation and frequent loading and unloading. Their design is suited to city driving, making them a good option for businesses working in urban environments.

Image taken from the Volkswagen Crafter Luton van product page

Loading and unloading

Luton vans often come equipped with tail lifts, aiding the process of loading and unloading heavy or bulky items. This helps to reduce manual labour and the risk of injuries, making it a valuable feature for businesses that frequently transport large goods.

Panel vans don’t usually feature tail lifts, but their lower ground clearance and compact size helps with the loading and unloading of lighter items. They’re more practical for businesses that need to make quick, efficient deliveries.

Customisation and versatility

Luton vans can be customised to a certain extent, particularly in the cargo area. However, their primary design focus is on maximising space for goods and items, so this may limit the amount of customisation for certain businesses.

Panel vans stand out for their ability to be customised, both internally and externally. Their versatility makes them a popular vehicle for a broad range of industries, from tradesmen and service professionals to delivery and courier services.

Cost and insurance

Luton vans, given their larger size and capacity, tend to be more expensive to buy than panel vans. Operating costs, including fuel consumption and van insurance, may also be higher, reflecting the van's increased capacity and utility.

Panel vans are generally more cost effective, both in terms of initial purchase and ongoing expenses. Their smaller size and lower fuel consumption make them a more economical choice for businesses focusing on urban deliveries and services.

A parked row of panel vans


The choice between a Luton van and a panel van ultimately depends on your specific needs.

If your priority is maximum cargo space for large or bulky items, a Luton van is likely the better choice. If you need a van that’s easier to handle, is easier to customise and used primarily for frequent loading and deliveries, a panel van might be more suitable.

To help you make the right decision, be sure to consider your own requirements, budget, and the ways you intend to use your van on a regular basis.

Frequently asked questions

Can Luton vans and panel vans be used for international transport?

Yes, both Luton vans and panel vans can be used for international transport, as long as they meet the specific requirements and regulations of the countries they’re entering.

Luton vans are ideal for transporting large quantities of goods across borders, while panel vans are more suited for smaller, more secure items. It's important to consider the size and weight restrictions, tolls, and emissions standards of each country.

How do fuel efficiency and environmental impact compare between Luton and panel vans?

Luton vans tend to be less fuel-efficient than panel vans due to their larger size and heavier weight. This can also result in a higher environmental impact in terms of CO2 emissions.

Panel vans, being smaller and lighter, generally offer better fuel efficiency and a lower environmental footprint. For businesses concerned about their environmental impact and operational costs, panel vans may be the more sustainable choice.

Are there electric options available for both van types?

Yes, there are electric versions available for both Luton and panel vans, although the market for electric Luton vans is currently more limited.

Electric vans offer the advantage of reduced operating costs and emissions, making them a good choice for businesses looking to minimise their environmental impact and benefit from lower fuel and maintenance costs.

How does insurance differ between a Luton van and a panel van?

The insurance group for Luton vans can be higher than those for panel vans, mostly due to the higher purchase value and larger size of Luton vans.

When working out the cost of your policy, business van insurance providers consider the risk associated with the vehicle's size, the goods being transported, and the likelihood of damage or accidents. Panel vans, being smaller and cheaper to buy and repair, may offer lower insurance costs in comparison.

Can both van types be driven on a standard driving licence?

Both Luton vans and panel vans can usually be driven on a standard UK driving licence, as long as the vehicle's gross weight is not more than 3.5 tonnes. For heavier Luton vans that weigh over 3.5 tonnes, a Category C1 licence may be needed.

That’s why it's important to check the size and weight of each van before making a decision for your business.

Are Luton vans good for delivery drivers?

Luton vans are a good choice for delivery drivers who transport large or bulky items — these spacious vans offer large cargo areas and tail lifts for easy loading. However, their size might make them less ideal for fast, frequent urban deliveries.

Are panel vans suitable for couriers and delivery drivers?

Yes, panel vans are definitely suitable for couriers and delivery drivers, especially those delivering parcels and packages in busy urban environments. Their compact size, ease of handling, and efficient loading capabilities make them ideal for frequent stops and smaller goods.

What’s the best way to decide between a Luton van and a panel van for my business?

To decide which type of van is best for your business, it helps to first consider how you intend to use the vehicle. How much cargo space do you need, what type of goods are you transporting, and how much do you want to spend?

By answering these questions, and considering other factors like the typical distances you’ll be travelling, and the types of environments you’ll be working in, you should be able to make the right decision for you and your business.

You could also try speaking with a commercial vehicle specialist or dealership, to find out more about specific vehicle types and their capabilities.