What is a Luton van? History, features and interesting facts

Written by Steve Cook

Published on

The Luton van has made a name for itself in the logistics and transport industry. And it’s no surprise why.

Capable of taking on most jobs, from household moves to commercial deliveries, the Luton is a go-to vehicle for many companies.

In this guide, we uncover the history of the Luton van, and take a close look at the unique features and characteristics of this popular vehicle.

Volkswagen Crafter Luton van

Image taken from the Volkswagen Crafter Luton van product page

History and origins

The Luton van can be traced back to Bedfordshire, England, where it was first designed by the renowned vehicle manufacturer, Bedford Vehicles.

Named after the Bedfordshire town of Luton, this vehicle was initially designed to cater to the booming straw hat industry in the early 20th century.

The original Bedford 2-tonne lorry was revolutionary at the time. Its design featured a distinctive box-shaped body, offering large amounts of space for the transportation of straw and other cargo.

What sets Luton vans apart from other vehicles?

Luton vans are highly versatile and can be used for many different jobs, from house moves to transporting furniture and building materials. Luton vans offer the extra space and stability required for most types of transport work.

Today's Luton vans still have the same characteristics of the original vehicles, including a spacious cargo area that extends over the cab — an extra storage space known as the "Luton peak."

This unique design aspect is not just for show — it significantly increases the Luton's loading capacity, making it an ideal choice for transporting bulky items that require more space.

Key characteristics:

  • Spacious interior: With internal dimensions designed to maximise cargo space, Luton vans offer plenty of room, making them a top commercial vehicle for moving large pieces of furniture, household appliances and other sizeable items.
  • Tail lifts: A standard feature in most Luton vans, the tail lift is a game-changer for loading and unloading heavy goods. This hydraulic platform simplifies the process, reducing manual labour and the risk of injuries.
  • Versatility: Whether it's a house move, a commercial delivery, or transporting building materials, the Luton van's robust design and substantial cargo space make it a versatile and practical choice.

Driving a Luton van

One of the most appealing aspects of Luton vans is their accessibility and ease of use. In the UK, a standard driving licence allows you to operate a Luton van, making them a good option for both personal use or business needs without the need for specialised training or licences.

If you’re using a Luton van for work or business reasons, you’ll need a business van insurance policy. This is a common insurance policy used by tradespeople and contractors.

Luton vans vs. long-wheelbase vehicles

When comparing Luton vans to long-wheelbase (LWB) vehicles, the choice often comes down to your specific needs.

While LWB vehicles may offer a longer cargo area, Luton vans provide a superior height and volume capacity, making them more suited for transporting tall or bulky items. Also, the addition of a tail lift in Luton vans adds extra convenience and safety for loading heavy or awkward items.

The market for Luton vans is diverse, offering options from several manufacturers known for their reliability, durability and performance.

Here are some of the most popular brands that produce Luton vans, each with its unique set of features and benefits:


The Ford Transit Luton is known throughout the industry for its robustness and versatility. The Ford Transit Luton is a standout model, chosen for its reliability on the road and its sturdy construction.


The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Luton van is another top choice in the market, offering advanced technology, comfort and efficiency. Its reputation for quality makes it a preferred option for many businesses and individuals.


The Iveco Daily Luton van is renowned for its large payload capacity and spacious interior, making it ideal for heavier and bulkier loads. Iveco combines performance with practicality, offering a durable solution for many different transportation jobs.


Vauxhall's Luton vans, based on the Movano platform, provide a good balance of size and manoeuvrability. These vans are designed with the user in mind, offering comfort and ease-of-use alongside ample storage space.


The Renault Master Luton van is known for its efficiency and reliability. With a comfortable cab and generous load space, it's a practical choice for those needing a dependable vehicle for moving goods.


Peugeot Luton vans, particularly those based on the Boxer model, are appreciated for their fuel efficiency and load capacity. They offer a competitive option for businesses looking to minimise operational costs while maximising cargo space.


The Volkswagen Crafter Luton van stands out for its build quality and driving experience. VW offers innovative features and a comfortable driving position, making it a favourite among professional drivers.


From their early beginnings in Bedfordshire to their solid reputation in the moving industry today, Luton vans have evolved into a popular vehicle for many drivers and transportation companies.

Their unique blend of spaciousness, practicality and accessibility makes them an indispensable tool for moving or transporting large items.

Whether you're a professional mover, a tradesperson or someone planning a DIY move, the Luton van stands ready as your reliable choice on the road.

Frequently asked questions

Can I drive a Luton van on a normal licence?

Yes, you can drive a Luton van on a standard driving licence, provided the van's weight is under 3.5 tonnes and is for use on public roads. If you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997, the allowable weight limit increases up to 7.5 tonnes, meaning you can operate larger Luton vans without needing a specialised licence.

Is a Luton van 3.5 tonne?

Many of the Luton vans produced today weigh 3.5 tonnes or less (meaning they can be driven on a standard driver’s licence), and feature a powerful engine capable of moving heavy loads. Luton vans boast a large haulage capacity (usually 800 kg or more) and span a length of around 4 to 6 metres, making them a substantial vehicle for transporting a wide range of items.

Is a Luton van 7.5 tonne?

Yes, some of the larger Luton vans produced today are 7.5 tonnes in weight. These particular models are designed for home removals and transportation of large items, offering an internal volume of around 1,200 cubic feet. This size is ideally suited for moving the contents of a 3-bedroom house, including kitchen, bedroom, living room, and garden furniture.

Is driving a Luton van easy?

Driving a Luton van is obviously different from operating a standard car. But, with a little practice and preparation, you’ll be able to comfortably drive a Luton van. Before getting started, pay close attention to the van's size when steering or reversing, and spend a few minutes getting used to the dimensions before heading out on the road.

What licence do I need to drive a Luton van?

If you passed your driving test after 1st January 1997, your standard driving licence (category B) would allow you to legally drive a Luton van with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of up to 3.5 tonnes. This means that most drivers can operate a Luton van without needing additional qualifications. If you passed your test before 1st January 1997, you’ll be able to drive a Luton van weighing up to 7.5 tonnes.

What's the biggest van you can drive on a normal licence?

On a standard driving licence, you're allowed to drive a van up to 3.5 tonnes, including cargo and passengers. For vehicles larger than this, you’ll most likely need a category C or D licence.

Is a Luton van classified as an HGV?

No, Luton vans that weigh less than 3.5 tonnes are not classified as heavy goods vehicles (HGV). These Luton vans can be driven with a Category B or B1 licence, and fall into the category of a light goods vehicle (LGV), making them more accessible for personal and commercial use without the need for an HGV licence.