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We stock huge numbers of new fridge vans in-stock here at CoolKit, helping us to facilitate the fastest order fulfilment in the refrigerated van industry.

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CoolKit holds the largest stock of new freezer vans in the UK, with a variety of makes and models available. Competitive finance options available.

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December 19, 2020

Box van or panel van – which is better for your business?

The decision about which refrigerated van to buy is one of the most important decisions that many of our customers face, and the correct choice can bring your business huge advantages, from cost savings to greater overall business efficiency.

Here at CoolKit we’re committed to making that choice as easy as possible, so this week on the blog we’re comparing our box vans and panel vans side by side, so you can easily see which option is best for your business. We’ve divided it into several sections, for even more digestible reading.

Load space and insulation

slip resistant

Panel Van

The main aspect in the load space of a panel van is that the walls curve up toward the top, to follow the general shape of the van. Though many businesses find this perfectly adequate, it can pose an obstacle to bigger loads.

Box Van

In a box body van, meanwhile, the shape is more user-friendly, with straight, clearly defined wall facets. This makes the box-body an arguably better choice for businesses who want shelves or loading racks. Also, the internal height of a box body van makes it easier to stand and place trollies inside, making for more efficient use of the full load space. What’s more, this uniformity makes the box van more constant with height, width and length.

Door configurations

Panel Van

The door configuration on a panel van is typically set by the manufacturer of the van in question.

Box Van

With box body vans, there’s more flexibility on the back door configurations, allowing for greater freedom in customising the van to suit your purposes.

Rear step

Panel Van

Due to its size and setup, a rear step is typically optional on a panel van.

Box Van

A box body van, meanwhile, must have a fixed rear step option to guarantee safety when loading and unloading the vehicle, especially due to its height from the ground.

Thermal insulation

coolkit engineer

Panel Van

Each individual panel van will have a different conversion specification. This is because the insulation needs to follow the contours of the van’s interior exactly, in order to guarantee a quality-assured insulation.

Box Van

Meanwhile, thermal insulation on a box body van is not dictated by the van shape, as its shape is a lot more regular and uniform than a panel van. In many instances, this often makes a box body van the better performer thermally.

Size and weight

side of van open

Panel Van

The gross vehicle weight has a noticeable impact on the approach necessary to successfully manage a panel van. As the gross weight increases, typically it necessitates the addition of a double rear wheel to handle the weight. This in turn means that if a panel van exceeds 3.5 tonnes, the business owner would only be able to load pallets from the side entrance, rather than from the back.

Box Van

Due to the nature of its construction, a box body van isn’t subject to the same strictness in limitations, making it often the better choice in this instance.

Height from the ground

Panel Van

The panel van is lower to the ground, making it great for making several drops in shorter spaces of time. It’s easier to get smaller, lighter loads in and out of the vehicle faster, which makes it a prime choice for multiple, high-frequency deliveries.

Box Van

A box body van is higher from the ground, making it exceptionally well suited to loading and unloading bigger, heavier drops with the use of a loading bay. Lower frequency, longer-distance deliveries would be better served by a box body van.

Wheel boxes

Panel Van

The wheel boxes of a panel van are always inside the load space, so business owners may encounter some difficulties in loading and unloading, depending on the size of the panel van chosen. It doesn’t mean that it will be a problem in every case, but it’s always worth checking for this issue before making a purchase.

Box Van

With a box body van, the box itself sits on the sub-frame of the chassis, so there is no intrusion of wheel boxes into the loading space.

Purchasing and value

Panel Van

If time is of the essence, panel vans are available in stock here at CoolKit, which means there is a far quicker lead time before they can be on the road – generally only a matter of days.

Box Van

Meanwhile, box body vans are made to order, which means they take an average of a few weeks to be ready and on the road. (Exactly how long depends on the extent of customisation.)


Panel Van

Due to the shape of a panel van, it is marginally less air resistant than a box body van. Over time, this aerodynamic shape results in the panel van having a much better fuel economy than a box body van. On a related note, it also means that the panel van has a much smaller carbon footprint.

Box Van

Alone, the box body’s chassis is lighter than a normal panel van, and when this chassis is attached to a relatively lighter box, it results in the vehicle having an improved payload over the panel van. As well as this, by using a chassis it’s possible for business owners to customise the size of the box to suit their individual requirements.


Panel Van

As well as the quicker lead times on panel vans, another benefit is that there is a lower cost for most conversion options. However, this is balanced out by the fact that the conversion is specific to that van only, so it’s important to bear in mind its life cycle when ordering.

Box Van

On the other hand, although it has a higher cost for conversion, the box on a box body van can be reused, giving it a handy ‘second life’ option that gives it better long-term value for money.


It’s worth noting that there are several aspects that both vans share, meaning they don’t have to necessarily influence the purchasing decision. These include:

  • A slab side door is available on both
  • Temperature recorders can be fitted on either van
  • CurtAir or PVC strip curtains can be fitted on both
  • Either van can be fitted with a tail lift

When looking to make a choice between the two, it’s always good to consider every one of the differences between them. Neither van is inherently better than the other – it all comes down to the specific needs of each individual business. View our full range of box body vans, or start browsing our panel vans including fridge vans and freezer vans that we have in stock.

If you’re still struggling to make the decision, our experts here at CoolKit are always happy to provide a helping hand or a word of advice – just give us a call on 0845 459 5418 to speak to a member of our team.

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