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Van Payload - Maximum Legal Weight

A van’s ‘payload’ is the maximum weight the van is legally allowed to carry, and includes all contributing factors including the weight of the van, a full tank of fuel, the driver, passengers, equipment, supplies and any racking etc. 

Why You Should Think About Payload

It's really worth taking the time to work out what payload you need. Choose a van with a payload bigger than you need and you’ll be driving a too-large van, which means increased difficulty in parking as well as higher fuel costs. On the other hand, choose a van with too small a payload and you’ll be tempted to overload it, which can cause damage to the van, pose safety threats (because of delayed abilities to stop etc.) and potentially result in fines and loss of income if you’re caught.

Payload is something the authorities take seriously, and both the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Police regularly perform payload spot checks. If you’re found to be over your legal payload, you can be prevented on-the-spot from continuing your journey and fined - not something you or your business wants! 

Thankfully, all of this is avoidable if you accurately calculate the weight you’re likely to carry and don’t take risks by exceeding your van’s limit. Once on the road, it’s also a really good idea to periodically visit a weighbridge to have your van load weighed.

It's also worth mentioning that each van axle has a maximum weight that it can bear, and that your load needs to be correctly distributed across the front and rear axles. Again, if you’re found exceeding the weight limit of the front or rear axles, you can be fined and/or receive a court summons, so it’s important to keep an eye on this as well.

Payload Penalty Amounts

Penalties for exceeding your van's payload differ, depending on how much you’ve exceeded it by. Currently the fines are: 

• 5% to 10% over the limit = £100 fine

• 10% to 15% over the limit = £200 fine

• 15% to 30% over the limit = £300 fine

• Over 30% over the limit = court summons

How To Calculate The Van Payload (Weight) You Need

To accurately understand your van payload requirements, you’ll need to calculate what you’ll be carrying on an average day, plus take into account any other additional weight you carry - even if it's only every now and again. When doing this, make sure you take the time to do the proper maths and don't just estimate, because you could be way-off from what your actual load weight really is.

Keep in mind, that if you only occasionally carry that extra heavy load, it might be better to hire a trailer or other transport option for those occasions, rather than get a van that’s too big for your everyday needs. Most vans can be fitted with a tow bar for this purpose, but do check before you commit.


The number of people you carry affects not only the payload but also the style of van and seating configuration.

Most vans carry 3 people in the front row as standard, whilst others are designed to carry larger teams of two to three rows of passengers.

If it’ll only ever be you, your equipment and supplies, then you won’t need an extra row of seating (unless you plan to use your van for private use to transport family and friends).

However, if the number of passengers carried will vary, then it might be worth considering a crew-cab or double cab.

If your primary purpose is to transport people, with little equipment or supplies being carried, then you’ll need a vehicle specifically designed for this purpose, for example a mini-bus or people-mover.

When thinking about passengers, an important consideration should also be comfort, and blog reviews are often a good resource for this, as is experiencing the van for yourself by taking it for a test drive.

How To Choose The Right Van

Now you've got a better idea of what to look out for in terms of payload & passengers, why not explore more of our guides on How To Choose The Right Van.

Alternatively, simply get in touch with one of our specialist van leasing consultants on 01656 337337 or contact us at enquiries@selectcarleasing.co.uk

Van Size & Dimensions Back to How To Choose A Van

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