How to Add Seats to a Ford Transit Cargo Van

Here’s why you can add seats to your Ford Transit cargo van: 

You can add second-row seats to a Ford Transit cargo van, provided you comply with all federal and state safety standards. Moreover, Ford has many approved upfitting shops that can add seats to your cargo van. You can also work with an upfitter outside Ford’s network to add the seats. 

If you need more than those two front seats that come standard with your Transit cargo van, I’m here to help. I’ve also been in situations that call for extra passenger room and lots of cargo space, and I didn’t have to feel sorry for not owning a crew van. 

Now, as much as you can add those seats, there are key safety precautions to consider. I can’t stress this enough – any modifications you make should meet all federal and state rules and regulations.  

It’s also good to check that your insurance policy will cover passengers in the new seats, together with any other damages that may result from an accident. 

Those shouldn’t sound like deal-breakers. So don’t worry, in this comprehensive guide, I’ll help you figure out everything you need to know about adding seats to your Ford Transit cargo van. Let’s get started. 


Adding Seats Affects Your Insurance 

I strongly recommend contacting your insurance provider before adding any seats to your Ford Transit cargo van. You may have to go for an updated policy that considers the extra passenger capacity of the van. 

Understandably, this increases the cost of your policy because you have an increased potential liability each time you drive.  

In most cases, your insurance provider will tell you that as long as you add normal passenger seats with seat belts, install them properly, and the van is eligible for the type of cover, then you’re good to go. 

To be blunt, I hate gray areas, and you must never do anything that could make an insurer render a claim invalid. As it turns out, they can do so if they’ve established that in some way, you didn’t add the seats professionally.  

So, in my opinion, having the seats installed by a professional upfitter will save you the hassle of running into such problems. 


You Can Add the Seats If You Have the Skills 

If you have an appreciable level of mechanical experience, you can add seats to your Transit cargo van all by yourself. This option helps you upgrade the seating while keeping your costs down. 

The task isn’t that complicated if you use standard Ford Transit seats and OEM mounting brackets, bolts, etc. Moreover, you must use the same specialized equipment that a Ford dealer or an approved upfitter would use.  

This way, you won’t install seats that easily come off or a cargo-passenger partition that buckles when the van rolls. But if you add non-standard seats, you face several barriers.  

First, you must take a thorough look at your van’s specs and diagrams to ensure you do everything proportionately and not compromise existing safety features.   

Understandably, you’ll start by removing the factory-installed false floor before anything else. That exposes the metal ribs on the floor, which are about 3/8 inches high. 

You then have to drill the van’s floor proportionately to the seat dimensions and mounting features. When you’re working with sheet metal, you need to drill pilot holes first.  

And since there’s a gas tank underneath the floor, you should fix stop collars on your drill bits, so you don’t puncture the tank.  

Then you must design a proper anchoring system for the seats and safety harnesses.  

As I mentioned above though, your insurance policy may not cover self-installed seats, even if you use OEM parts. Also make sure you stick to the safety guidelines.  


You Must Comply With Passenger Safety Regulations 

Whatever you do, your modified cargo van must still be roadworthy. The NHTSA issues the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), which you must comply with when adding seats to your Transit cargo van. 

These safety standards address crash avoidance, crashworthiness, and post-crash survivability. Your modified cargo van must be safe for the driver, passengers, and other road users. You’ll find a complete list of these safety standards in the US Code of Federal Regulations under the title 49 CFR Part 571.  

Adding seats inappropriately to your cargo van can also negatively impact its registration. Remember, each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles manages these inspection and registration issues.  

And if a DMV inspection concludes that the modifications you make don’t meet safety guidelines, your van will be ineligible for registration. 

The National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) also recommends a full engineering assessment before adding seats to a cargo van. This is meant to accommodate the extra safety standards for carrying passengers. 


A Dealer Can Add the Seats Before Delivery 

When you buy a new Ford Transit cargo van from a dealer, you can arrange with them to add a second row of seats in the van before they deliver it. Of course, you’ll have to part with a few extra hundred bucks or even $1K, depending on the seats you prefer. 

I wouldn’t mind having regular vinyl seats as they keep out sweat and dirt on top of being more affordable. But if you want custom leather seats that recline or swivel luxuriously, expect to pay more. 

One of the perks in going for a dealer upfit is that you can roll the overall cost into the price of the van. That means rather than paying upfront, it goes into your monthly installments if you opt for financing. 

Additionally, your dealer understands and must factor in all the complex factors that you should address when adding seats to a cargo van. Among others, these factors include the following: 

  • The best choice of seat materials 
  • Need for shatter-proof windows 
  • Side-impact airbag placement 

Since your dealer understands the work, you can be sure they’ll install the new seating properly to be safe for passengers.  

Based on what I know, most insurance companies will be happy that a professional handled the task. Therefore, they’ll still cover the extra passengers, should you be involved in an accident. 

The one caveat in having a dealer install the seats is that they’ll more likely restrict you to one option. This is usually a three-passenger bench seat.  

But if you only need one captain’s chair in the second row, I can’t help but think you’ll go for an aftermarket upfitter. Up next, that’s what we’re getting into that. 


An Aftermarket Upfitter Can Add the Seats 

This is the go-to option if you already own a Transit cargo van. The beauty of it is that Ford has approved an impressive number of upfit shops that can add seats to your van.  

In fact, the company has dedicated an entire portion of its website to help you find an approved upfitter near you. 

Going to a Ford-approved aftermarket upfitter has its upside. First, you can be confident their high-quality work satisfies all state and federal safety requirements. They also offer various seating options.  

Lastly, your insurance policy will likely cover the extra seats. However, I recommend you check with your insurance provider before any such modifications. 

Like any other option, this one has its inherent disadvantages: 

  • Approved aftermarket retrofitters only use OEM parts designed for the Transit cargo van, limiting your options.  
  • They charge more than other shops outside the Ford network but considerably less than dealerships. 

I know of folks who have sought the services of aftermarket retrofitters outside the Ford network. It’s one way of enjoying greater flexibility with the type of seats or the configurations you can have.  

While you may enjoy virtually any seating configuration to suit your needs, I can’t stress enough that it must comply with safety requirements. Kindly check for insurance gray areas as well. 


It’s Unsafe to Add Rear Seats in a Cargo Van 

Vans have different safety standards depending on their weight ratings and whether they’re passenger or cargo vans. In general, passenger vans have higher safety standards. 

You can’t just add seats in the rear portion because anyone who rides in an improperly modified cargo van is at a high risk of injury or death. Factory installation only includes airbags in the front row, leaving the cargo area unsafe for passengers. 

Again, not all parts will interact properly with all floor beds. That includes the seat and seat belt anchors. Plus, aftermarket seats may not fit in a Transit cargo van in a manner that allows the side-impact airbags to deploy properly. 

Converting your cargo van into a full-size passenger van is even more complicated. It doesn’t matter that both versions of the vans have an identical chassis model, as you’d find in the Transit.  

For example, you must create an emergency exit at the rear or through a sizeable window. Any windows in a passenger van must also be shatterproof, and you have to install those. 


Final Thoughts 

You can add seats to your Ford Transit cargo van. However, you can’t just bolt a seat or two randomly to some unistrut on the floor, as some folks carelessly do.  

Customizing a van to do what it wasn’t meant for will turn out very costly. Therefore, you must do it in a way that complies with federal and state safety regulations. It’s also good to check how this affects your insurance. 

Professional upfitters simplify the process of adding seats to a cargo van as they have a keen eye towards safety standards. Ultimately, it’s less expensive to buy a van that’s designed for the exact purpose you want. So go for a crew or passenger van if that’s really what you need, before buying a cargo van.