The Number of Miles Per Gallon a Cargo Van Gets

There are many different makes and models of cargo van, each of them has their own fuel efficiency. The different types of cargo van can though be categorized into 5 different classes, each of which have similar fuel efficiency ratings.

The average Miles per Gallon (MPG) for these different classes are:

  • Compact Cargo Van – 24 MPG
  • Full Size Cargo Van – 13 MPG
  • Heavy Duty Cargo Van – 12 MPG
  • Heavy Duty XL Cargo Van – 12 MPG
  • High Roof Cargo Van – 12 MPG

These are only averages by class, and so individual makes or models may vary.

If you are considering buying a cargo van, one of the main financial concerns will be how much it costs to run.

This cost is made up of two primary factors, the first being how reliable it is with needing major repairs.

The second is perhaps even more important as that is a forever ongoing expense. This is how fuel efficient is it, how many miles it can reasonably be expected to get per gallon of fuel.

The miles per gallon will depend on the size and type of cargo van you buy. The above are averages by class, but within each class, some of the MPGs may vary significantly.

These individual differences can be seen when looking at the MPG for the four most fuel-efficient compact cargo vans;

  • Ford Transit Connect – 25.5 MPG
  • Nissan NV200 – 25 MPG
  • RAM Promaster City – 24MPG
  • Mercedes-Benz Metris – 22 MPG

There isa large difference between the MPGs for compact cargo vans and full-size cargo vans, because of the differences in their size and the payloads they can carry.

Typical payload for compact cargo vans is up to 1,480lbs, whereas a typical payload for a full-size cargo van is up to 3,700lbs.

The individual MPGs for full-size cargo vans can also differ though, and here are four examples of how much they can differ:

  • GMC Savana – 17.1 MPG
  • Ford Transit – 17 MPG
  • RAM Promaster – 16.5 MPG
  • Nissan NV – 15 MPG

These are examples of some full-size cargo vans which have gas engines. Some models of cargo vans offer diesel engine alternatives, and these can provide better fuel efficiency.

  • An example of this is the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter:
  • Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (Gasoline) – 18.6 MPG
  • Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (Diesel) – 21MPG

Although diesel alternatives may offer better mileage, it should be remembered they are usually more expensive, as are any repairs when they eventually need to be made.


Highway and City Use

Obviously the miles per gallon achieved by a van driving in a city may not equal that of a similar van when it is driven on highways.

The type of places you intend to drive your cargo van can therefore play a role in deciding which van you should buy.

An example of this would be that the benefits of MPG afforded by a diesel engine would not be so profound if it was driven in the city as opposed to only highway driving.


Annual Fuel Expenses

How MPG can affect you financially is demonstrated below. These are figures assuming the cargo van is used an equal number of miles on a highway as it is in the city.

These figures represent an annual usage of 15,000 miles with the same cost of fuel.


Annual Fuel Costs for Different Cargo Vans:

Nissan NV – $2,180

RAM Promaster (Gasoline) – $1982

Ford Transit (Gasoline) – $1,924

GMC Savana – $1,912

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (Gasoline) – $1,801

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (Diesel) – $1,736

Ford Transit (Diesel) – $1,657

Mercedes-Benz Metris – $1,486

RAM Promaster City – $1,363

Nissan NV200 – $1,308

Ford Transit Connect – $1,282

This information shows you that the savings between annual fuel expenses for the different cargo vans can be as much as over $800, which means over the 10 years estimated life of a van, it could amount to nearly $9,000.

Although this difference may be between different sizes of vans, even the difference between similar sized vans can be as much as $500 or $5,000 during its lifetime.

These figures show that the MPG of a cargo van is certainly an important consideration when buying one. You should therefore consider the size of the van you need and the type of driving it will be used for, highway or urban.


Payload, Driving Style & Maintenance Affect MPG

Payload – The heavier the cargo van, the more fuel is required to move it. To ensure the best fuel efficiency, you should therefore only carry what is essential for the task in hand.

Driving Style – Careful driving at slower speeds will result in better fuel efficiency than aggressive driving at higher speeds. This has been proven by vans which have a speed limiter fitted, producing a higher MPG.

Maintenance – Maintaining a cargo van correctly will maintain its MPG. It may also be surprising to see how much fuel can be saved by maintaining the tires at the correct pressures.


Size of Engine

The size of the engine will affect the MPG, but with today’s technology, some larger engines can provide the same fuel efficiency as smaller ones. #

This though is only if the larger engine does not have to strain with maximum weights compared to a smaller engine that is working to its maximum capacity.

With older engines, it will always be a smaller more modern engine that provides better fuel efficiency.


Cargo Vans vs. Box Vans

The one piece compact design of the cargo van compared to the two part box vans provides better fuel efficiency.

Even the smallest box vans will use more fuel than the largest cargo van.

Average MPG for box vans:

  • 10’ – 14’ Box Van will average 8 to 10 miles per gallon
  • 15’ – 19’ Box Van will average 6 to 8 miles per gallon
  • 20’ Box Van will average 4 to 6 miles per gallon

The box vans are of course larger and can transport more weight than cargo vans, but all too often, people will buy or rent vans larger than what they actually need.

Cargo vans are relatively powerful and can carry a surprising amount of weight for their size.



Your financial concerns when buying a cargo van should consist of three factors, first its initial cost, then how long it is likely to last, and lastly how fuel efficient is it.

The initial cost of cargo vans can differ greatly, but most of them today can be expected to last at least 10 years. The MPG of cargo vans also vary greatly, but the biggest fuel consumption difference is between the types of cargo van.

In considering these factors, you will want a reasonable idea as to what sort of roads your van will mainly be driving on, city streets or highways. You will also want to know what weights your van will be expected to transport.

Although the compact cargo van has the lowest payload,  perhaps they are large enough to carry most of your loads.

If you only expect the occasional load to be heavier than it can handle, especially if you are operating within a city, think about if two loads with a compact van work instead of just one heavier load. The extra cost of the double load could more than be offset by the savings on all the other tasks the compact van is used for.

If you own a business, fuel costs can be one of your highest expenses, especially with transportation businesses. Selecting the right van or vans for your business is therefore essential in helping to cut costs and be competitive.

If you maintain your cargo van properly and drive it in a manner it was intended to be driven, the MPG should remain relatively the same even as the van gets older.

The MPG of a cargo van compared to larger box vans is perhaps one of the main reasons why cargo vans are becoming increasingly popular. By having cargo vans among their fleets of vehicles ensures with the right management, fleet managers can reduce their overall fuel costs yet remain effective and efficient.

Author: Kenneth Graham

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