How Much Weight a Cargo Van Can Carry

How much weight your cargo van can carry will depend on what make it is, but most cargo vans can be classed into three categories each with roughly similar payload potential.

The weight a cargo van can carry depends on which category it is in:

  • Compact cargo van – 1,480lbs
  • Full size cargo van – 3,700lbs
  • Heavy duty cargo van – 4,080lbs

A high roof version does not afford it additional payload.

Look for a label which is visible when the left hand side door is open

Some examples of these are:

Compact Cargo Vans

  • Nissan NV200 – GVWR 4,772lbs – Payload 1,480lbs
  • Ford Transit Connect – GVWR 5,302lbs – Payload 1,610lbs

Full Size Cargo Vans

  • Chevrolet Express – GVWR 9,600lbs – Payload 3,841lbs
  • Nissan NV – GVWR 9,900lbs – Payload 3,850lbs

Heavy Duty Cargo Vans

  • Ford Transit – GVWR 10,360lbs – Payload 4,640lbs
  • RAM Promaster –GVWR 11,500lbs – Payload 4,680lbs                                         



The actual payload that a cargo van can carry is determined by its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).

The GVWR for every vehicle should be shown on the vehicle’s Safety Compliance Certification Label. This label is usually located on the left side front door and is visible when the door is open.

The GVWR is the maximum any vehicle should weigh when fully loaded and so includes the vehicle, passengers, and payload.

The gross curb weight of your cargo van will be in your owner’s manual. This is the weight of the cargo van when it only has the driver and a full tank of gas. To find the payload of the cargo van, you therefore have to subtract the van’s curb weight from its GVWR.


Axle Weights

A cargo van has two axles, and the maximum weight for each of these axles, front and rear, should also be displayed on the Safety Compliance Certification Label.

The two axle weights combined should add up to the GVWR, but it is important to load the van correctly, not placing too much weight on just one axle.


Federal and State Regulations

When complying with Federal and State regulations, it is the GVWR which they are mainly concerned about, and so that is usually what the weigh stations will be interested in if your van is considered a commercial vehicle.

According to Federal regulations, all vehicles with a GVWR more than 10,000lbs are considered to be commercial vehicles. This means that most cargo vans are not considered as commercial vehicles according to Federal regulations.

However, each State can impose its own traffic regulations, and some States may consider a cargo van to be a commercial vehicle under certain circumstances.


Using Your Cargo Van for Commercial Purposes

If you intend to use your cargo van for commercial purposes by offering to move loads for clients, it is recommended that you get a certificate stating the curb weight of your van.

Some clients may ask for this to ensure they are not overloading the van as that could have repercussions on them as well as you.

In the United States, there is growing concern about commercial vehicles being overloaded and carrying more weight than their GVWR allows.

These concerns have led a growing number of States to fine or even imprison drivers that frequently exceed their vehicle’s payload. First offending drivers are usually fined, with the fine doubling for a second offense.

In some instances, the companies owning or renting the van can also be penalized.


Maximum Weight When Towing with a Cargo Van

Trailers can be towed by cargo vans, but once again there are different Federal and State regulations concerning the size of the trailers and their payloads.

As with the cargo vans themselves, the weight that a van can tow depends on the type of cargo van you have.

Even the smaller cargo vans are capable of towing trailers but the weight of the trailer may be limited to 3,500lbs. Some of the heavy duty cargo vans can pull trailers weighing as much as 10,000lbs, with many of the full size cargo vans being able to pull trailers weighing 7,500lbs.

Most cargo vans can tow more weight if they are configured to carry freight rather than passengers.

The weight of a trailer towed by a cargo van does not have to be included in the GVWR for the cargo van, but it can affect the weight placed on the rear axle.

To determine if you comply with all regulations, you should weigh your cargo van whilst the fully laden trailer is attached. To weigh the cargo van correctly, you only need to place its two axles on the scale and not the trailer.

Towing a trailer will of course place some extra weight on the rear axle, and so to determine how much, weigh the cargo van a second time. This time only place the front wheels of the cargo van on the scales.

To determine how much weight is being placed on the rear axle, subtract the weight of the front axle reading from the weight of the two axles.


Weight Concerns When Loading a Cargo Van

For smoother driving and safety, it is important to correctly load your cargo van, distributing the weight evenly in accordance with each maximum axle weight. The design of a cargo van makes this easier than it is with a box van which only has a rear door.

As the cargo van has a side door as well as a rear door, much of the load can be loaded from the side door, eliminating the need for you to haul it all the way down to the front of the freight area.

Only the load which will remain to the rear of the cargo section will have to be loaded from the rear door.

The design of the cargo van also allows access to the cargo section from the driver’s seat, which may make smaller deliveries easier.


Weight Concerns When Driving a Cargo Van

Although a cargo van may have a compact design, it is still a powerful vehicle capable of carrying relatively heavy loads.

This means that whilst a cargo van may feel more like an SUV to drive, it is still heavy when loaded. As with any truck carrying a heavy load, extra care must be taken when driving, which means driving at slower speeds and leaving more space between you and the vehicle in front of you.

The more weight a cargo van carries, the longer distance it will need to brake.

Even when empty, a cargo van is still a van, and so despite its compact design, it may still be susceptible to side winds. If empty, the van will obviously weigh less, and that may allow winds to disrupt the steering slightly and so once again should be driven with care.



Cargo vans have a compact design but are still capable of carrying heavy loads and towing trailers. This has made them popular with fleet managers and small business owners alike.

The payload of a cargo van allows in many cases for it to be used as a removal van if moving from an apartment or small house. The easy access for the driver also makes it a suitable option as a delivery van.

Although the payload of a high roof cargo van may not be greater than a regular cargo van, it is still ample to allow for it to be converted into a camper.

While most fleet managers often have a range of larger box vans to call on, many are now including cargo vans among those numbers. Although smaller and less powerful than most box vans, a cargo van is still powerful, and its compact design makes it easier to load and offload with minimal assistance.

This combined with its versatility and its easier maneuverability in city environments, has made it popular among fleet managers who often require smaller loads to be delivered in urban areas.

Just remember though, that when you drive your cargo van, even though it may handle like an SUV it is still a powerful van and so should be driven with the same amount of caution you would drive larger vans.

Also it has similar blind spots to other vans, and so assistance is recommended when reversing or parking in small spaces.

Author: Kenneth Graham

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