When a Cargo Van Is Considered a Commercial Vehicle

A commercial driver’s license is not usually required to drive a cargo van. However, some businesses may insist on drivers holding a Commercial Driving License to drive their business owned cargo van. Also it may be classed as a commercial vehicle by insurance companies if it is owned by a business.


Why a cargo van is not considered a commercial vehicle

A vehicle with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of at least 26,001 pounds needs a commercial vehicle license. Also one that carries at least 16 passengers or has a tank on to carry hazardous materials.

Cargo vans are not these very large and heavy vehicles such as buses, tanker vehicles, livestock carriers, flatbeds, also they are not towing other vehicles, so they do not need a commercial license to drive.

Other vehicles that need a commercial license to drive are as a Tractor-trailer, Semi, Big Rig, or an 18-wheeler.


What Identifies a Cargo Van

A cargo van is a van which has the cab and the cargo area within the same frame. This means that as well as having access to the cargo section from a side door and a rear door, it can also be accessed directly from the driving position.

Obviously a cargo van has a windscreen and side windows on the cab but unless they have been fitted after purchase, has no windows on the cargo section.

Although this may sound like a commercial vehicle, and it is certainly good as one, due to its relatively low weight capacity, it is only considered one under certain circumstances.

They are often included in a large company’s fleet of vehicles but more popular with small businesses who do not deal with large, heavy consignments.

A cargo van is considered to be more maneuverable and easier to drive than a larger type of truck. They are also usually more fuel efficient than the larger vans. This maneuverability and low fuel cost has the downside that is the cargo van has a less powerful engine than most other types of vans.


You Can a Cargo Van With a Normal Driving License

One of the reasons cargo vans are becoming popular is because, unlike many other types of larger vans, you can drive a cargo van with an ordinary car driving license.

This is good for you as a personal owner and also as a business owner operating cargo vans. As a personal owner you have no need to upgrade your license to drive a cargo van. For business owners that operate cargo vans for their business, they can employ regular car license holders to drive them.

As a business owner would be using their cargo vans for business purposes, they may insist that any driver they employ holds a current Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This is however a matter of company policy and not necessarily a legal requirement.

The Federal regulations for commercial driving licenses take into consideration the fact that individual State’s laws may vary. This means that whilst you should check a State’s laws before entering a State, they should generally comply with Federal guidelines.



Insurance is a more complicated issue than driving licenses and so before insuring a cargo van you should consider what you will be using the cargo van for.

If a commercial vehicle is involved in an accident it is a more complex situation than if a personal vehicle is involved in an accident. For that reason insurance for a commercial vehicle will cost more than regular car insurance.

Among the complex issues an insurance company is concerned about when dealing with a commercial vehicle are the operator’s driving records and a business’s maintenance schedules. These are on top of a personal vehicle’s concerns of driver eligibility and details of the accident.

For insurance purposes any vehicle can be considered a commercial vehicle if it is used to carry out any business’s work, even the deliveries of pizzas.


Cost of Insurance

Due to the extra cost of premiums for commercial vehicle insurance, many small businesses only insure their cargo vans with personal vehicle insurance. It is claimed a study carried out in 2008 estimated that 50% of small businesses under insure their business vehicles in order to hopefully save costs.

If this is true the 50% of businesses may save on costs initially but, not having the correct insurance can be very expensive for them if one of their vehicles is involved in an accident.

The difference between the two types of insurance is that commercial auto insurance has a much higher risk factor than private auto insurance. This means that if a privately insured vehicle is caught in an accident whilst being driven for commercial purposes, the legal fees for the owner will be far higher.

The businesses which do not have commercial insurance for their vehicles depend on private auto insurance and this can be very risky financially.

The increased costs involved when a vehicle on commercial activity, whilst only having private insurance, is involved in an accident can be devastating for the owner. Many small businesses have been ruined from being in an accident, and there are extra costs due to a vehicle being incorrectly insured.


Types of Businesses Which Often Use Cargo Vans

Large businesses will often have an assortment of different types of vehicles they can call on including cargo vans for smaller tasks.

Some small businesses though may only have one or more cargo vans and no larger vans such as box vans. The reason for this is that a cargo van is perhaps ideal for certain types of small business, examples of which are:

Plumbers – These businesses can be called out for many types of different problems and so will need an assortment of tools in order to satisfy their client’s requests. Not only can a cargo van carry a wide assortment of their tools, but interior customizations can allow each tool to be readily accessible.

Maintenance Contractors – Maintenance contractors can also be called upon to do a diverse range of tasks and so need easy access to various different tools. As well as have interior customization, they can also equip the side of their van with brackets to hold a ladder in case one is needed.

Caterers and Florists – Although a caterer and florist’s loads are not weighty they are more delicate than most cargoes. A cargo van is therefore ideal for them as not only can the cargo area be customized to hold a variety of different loads, it can also be refrigerated.

Advertising – Many small businesses appreciate any opportunity to promote themselves. As the sides of a cargo van’s cargo area are windowless, they are ideal for the placement of a wrap advertising their business, a mobile billboard.


Personal and/or Commercial Insurance for Cargo Van

The choice of whether to get personal or commercial insurance for their cargo van is obviously the owner’s decision, but here is a guide:

If you do not plan to use your cargo van for any type of business then you will only need personal driver insurance.

If you do plan to use your cargo van for commercial purposes, although you can save money on personal insurance premiums, it can be expensive if it is involved in an accident. This means that not only may it cost you all the savings you have made but also cost you extra in some instances.

If you plan to use your cargo van as both a personal vehicle and a business vehicle you should class it as a commercial vehicle for insurance purposes. The good news is though, that commercial insurance also covers you for personal usage, so no additional insurance is necessary.



Cargo vans are considered a good investment by both large and small businesses, especially as they are renowned for having a high resale value.

One of the reasons for this is, like any business asset, a van must be cost effective and a cargo vans low fuel costs help to ensure this. However, if your cargo van is involved in any type of accident, any savings may be lost if it has inadequate insurance.

This is the reason that many larger businesses will not only get commercial insurance for their cargo vans, but will also insist that drivers have a Commercial Driver’s License.

Many smaller businesses however only buy personal insurance for their cargo van. Perhaps one of the main reasons for this, apart from of course saving money, is that they may be the only person who drives the van.

Regardless of how confident a driver is in their driving abilities, accidents do occur where other drivers are at fault. Any small business owner considering buying a cargo van should therefore carefully consider the pros and cons of which insurance to buy for that van. Savings on premiums may be financially beneficial, but only if the van remains accident free.

Small business owners that use a pick-up truck for their business, also face the same insurance decisions as a cargo van owner.

Larger van owners however, do not have this dilemma as they will have to take out commercial insurance on their van and have someone driving it that has a valid Commercial Driver’s License.

Author: Kenneth Graham

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