Van hires and purchases can be useful tools to have in your arsenal, whether you are building a company fleet or just looking for something to use as a personal vehicle.
Of course, this also means that you need to choose between all of the vans available on the market, and that can involve sifting through hundreds of different options. Depending on your needs, it might not be clear which vans are the absolute best for your requirements, especially not in their factory-standard form.
However, there are always modified vans. Modified vehicles are a great way to get something new and specialized without paying a premium price, especially if you are desperate to add a certain kind of van to your fleet. But which options are the best, and what makes them so worth using?
What are Modified Vans?
A van modification is anything that changes the way your van looks, performs, and/or functions in general. This can encompass anything from a small visual change to a complete engine overhaul, and certain vans have their own range of official modification kits that allow you to make small changes yourself.
A van modification can be an incredibly powerful asset to have, but only if you choose the right one. For example, chunky tires and better suspension might make a van better for rough terrain, but it will not make much of a difference if you are driving on city roads. Choosing the right modification requires some patience.
Some modifications are simple things, like adding a roof rack. Others alter the layout of the van, such as turning it from a people carrier into a mobile office or sealing off the front half from the back. Some of these offer practical value, others are more for aesthetics, and many combine both into a single upgrade kit.
Are Modified Vans Available for Sale?
Many van selling sites and dealerships have modified vans as an option, either in their own separate category or spread out with the rest of the vans. Remember: some of these modifications are so minor that they do not fundamentally change the way that the van works, and only certain modifications make actual mechanical or technical alterations.
Some modifications are official, such as conversion kits or alternate dashboards that are meant to work with the vehicle as standard. Other modifications are aftermarket, made third-party as either a mass-produced addition or something that only one particular van owner tried. Either way, they are out there, and many are still being sold with their modifications intact.
It is important to understand that modified vans are not necessarily the same thing as vans with modifications.
A van modification is something you add to a van after construction, such as a roof rack or rear ladder. A modified van can be a much broader term, including specialized van models that have unique features not seen in the regular design.
For example, some models may be designed specifically to serve as people carriers, boasting higher headroom and a larger profile. The Ford Transit Custom is a good example of this, with multiple base models that are all compatible with their own unique sets of modifications or optional features.
Common Van Modifications
All van modification types are meant for completely different things, and you want to choose the option that suits your own needs the best. This means understanding what they offer, knowing how they would fit with your requirements, and figuring out which vans fit your criteria the best.
One of the most common modifications you will ever find is custom wheel replacements – for example, wheels meant for dealing with particular types of terrain. These change the handling and movement of the van itself, allowing it to take on new challenges that it previously would have struggled with.
However, most wheel replacements come with a downside. Unless the wheels were simply replaced with a better version of the existing option, you might be trading one performance metric for another – tighter steering and stronger grip but worse turning, for example.
A front splitter only has a small amount of functionality, crossing over the front grille of your van and providing a little bit more downforce. This does not tend to matter much, but it does change the aesthetics of the van and can be important for optimizing a vehicle into a certain role.
One of the core benefits of front splitters is the fact that they improve traction at high speeds. This gives them a niche use for any vehicle that is going to be used on highways or in other open areas, especially if you will be using them on a tight schedule where every minute of travel time counts.
If installed correctly, spoilers improve aerodynamics, which can also reduce fuel consumption at higher speeds. This makes the vehicle cheaper to run in the long term, even if the cost difference is not that much.
While this might sound like more of an aesthetic change than a practical one, consider a company that has a fleet of vehicles. By installing an appropriate design of spoiler on each one, they can drop fuel costs quite significantly overall, which may be important if long-distance vehicle travel (or deliveries) is a core part of how your company operates.
Roof racks allow you to store important equipment or supplies on top of your vehicle, effectively doubling (or even tripling) its carrying capacity. Finding roof rack vans for sale can be a great option if you are wanting a vehicle that can carry a lot of gear at once or if you want to keep the back free to carry people instead of goods.
Roof racks also tend to be universal, meaning that they can hold almost anything that will fit. This allows you to make any van into a multi-purpose vehicle, giving them a reliable way to transport things that would never fit into the van under normal circumstances.
Adding more seating to a van allows it to become an even more effective people carrier. Whether the seating is fixed in place or able to move out of the way, it can turn even the most basic van into a multi-functional vehicle that is perfect for larger-scale trips involving more than a couple of people.
There are a lot of ways to set this up. You might create rows of seating facing forwards or have two rows facing inwards like an old transport van. Some people even install them in a semi-circle so that everybody is facing inwards, occasionally with a little table to provide a practical surface.
Seating can come in a lot of different configurations, whether that is as official upgrade kits or third-party modifications. If you have a specific requirement for more seating, then look for vans for sale that have extra seating already installed.
Alternatively, you might want to remove the seating. This can sometimes be useful if you want a people-carrier vehicle without the people-carrying element – for example, adding a fleet vehicle that can store a large amount of equipment without looking like a typical storage van.
This might also be useful if you plan to modify the vehicle yourself in the future with new seating or want to give it a specific role within a company. By finding vans for sale that have already had the extra seating stripped out, you can treat it like a blank canvas for future adjustments.
A lot of modified vans possess extra walls and/or windows between the front and back sections of the van, even if they did not originally have them. This can serve a number of uses depending on what you are planning to use the van for, but it is something to consider if you are looking at vans for sale.
On the one hand, it can increase privacy and prevent large stacks of cargo from tumbling over into the front seats. On the other hand, it means that you can’t access the back from the front, forcing you to stop and open the rear or side doors if you want to access something from the back. The option you should choose depends on your own requirements.
Keep in mind that not all of these walls are the same. Some may be solid materials, while others may include transparent windows or have glass-free viewing ports. All of these details can completely change how they function in your van and what kind of van uses they are best suited for.
Some van owners get a plywood lining to help protect the metal walls of the van from damage and to offer some nice style and comfort if somebody needs to use the rear space. This can also help protect fragile cargo or provide a stable surface for setting up equipment.
This also tends to increase the value of the vehicle substantially: not just because you are avoiding potential damage but also because of how nice these modifications look.
Carpeting is another visual detail that might not sound that important. However, it can really make a difference to your van’s interior, especially if you plan to use it as a mobile office or meeting space of some kind.
Another additional feature that is not strictly necessary, soundproofing can be an effective way to drown out the traffic noise during a long drive. If your vans are often used as people-carriers and places for short-notice meetings, then this can be invaluable for keeping all discussions clear of background noise.
Instead of adding new seats or benches, some vans are modified to contain actual shelving units. This allows for easy storage of specific items in an ordered fashion, which could work for a repair team or contractor that deals with highly specialized pieces of equipment.
Storage racks could be used to hold anything from paint cans to stacks of paperwork, all contained in a safe and relatively secure storage shelf. The only downside is the reduced floor space of your vehicle.
Choosing Modified Vans
Always think about the kind of modified van you might be looking for, even before you start looking through the list of vans for sale in your local area. Whether you are buying as an individual or representing a larger company, you need to think about your ultimate goal.
It is not always easy to modify vans later, and you usually can’t modify them at all if they are rental vehicles. This means that you want to get the best possible option first, then make adjustments whenever possible further down the line.
For example, if you need a people carrier, choose an option that has a lot of seats. Even if you have to make changes later, you still end up with a van that can carry more people than normal, which fits with the criteria that you need to fill now.
Some vans are far more specialized than others. Companies like Absolute Vans offer a range of stock vans, but you might prefer to look for something like the WASP and Hornet upgrade range instead. These can provide a lot of ways to specialize your van into specific roles without committing the vehicle to one single purpose.
It is important to balance versatility and specialization. A van that is too versatile might struggle to do many things well, even if it can technically still do them – a van without off-road tires can still go off-road, just poorly. On the other hand, too much specialization can make the vehicle terrible at anything that is not for that particular purpose.
Look at all of the vans available for sale and try to pick out options that can fit multiple niches within your life, hobbies, or company. A single vehicle that can fill two roles means that you do not need to buy two separate vehicles, and that gives you more of your budget to spend on finding the best possible modified van for sale in that niche.
Whatever you are looking for, there is a whole host of options available online to choose from. The hard part is narrowing everything down until you are left with only a few good options, so take your time and don’t hesitate to think over your goals or expectations before you commit to anything.