The Complete Guide to Refrigerated Van Conversions

Refrigerated Van Hire UK

Refrigerated van conversions are a hot topic. With the demand for delivery drivers at an all-time high, many people are considering a conversion project. But can you convert a refrigerated van yourself? And how much does that cost? We’ll answer all your burning questions in this complete guide to refrigerated van conversions.

1. Can you convert a refrigerated van yourself?

Yes, you can. But it’s probably not very cost-effective to do so. That’s because refrigeration technology has vastly improved in recent years. And a purpose-made van will have the right insulation and support to make the best use of the cooling unit. If you have a used van and want to convert it to a refrigerated van, it’s best to take it to a specialist who can ensure everything is fitted correctly and the cooling unit isn’t drawing too much power.

According to WhatVan?, “Too many fridge van conversions are of poor quality and do an inadequate job. That’s the view of Alan Lines. He’s secretary of Transfrigoroute, the trade association for the refrigerated transport industry. A well-known figure in the sector, Lines agrees that there are a number of converters who are well established and work to a high standard. Unfortunately, too many conversions are executed by corner-cutting under-the-arches cowboys that employ inadequate insulation materials, he believes.” So, whether you do it yourself or hire someone, remember that your van does need to meet reasonable standards for food & goods safety to be viable.

2. How much does it cost to convert a van to refrigerated?

There are several factors that determine how much it costs to convert a van to refrigerated. This includes:

  • The size of the van
  • How many vans you’re converting
  • If you’re doing it yourself
  • The cost of materials
  • The van’s condition
  • Any added features you want

Remember that labour is around 50% of the cost of a refrigerated van conversion, so include those costs in your budget if it’s not a DIY project.

3. Why are fridge vans cheaper?

While not always the case, generally buying a purpose-built fridge van is cheaper than a refrigerated van conversion. First, they are usually a bit smaller. And size is a factor for cost. Next, they use advanced and lightweight cooling systems that are more eco-friendly. Lastly, you’ll not run into any surprises when you buy or rent a fridge van. There’s no chance it will draw too much power or struggle with the loads when the fridge unit is added. These are all important considerations before starting a refrigerated van conversion.

4. Are refrigerated vans insulated?

Yes. In most cases, high-density polymer foam is used to create a barrier and keep the interior goods cool. Insulation is very important as the heat created by the running motor and the outside temperature needs to be counteracted. This prevents the cooling system from having to work relentlessly to combat the warmth on its own. Insulation traps air between the outside and the inside so the interior maintains its coolness.

5. How does a cooling van work?

First, they have a condenser like your home fridge to turn hot gas into a cool liquid. Then the liquid is sent to the evaporator to absorb heat in the space where your goods are kept. Fans move the air around to keep everything equally cool. Then, this gas goes back to the compressor to get pushed out of the vents. This extracts the hot air from your fridge space.

6. Should you rent or buy a refrigerated van instead?

That depends on your financial situation. If you have access to a very high-quality and modern cooling system, good-standard insulation and the time and tools required to complete your refrigerated van conversion, then that might be your most affordable option. You might also be able to find someone to help you with the final installation on the cheap. But generally, nothing will perform better than a purpose-built refrigerated van.

If you have the funds and want to own your assets, buying a van makes sense. But if you are just starting out and want to keep your sunk costs low, renting your van is an ideal option. Short-term rates sit at £375.00 + VAT per week or keep it for longer at £950 + VAT per month. While that does depend on the mileage and the specifications, it might work out to be cheaper if you run into issues with your van conversion project.

7. What jobs can you get with a refrigerated van conversion?

There is a wide range of jobs you can get with a refrigerated van conversion. Some of these include couriers, grocery delivery drivers, florist delivery drivers, produce delivery drivers, medicines delivery drivers and more. And there’s decent money to be made. According to Talent, “The average delivery driver salary in the United Kingdom is £21,450 per year or £11 per hour. Entry-level positions start at £17,995 per year while most experienced workers make up to £31,200 per year.”

But depending on who you work for, you might enjoy other benefits like flexible scheduling or discount offers & perks. Just remember that unless you’re on a contract with a fixed hourly schedule, it’s likely that your pay will fluctuate. To compensate for this MoneyHelper suggests, “A good tip is to budget for your lowest monthly income – at least you’ll always have the major costs covered. Then, if you have a good month, you can revise your monthly budget.”

8. Summary

In summary, it’s totally possible to do your own refrigerated van conversion, but there are risks involved. You can also contact a body shop to help you, but make sure they’re reputable and understand the cooling standards of the goods you want to transport. Lastly, buying or renting a ready-made fridge van might actually make more sense for most people. But however you get into the cooling van trade, there’s money to be made in deliveries.

Want more support deciding if refrigerated van conversions make sense for your business activities? Talk to our helpful team today. We’ve got a wide range of experience with all sorts of fridge vans and can help you make the best decision for your circumstances.


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