The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Refrigerated Van

Whether you’re an existing business or a start-up looking to grow, if you transport perishable goods of any kind, chances are you’re going to need a refrigerated van. It’s the surest way to maintain the quality of your products and it’s certainly important when considering the health and safety of your customers.

Keeping your perishables at the right temperature protects your company’s reputation and keeps you on the right side of legislation. All you need is one sudden hot snap and you can find yourself in danger of losing a lot of stock as your van suddenly heats up.

Buying a refrigerated van is not as straightforward as many people think. There are issues such as size and load capacity to take into account, not to mention the temperature control you have. You really need to find a vehicle that not only suits your business needs right now but in the future as well.

If you’re considering buying a refrigerated van or wonder if you actually need one in the first place, here’s our comprehensive guide to making the best decisions.

Do I Need a Refrigerated Van?

You might be surprised at the wide range of businesses which use refrigerated vans and not all of them are delivering food. These include:
Flower shops: Florists highlight the importance of temperature in transportation. Too cold and you can end up damaging flowers and plants so that they die soon after delivery. Too warm and delicate plants can wilt before you get them to their destination.

  • Catering firms: Of course, one of the primary businesses that people think about when considering refrigerated vans are firms which handle the transportation for items such as sandwiches or frozen foods.
  • Drinks companies: Some drinks such as milk need to be kept chilled. If you offer a service to local business where you are delivering chilled beers, sodas or wines, you will also benefit from a refrigerated van.
  • Ice cream businesses: Some vans need to be able to freeze products to around -18°C or lower. Even a slight increase in temperature can have an impact on these kinds of foodstuffs.
  • Pharmaceutical industry: Many drugs are temperature sensitive and a refrigerated van is vital for this type of business.
    Meat, fish and poultry firms: There are strict regulations for transporting this type of product and buying a suitable refrigerated van with the appropriate temperature control is vital.

Carrying Perishables: The Legislation

The rules governing the transportation of things like meat and poultry are largely found in The International Carriage of Perishable Foodstuffs Regulations 1985. Those businesses that are also transporting foodstuffs abroad in road vehicles like refrigerated vans must, in addition, comply with ATP Rules.

7 Things to Consider When Buying a Refrigerated Van

As it’s a fairly big investment for your business, there are certain factors that you need to consider carefully before buying any refrigerated van. Here’s our list of the top 7:

1. Temperature:

This is going to be the first thing you consider as it is the most important for your perishables, whether they be sandwiches, drugs or flowers. Most refrigerated vans have temperature controls but you want to make sure that these are the in the range you need for your products.

  • If you’re transporting flowers, for example, maintaining a chilled temperature of between 5 and 7°C is going to be important.
  • If you are carrying foodstuffs, you may want two compartments in your van, one to maintain products at an ambient temperature and another for chilling.
  • Fish, meat, dairy and poultry all have their own ‘perfect’ temperatures and you’ll want to buy a refrigerated van that can allow you to deliver these.

2. What Goods Are You Carrying?

Along with the temperature, the type of goods is going to define what sort of van you decide to buy, including its size. There are several different types of freezer van to choose from.

  • An insulation only van is designed to maintain a cooler temperature inside and prevent overheating on summer days. It doesn’t actually have an installed refrigeration system but it’s ideal for businesses such as florists.
  • On top of that, you have chiller vans, semi-freezer, and full-freezer which deliver the full range of temperatures you may need for your business.

3. Handling Your Payload

Another issue to consider is your payload and how it actually fits into your van. If you are transporting meat or poultry (for example, if you deliver to a local butcher’s), you will need space to hang your products which means you’ll probably opt for a much larger vehicle.
Ideally, you want to be able to maximise space while having easy access to the contents inside. For most businesses, this is a trade-off that can often be difficult to achieve. The last thing you want with your refrigerated van is that interior space being taken up by truck parts or poor design.

At FridgeXpress, we’ve got a whole host of different refrigerated vans which suit a wide range of businesses.

4. Doors and Your Refrigerated Van

This is something that many businesses don’t think about before they buy their van. If you are delivering perishables to several different sites, then you want to be able to maintain the temperature as constant as possible. Whenever you open the doors, however, the temperature drops.

  • You should consider whether you have back or side doors or both on your vehicle and how these are protected.
  • A lot will depend on how your daily delivery is organised and what type of product you are transporting.
  • You may want to include strip curtains or some other method of preventing temperature increases during deliveries.

5. The Right Wheelbase When Buying a Refrigerated Van

The distance between the wheelbases is important if you are carrying certain kinds of merchandise and, for example, using pallets. There are three different types of wheelbase when it comes to vans, whether they are refrigerated or not:

  • Long wheelbase (LWB)
  • Medium wheel base (MWB)
  • Short wheelbase (SWB)

The measurements of these are not uniform, however, and vary slightly depending on the make and model of the van. When you contact our team at FridgeXpress, we’ll be able to advise you according to what your needs are.

6. Additional Features

Depending on your business, you may require certain extra features for your refrigerated van. For example, perhaps you are buying a large van and want a slip-resistant floor for when your drivers are climbing in and out. You may want extra shelving or separate compartments so you can keep certain foodstuffs or perishables apart.

7. Extras and Your Refrigerated Van

These are the services that the company you are buying your refrigerated van from provide. It’s always worth checking that you are getting value for money and extra support. At FridgeXpress, it’s something we take pride in. Not only do we include 3-year warranties but provide emergency and contract maintenance services as well.

Should You Buy a Fridge Van Conversion?

There are several options when it comes to buying a refrigerated van and one of these is opting for a conversion. A fridge van conversion is basically an ordinary van that has been adapted from its original design to carry perishables.
There are a number of factors to consider here:

  • You need to find out if the refrigeration unit has been installed properly and is fit for purpose.
  • Check what insulation is included to prevent loss of cold.
  • Find out whether the fridge van conversion meets the requirements of your industry.
  • You should always buy your conversion from a reputable company that knows what they are doing rather than from a private seller.

Hire or Buy Your Refrigerated Van?

Another factor to consider is whether you are best buying or hiring your refrigerated van. This is going to depend on your business model and what your requirements are.

  • You may, for example, want a service where your refrigerated vehicle is updated by your contractor.
  • Perhaps you need a larger fleet and don’t want to manage the full expenditure of buying the vehicles outright.
  • You may have some times of the year when you are busier than others and need to scale your van fleet up and down accordingly.

It’s important to discuss your options with your van supplier and have a clear idea of what you are looking for. For some, buying a refrigerated van outright is the best options, for others it isn’t. At FridgeXpress, we offer both short term hire of refrigerated vans as well as contract hire.

We also sell both used and new, as well as converted, refrigerated vans.

New vs Used Refrigerated Vans

Another consideration is whether to buy your refrigerated van new or get a used one. There are lots of places where you can find used refrigerated vans for sale but it pays to use a company that has a track record in dealing in this area.

At FridgeXpress, we’ve got over 20 years buying and selling both new and used vans so we know what we are talking about. All our vehicles are well maintained and come with our own guarantee. That means you can be sure you are getting a reliable van that meets your needs. Contact our team today to discuss your needs.