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A van is a kind of vehicle used for transporting goods or groups of people. It is usually a box-shaped vehicle on four wheels, about the same width and length as a large automobile, but taller and usually higher off the ground, also referred to as a light commercial vehicle or LCV. However, in North America, the term may be used to refer to any truck with a rigid cargo body fixed to the cab, even up to large sizes.

In the UK usage, it can be either specially designed or based on a saloon/sedan car, the latter type often including derivatives with open backs (such as pick-up trucks). There are vans in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the classic van version of the tiny Mini to the five metre long (LWB) variants of the Mercedes Sprinter van. Vehicles larger than this are classified as lorries (trucks).


Word usage and etymology

The word van is a shortened version of the word caravan, which originally meant a covered vehicle.

The word van has slightly different, but overlapping, meanings in different forms of English. While the word always applies to boxy cargo vans, the most major differences in usage are found between the different English-speaking countries.

United Kingdom

British English speakers will generally refer to a passenger minivan as a people-carrier or MPV, or multi-purpose vehicle, and a larger passenger van as a minibus. Ford makes a distinct line of vans with short bonnets (hoods) and varying body sizes. Minivans are the same Vans but smaller. The driver's mate of a delivery van was sometimes referred to as a "vanguard." The Sun newspaper introduced the idea of "White Van Man", a typical working class man or small business owner who would have a white Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter or similar panel van. The Top Gear TV programme did a piece where the presenters had to buy a cheap panel van and then perform a series of tests. In reference to the reputation of van drivers style of driving on British roads, one of the tests was to tailgate a car travelling at 60 mph as closely as possible.

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