• The Transit averages around 21 MPG (city/highway) loaded and keeps my gear dry in Tennessee's abrupt summer downpours. The payload capacity is 1,500 pounds inside and 150 pounds on the roof. I installed the rack; it cost about $350.

    Credit: Aaron Telian

    The Transit averages around 21 MPG (city/highway) loaded and keeps my gear dry in Tennessee's abrupt summer downpours. The payload capacity is 1,500 pounds inside and 150 pounds on the roof. I installed the rack; it cost about $350.

Fifteen months ago, after more than 10 years of driving trucks, I became a van man. I started doing construction projects while still in high school, picking up lumber in the family Suburban. Eventually I acquired a Ranger and an old F-250 flatbed, which together formed a pretty good setup for a variety of jobs. After contracting in California for a number of years, I decided to get serious about finish work, and in the summer of 2012 moved to Tennessee and went to work for a high-end trim carpentry outfit. Before leaving, I sold my trucks and started to think about what I would drive now that my requirements had changed. On small jobs it might be necessary to haul material but on large jobs it’s delivered—so for the most part I need only transport the tools for one trade (tool-intensive though it is). I thought I would buy another truck, but with some encouragement from my new boss, I began to look at vans. The Chevy Uplander was too small, and full-size Ford and Chevy vans were too large. Sprinters were similarly gigantic, and expensive. Ultimately I settled on the Ford Transit, a small European-style van that in a few short years has gone from being an oddity to something you see all the time. 

I bought a used 2010 Transit Connect XLT. It cost about $20k and there were 24,000 miles on the odometer. There are two seats in front and a large cargo area in back. The cargo area can be accessed through a pair of outswing doors on the rear of the vehicle or sliding doors on either side. Working out of this vehicle forced me to change the way I hauled and organized tools but it has been worth it. For photos and a description of how I organized my tools to fit in a smaller vehicle see the slideshow on this page.

The Transit averages around 21 MPG (city/highway) loaded and keeps my gear dry in Tennessee's abrupt summer downpours. The payload capacity is 1,500 pounds inside and 150 pounds on the roof. I installed the rack; it cost about $350.

The Transit averages around 21 MPG (city/highway) loaded and keeps my gear dry in Tennessee's abrupt summer downpours. The payload capacity is 1,500 pounds inside and 150 pounds on the roof. I installed the rack; it cost about $350.

Credit: Aaron Telian

 

With outswing doors on back, sliding doors on the sides, and cargo space that is low to the ground the Transit offers exceptional access for loading and unloading.

With outswing doors on back, sliding doors on the sides, and cargo space that is low to the ground the Transit offers exceptional access for loading and unloading.

Credit: Aaron Telian

 

The gray material on the floor is some kind of embossed 1/2-inch plywood. It was there when I bought the van and I’m not sure whether it is stock for the cargo model or some kind of aftermarket accessory.

The gray material on the floor is some kind of embossed 1/2-inch plywood. It was there when I bought the van and I’m not sure whether it is stock for the cargo model or some kind of aftermarket accessory.

Credit: Aaron Telian

I've become spoiled by how much easier it is to park and maneuver around crowded jobsites in a smaller vehicle.  I can squeeze in and out of spaces that would be a nightmare (or simply impossible) in a truck. Here it is in a very short driveway.

I've become spoiled by how much easier it is to park and maneuver around crowded jobsites in a smaller vehicle. I can squeeze in and out of spaces that would be a nightmare (or simply impossible) in a truck. Here it is in a very short driveway.

Credit: Aaron Telian