Topfull Uhaul Ford Cargo Van Top – For a country known for its trucks, America still buys a lot of vans. Ford sold 153,868 of them here last year, more units than the van moved in Europe. Somehow Ford found a way to catch its closed-back hauler. The secret, I’d wager, is being approachable.
Anyone who’s spent time in the back of a Chevy Express, Ford E-350, or U-Haul High-Roof knows how lumbering, ugly, and unruly the typical American-style vans can be. These vans have dominated our market for decades, powered by low-pressure, incredibly thirsty V-8s. From their door design to technology that’s outdated, fuel economy makes them a nuisance on any small business’s balance sheet. No wonder America doesn’t like vans.
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But then European-style vans began to appear. A stubby nose, larger cargo-to-footprint ratio and smaller engines made them more usable in cities. But the high price of vehicles like the Mercedes Sprinter, especially compared to budget trucks, made them a tough sell, and ultimately they were still commercial vehicles with weak technology and sloppy dynamics. It was the Ford Transit that finally cracked Ford’s massive commercial vehicle rolodex, offering the refinement and cleanliness of a Sprinter with better technology, economy and service access. Suddenly, transits were popping up everywhere.
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They are literally everywhere. Thanks to the area of your brain responsible for letting go of mundane stimuli, you might not really see them anywhere, but look closely and you’ll see one parked on every city block. They’re not as ubiquitous as Ford’s F-series trucks, but they outsell most Blue Oval products in annual sales. In 2019, it recorded 153,868 sales, beating out the Transit Edge, Expedition, Ranger and Mustang. In other words, Ford sold more Transits here than Jaguar Land Rover sold in the US. America is complete.
That’s pretty impressive considering a Transit starts at $40, 180, eight grand north of a base Chevy Express, and dearer than a Mercedes Sprinter. Yet as gig workers delivering for Amazon and plumbers upgrading their workhorses hit the market, transit wins time and time again. It succeeds because it asks nothing of you.
My experience is proof of that. The transit arrived the day before I moved apartments. I wish I could claim coincidence, but I specifically arranged it to help me on my eight-block intra-Brooklyn move. Not only was this time personally rewarding, but it was also the only time a writer like me could move enough stuff to justify using a full-sized cargo van. So I had to pick it up in Jersey, drive back through Manhattan traffic, and park on the street for a mid-pandemic move. As someone with little to no full-size van experience, this felt like the ultimate stress test.
Except it was perfectly normal. The seating position is more upright and tall, but as soon as you get into a Transit you recognize typical Ford technology and a dashboard ripped from a Focus. You get leather seats, adaptive cruise control and CarPlay. Everything is laid out as you’d expect, with tons of extra storage pockets and pouches for any workday needs. My tester had the base naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6, powerful enough for the weightless van to be completely relaxed in traffic. Those looking to drag race with a full trailer can opt for a 310-hp twin-turbo V-6 with 400 lb-ft of torque. The Transit also had an optional all-wheel-drive system, which is good for peace of mind, but not necessary in such a lightweight vehicle. However, it’s a good option for first-time van drivers who are concerned about driving an unladen rear-wheel drive vehicle in snow.
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You can also get transit with packages to make RV upfitting easier, off-road #Vanlife adventures more accessible, or delivery duties more organized. All of these make the experience of buying, customizing, and using a full-size van less intimidating and more approachable.
Above all, it’s the driving dynamics that sell it. The transit is quite friendly and supremely confident. Besides being physically longer, the Transit is as easy to drive as any passenger car. The steering is shockingly precise, the brakes are solid and progressive, and even in the medium roof configuration it doesn’t roll aggressively into corners. The virtually non-existent nose and wide-angle backup camera make parking easy, though finding enough space for the thing is difficult. Of course, my $48,595 tester had an automatic parallel parking feature so you could always let the Transit do the hard work. Those systems are usually very slow and cautious, but I’ll take all the help I can get with transit.
As far as actual exports go, I can confidently say that a Ford Transit Medium Roof Short Wheelbase will fit everything I own. My roommate and I had movers handle the beds, we didn’t take the couch, but everything else fit in the room. A Transit 150 doesn’t come close to Cargo’s 3685-lb maximum payload, but if you’re moving bricks, it’s good to know that a Transit 350 can safely haul 5231 pounds. Also, if any traveling pianist comes across this review, my editor confirmed that a piano fits into the Transit very easily.
The downside is simple and obvious. Ford will sell you a Transit in endless configurations, from stripper-spec runabouts to tech-laden turbocharged all-wheel-drive monsters. But that comes at a premium, leading to a $40,000 base price and an options list that stretches beyond the horizon. In return, you get a van that is more approachable, user-friendly, refined and comfortable than a commercial vehicle has any right to be. Ford is betting that business and private buyers alike will happily pay to make their lives easier. Based on the numbers, it looks like Ford is right. Matt Degen is an author who specializes in reviewing cars with the goal of helping you find the best one for your needs. Before joining Kelley Blue Book in 2012, he was a writer and editor at the Orange County Register newspaper for more than a decade. There he covered automobiles, music, food — everything Matt was interested in. Graduated in Communication and Culinary Arts. When not judging vehicles he cooks on his YouTube channel.
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If you want a tried-and-true full-size van, they don’t get much more iconic than the E-Series. Available as a half-ton, three-quarter-ton or one-ton cargo van or a passenger wagon, the 2014 Ford E-Series can move a lot of cargo or people or be customized for a variety of jobs.
New rivals like the Ram ProMaster, Nissan NV, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the upcoming Ford Transit boast more efficient powertrains, better technology and contemporary looks. If you need all-wheel drive, the aging GMC Savannah and Chevrolet Express twins offer it.
No changes are in store for the 2014 Ford E-Series, which will cease production later this year. (E-series cutaway and stripped chassis models will continue to be produced for commercial use.)
For more than 50 years, the Ford E-Series van has made a name for itself as both cargo and passenger transport. In that time, Ford’s venerable van has become a workhorse relied on daily by businesses, fleet services and families big enough to form their own hockey team. But time has caught up with the Ford E-Series, and 2014 is the last year of the aging sedan as it makes way for the technologically superior and more efficient 2015 Ford Transit. Although the 2014 E-Series competes against newer rivals like the Ram ProMaster and Nissan NV, it’s impossible to ignore this full-size van’s commercial service history and the familiar relationship it’s forged with dealers and fleet drivers alike.
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Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) for the 2014 Ford E-Series cargo van and passenger wagon start at $29,600 and $31,200, respectively. E-350 Super Duty models start in the neighborhood of $34,000 and $45,000 fully equipped. The GMC Savana, Chevrolet Express and Ram ProMaster have similar starting prices, while the Nissan NV opens under $27,000. For something smaller and more fuel-efficient, the Nissan NV200 cargo van costs more than $21,000, while the compact Ford Transit Connect is under $23,000. Before buying, check the fair purchase price to see what other people in your area are paying for their Ford E-Series. On the road, the Ford E-Series’ residual value is expected to be below average, but on par with its GM rivals.
You wouldn’t associate a full-size van with quick acceleration or a suspension system that grips corners or coddles bodies – and you’d be right. This is especially true of the 2014 Ford E-Series van
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