A Van or Ute for Tradies?

vans or utes for tradies

This post has been written in collaboration with XL

When you’re starting out as a plumber, or any trade really, there are a lot of upfront costs like purchasing insurance, tools and deciding which type of vehicle you will use for work. A tradie’s vehicle is the moving workhorse behind their business. The vehicle supplies and stores material, it transports workers to different sites and it becomes a mobile office. The biggest decision around purchasing a vehicle when you’re a tradie is deciding whether to purchase a ute or a van. Dad and I have owned both and I will share the pros and cons of both with you.


When we started our maintenance service, we supplied a fully stocked van for our plumber to use. The van was great because you could install custom shelving to organise fittings and fixtures, everything was contained in the van so it was weatherproof and locked away from thieves, and it didn’t matter what state inside the van was after a full day of work, it was hidden away from view.

There were limitations. The limitations of using a van included

  • Limited space to pile and remove old fixtures from site.
  • Couldn’t load the van with bedding sand or gravel if needed for drainage projects.
  • Limited by the opening of the side and back van doors on what could fit into the van – this was awkward for hot water units.
  • You would have to get into the van to retrieve fixtures and fittings.


I spent a lot of my time as an apprentice and licensed plumber driving my dad’s ute with canopy tool boxes, and my own ute which had an empty tray – specifically for loading up fixtures and larger material supplies.

Dad with one of his utes
From the archives, Dad with one of his utes before he upgraded to a dual cab.

One of the cons of owning a ute is having all your tools (and whatever is loaded in the tray) exposed to the weather and thieves. You also need to cover the contents of the tray with an approved net to ensure nothing flies off the back of your ute when out on the road.

XL provide canopies that offer tradies a smart solution to organizing the back of their utes. There are even canopies that line the outer rim of the tray, so the middle of the tray is free to load up with bigger items or excavating materials.

XL Ute Canopy
XL Ute A-Body


Xl Canopy for Utes
Xl Ute Canopy

The decision on whether to choose a van or a ute comes down to budget and a bit of pride in what you prefer to drive. I personally think a ute is sexier than a van, but that’s just me.

In the end I think vans work well for maintenance plumbers or tradies who do small service jobs, but utes work for commercial plumbers who go from site to site and carry a variety of goods in the back of their truck.

If you’re a tradie, which vehicle do you prefer? Do you think Utes are sexier than Vans?

This post has been written in conjunction with my Disclosure Policy