Best SUV/Minivan to convert to a truck

Which used SUV/Minivan is best to remove the seats and use as inexpensive truck to haul plywood sheets, gypsum board, MDF, boxes of heavy materials, etc.

The older, mid 80’s, Toyota 4 Runners were basically the Toyota truck with a removable hardshell added.

In addition, Chevy K5 Blazers from the mid-80s back also have a removable shell and plenty of cargo space. If you don’t mind the forward cab being open to the outside, that is…

I would suggest a Dodge Grand Caravan. I know many people who buy this at around 100k as a commerical vehicle or so when people who own as family vehicle are nervous of age.

Is a removable hardshell the critical element? Are models with removable hardshells still being made? Most Sheeting is 4’ to 5’ wide. Which SUVs/Minivans have rear door openings more than 4’?

I’d recommend a used full size van. A cargo van will come without seats, but if you remove the seats from a passenger van you can haul full 4X8 sheets of plywood, 10 or 12 ft. long pieces of lumber, etc. Low loading height is handy and they all have 4’ wide rear door openings.

SUVs tend to be high off the ground and it makes them harder to load/unload. Mini vans can be OK, there are cargo versions sold, but in the used market the cargo versions will have already been used to death. Removing seats from a passenger version might work.

Most if not all FULL sized minivans are capable of carrying 4’x 8’ sheets of drywall, plywood, etc. (2nd and 3rd row seats removed that is) with the rear hatch closed.

Be mindful of the axle weights though.

There are other seated vans like the older Astro/Savanna which have leaf springs which allow for a heavier load than the coil springs.

If the escalating cost of fuel is NOT a problem for you, you could look at a GMC Suburban or the XL (extra long) Yukon or Chev Trailblazer.

The suv market doesn’t have many that will carry a sheet of plywood (laid flat).

I can’t speak for the other brands as I don’t have info on them.

Some pickup trucks ride high off the ground and make initial loading difficult too. The cargo area, with the rear seats removed has to be at least 8’, but if I remove the front passenger seat, I may be able to load 10’/12’ dimensional lumber or piping on the right side, above the sheeting, if I install a rack to hold it. So there might be some full sized SUVs that might work. Maybe an extended Ford Expedition or similar?

Would selecting a 4WD version increase the cargo weight/towing capacity of the SUV/Minivan?

Would off road packages on SUVs/Minivans include heaver duty springs or shock absorbers that would support the heavier/peak loads that using it as a truck might put on the axel?

Off-road packages? No, most of those consist of rebranded shocks, skid plates, and decals. None of which will help you carry a heavier load. However a vehicle with a HD trailer package may very well have better rear springs, a bigger radiator and transmission cooler, all of which will make for a more robust vehicle.

From the way you’re talking, I think your best bet is to locate a so-called “Maxi” van, that has the extra long body like a 15-passenger full-size van. You’d want a cargo version, however.

4WD is actually likely to reduce your towing capacity and overall payload, because of the weight of the extra drivetrain components. It won’t be by a whole lot…perhaps only a few hundred pounds…but a 4WD vehicle will have a lower overall payload than its 2WD equivalent.

Thanks for the info on 2WD versus 4WD. That was NOT obvious.

Full size vans tend to be junk collectors. By keeping the space available close to the space I need, I hope to avoid providing permanent mobile storage to junk.

Right now, you can get great deals on…trucks. What is it about a regular pickup that is making you want to avoid the obvious?

Trucks are over sized for what I transport and the truck cabs are for friends/family and take up a lot of space that could be used for cargo. Trucks require covers be secured after loading to prevent moisture damage.

Notice the other trucks on the freeway. The cargo areas are mostly empty and seldom filled with new materials. New materials are cheaper delivered to a job site ahead of time. The role of the truck is to transport tools and make a run if a job material is short which is a fraction of a day’s materials and seldom fill the truck.

Converting a used SUV/Minivan which has the capacity to make an occasional materials run seemed worth exploring.

what weight are you talking about? a hundred lbs, or a thousand?

big difference in the equation.

i have hauled sheets of plywood and up to 12’ 2x4’s in my grand caravan.

with the seats removed, i can haul several hundred lbs of stuff.

it would seem to really depend on your specific requirements and what you expect. if you need to regularly haul just a hundred lbs of stuff, with an occasional 500 lb load, then any of thew mini vans would do.

just curious, are you trying to keep it looking like a non commercial vehicle to get into small places, and keep it inconspicuous? the mini van with blacked out rear windows is the way there.

Thanks for your addition to my list of SUVs/Minivans to investigate.

A stealth commercial vehicle? Sounds like a meth dealer. Doesn’t match my skill mix.

Though if it’s more maneuverable, I won’t complain about tinted windows…

Lets see, a ton is 2000 lbs and 500/2000 would be a quarter ton, so something between 1/4 and 3/4 ton capacity would be good.

The actual rear door opening needs to be over 4’ at the bottom to load panels and the sheets in the cargo area need to stack flat (gypsum board tends to get damaged if it doesn’t ride flat). Not all Minivans/SUVs will accommodate that, so I’m looking for the best one. Removing seats instead of folding them down saves weight (and gas).

Gen 3 and Gen 4 Chrysler extended wheelbase minivans (1996 - 2007) will definitely allow 4’ x 8’ panels to lie flat on the floor if you remove the center and rear seats. Some of the high-end models also came with self-leveling rear suspensions, a plus when carrying heavy loads.