Commercial vehocle

I am a contractor in San Francisco California. I install Artisan plasters and wall treatments so I need a vehicle that can carry my tools, (buckets, trowels, mixing equipment) and materials. Typically the plaster I use comes in 50 pound bags and I need to be able to transport up to 10 bags at a time. I am looking for a used vehicle that gets good gas mileage, is comfortable for long trips, has a medium cargo capacity that is easy to access and small enough to park in the city. I don’t like any of the large cargo vans and want something that will project an image of professionalism as well as be fun to drive. I’ve looked at Toyota RAV 4, Honda Odyssey, Sienna, Mazda MPV and VW Eurovan. I like the looks of the VW Eurovan but have heard they are trouble. Do you have any suggestions?

I used to work for a place that used a 2006 Scion xB (the box) in that sort of capacity. I would occasionally load it up to probably around 650 pounds plus driver and, though you could really feel the extra weight power-wise going over mountain passes and the like, if you distributed the weight pretty evenly with the seats folded back it handled it pretty well. And for a car that gets over 32mpg on the highway, the available volume is pretty darn good, though one drawback is that with the back seats up, the cargo room is much more limited.

The Odyssey and the Sienna are both reliable quality vehicles. If you get one made in 2002, you can probably remove the rear seats rather than fold them into the floor. I think this would give you more storage space and relieve the vehicle of some of its weight, giving you slightly higher weight capacity for your cargo. I sould also look at the Toyota Tacoma and consider a cover for the truck bed. It might meet your needs slightly better than a minivan.

A small pickup with a cap.

Chevy HHR. They are available as a panel van, and that would probably work.

What about ladders?

The faorites in small pickups (`2005) are the Dodge Dakota, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. If price overrides everything else, look at the Ford/Mazda and Chevy/GMC offerings. If you get a cap, make sure it can handle the weight of your ladders.

None of those vehicles will do. An E-150 cargo van should be a good bet. It corners well and is easy to park.

How about a Honda Element? Mechanically identical to the Honda CR-V, it is a very reliable vehicle.

Unlike the CR-V, its box-like design is highly functional and would allow you to carry your cargo with ease. And, unlike most other vehicles, its interior is designed for “wet cleaning”.

Using a lot of water to rid it of the plaster dust and other debris would allow you to carry passengers on weekends without them being soiled by the remnants of your work. Even if you don’t want to carry passengers, few vehicles have an interior that is as easy to clean as the interior of the Element.

I was thinking the same thing, until the OP said, “I don’t like any of the large cargo vans…”

There are folks who have fried electrical components in their Honda Elements because they thought they could simply hose down the interior. It isn’t a good idea.

Interesting! But, didn’t Honda suggest in their advertising that this was acceptable on this vehicle?

They sure did.

Hmmmm…That’s a mighty big “Whoops!” for Honda.

I guess there must have been a breakdown of communication between Engineering and Marketing.

According to, “But don’t buy into the myth that you can just hose down the interior, because you can’t. There have been several reports of multi-thousand dollar damage to the vehicle because they took a hose to the interior.”*


According to, the Element has an “installed a water-resistant, rubber-floored interior (but Honda warns not to try to hose it out).”**


It’s not small, but a Dodge Sprinter is ideal as a working man’s truck. Maybe that’s part of why it’s so useful.