The Facts on Ford Transit Cargo Van MPG

Updated: February 9, 2022

The Facts on Ford Transit Cargo Van MPG
2020 Ford Transit Full-Size Cargo Van

So, you want to know the approximate MPG of a Ford Transit van?

These numbers can be a little hard to come by, and you'll have to take them with a grain of salt.

Why?

Fuel mileage can't be summed up in a single number. Ford Transit work vans come in a number of different configurations that will impact the numbers a little differently. If you're running only a few vans in your fleet and need an MPG number to help in purchasing, it helps to think of MPG ratings relative to other vehicles.

And while we're at it, let's make a slightly shocking statement:

For many trades businesses looking to buy a new van, MPGs don't matter.

This is a highly qualified statement, and we'll talk about this later, but there are other things that will affect your bottom line more effectively than just reducing fuel costs.

Let's take a look at some of the published MPG numbers for Ford Transits and the things that will affect them.


Ford Transit MPG

For a 2021 2WD Transit, the EPA lists the T150 at 16 mpg combined city/highway, 15 mpg city, and 19 highway.

For the 2021 AWD Transit, the EPA lists the T150 at 16 mppg combined city/highway, 14 mpg city, and 18 mpg highway.

These EPA numbers are not explained well and don't account for different body sizes, weights, or drivetrain configurations. But they do give you a baseline against which you can compare models from other manufacturers.

Ford Van Options That Affect Fuel Mileage

Ford Transits come in a number of different configurations from the factory.

The largest impacts come from engine choice (fuel efficiency), roof height (aerodynamics), and body length (weight), and gearing (engine speed).

Ford Transit Engines

Transits have come with a variety of engines over the years. In 2021, they were offered with the 275hp 3.5L PFDI gas engine and the 310hp 3.5L EcoBoost gas engine. These engines have the same displacement at 3.5 liters, but the EcoBoost also features a turbo and more horsepower and torque. Over the years, the practicality of the extra power of the EcoBoost has been a good reason for the upgrade, and is more enjoyable if you're the one driving the van.

Expect the EcoBoost to have slightly worse mileage due to changes in driving habits from the increased power.

Ford Transit Roof Heights

The largest impact roof heights will have on fuel mileage are that more height is less aerodynamic. This is a pretty big deal - even just adding a roof rack to a regular car can cost an mpg or two. Roof height will also add a little weight to a Transit van build.

Is this a reason to avoid roof height?

Not at all.

Having the ability to carry more tools or inventory is great, but the ability to stand in your van is probably one of the biggest benefits to a taller-roofed Transit. A typical tradesperson will appreciate not needing to kneel or hunch over to grab a tool or part.

Ford Transit Body Length

The longer a Transit is, the heavier it is. A little extra body can add up to a couple hundred pounds on a Transit, although this isn't necessarily a big deal on a trades van.

More important things to consider are the amount of cargo space that you require, how a the long rear overhang on a Long-EL will affect your driving, and whether a longer body will affect you in driving and parking situations.

Transit Gearing

Axle gearing is essentially invisible - you can't see it and you probably need to ask the dealer what ratio your Transit has. There are manual ways to figure out gearing on a used vehicle if you really want to know.

Axle gears are the ring and pinion gears that redirect your driveshaft's output by 90 degrees to the axle shafts that drive your wheels. The small pinion gear spins a larger ring gear; the ring gear teeth:pinion gear teeth is the gear ratio. Axle gear ratios in Transits changes depending on the engine and cargo volume that you choose.

Higher gearing is numerically lower (like 3.31:1) and will give you better fuel mileage. Lower gearing is numerically higher (like 4.10:1) and will give you worse mileage but be more snappy and responsive. You don't really have control over gearing, you'll get what you get with your model.

Putting It All Together

One of the most noticeable things about going from a Regular length, Low roof, 3.5L PFDI-engine Transit cargo van to a Long-EL length, High Roof, 3.5L version is the weight difference: 630 lbs! This is according to Ford's published specs which are a little generic - there's no differentiation between a Transit 150 and a Transit 350, but the difference is there.

The options for the larger van above contribute to a whopping 11.2% of the weight gain from a base cargo van model.

While this is important for mileage, you might be better off paying attention to what that does to your payload capacity and whether you need a heavier duty model.

How You Affect Your Transit's Fuel Mileage

You and your employees will have also have a significant effect on mileage. A heavily-loaded Transit will have worse mileage than a lightly loaded one. A driver that accelerates quickly and drives at higher speeds will use more fuel than a gentler driver.

Inventory and Tools

HVAC and plumbing vans are a great example of setups that need a lot of inventory and tools to get the job done. A typical HVAC van has lots of bins for fittings, lots of fasteners, and lots of power tools. Even high-roof, long transit vans are usually stuffed with parts.

But all this inventory adds a significant amount of weight, affects the handling of your van, and, in some cases, may slow you or your employees down during the workday if there's just too much stuff to look at and work around.

You can choose to specialize in certain fields within your trade in order to minimize the load that your Transit needs to carry.

How Many Fuel Stops in a Week?

Fuel stops are a fact of any trade business - you need to get to the job site.

However, stopping for fuel can be an interruption to the work day. A typical diversion to a gas station plus a fill can cost you 15-20 minutes; three fills per week can start to add up.

The standard Ford Transit fuel tank is a 25 gallon tank. If you refill when you've got 2 gallons left, at the EPA combined rating, that gets you 368 miles. Ford also offers an optional 31 gallon tank - this one will get you 464 miles if you refill with 2 gallons left.

This is nearly a 100 mile gain and can make the option expense worth it in time savings.

Supply Houses, Rural Areas, and Fuel

Trades businesses have a huge variation in location and regional differences will have an enormous impact on fuel use. A good example of this is suburban areas with low traffic and dense concentrations of supply houses.

Low traffic means that you won't worry about wasting time on a trip to a supply house. If supply houses are plentiful, it may be easy to hit them up on the way to the next job. In the end, they allow you to carry less inventory on your van, carry less weight, and sort through less stuff to find what you need for a given job.

A counter example is a rural area with a single supply house. In an area like this, you want to be well-stocked so that you don't need to make wasteful trips to buy parts. Your Transit will be heavier, but that's a small tradeoff if you can reduce driving time. This is especially true if saved driving time allows you to do one more job in a day.

The message is isn't that you should do one or the other, but that you need to consider your own situation so that you can be the most efficient.

Does Fuel Mileage Matter to You?

If you have a trade business, fuel mileage should not be a bottom-line concern compared to other factors in your business.

Why?

If you're buying new, there are only a few vans in the same class as the Transit, and their mileage doesn't vary appreciably between them. Your time would instead be well-spent to look at cost-of-upfit, service costs, reliability and uptime, and costs of ownership.

However, if you're upgrading from something like an E-350 cargo van, know that you can expect your mpgs to go up several points. This can only be good.

Splitting Your Fleet

If you're growing your business, you'll know at some point that you want to split your fleet into service and installation vehicles, or quoting and service/installation vehicles. A typical HVAC business might use full-size Ford Transits for installations and compact Ford Transit Connects for service work.

These kind of splits can help you realize significant fuel mileage gains and also massively reduce some costs of ownership.

Make Up Your "losses"

If you feel like fuel is a major cost center, try thinking about how you can better use your van to be more efficient. Spending time on better upfits, keeping vans clean, and better inventory management will have larger impacts on your trades business than increasing fuel mileage by a couple of MPGs.

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