What is a "commercial car" and why should you buy one?

A commercial vehicle, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations of the United States, is described as any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:

  1. has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or
  2. is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or
  3. is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
  4. is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in a quantity requiring placarding under regulations prescribed by the Secretary under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C.

In plain language, a commercial car is a vehicle driven or towed, that transports goods or services, and meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • weighing more than 10,000 pounds,
  • transporting nine or more people for commercial purposes,
  • transporting more than 15 people for whatever purpose,
  • moving any material deemed by the government as hazardous.

Using commercial cars for leisure

Commercial Vehicle with Side Panel Access and Rear Entry (Buying a Commercial Car for Personal Use)

Given the definition above, we can deduce that commercial vehicles are, for the most part, large, heavy-duty machines that offer a lot of carriage space. The space available can be used to ferry large appliances when changing homes or transporting lots of people for trips to the beach or even road trips with the family. It is no wonder that commercial vehicles are bought for personal use.

A Sedan or SUV would either be too small for such use or may not accommodate such activities. You risk getting fined or even having your car impounded if you are caught by the authorities doing so. Your best bet is to get a larger commercial car to avoid the trouble. What are the things to look out for when purchasing such a vehicle for personal use?

A guide to buying commercial vehicles for personal use

So you want to embark on that road trip to the West coast with your huge family. It is the annual family reunion, and everyone will be there. How do you move 16, or even more, relatives from the East coast to the West? Get a commercial vehicle! A massive one!!But here's the thing: you have never bought a commercial vehicle before. Save for Sedans or SUVs, you have never had to venture into the commercial car world. Have no fear, just follow the pointers below.

What exactly is "personal use"?

The first thing to consider when buying a commercial car for personal use is what the vehicle will be used for and how. Will you be transporting just relatives? What of their luggage? Will you be taking along equipment like grills, heaters, cookers, and the likes? Does the interior allow passengers to sleep in during long commutes?

Space Available in Commercial Vehicle for Leisure (Buying a Commercial Car for Personal Use)

Open Cabin of a Commercial Vehicle[/caption]These questions will inform the type of internal setup to look out for in your prospective vehicle, even before you look into the make and model. Whether buying new or secondhand, you need to know if the vehicle has features for leisure or if you will have to put in custom fixtures of your own.

Primarily, customizing a commercial vehicle for leisure is all about finding a balance between comfort and space. You have to make the best use of the space the vehicle offers for whatever your purpose may be.

Commercial car specifications

When buying a commercial car for personal use, you need to look into the technical details that come with it. You need to carefully consider the weight distribution, as this can affect vehicle handling. Always note the maximum passenger and weight capacity of the vehicle, whether you are customizing or not.

Technical Specifications of Commercial Vehicle

Specifications of a Commercial Vehicle[/caption]It is important you check the structural integrity of the vehicle, particularly the doors, roofs, and seating. Also, consider access to the vehicle. Does it have side panel access or rear entry? Do these features interfere with or improve passenger comfort? You might need to customize accordingly if some stock options do not satisfy your needs.

Best commercial vehicle for leisure

This depends on your budget, and how you make use of it. Most people prefer to buy a standard van because it provides carte blanche for customizing its interior according to their needs. When installing your own internal layout in your van, always ensure that the customization is safe and fully complies with appropriate regulations. If you are buying an already-customized van, always establish:

  1. who carried out the customization,
  2. the date of completion,
  3. and if it has been independently inspected.

Additional permits and registrations on commercial vehicles for leisure

If you are considering customizing and/or buying a commercial car for personal use, you may have to re-register it with your local vehicle authority. Typically, with vans that have to be reclassified, they need to meet certain, strict criteria. This includes, and not limited to, ensuring the vehicle has:

  • permanent fixtures,
  • a horizontal sliding door or an outward opening rear or side door,
  • adequate seating for passengers,
  • a water container.
Vehicle Permit Sample, Not Valid (Buying a Commercial Car for Personal Use)

Also, ensure the weight of the vehicle is within the stated limits provided by the local vehicle authority. You may be liable to pay fines if your vehicle is carrying too much weight. Check that you have the required permits to park and use your repurposed commercial vehicle in certain areas like car parks and camping grounds.

Extra insurance when purchasing a commercial vehicle for personal use

Insurance Cover Certificate Sample, Not Valid

Sample Insurance Cover Certificate[/caption]Just like insuring your sedan or SUV, you have to insure your newly purchased commercial vehicle. Being that it will be for personal use, make sure to get private vehicle insurance. The various types of car insurance coverage you can get include:

  • auto liability coverage,
  • uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage,
  • comprehensive coverage,
  • collision coverage,
  • medical payments coverage
  • or personal injury protection.

Depending on where you live, some of these coverages are mandatory, and some are optional. There are some coverage options available only to commercial vehicles but also cover commercial vehicles used for leisure purposes too.If you made modifications to your vehicle, you need to inform your insurer so they can include it in your insurance cover. If you plan on making further modifications, let the insurer know.

This way, you are aware of coverage options available to you.

In Conclusion

No matter the commercial vehicle you decide to purchase, make sure it is warm enough and adequately ventilated. The comfort and safety of you and your passengers is the ultimate goal. If this proves too daunting a task, ensure you get an expert's opinion before you buy and/or customize your vehicle. A decent dealer will check that everything is on the up and up.