Cargo

“Upfitting” is the industry’s term for customizing a vehicle’s cargo area for handling the tools or stock of your trade. You can save a bundle as long as you know the configuration that will work best for you.

Nissan offers upfitting as part of its sales process, baking the added cost of product and installation into the price of your lease, so there’s less out-of-pocket expense. Mercedes-Benz has a similar service with its Sprinter vans. There are a few standard upfit systems that are not tailored for individual businesses; the vehicles come pre-drilled for cargo and shelving units, so the designs can be easily modified after you take delivery.

One of the oldest upfitters is Sturgis, Mich.-based Morgan Olson, which takes specialization to a higher level. It starts with stock vehicles and puts boxed-out cargo carriers onto the chassis, converting them for refrigeration or making other modifications, such as adding a hydraulic lift. Because Morgan Olson sells its trucks through Ford and Mercedes dealers, you get the same leasing flexibility you would from the factory.

The prefab, box-on-frame option is especially valuable if you don’t need huge payload capacity but want the advantages of a tall roof and wide cargo bay. The box option offers greater volume and a more useful workspace than you’d get from the factory.