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Dry van vs reefer: Which option is better?

When looking at the difference between dry van vs reefer, you’ll find that preferences are completely subjective. Each has their pros and their cons, all of which are based on the type of cargo that you plan to carry. 

So, how do you decide which is best for you? Well the first step is you’re here doing your research. Today, we’ll explore what a dry van is, what a reefer trailer is, and how to decide which is better for your transportation business.

What Is a Reefer Trailer?

A reefer trailer is also commonly known as a refrigerated trailer. The term reefer is a slang term within the trucking industry. These trailers are used to haul perishables that need temperature protection during the transportation process. 

There are numerous products that need to be temperature-controlled, from food to flowers and anything in between. These trucks are usually one ton or more, and they have a refrigerated unit either built indirectly or transported within the trailer. They use liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) and diesel-powered generators to keep things cool.

What Is Dry Van Trailer?

A dry van trailer is, as you guessed, not refrigerated. They are the most common type of trailer on the road and haul products that do not have to be temperature controlled. The cargo they transport is typically in pallets or boxes. 

Dry van trailer cargo may include electronics, clothing, and packaged food. As long as there’s no need for refrigeration, dry van shipping can be the best option for you!

Comparing Dry Van & Reefer Trailers 

There are many similarities when looking at dry vans vs reefer trailers. One of the biggest differences is the amount of each vehicle that is on the road. Currently, there are 1.7 million or more dry vans on the road, whereas there are only 400,000 reefers. 


The first and most obvious difference between reefer vs dry van trailers is that reefers are refrigerated. While they have nearly identical measurements as dry vans, they are equipped with insulation and capabilities for refrigeration. This means that they also need to be pre-cooled before shipment. If not, the products could be damaged during transport.


Because there are far fewer components in a dry van, the cost is much more affordable for transportation companies. These trailers do not rely on condensers, compressors, evaporators, and other engine parts that reefers require. Their basic wooden floor is cost-effective, and they do not require extensive insulation. These factors ultimately lead to dry van trailers costing less.


The trucking industry is in demand–There’s no doubt about it! Therefore, for both reefer and dry van trailers, there will always be a need. But, because there are far fewer reefer trailers on the road, reefer loads are generally easier to find. 


Another similarity between these two trailers is their security. Both are easy to secure. Plus, they are equally as great at preventing theft and damage that would otherwise be caused by natural elements. Of course, certain weather-related acts can do a number on these vehicles just as much as any other vehicle, but they keep out the rain and snow sufficiently. 


With dry vans, you only have the option to transport cargo that does not have to be temperature controlled. However, with reefers, you can carry goods that are temperature sensitive and dry goods! They are the more versatile option since they allow you to carry just about anything – except heavy and oversized loads. 

Finding the Best Shipping Mode

When you are operating your trucking business, finding the best shipping mode will be vital. If you’re looking to save money you can utilize a dry van and have fewer upfront costs. But if you’re looking for a trailer that is more versatile, you might be willing to have the extra investment and go with a reefer. 


Can You Turn a Dry Van into a Reefer?

Yes, but you likely would not want to. Dry vans do not have the appropriate insulation, evaporators, and condensers. It would be a very large undertaking to convert a dry van into a reefer.

Are Reefer Trucks Profitable?

Yes. Reefer trucks are profitable. While reefers cost more than dry vans upfront, there is a greater demand for reefer trucks, allowing you to charge more for your reefer services.

How Much are Dry Van Trailers?

 If you are looking to purchase a new dry van trailer, you can expect to spend between $30,000 and $60,000. The cost will vary depending upon the specifications that you choose.

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