Wood vs. Metal Van Racking

It is not a question about IF you need van racking; it is about WHAT type. Cost, weight, durability, safety, versatility (and appearance); if you are on the fence between metal van racking and wood van racking, these are the key factors you need to consider. To help you along the way, we have put together this comprehensive comparison between wood and metal racking for vans.

Wood and Metal Van Racking ─ A comparison

Choosing van racking is an important decision. Metal and wood van racking both have their respective advantages and disadvantages. Answering questions about frequency of use, load weight, size, and fragility of the cargo will help you determine the type of van racking that best fits your van fleet.


Initially, many tradesmen opt for wood van racking for the simple reason that the cost is relatively low compared to metal racking for vans. Wood is simply a cheaper material to source. Not to mention, buying wooden van racking is often also more affordable because its possibilities are relatively limited regarding function and style, at least when compared to metal. The offering of metal van racking is much more comprehensive.

However, there are numerous other cost factors apart from the initial price that relates to the other key factors weight, durability, safety, and versatility. These include the cost of fuel, changing vehicles, and damages, among others. These additional cost factors are covered underneath each respective header they relate to.


At first glance, it may seem obvious that wooden van racking should be lighter than metal van racking. While wood is a more lightweight material than aluminium and steel (less dense), it does not have the same loading capacity. In other words, you would need a lot more wood than metal to create a van racking system with an equal level of loading capacity, safety, and stability.

Also, without proper treatment, wood may absorb moisture and fluids, increasing its density and, as a result, its weight.

Weight is a key factor to consider for several reasons:

  • The payload of a van is its gross weight, and these can often have legal limitations. Loading a van above its payload can result in heavy fines. A heavy van racking setup may, in other words, restrict what tools, equipment, and material you can bring with you in the van.
  • Fuel consumption increases the heavier the vehicle is, which is bad for your company’s expenditure and the environment.
  • More dangerous in the event of a crash.


While wood is relatively durable, it has a few glaring weaknesses that not only make van racking made out of wood less durable, but also reduce its lifespan. Wood is susceptible to fire and insect damage and can absorb moisture which may cause it to rot.

Metal van shelving and racking systems are also much easier to clean than systems made out of wood.


Safety is undoubtedly the most important key factor and should be prioritised above all. We’ve already established that metal racking for vans is not only lighter, thus minimising the consequences in case of a crash, but also more durable than wooden van racking.

The next important aspect is HOW metal and wood van racking breaks. Wood can disintegrate or snap with enough force, resulting in the equipment and van racking itself flying around the cargo space, damaging the van and other equipment, and potentially bursting through the partition. On the other hand, metal van racking requires much greater force to break than wood. Where wood breaks, metal instead bends.

The best tip we can give you is to buy crash-tested van racking. As it happens, wood van racking is rarely crash-tested because it is often a DIY-project (Do It Yourself).


Wood van racking is, as mentioned, tailored for the specific van ─ both an advantage and disadvantage. It is advantageous because it creates a van racking setup that is perfectly adapted to the user’s needs and requirements; it is disadvantageous because you cannot move the van racking if you switch vans.

In comparison, modular metal van shelving and racking systems can easily be moved between vans due to its universal design, can be complemented with additional van racking if you move to a bigger van, or replaced if you want or need a different setup.


Last but not least, the appearance. While often not considered as important as the other five, it is nonetheless a factor worth considering.

The saying goes: “Different folks, different strokes”. But from a pure design aspect and by today’s standards, we believe metal van racking takes the cake. It gives a wholly different professional appearance than wooden van racking. It is an investment in your branding, showing the customer that you take extra care of your van and your working tools.

Metal Van Racking by System Edstrom