This is exactly the decision that faces many own account operators who are venturing into operating a truck for the first time will ask. Perhaps the company is a wholesaler or manufacturer that has bought in transport or used vans to carry out their business and feel that they have outgrown both options.

Of course, a company could choose to buy any weight of truck – there are plenty of others, 10 tonners, 16 tonners and, of course, 18 tonners. These are options we consider in other articles, but the 12 and 7.5 tonners look similar and are reasonable common and therefore available to buy, whereas the 10 and 16 tonners are harder to find.

The Basics

A typical 7.5 tonne chassis with a 5 metre wheelbase (before fitting a body) will have a payload and body allowance of 4.1 tonnes or similar. A 12 tonner with the same 5 metre wheelbase will have an allowance of 8.25 tonnes – well over double. When you add the same tonne of body and tail lift or fridge unit the difference is even clearer.

The VED rates for a 7.5 tonner vs a 12 tonner are £165 vs £200 per year – so the £35 annual difference in road tax between the two is not going to sway this decision.

The looks of the two trucks are nearly identical. The same cabs, the same engines, the same power outputs. The main differences are in slightly beefier tyres and suspension on the 12 tonner.

The obvious question is why would you even consider a 7.5 tonner?

The answer is partly due to historical reasons and partly due to current goods vehicle drivers licencing.

To drive a 7.5 tonne truck, you need to have C1 entitlement. To have this entitlement you must either take a C1 test – theory and practical which includes loading and unloading, reversing and safety checks OR have passed your car driving test before January 1997, meaning you will be at least 45 years old. These are commonly known as ‘Granddad’s Rights’.

So, there are plenty of 45 year olds still in the workforce and the C1 test seems relatively straightforward.

For a 12 tonner, the driver needs to have a Cat C or Class 2 licence. This means that they can drive any rigid truck up to 32 tonnes GVW. Again, there are a series of theory and practical test plus a medical.

Spot the Difference 7.5 Tonnes vs 12 Tonnes DAF LF

DAF LF 150 7.5 Tonne Truck
DAF LF 150 7.5 Tonne Truck
DAF LF 180 12 Tonne Truck
DAF LF 180 12 Tonne Truck

Drivers are Key

To summarise the issue, you will need a more qualified driver to pilot your 12 tonner than your 7.5 tonne truck. This may well mean that they can demand more money, as they are able to drive much larger trucks – right up to 32 tonners.

Assuming you can find the drivers and the difference in pay demands is one that you can afford, then the additional 4 tonnes plus payload should mean that a 12 tonne truck is the right way to go.

Cut the Weight

If you have an operation that needs just over the normal payload available on a typical 7.5 tonner, you may need to consider the lighter chassis of the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter, the Isuzu N75 or the Iveco Daily (the latter being 7.2 tonnes GVW). These are best suited to operations where the bodies are heavy – think refrigerated trucks, tippers, crane trucks and recovery vehicles.

Vehicle Choice

It is a fact that there are a lot more 7.5 tonne trucks for sale in the UK’s second hand truck market than 12 tonne trucks. At the time of writing, there were more than four times as many of the lighter trucks available. This will have an impact on choice and, of course, price.

The Right Decision

There is no right or wrong answer to the 7.5 vs 12 tonne truck question as it depends on your circumstances. What is important is the questions you need to answer:

  • What’s the maximum payload you will need to carry?
    • If it is over 7 tonnes then you may need an 18 tonner in any case
    • If is it around 3 to 4 tonnes then you may just need to ‘cut the weight’
  • What load volume do you need?
    • A 12 tonner can have a longer wheelbase and therefore a longer body for higher cube operation
  • Do you have access to category C drivers at an acceptable rate?
  • Do you have access to plenty of category C1 drivers?