Whether you're a professional perishable cargo hauler, a catering company operator or just a vegetable farmer looking for a vehicle to take your goods to markets, refrigerated road vehicles are a vital resource when it comes to keeping perishable foods fresh and edible during long periods of transportation. However, if you're looking to purchase or hire a new refrigerated vehicle, choosing the right vehicle for your needs can be challenging — with an enormous variety of vehicle types and refrigeration capacities on offer, the choices can often become dizzying.

By taking stock of your individual needs and determining what type of refrigerated vehicle suits the specific foods you carry, you can narrow this overwhelming choice of vehicles down significantly until you find the perfect model. Ask yourself the following questions as you browse the various vehicles on offer:

How much cargo capacity do I require?

When choosing your vehicle, your first instinct may be to choose the biggest, most capacious truck or box van that you can afford. However, bigger is by no means better, and as a general rule you should choose a vehicle that only possesses slightly more capacity than you generally need.

Choosing an oversized vehicle can work against you in a number of ways; besides the obvious increases in running costs and required maintenance, larger vehicles are slower vehicles, and the extra delay caused by a slower van or truck can quickly diminish the freshness (and selling prices) of your perishable foods. A few food items rattling around inside a large, mostly empty cargo hold can also damage your foods unless they are very well secured, especially if you commonly navigate bumpy rural roads.

Do I require a chiller or freezer vehicle?

As their names would suggest, vehicles equipped with chillers keep perishable foods at temperatures found in the average refrigerator, while freezer vehicles keep their loads frozen while on the road. This distinction is vitally important, and you should choose a chiller or freezer vehicle depending on the foods you normally carry — keeping frozen foods (such as ice cream and frozen meats) in a chiller van can obviously end disastrously, while freezing foods that do not require freezing can diminish their freshness, taste and sale value.

However, many companies and services require the use of both freezer and chiller vehicles to safely transport a diverse array of foods. If this applies to you, you might assume that you'll have to purchase or hire two separate vehicles, but this is rarely necessary. Many refrigerated vehicles feature separate chiller/freezer compartments, which are thoroughly insulated from one another to prevent heat exchange between the two compartments.

Will my foods be stored in the vehicle for extended periods?

Hiring a small refrigerated van to take your foods to the next town over is one thing, but choosing a vehicle suited to long, interstate journeys can be more challenging. In many cases, foods will have to be left in the vehicle for at least one full night while the driver takes much-needed rest; if this applies to you, the best way to ensure food freshness is to look for a vehicle that can draw power from mains electricity, so the vehicle's refrigerator can be left running without draining the vehicle's batteries.