Typically they're interior designers, landscape gardeners and gourmet caterers rather than carpenters or plasterers, and 35 per cent of them are female. The stuff they carry — sometimes including top-end laptops — can bump up the total value of the vehicle and its contents to £25,000 or more compared with nearer £6,000 for the average second-hand panel van driven by a tradesman.

Swinton is without doubt right that highly specified vans are becoming more popular among small business people.


For example, business partners Andy Scally and Clive Taylor of Stevenage-based Phoenix Fire Installations have just invested in a 3.0-litre V6 204hp common rail diesel-powered long-bodied Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport-X. Finished in red, it boasts 18in Monoblock-S alloy wheels and a deep front spoiler with integrated fog lamps courtesy of Brabus. The partners install fire alarms throughout the South East of England.