Cargo Space Considerations

By Angela Monroe - January 7, 2022

cargo space

Cargo space has become a key aspect of new vehicles in recent years as consumers expect larger and larger room for their items.

In fact, comparing a Toyota RAV4 over its model years, it’s easy to see that manufacturers are listening.

Length x Width (mm) Weight
1994 Toyota Rav4 (4 door) 4150 x 1695 1150 kg
2019 Toyota Rav4 (4 door) 4570 x 1855 1620 kg


The numbers show that since release in 1994, the RAV4 has grown 20.5% in size and put on a massive 40.8% in weight.

The Rav4 isn’t alone

The Ford Ranger is another (of many) vehicles that have bulked up.

Length x Width (mm) Weight
1983 Ford Ranger 4460 x 1699 1146 kg
2020 Ford Ranger 5446 x 1977 2200 kg


The Ranger has grown 42% in size and a whopping 92% in weight.

Cargo space is one of the reasons cars have gotten bigger.

Here are some considerations when looking at a cargo space

Not all manufacturers measure cargo space the same

cargo space at night

Some manufacturers list cargo space in litres, which is pretty easy to go by. However, this calculation can be from the vehicle’s floor to the top of the rear seat or the rear headrest or even the ceiling.

Others use the VDA method. VDA stands for a “non-confusing” Verband der Automobilindustrie. It is standard from Germany and uses 1-litre blocks (200x100x50xmm) to fill a vehicle’s cargo space.

The litres being the number of blocks that a manufacturer can squeeze in.

Of course, the aim of the game is to fit as many blocks in as possible.

You likely won’t need to cart around hundreds of 1-litre blocks too often.

The other way is the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), which is American. 

The SAE method uses different sized boxes, some larger and some smaller ones, to fill in all the cargo space.

Typically, an auto maker using the SAE method will report a larger cargo space as there are different sized boxes to fit in a vehicle and add up.

Load height is another factor to consider

dog in cargo space

If you have to lift heavy objects into the rear of a vehicle, having a low cargo floor can really help. 

For example, lifting something into the rear of a hatchback is a lot easier than a high-riding SUV or ute.

Have a think about the kinds of objects you’re likely to carry and how often. A large SUV might seem practical, but how many times a year will you use the cargo space?

If hauling sports equipment and travel bags regularly, a sedan or 4-door hatchback might prove to be much easier as they usually have lower load areas at the back.

Access to cargo space

Sometimes opening a car’s boot can be a problem. For example, opening a large rear tailgate inside a garage – it might hit a wall or prevent people from moving around the car when loading items.

Also, if children need to access a tailgate which opens vertically, are they tall enough to close it?

Some cars have power tailgates and cargo doors which can be operated by a key fob. Newer models even have sensors to ensure they don’t open into any objects and cause damage.

A neat innovation is foot trigger motion detection. Some vehicles allow owners to open the rear compartment using a simple kick motion with their feet. It works by using a proximity key, when close to the rear of the vehicle, the user simply waves their foot under the rear of the car and the tailgate opens automatically.

The thinking here is that when an owner comes back from a store with arms full of items, they’ll be able to open the cargo compartment without needing to pull out a key.

Pretty nifty.

Damage to materials


Something a little nerve-racking is awkward items damaging a car’s interior. It might happen when transporting building materials or tools for example.

If you carry these kinds of items regularly, or ever, there are products to help. Boot liners can not only protect your car’s interior from sharp objects, but also make it easy to clean as they’re simple to install and remove.

The same can be said for the opposite. Some people may need to carry delicate items like TVs or expensive furniture. If the interior of a car’s cargo space is too tough, it might scratch belongings.

Make your next car perfect for your needs

When looking at vehicles with adequate cargo space, check out the following:

  • Load height. Is it easy for you to get items in and out of?
  • Boot lid / tailgate size when opened. Will opening the cargo space cause problems where you live?
  • Interior materials. Will these get damaged or cause your items to slide/roll around?
  • Size. Of course, this one is usually the most important for many car buyers. Read the fine print online or in the owner’s manual to get the real numbers. Remember VDA and SAE are different.
Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.


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