Dry Van VS Reefer: What Are the Differences Between Them?

Each shipping method has its own set of benefits and drawbacks that affect shippers and carriers. In the transportation industry, two common transport trailer are dry van trailer and reefer trailer. Let’s compare the two trailers side-by-side in order to understand what they’re used for and see how these similar looking trailers actually differ.

What is dry van trailer?

Dry van trailers tend to be the standard trailer in the transportation industry. It is usually 53 feet in length, but also has a length of 48 feet. What is it used for? This is a question that needs to be explained.

A dry van trailer can transfer any dry, non-perishable item that fits inside. Examples are furniture, clothing, goods shipped on pallets, etc. Everything from food and beverages to agricultural equipment can be transported using dry van trailers.

dry van trailer

What is reefer trailer?

It is essentially a dry cargo trailer equipped with thermal insulation and cooling. It is longer than the dry van trailer, usually 48 feet to 55 feet. So, in a signal run, it can transport more cargo. Reefer trailers are more complex than dry van trailers, with air flow valves, temperature recorders, step-up power transformers, controller displays, and heated access panels, among others.

So, reefer trailers are designed to transport perishable or temperature-sensitive goods such as fresh produce, medications and chemicals. Refrigerated trailers must be cooled before use to ensure items arrive in good condition. Some reefer trailers have coolers, which allow drivers to set different temperatures for different parts of the trailer.

It should be noted that reefer trailers are not designed to chill or warm cargo, but are designed to keep the cargo at a certain temperature.

reefer trailer

Pros and cons of Dry van trailer

It is used by almost any manufacturer or company in the transportation industry to transport non-perishable items.

dry van trailer


  • Versatility: Dry van trailers can transport a wide variety of cargo types, which play a significant role in distributing construction supplies, medical equipment, and other items.
  • Safety: It protects the cargo from extreme weather and also from theft.


  • No Climate Control: This is the biggest difference between the two semi-trailers. Dry van trailers are not temperature-controlled.
  • Easily damaged: Most dry van trailers are prone to water damage, so rotting floors need to be repaired or replaced frequently.
  • Capacity: Dry van trailers cannot transport small loads or large cargo such as flatbed trailers.

Pros and cons of refrigerated trailers

reefer trailer


  • Climate Control: Refrigerated trailers have basically the same advantages as dry van trailers and can transport perishable goods that require heating or cooling.
  • Transporting temperature-sensitive goods: There is always a need for fresh products, and these goods are usually temperature-sensitive or dry items. So reefer trailers are needed to transport these products.
  • High Demand: There is a demand for fresh produce, and these items need to be transported on reefer trailer. This shipping method makes it safer and easier to ship items across the country.


  • Unavoidable Damage: Any semi-trailer will face the problem of damage. But reefer trailers require extra caution. Because reefer failures can spoil cargo, refrigeration unit failures can use too much fuel and increase operating costs.
  • High maintenance cleaning: The driver’s responsibilities include cleaning the trailer and various equipment after each transport, which is unacceptable for some drivers.
  • Long unloading times: Refrigerated trailers take a long time as they need to cool the cabin to cargo temperature before starting to load.

The Differences in Cost

Dry van trailers are quite adaptable and can transport all kinds of cargo, so it is more cost-effective.

Shippers will pay extra for refrigerated trailers, so you can earn more money. But refrigerated trailers also mean more fuel consumption and more expensive maintenance and cleaning. And there is a higher risk of liability for the goods.

If you can’t make a choice, you can contact us and we will recommend suitable transport equipment for you.

2 thoughts on “Dry Van VS Reefer: What Are the Differences Between Them?”

  1. Phew! I was slightly relieved after you mentioned that reefer trailers are perfect for delicate materials. So, my neighborhood florist had no idea how to safely deliver his flowers to his clients in Texas. Hopefully, this article will inspire him to contact a reefer provider eventually.

  2. It stood out to me when you mentioned that refrigerated trailers can transport perishable goods. I have some perishable goods that I harvested on my farm yesterday. I will need to find a freight company that can transport the crops to whoever ends up buying them from me.

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