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Carpool vs Vanpool: What's the Difference?

Elizabeth A. Denton
Elizabeth A. Denton November 8, 2016 Elizabeth A. Denton is a former Business Development Manager at Arlington Transportation Partners.
ATP TAKEAWAY: Ridesharing can save you money on your commute and reduce your stress, whether you're in a carpool or vanpool. See which option is a better match for you and your schedule.

It really isn’t a contest where there are winners and losers. It is more of a comparison to see which ‘pool could suit your personal needs. You, dear reader, are the winner once you find the ridesharing option that fits your lifestyle the best. So here are some questions to ask yourself first.

Q: Do you live about 15 miles from your office?

The distance may help you decide which is better, since vanpooling works best for long-distance commuters.

Q: Would you want to be in charge of your own carpool, or relax in a large van?

Both carpools and vanpools need someone to drive (obviously!), but some alternate drivers regularly, while others have a dedicated driver.



Q: Do you know of an existing carpool or vanpool, or know a coworker who's interested in ridesharing?

It is easier to join an existing vanpool and often, they are looking to gain new vanpoolers to reduce their costs. Setting up a new carpool is a bit more involved.

Q: Do you want to save money on your commuting costs?

Well who doesn’t?! You can save up to $130 on your carpool or use the $265/month transit benefit on your vanpool. 

Still not sure? Check out our breakdown below.

Carpool guidelines

Carpooling is the most common form of ridesharing. It consists of two or more commuters, including the driver, who regularly ride to work together.

Find your fellow carpoolers

Carpoolers may know each other and set up their own carpool, as carpools may include family members. They can be connected through workplace ridematching, ATP-supported ridematching with Enterprise Rideshare or Commuter Connections ridematching. 

Perks of carpooling

  • Carpool drivers use their own vehicle, Cheerios in the back seat and all
  • Carpools can take advantage of HOV-2 lanes. Certain roads have HOV-3 lanes, which means that there must be at least three riders, including the driver
  • Carpools using HOV lanes can shave off up to 30 minutes of commute time, meaning less time in traffic, less gas wasted idling and less stress and aggravation

Vanpool guidelines

Vanpooling is a common, long-distance commute option for employees headed to the same work site and consist of at least 5 to 15 commuters.

Find your vanpool riders

Vanpools can be organized within a company for their employees or be self-organized. In self-organized vans, vehicles can be leased from a third-party vendor, or purchased or leased by an individual who maintains the van.

Perks of vanpooling

  • Each vanpool rider can use their transit benefit of up to $265/month for their van
  • Vanpool members pay a fee which covers van costs such as gas, insurance and the monthly lease on the van. So, the more members in the vanpool, the less each rider pays.
  • Vans can be quite luxurious, with amenities from captain’s chairs to integrated WiFi. Ask about these options before choosing one. Depending on how long a commute is, WiFi might be worth a few extra dollars!

Which ridesharing method works best for you?

Let ATP help you out. We can assist with ridematching, provide benefit information, help locate carpool or vanpool priority parking spaces and more. Contact us by submitting this form to get started, or sign up for vanpools at

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Editor's Note: This blog was first published in October 2014 and has been republished with updated information written by Christy Lee in December 2019.

Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/

Tags: Carpool, Vanpool, Arlington County, Commute


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