Space Cab vs Dual Cab Utes; which is better, and why?

If you are in the market for a new Ute, and are stuck deciding on a space cab vs dual cab, this post covers everything you need to think about. They are similar, but if you get it wrong you’ll be frustrated to no end, and we want to give you the information needed to make a good decision.

Space Cab F250
A big F250 in a space cab style

To get started, we’ll quickly define each Ute type:

Single Cab, Space Cab and Dual Cab

Single cabs are pretty straight forward; they have the smallest body of a Ute, and the longest tray. Most only seat two people, but some will do 3. These are a one row.

FJ45 custom canopy
A fully restored single cab FJ45 Land Cruiser

Space cabs have a slightly longer cab and shorter tray than a single cab, and can often seat passengers in the second row (although they are always very small and uncomfortable). These are generally considered to be a 1.5 row.

Boat trailer on the 4WD
Another space cab F250 set up for touring

Lastly, dual cab Utes have the biggest cab, and the shortest tray. These are designed to house 5 people inside, and although they don’t suit taller people, its a great compromise between a family vehicle and still having the conveniences of a Ute. These are considered to be a 2 row.

Isuzu Dmax in the dunes
Our Isuzu Dmax in a dual cab configuration

What’s the differences between a Space Cab and Dual Cab?

Passenger room

You soon learn nothing is free in life. If you want a longer tray, but the same length vehicle, you have to remove some of the cab, and that’s exactly what a space cab does. These are generally 1.5 rows of seats, and as a result you hugely affect the room that your passengers have in the rear seats (if they even fit).

Most space cab Utes are really not suited for adults or even growing teenagers in the rear seats. Yes, you might be able to squeeze them in for short trips, but only if there are seatbelts available; see below!

4 year old leg room
Leg room in our Dmax with Oliver (5) in a car seat

Number of seat belts

In fact, a number of space cab Utes no longer have seating in the rear in order to meet the safety compliance. It simply became too small to make the vehicle 5 star safety rated in the event of an accident, so they just removed the options of seating.

Obviously this has a huge impact on the usefulness of a space cab Ute, especially for those wanting a decent tray length and the ability to still carry 5 people. If you can’t do this, the only option is to upsize to a bigger vehicle, and that doesn’t always work in your favour either.

Clean interior storage

If you are in the market for a single cab Ute, you might decide to get a space cab instead, purely for the extra storage room. If you’ve not been in a single cab Ute before, you wouldn’t know that there’s very little room. You’ll be able to sit in there comfortably, but if each person wants to bring a back, or some camera gear, or a few jumpers you’ll have a hard time tucking them anywhere.

A space cab gives you half of another row to put items you don’t want out in the weather, and I’ve seen a lot of people mount storage systems and fridges inside their vehicles, instead of seating, which works really well. 

Weight distribution

The biggest battle with a dual cab Ute is trying to distribute the weight correctly. If you get a dual cab Ute with 1000kg of payload, you should know that this cannot all be put on the tray as it will overload the rear axle capacity.

Yes, your vehicle has individual axle capacities as well as a GVM, and you can’t exceed either of them or your vehicle will be unroadworthy, and your insurance company can walk away from any claims.

When you look at a dual cab Ute side on, you’ll see that some of the heavy ones look like they are ready to break in half, and in actual fact, many do. Even the best dual cab Ute on the market will only have about 300- 400mm of tray or tub that is actually on top, or in front of the rear axle, which leaves 1300 – 1500mm of tray behind the rear axle.

Bad load distribution
A perfect example of shocking load distribution on a 4WD (and it has coils)

Weight far back applies even more leverage, and the axle weights can get hurt very badly. For example, adding 300kg of tow ball weight (right at the back of the chassis) can apply about 430kg of weight to the rear axle!

Measuring the tow ball weight
A heavy tow ball weight can be a big problem on dual cab and space cab Utes

With a space cab, you get a lot more tray over the rear wheels, which means you can distribute the weight far better, and your risk of a bent chassis is dramatically reduced.

The general rule of thumb is to put the heaviest items in your tray as far forward as possible, and with a space cab this lands you in a far better position than a dual cab.

A Ute lends itself to making a mean camping setup, but when it comes to dual cab ute camping setups you have to be awfully mindful of how the weight is distributed, or you’ll bend a chassis.

Tray length

Obviously, a space cab has a much longer tray than a dual cab, and this can be incredibly useful, or a total must have. If you are a tradesperson, or you have a specific canopy design in mind, you might need a tray or tub that’s a certain length. 

I would highly recommend you do not fit the maximum tray size to your Ute, or you’ll risk getting the balance very wrong.

Whilst you can (in theory) fit a space cab tray to a dual cab Ute, you’ll end up with major issues and its not a good idea.

Tray length on a 4WD
Fit a suitable length tray, and not one that’s going to cause problems


It’s so easy to overload a Ute, and the payload is one of the figures you must pay great attention to. It’s essentially the GVM minus the weight of the vehicle in its stock form.

Note that people, accessories, gear and even a full tank of fuel come out of your payload, and you can quite comfortably add 200 – 600kg in accessories alone, leaving you with very little payload to do what you actually need to with the Ute.

Dmax loaded
What do you actually want to take?

If you’ve considered a space cab or dual cab and come to a conclusion, what else have we missed that’s important? Which way did you end up going, and why?

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