Buying your first used van? Here’s our seven magnificent tips

van buying guide

So, when was the last time you used a chainsaw to cut a loaf of bread? If your answer’s “Just last week actually” then you definitely need to read on. Matching the best tool to the task is fairly crucial and even more so when it comes to finding a used van that fits your trade perfectly. And we’re to help you with some tips that are handier than Batman’s utility belt.

Your most important tool 

Before we get going, what’s your trade? Obviously, there’s a big difference between the right van for a courier and a florist – and everything in between. Clocking up a ton of miles carrying bulky stuff demands a medium to large panel van with good all-round capacity, engine power, economy and comfort. But if you’re delivering flowers in a busy town, then a compact car-based van with an automatic gearbox for easier navigating and no clutch to wear out makes sense. So, get Googling to see what vans deliver best on what you’re looking for.

For more help, take a look at our guide The right van for the job.

1. Working out the payload

What you’ll be carrying, how big and how heavy will be your key considerations, so make sure you check the load volume and the payload. Here’s our Payload Guide to the carrying capability of a whole range of vans plus a Quick Payload Calculator to help you.

2. Reliability, reliability, reliability

You’ll live or die by the reliability of your van. So, if you’ve narrowed down your choice, make checking reliability top of your list. Look for reviews, see what owners are saying on van forums or best of all, get it from the horse’s mouth if you know someone who runs the same van you’re after. Take a look at our 10 reliable vans article.

3. Get in the seat

A test drive will be a big decider. You could be spending a lot of time in your new beast so make   sure you’re happy with the handling, comfort, visibility and even noise levels if you’ll be driving    longer distances. And why not take someone along with you, especially if they’ve got a ‘mechanical head’ – they might just notice something that you don’t.

4. Check please!

Don’t be afraid to give the used van you’re interested in a damn good going over! This is your livelihood after all. Bodywork is an obvious one – but another easy thing to check is the MOT history, especially any advisories – have they been acted upon?

5. Be a Marvellous Marvin Hagler

Not all of us are natural born hagglers, but go on, give it a go. You don’t get if you don’t ask – and everything you save goes straight back into your business. Saving money is a good habit full-stop but watch the false economies. Replacing tyres with the cheapest option won’t always work out well, especially on the long haul. And cutting out too many tempting extras when you buy that van is sensible – but maybe think about the ones that can actual enhance the residual value like Bluetooth, air con and USB ports. Maybe also think about all the money and trouble a tracker could save you.

6. Finance is fine

Don’t be afraid of it. When you’re setting out in your trade, finance can help stretch your money, ease the cashflow and even help with buying a house – having regular finance payments can actually end up helping your credit reputation. But! If you’re looking at different quotes, always check the APR and what your total payments will be. Our Quick Finance Guide will steer you through all the choices.

7. Compare the running costs of different vans

Once you’ve narrowed down your choice, one final check is running costs. Things to research include:

• Price of the van

• Fuel consumption

• CO2 emissions 

• Road tax 

• Insurance 

• Servicing schedules

• Labour rates

• Parts prices

These are all important things to check. Service schedules can vary between vans, as can maintenance costs if you take it to a manufacturer’s dealer. You might also discover that a smaller van can carry as much payload as some larger vans so you could save yourself some money on the price – and fuel.  

That’s it! Good luck and happy hunting…

When you want extra guidance, feel free to talk to our specialist dealer partners. They supply thousands of vans every year and with all their experience they’ll always be happy to help.

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