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4 August 2020

Buying a Used Van – What to Look Out For

by User Not Found

Many business owners in need of a van will understandably choose to buy a second-hand van to cut down on costs. However, buying the wrong van can lead to the opposite outcome, and you could be paying twice the initial amount to replace or fix the van yourself. Luckily, we here at Brightside Van Insurance have put together this handy guide on how to buy a used van. We’ve included tips on what to look out for inside and out, where you can buy from and how you can stay protected during and after the buying process.

Which used van should you choose?

First thing’s first -- you’ll need to have an idea of what van type you’re looking for. This will likely depend on your profession – a courier driver, for example, would likely need a larger van than a handyman. Factors you should consider when deciding which van to buy second-hand include:

  • Size/storage space
  • Engine power
  • Running costs, such as fuel, insurance, tax, etc.
  • Security
  • Maximum payload
  • Additional features – take care not to end up paying more for a van than you intended to by getting swayed by fancy features you may not even end up using
  • Appearance – if you’re buying a used van to run a business, your van’s appearance will be the first impression for many customers!

Buying a Used Van - Checklist

Making sure you check over every aspect of a used van thoroughly when you see it in person is one of the most critically important parts of buying a second-hand van. If you don’t perform all the necessary checks, something you missed before buying could come back to burn you. Before you start up the van’s engine, perform the following visual checks on the vehicle:

  • Tyres: make sure treads aren’t worn down below the 1.6mm road legal threshold and are inflated evenly.
  • Bodywork: check the van’s exterior for any scratches, cracks or dents.
  • Interior: similarly, check the van’s interior for cracks, dents or wear and tear that could be indicative of larger issues.
  • Engine: if the engine is warm before having been turned on, the van could have some serious problems under the bonnet. Check the oil level and general condition to get a sense of how the van has been treated.
  • Mileage: if you are buying a used van the mileage is especially important to check. If the mileage number is suspiciously low considering the age or condition of the van, it could be an indication of tampering to disguise other issues with the vehicle.
  • Lights: unexpected flickering or flashing lights could be signs of faulty electrics in the van. Dead bulbs, on the other hand, can easily be replaced.

Once you have performed these visual checks, ask to take the van for a test drive and check the following:

  • Engine: listen out for any unusual sounds when running the engine, as well as signs of smoke or burning. Ask to test drive when the engine is cold to more easily detect issues when starting it up for the first time.
  • Steering: this should feel natural without any resistance in response or drag to the side.
  • Dashboard: watch out for issues indicated by flashing warning lights.
  • Brakes: complete an emergency stop on your test drive to ensure brake condition is satisfactory, and watch out for noises or unusual performance.
  • Other controls: check whether the windscreen wipers and indicators etc. are working correctly.
  • Air conditioning: make sure that the aircon unit works properly and is not omitting any unpleasant smells.

Where to buy a used van

Depending on your budget, there are many places where you can buy a used van. These will fall under one of three categories: approved dealers, independent dealers and private/home dealers. There are pros and cons to each, so be sure to weigh each one up considering your budget.

Approved dealers

The obvious advantage to buying a used van from an approved dealer is that there will be an unrivalled choice of van models from a specific manufacturer. This is because your order will go directly to that manufacturer. In turn, this will also mean that if your chosen van will require any modifications or additions, you will be able procure them directly from the manufacturer.

You will also often be able to get your chosen van faster than through independent dealers as manufacturers will generally prioritise serving models to their approved dealers. Because approved dealerships are often part of a network, this whole network will be available to search for the right van for your needs. There will be benefits down the line to staying within the dealerships’ network too, such as aftersales care, financial services and repair and brand specific maintenance facilities.

The drawbacks to buying from an approved dealer are that it will likely be more expensive, which could pose an issue if you are trying to stick to a strict budget. Long term running costs will prove more expensive too, as the servicing costs tend to be frozen within a network and will likely be on the higher end.

You will still need to check your prospective van’s history as not all used vans from approved dealerships are ‘approved used’. Older vehicles with high mileages can sometimes be excluded from official used vehicles scheme. The dealer’s salesperson should have more information on this.

Independent dealers

Independent used van dealers are not beholden to any one brand, and as such will provide you with lots of choice from various van manufacturers. You can turn up to an independent dealer with only your budget in mind and will potentially find exactly what you need based purely on that.

Independent dealers can also make their own decisions about the prices of their used vans, meaning that you can haggle for a better deal should you need to. Plus, initial prices will often be lower than those of approved dealers to entice customers through their doors in the first place.

The disadvantage to buying from an independent dealer is that you will have fewer assurances on the dealer’s reputation and the quality of the vehicles they sell. While no dealership has a flawless reputation, make sure you do your research before visiting them. Attempt to find one that is part of a recognised body, such as Motor Codes Limited or the Retail Motor Industry Federation.

Unlike approved dealers, there will also likely be fewer aftersale services or finance plans available via independent used van dealers.

Private/home dealers

The biggest advantage to buying used vans through home and private dealers is that you will almost always find cheaper prices. However, they are still held to the same laws and regulations enforced by the Trading Standards Office. Therefore, they often have to make offers cheaper than those of their rivals to make sales.

However, it can be all too easy to be duped when buying through a private/home dealer. Make sure that everything is above board both with the seller and the vehicle before committing to a purchase. Always meet the seller at their own home and perform the sales process there to ensure that your rights as a buyer are protected. Make sure that you are invited into the home dealer’s house as they need to be selling from their home. Never arrange to buy a used van from a private seller in a public setting such as a car park. If the dealer is suspicious, intimidating or threatening, then politely excuse yourself and leave the situation immediately.

Be wary of sellers who pitch their van as their ‘personal vehicle’ – this is a common trick to sell a vehicle quickly while avoiding legal procedures.

Consumer Rights when buying a second-hand van

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 will apply whenever buying a used van through an approved or independent dealer. The Consumer Rights Act guarantees that if you buy from an approved/independent dealer and a fault is discovered within 30 days, you can get your money back. It also states that the seller must provide clear and honest information about the vehicle before you commit to buying.

However, parts of the Consumer Rights Act won’t apply to buying via private/home dealers, so research your rights first before pursuing this purchasing route.

Check the van’s history and paperwork

Finally, no matter where you buy from, make sure you find out as much as you can about the used van before you purchase it, such as its age, mileage, previous usage and issues, etc.

When you have performed all your physical and historical checks, the final step is to make sure all the paperwork for the van is correct and in order:

  • The van’s V5C logbook should bear an authenticity watermark and match its registration.
  • Inspect the vehicle’s service history and any warranties or receipts present for prior repairs.
  • Ensure the van comes with a valid MOT certificate.

Once you have all this in order, you should be ready to buy your used van – congratulations! Don’t rush into a buying decision, perform all the necessary checks and you should be ready to drive away a fit-for-duty used van.

If you are driving the van away immediately after purchase, you legally must have the correct van insurance in place before you do so. Fortunately, Brightside Van Insurance can cover both used and new vans working with a wide panel of the nation’s best-loved van insurance providers. Explore our Van Insurance brokering services and get a quote for your used van today.