A Guide to Buying A Van

A van is an expensive investment and shouldn’t be bought on a whim. Make sure you get the right van for you by reading our van buying guide before you go shopping.

What Size Van?

The size of van you need will depend largely on what you plan to use it for. There is a huge range of van options out there. Some are no bigger than a car, and others have extended wheelbases. Before you start looking, have a very clear idea in your mind of what then the van will be used for.

When considering what you will use the van for you need to consider two things, how much space will you need, and how much weight will you be carrying. The weight issue is actually more important than you might think. All vehicles, including cars, have something called a GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight). This is the most the vehicle is allowed to weight when fully loaded.

Small vans typically consist of a front seat and then a rear hatch. These typically have a weight limit of 500-600kg.

Medium vans can come with a long or a short wheelbase. This can affect the drive, so make sure you try one out if you opt of a long wheelbase. You will have a choice of up to nine seats or just extra loading space. You may also be able to have sliding side doors as well as rear access.

Large vans can have weight limits of up 1,600kg. You can transport a lot of material in these, but they can be hard to drive. You should also be aware that they may not fit into standard parking spaces.

Tip:  Make sure you don’t exceed the GVW. If you do you can face a fine of up to £5,000. For a first offence, you may be looking at £60 and three points on your license.

What Layout?

This will depend on your needs. With the smaller vans, you are much more limited in your choices. Generally, it is just a rear hatch.

Medium vans will often have sliding side doors. This is standard on panel vans. This can be instead of or as well as rear access.

Large box vans have their storage space lifted above the height of the wheel. This means the storage space is basically a large rectangular box on the back of the van. These are usually only rear entry, and they can come with tail lifts, to make loading easier.

When picking the layout, you need to think about the combination of space and access that you will need.

Tip: If you are planning to modify the van, then you should also start thinking about how your modifications would fit in. You should make sure that your van is always well balanced.

Should You Buy New Or Used?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. Which is best is going to depend on your needs, circumstances, and budget.

The big advantage of buying a new van is that you will be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, usually for at least three years. This can be a big reassurance, especially if you are buying your van for business use. You will also have access to the most modern technology and design. This can make it safer and easier to drive your new van.

The big downside to buying a new van is cost. A new van will cost more. It will also lose around 25% of its value the moment you drive it off the lot.

With a used van your big win is on cost, not only will you save money upfront but you won’t have the instant depreciation to worry about. If you are looking for a modified van, then you may be able to find a used one that has already been modified to meet your needs saving you the job.

The downside to a used van is that it is a bit more of a risk. You are likely to have only a short amount of warranty or none at all left. Although depending on where you get your used van, you might be able to buy an extended one. Basically, with a used van, you are buying something a little more unknown.

Tip:  Do your research before you arrive at the dealer so you know what price you should expect to pay. Also consider your finance options so you have a budget in mind.

What Should You Look Out For When Buying A Used Van?

Before you commit to buying a used van do a bit of research. You will find that each model has its own problems. If you know what the most common niggles are with the model you are considering, then you know where to focus your attention. Of course, there are somethings that you should look for with all vans.

The Exterior Condition – Always do a visual inspection of the outside of the van. You are looking for signs of rust. The places to pay close attention to for this are the wheel arches and the door frames. At the same time have a look at any dents and scratches, to make sure they aren’t hiding anything serious. If there is any mismatched paint that that is a cause for concern, and you might be better steering clear.

Tyres – Always inspect the tyres. You need to make sure that they are evenly worn. Uneven wear can indicate problems with the suspension. Also, check that the tread is legal. It should be a minimum of 1.6mm. Replacing tyres can be expensive.

Suspension – The suspension on a van can take a hammering. You can check it quite easily by pushing down on one corner of the van. The bounce should be quick and smooth if everything is good condition.

Mechanics – Make sure to take the van for a test drive. You should keep an ear out for any unexpected noises. Also, make sure that you personally start the engine.

Electrics – take the time to check that all the electrics are working correctly. This includes the windows and dashboard.

Documents– You should expect to see the full service history of the vehicle as well as the most recent MOT. If there is missing documentation, then you should steer clear, or at the very least expect to get a hefty discount.

Tip: If you can, bring someone who has experience driving a van with you to the test drive.