There are many good reasons for buying a used van rather than a new one for your business, but you need to be a careful buyer. Vans tend to be tough workhorses that can take a great deal of punishment, but they can also suffer a considerable amount of abuse, so you need to make sure that your used van hasn’t already been driven into the ground.

It is important to remember that you van will be an important business investment. It will transport you, your equipment and tools to your customers so the last thing you want is an unreliable van that will let you down and damage your reputation. Neither do you want a van that looks as if it is falling apart as that is unlikely to make the right impression. Of course you need to save money, but don’t compromise your top priorities in the process. Decide on your budget and stick to it.

Used van
photo credit: Michael Coghlan

What to consider when buying a used van?

The first thing you must decide is the size and kind of van you need. This will depend on the nature of your business. For instance car-derived vans are very easy to drive and a great choice for a small delivery business, for instance a florist or fast food deliveries. Pickups are a great choice for carting around heavy equipment, and for larger payloads a panel van such as a Ford Transit is an ideal choice. Don’t choose a van that is too small for your future needs, and don’t buy one that is larger than you are going to require.

When you view a van that you think fits the bill it is important to ask the right questions. Find out what the van was used for. Check it internally and externally for any damage or rust including electrical features such as windows and air conditioning.

Nowadays clocking vans is relatively uncommon (clocking means adjusting the milometer to make it appear that the van has covered fewer miles than it really has) but it does happen. Check the MOT certificates to see that the recorded mileage is realistic, and ensure that the condition of the van matches the stated mileage. Check the tyres for tread depth and any damage.

Used Fargo van
photo credit: dave_7

If all seems to be in order take it for a test drive but make sure that van insurance is in place before you do. Check out the brakes, the smoothness of the gears, how it pulls away, if there are any vibrations, if there is any black smoke coming out of the exhaust when you change gear, how smoothly it rides over defects in the road surface, the steering, the ease of changing gear, and so forth.

Check out the paperwork including the vehicle registration certificate and ensure that the VIN (vehicle identification number) is correctly stated. You can use an online history check to ensure that the van isn’t subject to finance arrangements such as hire purchase and that it hasn’t been written off by an insurance company. You can also get useful information from the DVLA including whether it is taxed, has an MOT, its first registration, the original colour, the engine size, the CO2 emissions and the tax rate.