You might be a business owner or simply need a van for everyday life, but when it comes to buying one, going second-hand is the most affordable option. But like all used things, they often come with their own set of challenges. 

Unlike new vans fresh off the factory line, used vans aren’t backed by an extensive warranty and are likely to have clocked up thousands of miles. Then there is the service and owner history to think about. 

Whether you’re looking for a small or commercial van, here are 5 questions you should be asking before you buy any used van:

1. Can I afford it? 

Before you consider buying any vehicle, you need to make sure you can afford it. So make sure you budget according to your means. What are your outgoings currently spent on? Do you have money left at the end of the month? How are your savings looking?

If you’re buying a used van for your business, take a look at what business loans are available to you too. 

2. Can I apply for van finance? 

When you don’t have the upfront funds or would prefer to spread the total cost of your purchase, van finance makes buying more achievable, especially when funding isn’t available. 

While you won’t have as many loan options for a used van as you would a brand new or nearly new vehicle, there are plenty of options for you to choose from to get you behind the wheel without delay:

  • Personal van loan: this is a tri-party financial agreement between you, the lender and the dealership:
  • The lender pays for the vehicle you want to purchase from the dealership on your behalf
  • You make repayments directly to the lender under the terms of your contract
  • You can either drive away in your newly purchased van straight off the forecourt or have it delivered to your door
  • Van leasing (Contract hire): contract hire is basically the same as equipment or operation leasing, where you are essentially renting the vehicle. At no point will you ever own the van, even when your contract is up after 12 to 60 months

Out of the two van financing options, a personal van loan is the most suitable for purchasing a used van. 

3. What type of used van do you want? 

Before you splash out on a used van – with or without van finance – you need to consider what you want it for. 

Do you want it for daily business use? Is it to transport your band’s gear up and down the country? Or do you want more flexibility to go away at the weekend? 

Whatever your reasons for wanting a used van, this will help you decide what type and size van you need. After all, if you have a floristry business that caters for local deliveries, you’re more likely to need a nippy small van over a 3.5-tonne chariot! 

When looking for a quality used van, it’s worth looking for secondhand versions of the latest models – whether that’s the Volkswagen Caddy or a Ford Transit. Make sure you check out the best small vans, electric vans, pick-up trucks on the market, and those topping the “best of” lists online. 

If you need more information, have a look at recent online reviews from professionals and other motorists to help you decide. 

4. Can I see the van’s history?

Before making any final decisions, you must find out as much about the van as possible. The likelihood is, if you’re looking at a high-mileage vehicle that has been regularly serviced, it’s probably in better condition overall than one with fewer miles on the clock. 

However, it’s essential that you look over the following van documents before you commit to buy: 

V5C or logbook 

The van’s V5C will tell you an awful lot about who you are dealing with, the registered keeper and give you clues about what the van has been used for in the past if the current owner’s business name and address are on the paperwork. 

Make sure that all the information on the V5C adds up. The make and model of the van, the number plate, and vehicle identification number (VIN – you can find this usually at the bottom of the van’s windscreen) should all be detailed correctly. 

You’ll also see how long the current owner has had the van and how long any previous owners had it too. 

Red flags: 

  • The van has had multiple owners in the past – this could be a sign that the van’s not all it’s cracked up to be
  • Seller says they don’t have a V5C – if they don’t have one, don’t commit to buy 

Service History 

You’ll instantly find out how well the van has been serviced and maintained by looking at its service history. Keep up regular servicing, and you’ll find it much easier to sell in the future. 

MOT paperwork

Looking over any previous MOT paperwork will quickly highlight any advisories, defects and problems that have made the van either pass or fail. 

If the seller doesn’t have the latest MOT certificate to hand, you can use the Motorscan website to check MOT history. 

5. What is the mileage? 

Whatever type of vehicle you want to buy, you should always check the mileage. In the UK, 12,000 to 13,000 miles per year is the rough ballpark, but that isn’t always enough to go on.

You need to consider mileage while bearing the van’s age and past use in mind.  

Lower mileage isn’t always as good as you might think, particularly if the van has been packed full of heavy goods and clocked up a lot of start-stop journeys. Hidden wear and tear can often be the downfall of a less traveled van, after all.  

These 5 questions could save you a fortune at the forecourt no matter what type of used van you’re interested in. So, what are you waiting for? Go and get the used van you need and transform your everyday.


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