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What to consider if you’re thinking about buying a used van

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Vans are made to be tough; they are the reliable everyday workhorses for a wide variety of trades and are built to withstand a large amount of punishment.

This is great if you’re in the market to buy a new van, as you can relax knowing you’ll get years of reliable service. However, if you’re hunting for a second-hand vehicle this does present some challenges.



Before you start your search you need to have a good idea about the type of van that you’ll need. If you’re going to be carrying loads of heavy or large items, you’ll need a van that is big and powerful enough to cope. However, if you’re only going to be carrying small parcels and lighter items you can look for a smaller van. Don’t fall into the trap of buying a van that won’t be suitable for your needs as you’ll be paying for something that you don’t need.

You’ll also need to consider engine size. If you’re going to be spending lots of time driving on motorways then having a large engine will be the most fuel efficient

Do you spend lots of time in towns and cities? Then a smaller engine will be more cost-effective.



Now that you have your perfect van in mind, it’s time to begin your search. One of the best places to start is with online auction sites such as Gumtree and eBay. You can also check your local newspaper for ads and visit specialist van showrooms in your area.

When you go to visit a van make sure that you bring someone with mechanical knowledge along to help you go through the vehicle checks.



Don’t just be seduced by the price of the van. If it’s going cheap there could be a good reason for this and you could end up paying heavily for this further down the line, with the expense of regular trips to the garage.

So trust your gut instinct, if it seems like it’s too good to be true, then it most probably is. Here’s some key things you should check:

  • Examine the van’s bodywork, checking that there aren’t any signs of repair work and make sure that all the doors open and close correctly.
  • Also, check the interior for wear and tear. If the van has low mileage (under 20,000 miles) then the interior should be in good condition. If it’s not then the milometer could have been tampered with.
  • Checking that all the equipment works are also important, like the lights and air-con and all the other electrical equipment such as the windows, radio and central locking.

Next, you’ll want to take the van for a test run. Listen for knocks and squeaks coming from the axles, make sure the gears and engine are running smoothly and give the breaks a test – consider performing an emergency stop on an empty stretch of road. If the vehicle swerves then there could be a problem.


(Image source: Pete on Flickr)

A van that has heaps of old receipts for work carried out can be a real goldmine of information. It enables you to check the vehicle’s history for the work carried out and parts fitted. It also allows you to check the mileage against what is displayed on the dashboard.

The service book is also valuable because it’ll let you know how well the vehicle has been looked after by its previous owners.


When it comes to buying your used van you need to take the running costs into account, this includes the van insurance. Will the van be cheap or expensive to insure? Is this within your budget?

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