Common red flags to look out for when buying a used van

What you need to look for when buying a used van

There’s no shortage of horror stories when it comes to conversations about buying used vehicles. Plenty of people have a tale of hidden faults, wound back odometers – or worse, illegal sales. To prevent you from falling into such traps, we’ve compiled a list of red flags when buying a used van that you should look out for.

Discrepancies with the V5C

One of the risks of buying a used van privately is that the sale is altogether illegal. The seller may have physical possession of the vehicle, but if the details in the V5C don’t match the car details, the VINs don’t match up or the V5C is missing the ‘new keeper supplement’, then walk away.

Similarly, if the logbook doesn’t have a ‘DVL’ watermark or a valid serial number, it could have been falsified. You can find details of how to check the serial number on

Too many recent repairs

What qualifies as ‘too many’ does, to some degree, depend on the age and mileage of the van in question. But if there’s a long list of recent repairs in the paperwork, it’s worth questioning why the current owner is selling up – could it be that they’ve decided to cut their losses and get rid of the vehicle instead of fixing persistent issues?

Low price

Before you go to look at a vehicle, it’s worth checking the average price of the make and model you’ve chosen. If it looks like you’re buying at a price that’s below the market value, ask why. While there are instances of sellers needing to make a quick sale due to changes in their personal circumstances, it’s also possible that the van is in less than satisfactory condition, and that the seller is hoping faults will be overlooked given the cheap price.

A pre-purchase inspection is denied

While some people are happy to buy a vehicle without seeing it, business owners can’t afford to take that chance. After all, you’ll probably be relying on your van to get your work done. So if a seller ‘doesn’t have time’ to meet you for an inspection, you should walk away. It suggests that the van is in poor condition or has technical faults that will become apparent on a test drive.

General checks

On the whole, it’s widely considered to be safer to buy from a reputable dealership, as there’s significantly less chance of any of the above issues cropping up. However, it’s good to know what to check when buying a used van from a dealer too:

  • Check there’s no rust on the body panels, and that the van’s paint colour is consistent
  • Check the lights, air conditioning and radio work as expected
  • Ensure the locking system functions correctly
  • Inspect the tread depth and condition of the tyres
  • Take the van for a test drive to confirm the pedals, steering and suspension are all satisfactory

Used vans for sale

With a wide range of quality used commercial vehicles for sale at our dealerships in Harlow, Vanwise Group can help you find the perfect partner for your business. Contact us today to book a test drive.