What to consider when buying a used van

If saving big is your priority, we are here to help you. While different vehicles depreciate at different rates, it's a good rule to assume that a new vehicle will lose around 20% of its value in the first year and 15% each year after that. You could save an average of 40% if you purchase a 3-year-old van, but going out to find a used van can be a daunting task - it’s a huge market and there’s a lot to consider.

We've put together this guide to provide a stress-free experience for you. Keep reading on to find out what to consider when you're deciding which one is theright van for you and your business. And find out what you need to look out for once you arrive to view and test drive the vehicle.

Weight & dimensions

It’s really important from the start to determine exactly what the van is going to do- what it will carry, how big and how heavy the load is going to be. If your vehicle is overloaded between 5-29% then you can get a fine, starting from a minimum of £100. If it’s overloaded by 30% or more, you can go to court. The vehicle can also get impounded until it’s sorted out. In addition to being both illegal and dangerous, having an overloaded vehicle puts extra strain on its components, which can result in damage and higher maintenance costs.
The DVSA (Driving & Vehicle Standards Agency) revealed that more than 8 in 10 vehicles they stop are overloaded. Both the police and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) have the power to stop and carry out checks on all commercial vehicles.

Finance & payment options

It’s good to take the time to consider how you’ll pay for your next vehicle - if you’re financing, consider what would happen if there was a sudden drop in cash flow. What’s suitable for you will completely depend on your type of business and your income. You want to minimize the costs, but also to be flexible for the needs of your business. There are four different ways to pay for your vehicle: cash buy, hire purchase, business contract hire or a finance lease. You can contact our finance specialist here for more information.

Image & style

If you arrive in a rusty old van, then your customers won’t be impressed by your business. Have a think what your van will say about your company. A smart, clean vehicle that has good stickers/livery on it will create a fantastic impression right from the start. It’s also a good way to recruit! If you’ve got a big logo or want to have a large slogan across the van, consider the length the van needs to be, the colour and the panels.


If your van break down while you’re on your way to a job, or you’re doing a delivery, whatever it may be - how’s that going to affect business and your customers? What if you’ve got a load of jobs booked and then the van fails it’s MOT and is off the road? Finding a well-maintained van is well worth the extra cash. Read some vehicle reviews, road tests, talk to other business owners with similar vans and find out what they think.

Running costs

It’s not always about MPG. Whilst it’s important to get a van that is economical on fuel, especially if you’re doing lots of motorway miles, you also need to consider how many miles the vehicle will do between services and tyre replacements. Buying cheap tyres will save some cash early-on, but they’ll wear out sometimes almost twice as soon, so you’ll be forking out for more even earlier. The maintenance costs and what the van will be sold on for in the future all affect your vehicle’s contribution to your business.

Make sure to do some insurance quotes and see whether that more powerful van will affect your bottom-line in the long run, or if you can make it work with a less powerful engine to save some cash.

Driving conditions

Consider where your van will be operating. If you’re in the countryside or a hilly area, you’ll need good engine power to keep the van going consistently. If you’re in a city centre or a busy town, will an automatic gearbox be more suitable – it can reduce driver stress and also the potential cost of replacing an over-worn clutch.

If you’re in London’s extended Ultra-Low Emission Zone, the emissions of the van will have an effect on your costs. ULEZ affect the North and South Circular and applies to all motorcycles, cars and vans.

Safety & technology

Most of the ultra modern car features are available on vans too! Technology is always improving the safety of the vehicles and make them as accident-free as possible. Search for vans with reversing cameras, front-seat airbags and things like hill-hold assist. If you're going to carry a heavy load, some vans will have load-adjusting electronic suspension stabilization, very handy for keeping the van flat and level.

If you need to make telephone calls on a regular basis, find a van that has a Bluetooth system fitted for ease of use. The government are increasingly cracking down on people using their mobile phones with driving, so don't risk it- losing your licence could mean losing your business!
Cruise control can be found on many modern vans. If you spend a lot of time driving on the motorways then not only would cruise control make the journey more relaxing but also generally make your van more economical, saving you money in the long-run.

Inspecting & test driving

Buying a second-hand van means that the vehicle could have had a tough life and some owners don't take care of their vehicles. Making sure you find one that has been looked after will undoubtedly save you cash in the long run.

Bodywork is a huge sign of a van's overall condition. Look for any signs of a repair job - do the doors fit snugly together, Is the mileage fair for the condition of the vehicle. Check out for rust or uneven panels.

Tyres should have even tread all the way across, both front pair and back pair. One way to save money is by using cheap tyres, which don't grip well, and do not provide good rolling resistance.

Engines should always be first examined cold. When you're going to look at a van, call ahead and ask for the engine to be cold when you arrive. When an engine warms up various problems can suddenly be masked, and some dodgy sellers will warm an engine prior to your arrival.

Brakes should be tested thoroughly- if they feel spongy and if the pedal goes to the floor before the van really slows down? Try out an emergency stop on a quiet road if safe to do so, see how the van reacts. If it swerves then there's probably a problem.

Suspension is quite easy to check on a van. If you push down on each corner of the vehicle you'll be able to see how it bounces back. If the van bounces once and returns back to normal then the suspension and shock absorbers should be fine.

Lights are a good indication of a van's overall electrical health. If they flicker or dim oddly, then think twice about buying it - the van could have serious underlying electrical issue that could be very costly to repair.

Air conditioning can be checked quickly- the fans should operate fine at all settings, and when you turn on the AC the air should go icy cold when you have the temperature as cold as it will go. Remember though that Air Conditioning isn't just about cold air.

Steering the van should be smooth and responsive. There shouldn't be any excessive play in the steering. If it feels vague then there could be a sign of worn tyres, low pressures or more serious issues that should be avoided.

Interior condition is another way to determine a van's life and overall condition. When you sit inside the van, make sure that all windows and electronics work properly. Look at the dashboard, make sure there's no warning lights that flash or remain on after the engine is started. Make sure seatbelts and locks function.

Paperwork is something that you should check thoroughly. Make sure there are MOT certificates, service history and reciepts of any major jobs that the van has had. If you're unsure, you can check a vehicle's history for free on the DVLA website.

Knowing all this now you are ready to go on a hunt for your next van. Check our available stock for many different types of pre-owned commercial vehicles.
Panel vans, minibuses, pick-ups, and tipper vans from the biggest makes are all available at great prices.

If you'd like to test drive one of the used vans for sale, have a look at our website to see what we have for you, and call us at our Essex dealership on 01279 216163. Ask us about our vans on finance and van contract hire offers too.