While vans are versatile, sturdy cars that are built to take on a lot, if you’re buying a second-hand vehicle, naturally you must ensure you’re getting a good bargain. If you strike gold with the right vehicle, a van may serve you well for many years. So what are the things you should check off the list before buying a used van?
Knowing your budget and limitations beforehand will help you decide the type of van you can buy. There’s no point wasting your time on something you can’t afford, so let the elimination begin at the budgeting stage, which should be one of the first stages in your process of purchasing a used van.
Once you’ve figured out your budget and have a few options of vehicles you’re considering, it’s important to also take into account the running costs of each van. A great offer on a used van may be well within your budget but if you have to shell out even more money on maintaining the van constantly or if you’re not getting enough mileage on all the fuel you’re putting, the deal is not so good after all.
Another thing to consider is insurance. How much will it cost to insure your van and is it within your budget? It’s not enough for the selling price to match your budget but even the money you will need to spend on running the van after you have purchased it. If it’s nearly as much as how much you bought the van for or more, strongly reconsider spending your money on that van.
The best is if you can pay the amount in full and upfront, then you can drive off as the proud owner of the van with immediate effect. But this is not always possible.
You can perhaps, pay through installments if you engage in a personal contract purchase (PCP), hire purchase (HP) or personal contract hire (PCH). By engaging in these contracts, you will be expected to pay a certain amount every month for an agreed amount of time. These are essentially finance options where you don’t become the full owner of the vehicle but are renting the vehicle for a stipulated amount of time. The lease usually lasts up to 12 to 36 months in such contracts. The advantage of entering in such a contract is that when you’re done using the vehicle, you can simply hand the keys back without bothering about finding another buyer.
Start eliminating all the vehicles in your budget to see which one works for you best.
Here are some questions you may want to answer to help you decide the kind of vehicle that’s best suited for your needs:
These are only some questions you can try to address to have a clearer idea of the van you’re looking for.
The following are some of the common types of van mostly available at car dealerships. Perhaps you will find the right one for you.
A city van may be perfect for you if you’re not looking to load too many heavy items into your van. As its name suggests, the van is perfect for carrying out smaller jobs within the city limits. The vans are usually smaller and its compact shape is convenient to drive around in cities or dense urban spaces. Most commonly used by small traders or delivery services, dog groomers etc, if a compact van to drive in a city is what you need, this may be the vehicle for you.
Panel vans are used in a variety of trades and professions and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. You can get a high floor-clearing van or a high or low-roof one, with long, short and medium wheelbases. What’s characteristic of these kinds of vans is that it only has windows in the front two seats. The sides of the car and the loading portions of the car are covered by a panel, therefore the name. Panel vans usually only have two seats and storage space at the back.
Box and Luton vans are most helpful in carrying a lot of heavy goods and bulkier items. They are most commonly used by courier services or moving companies. Typically, these vans have an extra compartment of space attached to the main body of the van. Luton vans, for example, tend to have extra room on top of the main cabin of the van. Both these vans are also wider than panel vans, offering ample space to accommodate all kinds and sizes of packages. They are also generally higher than most other vans and have a convenient loading bay to lift heavy items into the van.
Crew Cab Vans are similar in overall size to panel vans but have more than two seats. A crew or double model, as the name suggests, is perfect for a crew or group of four or five. It’s often used by musicians or other businesses that require a vehicle often and have a stipulated number of people traveling at once. Admittedly, though, extra seats means the loading area is considerably reduced. If it is only four seats, however, your colleagues and their equipment can easily be accommodated.
Once you have settled on the van you like, make sure you check all its parts carefully before putting pen to paper.
There are several things you will have to check are in good working condition when you’re purchasing a van that has already been used.
Do a thorough and complete check of the van’s body before making a decision. Make sure there is no rust on the bodywork. You may most commonly find rust on the wings and underneath the bumper. Other places to check are the door frames, under the wheel arches and at the corner of the windscreen. Even if you find rust it may not be a dealbreaker. But if you press on the rust gently and hear any cracking sound, there is corrosion underneath the rust, in all likelihood – that is a dealbreaker.
Suspension refers to the shock absorbers in the van. Press down on each corner of the van and if the vehicle bounces and then returns to its original position, the shock absorbers are working fine. If you’re still not sure of the suspension, ask to take a test drive to settle all doubts.
This is one of the most important things to check for. Find an empty and straight stretch of road to test drive the vehicle and test the brakes. If the brakes are reacting to your satisfaction, great! Also, check for any squeaking sounds when you press the brakes.
All the lights in the car – head, tail, brake, interior, etc – are an indicator of the electrical health of the car. If the headlight or tail light is flickering, perhaps something is not right with the wiring and circuit of the car. These are early warning signs. If one light starts acting awry, there’s a chance there’s a larger problem with the wiring. So if the car you have selected is showing signs of faulty wiring, reconsider buying it.
The tyres are what the van runs on and one component of the car that tends to suffer the most damage, since it’s the only point of contact between the van and harsh surfaces like the road. Check the treads and sidewalls on all four tyres, as well as the spare tyre in the back. Ensure the sidewalls are not damaged and have no bulges. If the tyres have worn out unevenly there may be problems with the steering or the suspension.
The engine is the heart of your motor. If the engine is faulty, the van is no good. Check that the bonnet is cold before you start the engine. If the bonnet is warm even though the engine has not been in use for a few hours, there may be a problem of overheating. Check for signs of smoke coming out of the engine or any odd or unusual noise coming out of the bonnet when the engine jumps to life.
When you take the car out for a test drive, make sure that the steering wheel responds to you. If the steering is loose or moves too freely, there may be a problem with the pressure of the tyre. If you can get to the bottom of the problem and fix it, you could try. But if the problem with the steering persists, it’s best to let this van go for another option.
Checking the interiors of the car is not any less important as checking the body. Make sure the seatbelts work properly, the windows roll up and down smoothly and the locks are not jammed. If any of these are not in working order it could be a safety hazard. Also, check the dashboard for any indications of trouble. If any warning lights are on on the dashboard, it’s not a great sign. Ensure you do a thorough check inside and outside the van before making a final decision.
Whichever vehicle you shortlist, ensure you do a thorough background check if possible.
There are some driving records that can be accessed by the public. Visit dmv.org to know more. Other than this, ask your dealer for old paperwork and receipts for the car. Old bills and receipts should provide valuable insights on the kind of work the van has required and if any parts have had to be fitted, along with a general vehicle history.
Old documents will also let you compare the mileage with what the dashboard suggests. Old receipts help give you a better insight into how the car was maintained by the previous owners. Other than old receipts, ensure you receive the original documents and paperwork for the car from the owner, so everything happens in the ambit of the law.
To cement your decision, here are some advantages you may want to consider of buying a used van:
The first and the most obvious advantage of buying a used van, of course, is the price. You get most of the features of a brand new vehicle at a much more subsidized price. While you’re doing a recce, you may even chance upon deals on vehicles that are in near-mint condition. It’s not a bad bargain, after all. Besides, once the vehicle is on the road and is serving its purpose, it doesn’t matter if it’s old or new.
It’s said that the minute a new car rolls out of the lot, its value begins to depreciate. Most buyers of new cars constantly have to worry about a dent here or a scratch there. As the owner of a used car, you don’t have to worry about the value of the car depreciating. Even the paint chipping off slightly may bother you less than if you had purchased a new car at full price.
Depending on the state you’re purchasing the car in, there’s a chance you can avoid some of the fees a buyer may have to give to buy a new car. If you buy a used car at a private dealership, you may be able to avoid sales and DMV tax or at least have it be reduced by a considerable amount. There may be some other random fees that are tacked on. If you can cut down on these fees, you may be able to save hundreds of dollars.
In buying an old car, you have a wide variety of models to choose from. You can even pick something that may not be available at the market if you go to a showroom for new cars. You are not limited to cars that have been launched in the last year or two but can widen your search lens to even further back to 10 years and more. As long as the car is in drivable condition and can be serviced easily, it is an option for you.
Insurance rates on an old car are far lower than on a new car. If you are in your 20s and paying high premiums because of your age, saving on insurance rates for your car can be a huge relief. Besides, even to buy the car, it’s not awfully hard to save up and pay cash upfront
If you’re looking to resell the car, the rates will not depreciate as much as with a brand new car. Chances are, if you sell the car within the first three to five years, you can earn back almost the same amount as you had originally spent on the car.
Go through the checklist thoroughly before making any final decision. If there are any other questions you have outside of the checklist, ask the dealer or the seller. The more questions you ask, the better you will feel about making an informed purchase.
If the seller has any extra information to relay, make note of those things too. A used van could keep you company for many years after you buy it. If the van has been maintained and kept in good condition, it’s nature is to stay loyal and go a long way. So find the van that’s the perfect fit for you!