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Where to go to buy a new or used van

by constructaquote - 7 February 2018


Any Tradesperson knows that having a good quality van can be the difference between taking on jobs and turning down jobs. Your van is more than just a means of transport, but as you’re on the road a lot, it’s essential to have a vehicle that performs and isn’t a nightmare to drive.

If you’re considering getting a new van, here’s some advice on where to go to buy one…

Buying from a dealership

Buying from a dealer means your van comes with legal protection. Dealerships are only allowed to sell vans that meet certain requirements and have to be deemed as in ‘satisfactory quality’.  There must be no defects, other than wear or tear if the vehicle is second hand. In some cases, the van may have defects, and these have to be made clear by the seller before you purchase the van. All vans must be roadworthy before they can be sold.

Dealerships are obliged to describe the van accurately, and they cannot advertise the van as something untrue. E.g. – if the van states it has only had 1 previous owner, that must be fact.

Buying from a dealership means you have more options when choosing the specifications for your van, especially if the van is brand new or made to order. Most dealerships will also offer a warranty and service pack so that you’re covered for basic maintenance during the agreed period.

Franchised dealerships will often get the best vans available and offer good comprehensive warranties.

If the dealership is a reputable one, it will more than likely be a member of a trade association which means it must follow their code of conduct and only sell vehicles which meet their requirements and quality standards.

To reduce the risk when buying a van, try opting for one with a manufactured, approved scheme. Most schemes offer excellent van reliability with a full history check and usually a free warranty too.

If you are unhappy with your vehicle after purchasing it, take it back to the dealership as they should be willing to help you.

Buying from van supermarkets

Over the last decade, van supermarkets have been popping up all over the U.K with competitive offers on nearly-new vans and low-mileage vans. However, buying from a van supermarket has its pro’s and cons.

When buying from a van supermarket, there is often not a lot of room for haggling as prices are already significantly lower than most places to compete with other supermarkets.

You are also less restricted when customising your van as the stock they have on-site tends to be the only stock they have available. Vans for sale here are usually the standard models with the bare essentials and no fancy extras.

Van supermarkets tend to offer finance options that make it simple for almost anyone to drive away with a new van the same day. However, they rarely provide any aftercare service or warranties.

Buying a van privately

When buying a van privately from someone, you miss out on the legal protection that dealerships offer where the van must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. When buying a van privately, the law only requires that the vehicle is as it was described by the seller. This means buying privately comes with risks and even though it can often be the cheapest option, in the long term, you may be left with expensive bills if the van isn’t what you thought it was.

The Road Traffic Act states it is illegal for anyone to sell an un-roadworthy vehicle unless they make it clear to the buyer that it is only fit for scrap and cannot be driven under any circumstance.

Before buying a car privately, it’s essential to carry out checks to prevent you from being ripped off, or even worse, put in danger by being behind the wheel of a faulty vehicle.

Consider these things before buying a van:

1. Check out the seller

  • Contact them via a landline telephone if possible but be aware that it could be for a public telephone box, so call the number to check.
  • Always meet the seller at their home address in case you need to locate them in future. Check that the van is registered on the V5C Registration Certificate (the “log book) to that address and look for signs that they reside there.
  • If you don’t feel 100% sure on the seller, don’t buy the vehicle – no matter how good the deal is.

2. Check the paperwork

  • Examine all the legal documents including the V5C, any available details of the van’s service history, MOT’s and previous owners.
  • Make sure the V5C has not been tampered with and has the official watermark.
  • Check that the vehicle identification number (VIN) matches the one on the documents, and has not been tampered with. The VIN number is in at least three places on a vehicle. The ‘visible’ VIN plate is under the windscreen, on the nearside (left) of the van, under where the tax disc should be. The ‘VIN plate/sticker’ will typically be somewhere under the bonnet. There will be a number stamped on the main body that is located differently for each type of vehicle. Any etching or tampering with the VIN is not the sign of a reliable, trustworthy seller.
  • If any parts are replaced or reconditioned, ask for evidence, such as a bill or warranty.

3. Check the vehicle

When buying privately, as long as the van is accurately described as the seller states, you have no legal comeback if there are faults with the van, so it’s vital you conduct a full check on the vehicle before making payment. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, check out our video guide here, or take a trained mechanic with you to help.

Want to know which vans have the most space for tools? Check out our infographic here.

Have you got the right insurance for your van or business? Check out our cover here…