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NEED a van but can’t afford a new one? There’s plenty of choice at the auctions, dealers or on the general used market, but don’t get caught with a bad ‘un.

With around four million vans on British roads, there are plenty coming on to the second-hand market all the time.

However, many of these will have had a pretty tough life on the road so what should you be looking for when buying used?

Obviously it depends on your requirements, is it for business or pleasure – you may want a people carrier or something to convert into a camper.

Most likely you will want a workhorse and what you use it for will dictate the type and size of van you need.

Owners’ forums on Facebook for the models in which you’re interested can be useful for picking up tips. They will also help you decide which of the range is the most desirable, highlight any known issues with particular years

When you find vans to look at, try and find out its history. A high mileage example that has been serviced regularly and only used for transporting light goods, could be better than one with lower miles that has been carrying heavy loads.

Check out its MOT history to see if there have been any failures, this will also show up any defects and advisory notices that have been issued.

Have a good look around, particularly for signs of rust. Look under wheel arches and around the door frame. If you see any press down on it gently and if there are slight cracking sounds the problem may go deeper.

You’ll also need to look for any signs of accident damage/repairs. A mismatch of paint colours is often a giveaway.

Ensure the tyres are the correct ones for the van and that the wear is even across the front and rear treads. If not, there could be a problem with the suspension or wheel alignment.

Suspension can be tested by pressing down hard on one corner and seeing how quickly it bounces back. It will return to its original position quickly and smoothly if the shock absorbers are in a good condition.

The lights can give an idea of electrical health, check to see if they are dimming or flickering oddly.

Have a look around the cabin, it’s likely to look careworn but a lot of this can be cleaned up with a good valet. However, check all the seat belts lock properly, the windscreen wipers are in good order, and the controls all work

Take a test drive but make sure you’re properly insured – especially if it’s a private sale. If you’re not protected by the owner’s policy then you may need to take out some short-term cover with your insurance company.

Start the van from cold and look out for black or blue smoke from the exhaust and check there are no warning lights remaining on. Listen for rattles and knocking noises under acceleration.

The steering should feel responsive and if you find the van wandering around the road and a lot of play in the wheel then best avoided. Brakes have a solid feel and stop in a straight line. When testing the brakes, listen out for squealing or grinding noises.

Once happy, agree a price with the seller, and sort out a time for collection. Make sure that you fill in the V5 document to change the registration details. Also, don’t forget you’ll need to arrange tax and insurance before collecting it.

Where can you look for a used van? There are plenty of second-hand dealers but you can often get a good price at auction. Vans at auction are generally in pretty good condition.

For increased peace of mind then manufacturers do have used commercial vehicle programmes which often includes warranty and roadside assistance.


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