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Things to think about when buying a van

Small and medium vans are a cornerstone of British business, from couriers to builders, home delivery to parts and stock supplies. The most famous of these, the Ford Transit, proudly claims to be the ‘backbone of Britain’. But how do you go about buying a van and what features should you consider when making your choice?

Buying a van for different uses

The most important consideration when buying a van is what you will be using it for. Different vans are better suited to different uses, from carrying large loads to carrying people, from lots of short local trips to long haul, long distance deliveries. You should carefully consider exactly how it will be used before buying a van.

Buying a van for different loads

Obviously, the bigger the load, the bigger the van you will need, and the market has a huge range from small vans such as the Peugeot Partner to larger vans such as the Peugeot Boxer or the ubiquitous Transit. For even larger loads, you can consider vans with longer wheelbases and higher roofs to maximise load space, while for heavier loads there are models available with double wheels at the back to take the extra weight.

The larger the load, the bigger the engine size your will need when buying a van, but conversely, for smaller vans on local trips, you should look for the smallest engine size to cut your fuel consumption and road tax bill.

The type of load you need to move will also influence the door arrangement you need. Some vans come with sliding side doors for easy access, while others have additional load features, such as built in hoists or rollers on the floor, for better manoeuvrability of heavy items. Heavy loads may also demand power steering.

Buying a van for different distances

Fuel will be one of your biggest running costs, so you need to seriously consider the size of the engine. If you are mainly doing short trips and local deliveries, you will want a van that is economic on the local roads. If your are forever up and down the country making long distance deliveries, then you will want a van with strong motorway fuel economy.

You also need to think about comfort. If your van is only used for short trips then this is not so much of an issue. However, although a van is a utility vehicle if your drivers are spending long periods of time at the wheel, then you have a duty to provide a comfortable cab with features such as a music system and air conditioning.

Van security

If you work or deliver in a rough area, or transport valuable cargo or tools, then you will want a van with high levels of security. Make sure that the cab can be locked independently from the load area, so that each is secure when the other is unattended. It is not unheard of for vans to be driven away while they are being unloaded, or even targeted by sneak thieves at traffic lights.

Setting your van budget

Budgeting for a new van can be a real headache. How much you have to spend will determine whether you can buy a brand new van or have to settle for second hand. As a rule, vans do not depreciate that quickly, so a new van can be a good investment for your business. New vans will also come with the reassurance of warranties and dealer back up and will not need an MOT for the first few years.

That said, a low mileage second hand van may give you more for your money than a brand new one, with higher spec and better features. If you are buying a van that is second hand, always insist on a full service history to prove that your van has been well maintained and cared for.

Your van buying budget should not only include the cost of buying a van, but also the ongoing running costs of fuel, tyres, servicing and maintenance. You will also need to consider the insurance group of your van to get the lowest possible running costs. If you are buying a van on finance, you will need to factor in the additional monthly costs of the repayments.

Need, want, like

A good way to weigh up your options when buying a van is to break your list into three sections – need, want and would like. The ‘need’ part should include all the factors that your van must have for your daily operations, such as size, passenger numbers etc. The ‘want’ part will include factors such as fuel economy and low insurance costs. Finally the ‘would like’ part will include the optional extras you would get in an ideal world, such as air con and a good stereo.

By using this system, you will not be swayed by frivolous extras and can focus clearly on what is important. Nonetheless, you should try and get as far down your list as possible.

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