Buying a used vehicle is a process fraught with risk, especially if you’re buying the vehicle directly from the previous owner.
This applies especially in the case of vans, where the reliability of the vehicle might have a profound impact on your future income.
By taking a few precautions, and making a few basic checks, you can considerably reduce your risk of buying an expensive liability. Let’s consider what proper due diligence should look like.
Check the paperwork
Buy a used vehicle, and you should expect to also receive the V5C logbook. This document exists to demonstrate that the vehicle has been registered with the DVLA. It should list, among other things, the registered owner of the vehicle. When the owner changes, the seller must notify the DVLA with the help of a special form, handing the new owner the green copy.
You’ll want to check the V5C thoroughly. Make sure that the previous owners, registration numbers, and addresses all match your expectations. Ideally, the service history should describe a vehicle that’s been regularly cared for, with an oil and filter change at least every year (and more often if the vehicle has put in lots of miles).
Conduct general checks
While you can tell a lot from the logbook, there’s no substitute for a personal inspection of the vehicle itself.
Check the bodywork for obvious defects. If it looks as though the vehicle has been handled carelessly, then you can reasonably assume that there are other, less visible signs of neglect.
Pay attention to the tyres, too. If they’re overworn, and in need of replacement, then you should ask for this to be factored into the price. The suspension, lights and engine are all worth taking a look at. Other checks on the air conditioning, radio and locking system are easily performed in a matter of moments – so don’t forget them.
Take it for a test drive
Unless the vehicle is coming from a trusted source, and the price is extremely tempting (but not suspiciously so), you should take the van for a test drive before you hand over any money. Make sure that you’re subjecting it to a varied set of conditions on the road, and pay particular attention to the way that the vehicle handles when you’re performing turns. Most of the advice for test-driving a car will also apply here.
Check the brakes extensively, and see how much acceleration you’re getting. Bear in mind that the van will handle differently when it’s fully loaded. To get the best from your test drive, you might look for temporary van insurance, which will allow you to legally experience the vehicle, and drive it home.
Weigh up all considerations
Most sellers will expect you to haggle unless the asking price is so reasonable that you want to close the deal immediately. Use any defects and problems you’ve spotted as leverage when you’re negotiating. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you don’t feel good about the deal, or if the seller is overly pushy.