Thursday, 28 November 2013

Buying A Used Van

Your van "The Mobile Workshop" will be one of the most important pieces of equipment you will buy for your business.
It has to transport you, your tools and stock of parts from job to job and back again.
So choosing the right van for our type of business is very important and choosing wisely will save you money.

At Cycle Tech UK we recommend a used van of around 4 years old or newer; of the typical size of a Ford Transit long wheelbase with high top roof or bigger. Or to help spread the setup costs of a new business setup is to lease a new van over 3 or 4 years.

Things to think about buying used:

You will soon find out looking at used vans is no easy task, vans are work horses and do not get looked after. Trying to find one with a full service history, low mileage and without ant dents is going to take a lot of your time, that's if you can find one! A private sale, one owner is not easy to find and they normally trade their van in as a deposit against buying a new one. Their are traders who specialise in selling used lease vans or ex police vans, with low mileage. You will also so find that 99% of vans will be plus VAT! 20% is a lot of extra money to layout, unless you are VAT registered and many small businesses are not!

You will need to be quick in finding a private van, as they go quick. Try searching on ebay, auto-trader and Gumtree, with ebay you can save your search enquiry. You also need to search within your area to view, or if you are willing to travel. Traders will also have a website or listing you can view all their vans or even call them to see what they have or is coming in.You may find that private sellers can be time wasting, by not answering your enquiries, not answering the phone or returning messages. And some sellers don't even have the V5 "logbook" "It been sent to Swansea, should be back soon" This is why many people choose to lease a van, or buy used from a trader and you will be looking at spending £7,500.00 + VAT for a used van with around 80k miles or more! As below make sure there is service history, MOT's and so on...........

Ex BT or British Gas Van's - Are worth a look, can be low millage, fully serviced and come with racking.

When I first started my mobile business, I started with a van smaller than this and within 6 months I had to sell and buy a BIGGER van. I was carrying a lot of stock and needed to have it stored as not to damage, to keep good stock control and to be-able to display items to sell.
The way you kit-out your van will also have an impact on your working environment, you will need to decide if you are going to work inside or outside, from the rear or the side of the vehicle. By having your tools and workshop parts at arms reach. For working inside the van, then consider buying a box van, as this will give you more room.
A question I do get asked a lot: "How many miles do you do a year?" A. 10k  For business running costs, this will be discussed in a meeting or chat.

The Mobile Workshop: Ford Transit, LWB, High Top used van

Do consider the following options to suit your needs:
  • Buy or hire. (Also talk with your account, to see what is best for saving on TAX.) Many used vans will also have VAT added to the price.
  • Whether you will need to manoeuvre the van around tight spaces and small driveways, as well as how much space you will need inside the vehicle.
  • The model you buy may have a big difference in the cost of your insurance. Check the weight load and engine size, some vans also have a sports model! 
When viewing a potential purchase:
  • Stick to your budget
  • Make sure the service book is stamped to date and check with old MOT'S and any invoices of service and any extra work done. If advertised as full service history "f.s.h" then it should be serviced up to date. It is not unknown for service books to be faked, so check that the stamps don't all look like they were created on the same day. It is far harder to forge receipts.
  • Keys - Make sure there is a spare key and that both work
  • MOT - is valued and when expires. 
  • Mileage - The more documentation you can get hold of, the better. If the interior is more worn than you would expect it to be, the mileage clock may have been tampered with.
  • Ensuring the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) matches the one on the logbook
  • V5C -  The V5C Registration Certificate (Also known as the log book) is the official document that records the name and address of the current and previous keepers, registration, chassis and engine number, make, year, model and colour. Check the Logbook,  for ownership. If the advert say 1 owner it should be 1 owner. Also check the Taxation Class for "Light Goods Vehicle" and not HGV if over max gross weight 3500 kg's. 
  • Make sure its complete with Radio code, spare key and any locking wheel nut keys.
Check & test drive the van:
  • Bodywork - for dents, rust or any paint bubbles or repair work that may have been from an accident. Particularly on the sills, wheel arches, seams, door bottoms and suspension mountings. Check the colour and texture of the paintwork match all over and the front end for excessive stone chips in the paintwork.
  • Interior - Check wear of seats, seat belts work correctly floor mats and damage to dash.
  • Tyres - check the tyres are road legal. While 1.6mm across the middle three quarters of the wheel is the legal minimum, 3mm is a safer level for the tyre tread to be at. If tyres are wearing on the inner or outer edge, could mean the tracking is out, or part of the steering or suspension is worn. And don't forget to check the spare tyre!
  • Engine - the oil and anti-freeze levels will give you a clue as to how well the van has been maintained to date. Check under the engine for oil leaks. Look for damaged hoses and frayed drive belts. They may not be expensive to fix, but the condition of the engine can reveal the degree of care and attention the van has had. Before the van is warmed up, look at the colour of the water in the radiator. The greeny tinge of anti-freeze is fine, but oily traces or a low water level could signal leaks or, even worse, a blown cylinder head gasket. Start the engine from cold, making sure it starts ok and let the engine run to normal working temperature and the heater blows hot air out inside the cabin. Listen for tappit noise or rattles and any smoke from the exhaust Rev the engine a couple of times to clear and then check. 
  • Brakes - perform an emergency stop on a quiet road to ensure they are in full working order. Stopping in a straight line and no grinding noise or juddering.
  • Gearbox & Clutch - check how smooth the gear changes are.
  • Lights & Electrics - check all lights are working correctly, heater, wipers, electric windows, mirrors, alarm, door locks.
  • Dash warning lights - (ABS, AIR BAG, ENGINE MANAGEMENT) come on and go out after self test.  
There's a lot to remember - so why not take a checklist with you? If any of the above are not in order then you have grounds to query the van, consider other options or negotiate for a discount to put things right. These are all bargaining points that could save you money.
Post by Martin Wilkins Ex Mobile Motor Mechanic @ MW Autos. City & Guilds with over 20 years in the motor trade before setting up Cycle Tech UK back in 2008

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