Buying a van

Paul Green, National Remarketing Manager, Wednesday, 13 July 2022
Updated: Thursday, 14 March 2024

Driving a van can be an essential part of daily life. Whether it’s to transport goods, move tools and equipment between jobs, or pack up the family and head off on a weekend road trip, a reliable van is key to having a stress-free life on the road.

We explore the many factors you should consider when buying a van. We’ll discover what you should think about, like the age, size, make, and type of van you need, and the different payment and van finance options available, so you can make an informed decision.

In this guide

What to consider when buying a van

To make sure your next van meets your needs, you can ask yourself the following questions. This way, you can book test drives and commit to a van, knowing you aren’t overspending or wasting your money.

1. How will you use your van?

The first thing you need to do is determine the primary use of your van. If you use it for work, you’ll likely need one with different features to a van used socially.

How you use your van will also affect the type of insurance you need. Read our van insurance guide to learn more about the options available.

Think about what you’ll use your van for as this will impact the following:

  • The price of the van
  • Fuel economy
  • Passenger space
  • Vehicle weight and dimensions
  • Weight distribution
  • Running costs

Extra features like roof racking or load tippers may be unnecessary if you only intend to use the van for personal journeys.

2. Your budget and payment preference

Once you know what you want from your van, you can set a budget. Vans vary in price based on age, size, and other features, so having a budget will help avoid overspending.

Running costs should be another consideration; things like van insurance, fuel tax, and maintenance are important to remember. They may affect your budget so bear them in mind before committing to a van.

You also need to decide how you’ll pay for the van. Buying outright may be the cheapest option in the long term, but you may not have a lump sum saved up. Van finance lets you spread the cost of your van over a longer time, but you’ll have to repay the borrowed amount plus interest.

3. What type of van do you need?

Choosing the correct type of van can be difficult, especially with many different types and van brands available. Some of the most common types of vans are:

  • Car-derived vans (also known as a car-derived or panel van)
  • Crew vans
  • Small vans
  • Medium vans
  • Large vans
  • Pickup trucks
  • Tipper vans
  • Dropside vans
  • Luton vans
  • Box vans
  • Curtainside vans
  • Catering vans
  • Refrigerated vans

Transmission and fuel type

Think about whether you need a manual or automatic van and if you’d prefer to have an electric or hybrid van too. Here are some questions to decide which is best:

  • Will you be making long journeys or driving in stop-start traffic? If you are making long journeys or going to city centres with lots of traffic, you may prefer the ease of having an automatic van.
  • Do you prefer petrol, diesel, or electric?

4. What size of van do you need?

Consider the size of the van to ensure it has sufficient capacity for whatever tools, equipment, or material you need to carry. You should also decide whether a short, medium, or long-wheelbase van is most appropriate for you.

The wheelbase length determines your van’s storage capacity and can affect your van’s turning circle. Long-wheelbase vans will have more load space, but their manoeuvrability will be affected.

5. The weight of your van

As well as its dimensions, you should also consider the weight restrictions of your next van. On a standard driving licence, you can drive light commercial vehicles weighing up to 3,500kg gross vehicle mass (this includes the van, the driver, any passengers, and fuel).

Any vehicle over this limit is classed as a heavy goods vehicle (HGV), and you’ll need an LGV C1 category licence to drive these. You may be issued a penalty if your vehicle is overweight. For more information, visit GOV.UK.

Things to consider when buying a new van

Buying a new van can be exciting, but there are many things to consider when deciding if new or second-hand is right for you. In this section, we explore the benefits of buying a brand-new van compared to a second-hand one.

1. Reliability

New vans are usually more reliable than used vans because they haven’t had the same use or had any wear and tear. A new van is less likely to have mechanical issues than a used one, and usually comes with a manufacturer’s warranty for peace of mind.

2. Technology and safety features

To protect drivers and their cargo, van manufacturers constantly develop new features to make life easier and safer. Buying a new van ensures you can use new features, which could improve fuel efficiency and make driving more enjoyable.

Likewise, new petrol vans will have lower fuel emissions as they must meet higher standards than older models.

3. Resale value

While new vehicles do depreciate, new vans can retain their value if they’re well-maintained. Buying a new van can be expensive, so there is a big market for used van buyers.

4. Peace of mind

If you use your van daily and it is crucial for your job, you need to know you can rely on it. Buying a new van can provide this peace of mind, and you’ll know its complete service history.

Pros of buying a brand-new van

  • Greater reliability than a used van
  • You can get the full manufacturer’s warranty
  • Enjoy the latest features and technology
  • Little or no mileage and wear and tear

Cons of buying a brand-new van

  • They are more expensive than buying used or nearly new
  • Its value may depreciate quickly in the first few years
  • It can be harder to negotiate the price of a new van than a used one
  • Limited variety compared to the used van market

Things to consider when buying a used van

Buying a used van is a popular option, but there are plenty of things to look out for when buying one.

1. The advert

Before you go and see the van, make sure to do your research. Read the vehicle’s advert and look out for the following things:

  • The price: Consider whether the van is reasonably priced when considering its age, mileage, and condition.
  • Mileage: People drive vans for an average of 12,500 miles a year, according to Go Compare. Using these numbers, you can see if the van has a lot of mileage for its age.
  • Fuel type: If you drive a lot of motorway miles, a diesel vehicle may be more appropriate, but if you only work locally, a petrol van may be more suitable.
  • Extras: Does the van have everything you need? Features like parking sensors and cruise control can all be useful on vans.

2. Payment protection

If you want to buy a used van from a dealer or garage, you can check if they have a positive reputation and are part of any trade associations. You could use their online reviews to see if they are trustworthy and if people recommend them.

If you’re considering used vans from private sellers, ensure you visit their homes to view the van; this way, you will have their address in case anything goes wrong.

3. Paperwork and service history

Be sure to check that all the paperwork is accurate, as well as the van’s history. Discrepancies with the V5C, for example, can indicate that the vehicle is or has previously been stolen.

Find out how many owners the vehicle has had and the type of work it has been used for. Van drivers often put a lot of strain on their vehicles, so check if the van’s service history is fully documented to clearly understand the van’s condition.

You can also view the van’s MOT history and tax information, and conduct an HPI check online. Doing this will confirm what the seller has told you is accurate and uncover more about the history of the van.

4. Condition

Inspect the van carefully to understand its condition. First, you can check the vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN is usually found on the bottom of the windscreen. This can be used to track manufacturer recalls, warranty claims, and more about the van.

Check the bodywork, looking for any rust, damage, or signs of oil leaks. View the condition and tread depth of the tyres. Any problems you find could be used to negotiate a lower price.

Look inside the van and see if the interior, seats, floor, and ceiling are in good condition. A dirty interior could mean that the van has not been looked after.

Next, test the electrics. Do this by starting the van and listening to the ignition. If something sounds odd or the van struggles to start, you could ask when the battery was last replaced.

Once you’ve started the van, you can check:

  • The dashboard to see if there are any warning lights
  • All lights: headlights, rear lights, fog lights, indicator lights, brake lights, hazard lights, and interior lights
  • Electric windows
  • Locking systems
  • Radio
  • Heating and air conditioning

When you’re ready, take the van for a test drive. This could be at least 15 minutes of driving on different types of roads to get an understanding of how the van drives. Read our guide ‘How to test drive a car‘ for tips on taking a successful test drive.

Pros of buying a used van

  • Lower cost than buying a new van
  • More negotiation power
  • A wider selection of vans to choose from
  • Immediate availability (some new vans need to be ordered and delivered)

Cons of buying a used van

  • There is a higher chance of mechanical failures
  • Lower fuel efficiency and higher mileage
  • You may not know the van’s entire history
  • Limited or outdated features

What's the best way to buy a van as a self-employed person?

Buying a van as a self-employed person might be crucial for your business. As a sole trader, you still have the same choices of how to pay, i.e. buying outright or using finance.

You may be able to claim your van finance on your tax returns. The amount you’re eligible to deduct depends on several factors, so make sure you check with HMRC or seek a qualified tax accountant.

Ultimately, the best way to buy a van as a sole trader depends on your budget. To help you decide, explore our guide – ‘Car finance vs personal loan: which is best?‘.

What are the rules around buying a van for personal use?

With the rise in popularity of van conversions, you may be looking to buy a new or used van that you use for weekends away and travelling. If you use a van for personal use, you will have to decide whether you want to register your van as a motor caravan with the DVLA, but this isn’t a legal requirement.

If you do want to register the van as a motor caravan, it will need to adhere to strict rules, including having the following fixtures:

  • A seating area for diners
  • A horizontal sliding door or an outward rear/side door
  • A water container

When insuring your van, you will also need to tell the insurer you use the vehicle for social, domestic, and pleasure only, as opposed to for business purposes.

Van buying options

Here, we explore the different ways of paying for a van to help you make the best decision for your budget.

Buying a van outright

Buying a van outright will be cheaper in the long run if you have the money upfront.

You might consider a personal loan if you don’t have the funds available. While this will accumulate interest over time, you may be able to claim up to 100% VAT back on the monthly payments, provided the van is for business use only.

Explore the differences between business and personal use, whether van finance repayments are tax deductible, and more in our ‘Is van finance tax deductible?‘ guide.

Leasing a van

Leasing a van is a popular option for many, although you won’t ever own the van. You’ll rent it over an agreed period for a fixed monthly rental, returning it to the dealership or leasing company when the agreement ends.

If you decide to lease a van, there are things to consider before signing an agreement, including:

  • Mileage restrictions: Most leasing agreements have mileage allowances, and you’ll be charged a fee if you exceed these.
  • Maintenance costs: Some van leasing companies cover maintenance costs as part of your agreement, so ask about this before signing your agreement.
  • VAT deductions: if your business is VAT-registered and your van is only for business use, you may be able to claim back the cost of the rental payments as a tax-deductible expense.

Finance agreements

There are several types of van finance to help you buy a new or used van. The best option depends on your circumstances and whether you want to become the van’s legal owner at the end of your agreement.

With any finance agreement, the repayment terms and interest rates lenders offer may vary depending on lots of factors. These include affordability, your credit score, and if you’ve missed any payments in the past. Discover how to check your credit score and the steps you can take to improve your credit rating on our blog.

If you’re stuck between leasing or buying a van, we’ve created a guide exploring the differences – Should you lease or buy your next van?

Conditional Sale

A Conditional Sale (CS) agreement is the type of van finance we offer at Moneybarn.

As part of our CS finance, you’ll pay a deposit then borrow the remaining amount to cover the cost of your van. You’ll then make monthly payments over an agreed period, and you’ll legally own the van once you make your final payment

Unlike other types of finance, like PCP or HP, you won’t need to pay an additional fee or balloon payment to own the van.

During the agreement, you will be the registered keeper, meaning you have full access to the van and are responsible for maintaining it.

At Moneybarn, we specialise in bad credit van finance and have helped thousands of drivers across the UK get the vehicles they need. Try out our van finance calculator to see what your agreement could look like.

Representative 30.7% APR.

FAQs about buying a van

If you purchase a van for personal use, you will pay 20% VAT. VAT-registered businesses and sole traders may be able to claim back the VAT they are charged for buying a new van by sending a VAT return to HMRC. When selling the van, the VAT-registered company or sole trader must charge VAT to the buyer.

Like all vehicles, vans may depreciate quickly in their first few years after being bought. However, if they are well-maintained, they typically don’t lose as much value as, for example, a car.

When you come to sell your van, ensure it’s in good condition and that you can provide its full service history to maximise its resale value.

If you’re buying a van for business use, whether you buy outright, lease, or finance the van, there are various implications on the vehicle excise duty/road tax.

When you buy a van outright, you may be able to claim the cost of it against your income tax bill, but how you go about this will depend on how you pay taxes.

If you purchase a van on finance, you may be able to claim up to 100% VAT back on the monthly payments if your business is VAT-registered. As with buying a van outright, you may also be able to claim the van rental cost as an expense when filling out your tax return.

Explore more in our ‘Is van tax deductible?‘ guide and the GOV.UK website.

Driving a van can be an essential part of daily life. Whether it’s to transport goods, move tools and equipment between jobs, or pack up the family and head off on a weekend road trip, a reliable van is key to having a stress-free life on the road.

We explore the many factors you should consider when buying a van. We’ll discover what you should think about, like the age, size, make, and type of van you need, and the different payment and van finance options available, so you can make an informed decision.

In this guide

What to consider when buying a van

To make sure your next van meets your needs, you can ask yourself the following questions. This way, you can book test drives and commit to a van, knowing you aren’t overspending or wasting your money.

1. How will you use your van?

The first thing you need to do is determine the primary use of your van. If you use it for work, you’ll likely need one with different features to a van used socially.

How you use your van will also affect the type of insurance you need. Read our van insurance guide to learn more about the options available.

Think about what you’ll use your van for as this will impact the following:

  • The price of the van
  • Fuel economy
  • Passenger space
  • Vehicle weight and dimensions
  • Weight distribution
  • Running costs

Extra features like roof racking or load tippers may be unnecessary if you only intend to use the van for personal journeys.

2. Your budget and payment preference

Once you know what you want from your van, you can set a budget. Vans vary in price based on age, size, and other features, so having a budget will help avoid overspending.

Running costs should be another consideration; things like van insurance, fuel tax, and maintenance are important to remember. They may affect your budget so bear them in mind before committing to a van.

You also need to decide how you’ll pay for the van. Buying outright may be the cheapest option in the long term, but you may not have a lump sum saved up. Van finance lets you spread the cost of your van over a longer time, but you’ll have to repay the borrowed amount plus interest.

3. What type of van do you need?

Choosing the correct type of van can be difficult, especially with many different types and van brands available. Some of the most common types of vans are:

  • Car-derived vans (also known as a car-derived or panel van)
  • Crew vans
  • Small vans
  • Medium vans
  • Large vans
  • Pickup trucks
  • Tipper vans
  • Dropside vans
  • Luton vans
  • Box vans
  • Curtainside vans
  • Catering vans
  • Refrigerated vans

Transmission and fuel type

Think about whether you need a manual or automatic van and if you’d prefer to have an electric or hybrid van too. Here are some questions to decide which is best:

  • Will you be making long journeys or driving in stop-start traffic? If you are making long journeys or going to city centres with lots of traffic, you may prefer the ease of having an automatic van.
  • Do you prefer petrol, diesel, or electric?

4. What size of van do you need?

Consider the size of the van to ensure it has sufficient capacity for whatever tools, equipment, or material you need to carry. You should also decide whether a short, medium, or long-wheelbase van is most appropriate for you.

The wheelbase length determines your van’s storage capacity and can affect your van’s turning circle. Long-wheelbase vans will have more load space, but their manoeuvrability will be affected.

5. The weight of your van

As well as its dimensions, you should also consider the weight restrictions of your next van. On a standard driving licence, you can drive light commercial vehicles weighing up to 3,500kg gross vehicle mass (this includes the van, the driver, any passengers, and fuel).

Any vehicle over this limit is classed as a heavy goods vehicle (HGV), and you’ll need an LGV C1 category licence to drive these. You may be issued a penalty if your vehicle is overweight. For more information, visit GOV.UK.

Things to consider when buying a new van

Buying a new van can be exciting, but there are many things to consider when deciding if new or second-hand is right for you. In this section, we explore the benefits of buying a brand-new van compared to a second-hand one.

1. Reliability

New vans are usually more reliable than used vans because they haven’t had the same use or had any wear and tear. A new van is less likely to have mechanical issues than a used one, and usually comes with a manufacturer’s warranty for peace of mind.

2. Technology and safety features

To protect drivers and their cargo, van manufacturers constantly develop new features to make life easier and safer. Buying a new van ensures you can use new features, which could improve fuel efficiency and make driving more enjoyable.

Likewise, new petrol vans will have lower fuel emissions as they must meet higher standards than older models.

3. Resale value

While new vehicles do depreciate, new vans can retain their value if they’re well-maintained. Buying a new van can be expensive, so there is a big market for used van buyers.

4. Peace of mind

If you use your van daily and it is crucial for your job, you need to know you can rely on it. Buying a new van can provide this peace of mind, and you’ll know its complete service history.

Pros of buying a brand-new van

  • Greater reliability than a used van
  • You can get the full manufacturer’s warranty
  • Enjoy the latest features and technology
  • Little or no mileage and wear and tear

Cons of buying a brand-new van

  • They are more expensive than buying used or nearly new
  • Its value may depreciate quickly in the first few years
  • It can be harder to negotiate the price of a new van than a used one
  • Limited variety compared to the used van market

Things to consider when buying a used van

Buying a used van is a popular option, but there are still plenty of things to consider and look out for during the buying process.

1. The advert

Before you go and see the van, make sure to do your research. Read the vehicle’s advert and look out for the following things:

  • The price: Consider whether the van is reasonably priced when considering its age, mileage, and condition.
  • Mileage: People drive vans for an average of 12,500 miles a year, according to Go Compare. Using these numbers, you can see if the van has a lot of mileage for its age.
  • Fuel type: If you drive a lot of motorway miles, a diesel vehicle may be more appropriate, but if you only work locally, a petrol van may be more suitable.
  • Extras: Does the van have everything you need? Features like parking sensors and cruise control can all be useful on vans.

2. Payment protection

If you want to buy a used van from a dealer or garage, you can check if they have a positive reputation and are part of any trade associations. You could use their online reviews to see if they are trustworthy and if people recommend them.

If you’re considering used vans from private sellers, ensure you visit their homes to view the van; this way, you will have their address in case anything goes wrong.

3. Paperwork and service history

Be sure to check that all the paperwork is accurate, as well as the van’s history. Discrepancies with the V5C, for example, can indicate that the vehicle is or has previously been stolen.

Find out how many owners the vehicle has had and the type of work it has been used for. Van drivers often put a lot of strain on their vehicles, so check if the van’s service history is fully documented to clearly understand the van’s condition.

You can also view the van’s MOT history and tax information, and conduct an HPI check online. Doing this will confirm what the seller has told you is accurate and uncover more about the history of the van.

4. Condition

Inspect the van carefully to understand its condition. First, you can check the vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN is usually found on the bottom of the windscreen. This can be used to track manufacturer recalls, warranty claims, and more about the van.

Check the bodywork, looking for any rust, damage, or signs of oil leaks. View the condition and tread depth of the tyres. Any problems you find could be used to negotiate a lower price.

Look inside the van and see if the interior, seats, floor, and ceiling are in good condition. A dirty interior could mean that the van has not been looked after.

Next, test the electrics. Do this by starting the van and listening to the ignition. If something sounds odd or the van struggles to start, you could ask when the battery was last replaced.

Once you’ve started the van, you can check:

  • The dashboard to see if there are any warning lights
  • All lights: headlights, rear lights, fog lights, indicator lights, brake lights, hazard lights, and interior lights
  • Electric windows
  • Locking systems
  • Radio
  • Heating and air conditioning

When you’re ready, take the van for a test drive. This could be at least 15 minutes of driving on different types of roads to get an understanding of how the van drives. Read our guide ‘How to test drive a car‘ for tips on taking a successful test drive.

Pros of buying a used van

  • Lower cost than buying a new van
  • More negotiation power
  • A wider selection of vans to choose from
  • Immediate availability (some new vans need to be ordered and delivered)

Cons of buying a used van

  • There is a higher chance of mechanical failures
  • Lower fuel efficiency and higher mileage
  • You may not know the van’s entire history
  • Limited or outdated features

What's the best way to buy a van as a self-employed person?

Buying a van as a self-employed person might be crucial for your business. As a sole trader, you still have the same choices of how to pay, i.e. buying outright or using finance.

You may be able to claim your van finance on your tax returns. The amount you’re eligible to deduct depends on several factors, so make sure you check with HMRC or seek a qualified tax accountant.

Ultimately, the best way to buy a van as a sole trader depends on your budget. To help you decide, explore our guide – ‘Car finance vs personal loan: which is best?‘.

What are the rules around buying a van for personal use?

With the rise in popularity of van conversions, you may be looking to buy a new or used van that you use for weekends away and travelling. If you use a van for personal use, you will have to decide whether you want to register your van as a motor caravan with the DVLA, but this isn’t a legal requirement.

If you do want to register the van as a motor caravan, it will need to adhere to strict rules, including having the following fixtures:

  • A seating area for diners
  • A horizontal sliding door or an outward rear/side door
  • A water container

When insuring your van, you will also need to tell the insurer you use the vehicle for social, domestic, and pleasure only, as opposed to for business purposes.

Van buying options

Here, we explore the different ways of paying for a van to help you make the best decision for your budget.

Buying a van outright

Buying a van outright will be cheaper in the long run if you have the money upfront.

You might consider a personal loan if you don’t have the funds available. While this will accumulate interest over time, you may be able to claim up to 100% VAT back on the monthly payments, provided the van is for business use only.

Explore the differences between business and personal use, whether van finance repayments are tax deductible, and more in our ‘Is van finance tax deductible?‘ guide.

Leasing a van

Leasing a van is a popular option for many, although you won’t ever own the van. You’ll rent it over an agreed period for a fixed monthly rental, returning it to the dealership or leasing company when the agreement ends.

If you decide to lease a van, there are things to consider before signing an agreement, including:

  • Mileage restrictions: Most leasing agreements have mileage allowances, and you’ll be charged a fee if you exceed these.
  • Maintenance costs: Some van leasing companies cover maintenance costs as part of your agreement, so ask about this before signing your agreement.
  • VAT deductions: if your business is VAT-registered and your van is only for business use, you may be able to claim back the cost of the rental payments as a tax-deductible expense.

Finance agreements

There are several types of van finance to help you buy a new or used van. The best option depends on your circumstances and whether you want to become the van’s legal owner at the end of your agreement.

With any finance agreement, the repayment terms and interest rates lenders offer may vary depending on lots of factors. These include affordability, your credit score, and if you’ve missed any payments in the past. Discover how to check your credit score and the steps you can take to improve your credit rating on our blog.

If you’re stuck between leasing or buying a van, we’ve created a guide exploring the differences – Should you lease or buy your next van?

Conditional Sale

A Conditional Sale (CS) agreement is the type of van finance we offer at Moneybarn.

As part of our CS finance, you’ll pay a deposit then borrow the remaining amount to cover the cost of your van. You’ll then make monthly payments over an agreed period, and you’ll legally own the van once you make your final payment

Unlike other types of finance, like PCP or HP, you won’t need to pay an additional fee or balloon payment to own the van.

During the agreement, you will be the registered keeper, meaning you have full access to the van and are responsible for maintaining it.

At Moneybarn, we specialise in bad credit van finance and have helped thousands of drivers across the UK get the vehicles they need. Try out our van finance calculator to see what your agreement could look like.

Representative 30.7% APR.

FAQs about buying a van

If you purchase a van for personal use, you will pay 20% VAT. VAT-registered businesses and sole traders may be able to claim back the VAT they are charged for buying a new van by sending a VAT return to HMRC. When selling the van, the VAT-registered company or sole trader must charge VAT to the buyer.

Like all vehicles, vans may depreciate quickly in their first few years after being bought. However, if they are well-maintained, they typically don’t lose as much value as, for example, a car.

When you come to sell your van, ensure it’s in good condition and that you can provide its full service history to maximise its resale value.

If you’re buying a van for business use, whether you buy outright, lease, or finance the van, there are various implications on the vehicle excise duty/road tax.

When you buy a van outright, you may be able to claim the cost of it against your income tax bill, but how you go about this will depend on how you pay taxes.

If you purchase a van on finance, you may be able to claim up to 100% VAT back on the monthly payments if your business is VAT-registered. As with buying a van outright, you may also be able to claim the van rental cost as an expense when filling out your tax return.

Explore more in our ‘Is van tax deductible?‘ guide and the GOV.UK website.

 
Paul Green, National Remarketing Manager
Bringing you tips on buying and maintaining your vehicle to make life on the road less stressful.
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