Van Buying Guide

Van Buying Guide

Buying a van requires a healthy dose of patience and a keen eye for detail if you’re going to find the perfect match for your needs. From its past to its intended future, there’s a lot to consider throughout the process, so let’s dive right in to help you find the van for you.

What to consider before buying a van

Before you head to any forecourts in search of your ideal van, it’s important to nail down what you’re after so you can save yourself time in the long run. Here’s what you need to bear in mind to narrow down your options:

The size of the van

If you’re buying a van for business, you’ll have a good idea what you need it for by now, but it’s a good idea to measure up before you start looking properly. Whether it’s toolboxes, flowers, food crates or general heavy loads you’ll be transporting around, get the dimensions confirmed so you can filter out the vans that will be either too small or too big for your needs.

Your daily requirements from the van

As well as knowing the size you need, you’ll want a good understanding of what its day-to-day will look like. If you’ll be towing on a frequent basis, you might consider a rear wheel drive or if you’re going to be offroad a lot, a 4WD might be a better fit.

Think about the weight you’ll be carrying, too; most vans have a maximum load they can take, so be sure to keep daily weight in mind to make sure you won’t be driving illegally over the vehicle limit.

The history of the van

One of the most important considerations is around the history of the van you choose. If it’s used, look into whether or not it’s been a work van in the past and what effect that might have had on its condition.

A florist’s van, for instance, that’s only been used for deliveries around a single city may well have a different history of servicing and repairs to a van that belonged to a broadband provider that’s been up and down the motorway a thousand times. Mileage is obviously a factor, but it’s also about the wear and tear and level of care it’s experienced over the years. That’s why it’s important (as it is with any vehicle) to check the logbook and ask the right questions of the owner so you fully understand the vehicle’s history.

The fuel type and economy

You have a few options when it comes to fuel type for your van: petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric. Where possible, try to think about the long-term requirements so you can be sure you’re getting the right van for both you and the environment. Electric vans, for example, might seem expensive at the point of purchase or hire purchase (HP), but they might well be cheaper in the long run for your particular business.

Don’t forget to bear in mind the ULEZ rules that are applicable to vans driving in London and other major cities, too, as this could have an impact on which vehicle you choose and where and when you use it.

Should I buy a new or used van?

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to getting a new van, but perhaps the greatest factor is cost. On the one hand, a new van will obviously cost more than a used one, but on the other hand, it might have fewer problems and last longer for your business. How much you plan to use your van and how much you can put towards it will help you choose between new and used models, so be sure to plan this in detail.

Weigh up your options and try to calculate yearly costs if you can – this can help you decide how to finance a van and make it cost-efficient. At Go Car Credit, we may be able to help you spread out the costs of your van with a hire purchase deal, even if you have bad credit history.

What to do if you’re buying a van and you’re self-employed

Buying a van for your business if you’re self-employed comes with its own unique set of considerations. Depending on how you calculate and pay your tax, you might be able to claim a van as a capital allowance if you buy it outright but consult your accountant before going ahead with any kind of purchase.

If you want to keep initial costs down as a sole trader, for instance, you might want to look at a hire purchase agreement for a new van. That way, you can keep your outgoings set to an expected monthly payment and avoid the significant cost of buying your own vehicle. A HP deal means that you will not own the van outright unless you decide to purchase it in full at the end of the agreement. Be aware that it can sometimes be more difficult for self-employed people to get such deals, especially if they have bad credit history.

You can find out more about how van finance works here and self-employed van finance here.

Inspecting your van

When it comes to looking at and testing a van before you buy, there are a few things you should check to make sure it’s in full working order.


You’ll want to be buying a van with good tyres that aren’t worn, so check the treads to make sure they’re even and well-balanced (wear on the inner or outer edges might indicate wheel misalignment, so take a close look).


It’s a good idea to check a van’s engine when it’s cold if possible, so try ringing ahead before a viewing to request this. If you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking for in the engine, consider taking a mechanic with you – you can purchase vehicle inspections from most reputable garages or even the AA.


You don’t have to be driving the van to check its suspension. Simply push down on each corner and test how it springs back to normal – if it continues to bounce, there might be an issue to investigate.


As with any vehicle, you’ll want to give the brakes a good test out on the road. Try them at different speeds and, if possible, in different conditions if you can do a couple of test drives.


Testing the electrics is a very important part of a vehicle check to make sure it’s legal for the road, so be sure to try all the lights, including the fog light and brake lights.

Steering and handling

On your test drive, check the steering on acceleration and braking, making sure it doesn’t veer off in a certain direction. Pay attention to the smoothness of the handling around corners and roundabouts, too.


The paint job on the van can be a good indicator of how well it’s been looked after, so check all over to see if there are any signs of damage.


Another good way to tell how well a van has been cared for is checking everything inside, from the seatbelts to the air conditioning fans. Be thorough as this is where any bad habits of previous drivers might be most obvious.

Relevant and up-to-date paperwork

Last but not least, check the paperwork for services, repairs and MOTs carried out over the years and ask about any receipts if applicable.

The van buying process

If you’ve chosen the van you want and you’ve checked it over at least two or three times, whether it’s at a dealership or with a private seller, you’re ready to start the negotiation.

It’s a good idea to go into the van buying process with a couple of options so you’re not tied to one vehicle in particular, but don’t be distracted by dealers trying to upsell. Shop around to understand the current market prices for the type of van you’re going for, bearing in mind the age and the mileage as well as all of the above.

Keep the maximum price you’re willing to pay to yourself and feel free to haggle (armed with the details of other offers or vehicles elsewhere, if appropriate). It’s normal to negotiate the best price for such an expensive item, so don’t be afraid to politely decline and walk away if the price isn’t right for you. There are plenty of vans out there.

If the price is right for you, you’ll then be ready to go through all the paperwork required to make the van yours. If you’re opting for a hire purchase deal, you’ll need to bring proof of income, such as payslips or bank statements, and also other details for an affordability test, which include your typical monthly expenses.

Don’t forget to get copies of all signed paperwork and, of course, the all-important logbook before you finalise everything. Once you’ve agreed the purchase of your new van, all you’ll need to do is get insurance and road tax sorted before you’re ready to hit the road and enjoy it.

For more information about securing van finance if you have bad credit, head to our guide.