Van Buyers Guide
White Van Mans Guide to Buying a Commercial Vehicle
RIGHT, so you’ve decided to splash out on a new van. This can be a bit of headache, especially if you’re not up to speed with commercial vehicles or if you’re not too sure what size or type of van you’re after.
You may be starting up a new business, or looking to expand your existing operation. You may just be the sort who does a lot of odd jobs and need somewhere to store your gear.
You could even need something a bit bigger than a car to transport your large family (and maybe a couple of dogs) around.
It doesn’t matter what you need a van for, if you jump headfirst into the van market, you could be left with your head in a spin (bit like me after a few too many on a Friday night).
Firstly, you need to decide whether you’re going to fork out for a new van, a used one or just rent one for a short period of time. Don’t worry, I won’t let you go in blind – I’ve put together a useful guide to make sure you end up with the van you want and also that no-one tries to pull a fast one on you.
Is new for you?
A nice shiny, brand new van may be an appealing prospect, but think long and hard before you head down to your local dealer. Ask yourself if you can afford to splash out all that cash on a new van. Chances are you’ll have use some sort of finance to buy the vehicle, so look at whether you can keep up with the repayments each month. Is a van really necessary for the driving you do?
On the whole, a van will cost more than a car, from the initial purchase price right through to the running costs. Fuel economy on van won’t be as good as car and once you factor in road tax, commercial vehicle insurance costs and, in some cases, congestion charges, the expenses soon mount up. So, make sure a van is what you need and consider whether your car could serve a similar purpose.
Having weighed all this up, you may decided that a van is the way forward. Okay, so firstly you’ll need to work out how you’re going to pay for it. If you’ve got your heart set on something that’s just rolled off the production line, you’re probably best looking at leasing the van.
This involves monthly payments, but they will be a lot less than those you would expect to fork out in a finance agreement. That’s because, as the month and years go by, the value of the van drops. Once your agreed term is up, the leasing company takes the van back. This means you don’t have to worry about selling the van on and you could even take on a new one through a new leasing agreement.
If you want to the option of buying the van at the end of the term, you can set up a personal contract purchase agreement.
How to get the best deal when shopping for a van.
Now, this may be rich coming from me, considering I wasn’t the most committed of school kids back in the day, but doing your homework is the key to getting a great deal on a van. You should look at the following key areas when you go shopping for a van:
Know what you want:
Let’s face it, if you’re indecisive or appear naive, a dealer will smell that inexperience and have you dancing to his tune in no time. Do your research and decide what size and type of van you want.
Are you looking for a small van, a pick-up, a 4×4 or a large van? What will you be using it for – transporting goods, people or whatever else you want? Will you need the van fitted out with ply lining or even refrigeration?
Once you know that answers to these questions, you can stride confidently into the dealers and tell him what you want. Specification Once you know what van you’re after and how much money you have to play with, have a look at what vans are within your budget and what specifications come with them.
Commercial Vehicle Shopping – Look out for:
Size: Yes, it does matter. If you’ve never driven a van before, be aware that the bigger the beast, the harder it is to handle. Think about what you’ll be hauling, be it goods, people or pets, and find a size of van that suits.
Fuel economy: Again, the bigger vans will be tougher on fuel, so if possible, look for something smaller that will be easier on the juice. You can get smaller vans with four-cylinders if fuel economy is a high priority, but most will come with V6 engines.
Some of the larger vans will even be available with V8 or V10 engines which are particularly thirsty boys and will make it harder for you to get cheap van insurance.
Fun for all the family: If you’re planning to do a lot of long journeys – especially with kids in tow – it pays to have a decent entertainment system on board. Air conditioning and ample storage will all come in handy in a family-friendly van.
Safety: Some newer vans, especially minivans, score very high for safety. Still, it’s always worth swotting up on the crash test rating of the van you have your eye on.
Interior space: What’s the room inside the van like and how many seats does it have and will they accommodate your more robust co-workers or passengers?
Cargo space: Again, depending on what you’re lugging around, the cargo space will be a big consideration. Naturally, if you’re hauling big loads, or a large family around, you’ll want plenty of room in the back of the van.
Likewise, smaller loads will rattle around in a big van so make sure you get the space that suits.
Operating costs: Although smaller vans score highly for fuel economy and cheaper van insurance, larger commercial vehicles stand up better to wear and tear and can take more of what the world throws at them. Therefore, you should try and strike a decent balance between fuel costs and maintenance costs.
Van finance: Whether you’re buying a new or used van, you’re going to be parting with a lot of dosh. For a new van, it’s worthing thinking about loans and leasing, as well as all other means of finance. The big plus with leasing is that you’ll be able to drive about in a brand, spanking new every few years and you’ll be paying a lot less each month for the privilege.
However, the downside is that leasing companies will restrict you to a set mileage because this is how they work out the residual value of the van over time.
Go over this mileage limit and you’ll be slapped with an extra charge. Therefore, a loan will be the best option if you want the freedom of driving as far as possible and then you’ll own the van outright at the end of the term.
Whatever finance you decide to go for, make sure you have it all sorted before you head down to the dealers. A lot of them may try and force their own finance deal on you, so be prepared.
Prepare yourself : If you want to buy a van, you have to take a long, hard look at yourself (woah, that sent a few shivers down by spine – just got a flashback to being the headmaster’s office at school). Don’t worry, you have to do any sole-searching, more a bit of credit-searching.
Make sure you know what sort of credit rating you have before you head into a dealers. That way, there’ll be no nasty surprises when the dealers starts to go over the paperwork. Remember, if your application for van finance is turned down, this will put a black mark on your credit profile. Therefore, it may be a good idea to get a credit report before you go off van shopping.
You can get access to you credit profile through the likes of Experian of Equifax. You should also put a bit of effort into keeping your credit profile healthy. You can do this by making sure you pay your bills when they are due.
It also helps to have been in continuous employment with the same company for at least six months and be living at the same fixed home address for a good period of time.
If bad credit is putting you in a bit of pickle when buying a van, try getting someone else on board as co-signer, just make sure you keep up with the repayments of your partner’s credit rating could take hit too. You may also be able to lob a bit more off the price of the van by trading in your old car or van.
Search online: Now, I’m not being lazy here, but what better way to search through hundreds of vans than in the comfort of your own home with a nice cuppa and a packet of chocolate Hob-Nobs (or is that just me?). Going online is the quickest and easiest way to get a good feel for the market.
You’ll get a good idea of prices and what sort of specifications you can expect in each van and you’ll also be able to check out customer reviews for the things your dealer won’t tell you.
Get your timing right: You’ll get better deals depending on what time of the year you buy at. The month before new registrations are rolled out is always a good time to get a good deal. Dealers need to make room for their new stock, so will try and move the older stuff on a knockdown prices.
With a lot of dealers working on commission and keen to hit their end-of-year targets, you may find some of them only too glad to give you a bargain just before Christmas, and it’s not just them getting in the festive mood.