Motoring expert, Oliver Hammond provides this handy guide to finding the perfect used vehicle for your business needs.
Owning a vehicle as quirky as Del Boy and Rodney’s may appeal on certain levels, but if your business is your livelihood, the first aspect to address is what type of vehicle meets your needs. I once covered a story on a florist who branded a Renault Avantime, an unusual vehicle, proving effective as a marketing tool. Many businesses, though, rely on commercial vehicles for transporting goods and equipment, from bakeries driving car-based vans like a Volkswagen Caddy, and couriers driving panel vans, such as a Ford Transit, to construction contractors who drive pickup trucks like a Nissan Navara.
Evaluating your finances and researching online are important steps in ensuring that the used car or van you purchase will deliver the economy and resale value for it to be a viable investment. Diesels are currently penalised on tax, and cost more to fill at the pump, so for frequent short trips, petrol makes sense. Better still, electric vans are gradually entering the used market, such as Nissan’s e-NV200 Combi and the Peugeot Partner Electric. Once you’ve established what type of vehicle meets your business needs, whether it’s a luxury saloon or a tipper truck, you then need to look at where to buy it. Auctions may throw up bargains but can prove risky, while privately sold vehicles advertised online and in newspapers are typically cheaper, but aren’t covered by warranties. Vehicles sold by independent or main dealers are better protected financially and legally, but are typically pricier. An advantage of buying, rather than leasing, a commercial vehicle is that it can be sign written and modified uninhibitedly, with no mileage restrictions.
To minimise the chance of buying an unsound vehicle, it’s important to inspect the one(s) you’ve shortlisted. Even private sellers should clean and empty their vehicles prior to your visit, so you can examine them, warts and all. Look for signs of rust, bodywork damage, uneven tyre wear, neglect, or abuse, and inspect the interior to see that it has been cared for. Once you and the seller are happy about insurance arrangements, take it for a test drive to see if the gear changes and engine are smooth, the exhaust doesn’t smoke or rattle, and the vehicle generally seems to drive straight and true.
If a hydraulic platform, winch, crane, or refrigeration unit is fitted, ask to see it in operation, and ensure your payload requirements are feasible. If you need a vehicle for towing, research its abilities first and see if a tow bar is already fitted. Checking the identity of the vehicle is also important, using the VIN, V5 log book and MoT certificates. Ask the seller about the vehicle’s history and usage. These days, many ‘car finder’ businesses are springing up, their knowledgeable consultants ready to undertake the whole shortlisting, inspection, and buying process for you – even for vans. Finally, taking out a thirdparty warranty is sensible if buying a used vehicle privately, as it will provide business continuity through a courtesy vehicle, should anything go wrong.