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So, you need to buy a van for your business – where to start? What do you need to consider before parting with your hard earned money to ensure that you buy wisely and can drive around in your new van, safe in the knowledge that you have the right vehicle for your needs?

Here is a brief guide to help you make the right buying decision.

  1. What van?

First of all, you need to think about the job that you do and what it is that you need the van to do for you. If you are doing a sandwich round in your local area then you could probably manage with a small van such as a VW Caddy, Peugeot Partner or a Citroen Berlingo.

However, if you are a plumber or a mechanic and carry lots of heavy tools around then you are more likely to need a bigger van that can carry heavy loads such as a Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter or Volkswagen Crafter. It’s not only dangerous to overload a van it is also against the law to do so.

Another consideration is the image that the van is going to give to your customers. Take www.charlottescupboard.com, a mobile retail shop, for instance. It was important to them to buy an electric powered vehicle to take their deliveries of plastic free groceries to their customers. A diesel or petrol version would have given the wrong impression and would have been at odds with the ethos of their business.

  1. Reliability?

There is nothing more maddening, or more costly in terms of lost business, than to be let down by an unreliable vehicle. Because your business relies on you and your tools or products getting to your customers it can be devastating if your van is off the road, even if it is only for a day or two.

Regular servicing can help as it will hopefully flag up any issues before they become a major problem but it also helps to choose a van with a good reliability track record. This website, Parkers.co.uk, has a detailed report built upon data from the 50 largest fleet operators around the UK which clearly show the most reliable vans you can buy – well worth a read.

  1. What will it cost to run?

You should consider how much a van will cost to run and not just for the fuel. You should also look at the maintenance costs so keep an eye out for road tests on any vehicle you are considering buying and also talk to people who already own it.

Another consideration is the cost of insuring your van and it is certainly worth using a comparison website such as www.comparevaninsurance.com to find the best deals. One way of reducing the insurance on a van is to pick one from a low insurance group and consider adding security devices to help protect your van – both of these considerations can help to lower your yearly premiums.

  1. New or second hand?

This is a decision that is likely to be driven mainly by your budget, although other considerations do come into it. A brand new van is going to be more reliable and economical and will come with a warranty, however the price tag will be very high and the depreciation will be hefty.

A second hand choice is likely to be kinder on your wallet in the first instance, but checking out the condition of a van is not easy and, by their very nature, they’re likely to have had a harder life leading to difficult-to-detect suspension wear and tear. Beware of anything that looks like a bargain and, if possible, get the van checked over by an experienced mechanic prior to purchasing any second hand van.

  1. How easy is it to use?

This may seem obvious but because vans come in so many shapes and sizes these days it comes as no surprise that not all of them are a perfect fit. When taking it out on a test drive make sure that the visibility from the mirrors is good. You need to be able to clearly see all round the vehicle, with no blind spots.

How easy is it to get in and out of the driver’s or passenger doors? This may seem an obvious one but if you are short it could be an issue. Likewise, is there a step to help you gain access to the back? Paying attention to the little things that help to make your working day run smoothly will pay off in the long run.

  1. Where will you be driving?

If you are doing long distances on main roads and motorways you need to take into consideration the fuel economy of the van and how comfortable it will be to sit in for long durations. The driver’s position is particularly important and extras such as air conditioning, more comfortable seating and a decent radio system make for a happier, safer driver.

If, however, your journeys will be mostly town or city based, perhaps an automatic transmission will be easier on the driver. If you happen to be driving around London in the future then you will need to take into account the London Ultra Low Emission Zone and ensure that your van is compliant when the rule comes into effect in 2019.

  1. Breakdown recovery?

In the UK, we have a small number of breakdown recovery firms that provide roadside recovery where and when required but be warned, whilst you may feel inclined to simply renew your yearly policy with companies such as the AA Breakdown Recovery, policy costs do increase year on year, whether or not you’ve actually called them out.

We know of an AA customer who had been with them for over 10 years and was paying over £200 a year for breakdown recovery. He decided to cancel his contract with the AA and instantly re-join under the same services he previously had, and his yearly charge suddenly dropped to just £99!

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