Buying a used van is a very attractive proposition, specially if the vehicle you are eyeing has depreciated enough that its price is very low compared to a new model. Unlike cars, however, you should expect a van to have had a hard life. Vans are commercial vehicles, and one should expect that they have been used as such when you buy a used van.
You can buy a used van from dealers or from a private seller. In terms of protection for the buyer, one can be better off with going to a dealer because they are legally obliged to sell vehicles that are of decent quality and roadworthiness. Depending on the country, there are also statutory warranties that are in effect when you buy a vehicle from a licensed dealer. But most buyers should realize that dealers operate with the goal of extracting maximum profit from each and every vehicle that passes through their lot. So while you will get the protection that will give you peace of mind, it’s also a disconcerting thought that you could have possibly bought a better van by going to a private seller.
As with buying a used car, you should check the van’s mechanical condition thoroughly since, as we’ve said, vans usually have had a harder life as compared to a car. While bearing in mind that manufacturers use sturdier structures and components when producing their vans, one should check the condition of the engine, cooling system, suspension, brakes and transmission. If you cannot do this yourself, bring a mechanic along. Since you should be doing a test drive anyway, this will be an excellent occasion to see if those major components are working as they should.
As a buyer transacting with a private seller, also bear in mind that a seller’s only legal obligation is to describe the van he is selling accurately. There are shady people who resort to pretending to be a private seller in order to sell a sub-standard or stolen vehicle. But by doing the proper documentation and history checks, you may find a terrific deal. If you’re spending thousands when you buy a used van, what’s spending 50 dollars to pull information about the van from a history checking service? Here, you’ll get ownership details, odometer verification, lien and accident history and many more details. Some services even offer a buy back guarantee if they miss something significant.
On your own, you can check if the vehicle is being sold for a suspiciously low price and if the VIN numbers match those on the registration certificate. The seller’s name should also be in the registration documents. A long-time owner will also be able to produce receipts, maybe dealer inspections and some form of maintenance log. Shady sellers won’t have those. If the locks on the van don’t open with the same key, know that thieves sometimes change locks to mask the fact that one was destroyed to get into the van. One other factor that should arouse your suspicion is if the seller wants to consummate the transaction faster than normal.