When you’re setting out to purchase a used van for courier work, knowing which van is right for you can be a daunting task. In reality; it’s simple!
If you’re only delivering small items locally, you’re going to need a smaller vehicle that is designed for easy maneuverability around busy cities and small country lanes. However, if you’re going cross country or cross continent (on a ferry with Freightlink perhaps), you’re going to need a larger model that is capable of traveling long distances with a heavy load. This includes the correct horsepower and fuel efficiency that will get you from one destination to the other. Buying a van that is not suitable for your line of work is just going to lead to one thing – empty pockets.
Bigger is not always better! Once you have identified what type of van is best for you and your cargo – it’s all down to the type. Make sure you do your research into what brands are best; ask a colleague or a friend, research online or even better, follow our simple guide.
Winner of the WhatVan Small Van of the Year 2018 award and UK Police van of choice, the little brother of the classic Transit is not the prettiest to look at, but it has a brilliant reputation for economical and road worthy reliability. We recently featured the new model in our '8 New Commercial Vans for 2018' article.
Like many of its competitors, the Connect offers varying load lengths with different models giving up to 4m2 cargo space and the capability of carrying around 1,000kg.
The ECOBoost petrol provides reasonable fuel consumption at 50.4mpg, but performance suffers. The 1.5l TDCi Diesel Engine would be a good standard choice with capability ranging between 58.9 – 68.9 mpg.
All Connects offer a 60l fuel tank allowing for long range between fill ups, whilst services are advised every year or every 20,000 miles.
Runner up this year and winner of last years’ award – the Fiorino is credited as the best van for exclusive Urban use.
Its compacted body is the smallest model Fiat offers and allows for smooth maneuverability round tight cities and windy country roads. With dimensions of up to 2.8m3 with the passenger seat down (2.5m3 load space) and a weight load of up to 660kg, the deceptively small van offers more load space than a car cum van of its size such as the Fiesta-van or the Corsa-van.
Models include a standard 1.4l engine and a diesel capable of around 64.2mpg, with the ECOjet version offering a staggering 72.4mpg.
Services for the Fiorino are advised at every 21,000 miles.
Winner of the Large Van award 2017, the Daily is available with 2.3l and 3.0l engines. It is one of the only vans on the market offering a separate chassis and body – this allows for heavier loads to be carried much like a truck of a much larger size. This beast offers a staggering 7 tonne capability or 20m3 maximum load volume. It remains unmatched by any other van on the market.
The newer models of the Daily allow for a fuel saving of up to 12% when compared to its predecessors. However, the Iveco is far from the most economically viable van on the road. With up to 40mpg, the load volume available makes this the van’s greatest feature but if you are unlikely to its maximum capability, this van may not be for you.
One of the longest running models on the market, Sprinters offer a great all round experience for carrying of large loads. With a load volume of up to 17m3 and a 5.5 tonne weight range, the Sprinter offers an impressive capability for goods.
It is also revered for its safety features. This model is renowned for being your best friend during long drives. Newer models offer a self-cleaning reversing camera and rain sensor, while even the older versions come with four point parking sensors and an reinforced cabin.
Whilst this gives an idea of some of the hundreds of vans on the market, it is very important you do your own research into what kind of van is best for you.
You are the only person who’s driving this van, so make sure all of your priorities are met beforehand. Decide what is important to you; is it -
The fact you are buying a used van is no excuse for compromise. The happier you are with your purchase; the more likely you are to have a happy journey.
Once you have identified your preferred model, get wise to prices. Don’t get ripped off if you’re buying a ten year old Fiesta-van at the price of a ‘64 Citroen Relay. Alternatively, be wary of ‘steals’. Even if a van a couple of thousand pounds less than its competitors seems like a brilliant bargain, there is probably a reason for it being so cheap. You’d be better off paying standard market value for a smooth runner than getting a van for a few hundred less and having to fork over thousands in unexpected costs (the nastiest of surprises).
Be it online or in person, make sure that you are buying your van from a reputable source. To make sure you’re not being taken for a ride, check with fellow couriers in your area. Look for a well known seller who can show you the origins of the van. If you choose to buy online, make sure it’s from an official website with good reviews. If you choose to buy your vehicle from a seller on Ebay or Gumtree, NEVER, EVER exchange money until you have been to see the van, taken it for a test drive and are confident of its road worthiness. You have no idea what you are buying from a short description and a couple of photos online.
Never be seduced by a great deal or good reputation. Each van is individual and has its own quirks and faults. Before you purchase a van, ALWAYS go and visit it and take it for a test drive. If you’re refused, walk away. No reputable seller with nothing to hide would ever deny a potential buyer the chance for a look and a test. If you are unsure, ask someone to go with you. An extra pair of eyes always helps.
Always perform the three point check:
A dodgy appearance could indicate problems with the vehicle.
Check the exterior of the van is as expected. Whilst minor rusts or dents can be just a sign of general ware and tear, they are also an indication of how well the van has been looked after and whether there are any structural issues. Common places to look are below wheel arches and around the door frame – if it cracks under gentle pressure this is could mean there is corrosion in the frame work. Also, look at any damage to the paintwork as this may indicate that some work has been carried out. Verify this with both the owner and the vehicles’ service history log book to ensure this repair was registered.
The interior is just as important as the exterior. Make sure the inside of the cabin is in good nick. Excessive damage for the number of miles the van is clocked at could mean the meter has been altered. Make sure all windows and lights work. Any problems could mean there are issues with the van’s electrics. Seatbelt and locking mechanism failure could result in safety issues. Also, if there are any dashboard indicators on this could mean impending failure of the vehicle.
It’s all in the performance. If something isn’t working as it should; there is a reason.
Make sure all lights on the vehicle are working. If they are flickering or dimmer than expected this could mean there is an issue with the overall electrical health of the van.
If you press on the corner of the van and it bounces back then this means the shock absorbers should be in good shape. A test drive will should allay any concerns.
If the van has aircon, check that it works on all power settings and doesn’t make excessive noise. Make sure you check all heater vents.
On your test drive, test the vehicle’s stopping capabilities in different environments; both smoothly and sharply. Also, check for suspicious noise, ie no squeaking or grinding.
A poor work-van blames its tools. But they could result in problems.
Your tyres are the only thing between you and the road. Make sure to check all of your treads and sidewalls, including the spare. A tread of less than 1.6mm is illegal in the UK. They should be free from damage. If they are not this could indicate steering or suspension issues.
Your bonnet should be cold before starting the vehicle. Look out for any smoke or unusual noises both upon starting and driving the van. This could indicate engine failure.
When you drive the van, make sure the steering is immediate and responsive. Any lagging or juddering could be because of issues.
Always double check the details of the van against the DVLA’s online database. Make sure all the information matches as it should.
Also, never buy a van without proof of a full service history with certification of any work carried out. Failure to do either could result in an unexpected breakdown. Even worse, the police could be knocking at your door asking why you have a van with false plates or why you are in possession of an unroadworthy or stolen vehicle.
If you are ever in doubt, consult a friend or colleague with the expertise to make an uniformed purchase.