Top Ten Common Problems to Check for When Buying a Used Van

Buying used can be a wise choice for individuals or larger businesses looking to save money or expand their existing fleet without breaking the bank. However, it’s essential to know what to look out for when making such a significant purchase to avoid costly pitfalls further down the road. 

If a reliable van is the workhorse of your business, ensuring you’re getting a good one could be one of the most important decisions you make. To help you navigate the process, here are the top ten common problems to check for when buying a used van. 

One: Miles on the Clock and Service History

The mileage of a van can give you a good insight into its overall condition and can give you an idea of how many more miles you might get out of it. However, it’s not just about the number displayed on the odometer, the service history can be just as important. A well-maintained and regularly serviced van is what you should be looking for. It’s going to cost more for something that’s been well looked after, but buying cheap is often a false economy. 

Two: Check that Bodywork for Rust

Always inspect the van’s bodywork for signs of rust, dents, or holes. Rust can be a significant problem that will only worsen if left unremedied, especially in older vans or those that have been exposed to harsh weather conditions. 

Pay close attention to the areas most prone to rust. The wheel arches, window sills, and door frames are the usual offenders.

Three: A Healthy Well-Maintained Engine

The engine of the van is the beating heart of the vehicle, so it’s crucial to make sure it’s all in good condition. Listen out for any weird noises, like knocking or rattling when the engine is running. A smooth consistent purr is what you want to hear. 

Also, keep your eyes open for signs of smoke coming from the exhaust. This can be a telltale sign that something’s off with the engine and possibly a reason to pass on that vehicle.

Four: Check your Fluids and Seals.

Inspect the van for any signs of leaks. Look underneath the vehicle, around the engine bay and the oil sump, also under the bonnet.

Check the fluid levels. Check the oil, coolant, and brake fluid. Look for any signs of contamination or low levels, as this could be a sign of a sneaky leak.

Five: Electrics (This one might require a pro!)

Modern vans are equipped with a load of different electrical systems, from lights and indicators to engine management sensors and power steering. Like the nervous system of the van, these must all be in healthy condition. 

It can be a good idea to take someone with some expertise along when buying a used van to check over the electrics, as issues in this area can be expensive to diagnose and repair.  

Six: Suspension and Steering

A van’s suspension and steering play a huge role in its handling and safety, so it’s always important to give them a good once-over. Get your nose in and check for any signs of excessive wear or damage. Uneven tyre wear is a red flag that could indicate the tracking is misaligned. Also, try to check for fluid leaks from the shock absorbers. 

Seven: Brakes and Tyres

While they are relatively cheap to replace, your brakes and tyres are critical for the safety of the van, so it’s essential to make sure they’re changed regularly. Make sure there’s plenty of life left in the brake pads, and if there isn’t, make sure they’re replaced and check the discs for wear and tear while you’re at it. 

Also, ensure the tyres have enough tread depth, and check for any signs of damage in the tyre walls or uneven wear. And if you do find something strange, ask yourself, is this a sign of another problem somewhere else?

Eight: Condition of the Interior 

The interior is certainly a lot less important than the mechanical components. However, the interior of the van does give you an insight into how well it’s been looked after. If the seats are torn and ripped and covered in stains, and the internal trim is battered too, the chances are the van has not been well maintained elsewhere. 

Buying a used van is like piecing a story together with limited information, so it’s important to consider each piece fully to see the bigger picture. 

Nine: Documentation and Ownership History

Before finalising any purchase, properly review all the documentation related to the van, including the logbook (V5C), MOT certificates, and servicing records. 

Make sure that the seller has legal ownership of the vehicle, and therefore the right to sell it, and that there are no outstanding finance or any migraine-inducing insurance issues. 

Ten: Take Her for a Spin

Our final tip is to always take the van out for a good old test drive before making a final decision. Try to get a feel for the van and imagine how it will perform in different conditions. 

Listen out for any strange noises or vibrations coming from the engine, the brakes, or even rattling inside the cab. These can all be indicators of potential problems further down the road. If this van is going to be your workhorse, you’ll be spending a lot of time in it, this is your snapshot of that time. As well as all the mechanical considerations, think to yourself, is this a place you want to spend time?  

Buying a used van is something that requires careful consideration and it’s definitely worth sweating the details during the inspection, to avoid potential costly problems. By following these top ten tips and also seeking the advice of a qualified mechanic or vehicle inspector, you can hopefully make a more informed decision and purchase a reliable, and mechanically sound van that meets all your needs. 

Your work van is more than just a vehicle, it’s how you make your living. Investing the time and effort upfront can save you a lot of money and headaches further down the line. Luckily, once you’ve found the right van Used Van Finance Deals is always on hand to help with the financing!