How to buy a used van safely
How to buy a used van safely

How to buy a used van safely

20 April 2021

Buying a used van is a very big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Vans can be quite expensive, so you need to ensure that you are spending your money wisely and won’t regret your decision afterwards. Before you buy your next van there are some things you need to do to make sure that you are getting the best vehicle you can find and get the most for your money. Below are our top tips on buying a used van safely.

Do plenty of research

The very first thing you need to do is research. Have a look at various vans that you might be interested in. Take a look at their specifications and see which ones will work for you. As you are not buying the van new, you might need to have a couple of options of vans that you would be happy to buy. Take a look at the different used vans on sale and compare them against each other. Get in touch with the sellers if you have any questions or want to view them. You can always view a couple before making your final decision.


Milage is an important thing to look at before making a purchase. When searching for vans or viewing one in person always check what milage it has done. The more miles it has done the lower the value of the vehicle will be. If it has done a lot of miles, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the van isn’t going to work properly or isn’t worth buying, you just need to check its service and MOT history and ensure that the price matches up to the miles.

Go for a viewing

To really know if you want to purchase a van you will need to go and see it. This way you will be able to see for yourself if it is as advertised, what you expected and whether it has any damages or faults. If possible view the van at the sellers home, so that you are able to see if the address matches the registered owner details, in case of any legal issues. Avoid going to viewings alone, to keep yourself safe and to also get a second opinion. If you have any friends or family that are motor savvy then why not bring them along so they can properly check it out.

When viewing the van check out the amount of space it has, its functionality and whether there are any damages or issues that you didn’t know about. This will help you determine if this is still a vehicle you are interested in.

Ask more details about the van

Be sure to ask the seller any question you may have about the van. Check when it was last MOT’d, how often it was serviced and if there is any damage that you can’t see to the vehicle. If the seller doesn’t know any of this information and isn’t able to find out, you need to decide whether it is worth the risk of buying a vehicle, not knowing anything about it.

Check the document details

You should ask to see the V5C logbook which has the registered keeper’s address on it. This will allow you to check that it is the same as the person you would be buying off’s address. If the details aren’t a match, then you need to ask why. It is important that you are buying the vehicle from the person it is registered with, otherwise you could be buying a stolen van. It is up to you to determine if you think the seller is genuine and whether you can trust them or not. It is always worth asking to see their driver’s license to check that they are who they say they are. Take a picture of this, so that you have it for your records.

Check the service records

As mentioned above you should ask to view all of the service and MOT records that they have for the van, including the most recent MOT. If they don’t have all of its service history that is okay, as long as they have the most recent ones. Check to see if there are any advisories on previous MOTs that haven’t been repaired yet. You will need to consider that these might need to be fixed soon so could cost you quite a lot. Think about asking for a cheaper price if you believe it will be expensive.

Check the van keys

Often people forget to check the van keys. You need to know if they work. Have they still got battery if they are electronic? If not, this could be an expensive cost to get replaced if you do want this feature. You also need to know whether there are any spare keys as it is always great to have this option in case one gets lost or stops working. For some vans getting a new key can cost hundreds of pounds, so it is important that you find this information out.

Test drive the van

If you have done all of the above and are still happy with the van, then you should take it for a test drive if it’s possible. Some sellers might not want to risk you taking the vehicle out in case you don’t return with it, which is fine, but if you feel safe enough you could both go together. This is why bringing a friend, or a family member is also a good idea so that you aren’t alone in a vehicle with a stranger.

If you are able to take it for a test drive, try to drive it on multiple different roads to see what it is like on different terrains and under different condition. Going for a test drive will allow you to find out whether you are comfortable driving the van and will be happy with it in the future.

Before you go for a test drive make sure you are fully insured to test drive a van on a public highway. You can save money by comparing van insurance online or purchase temporary van insurance if your looking for short term cover.

Do a vehicle history check

If after the test drive you are still interested in the vehicle, then you should do a proper vehicle history check to look into tax, MOT, insurance and other details. This will help you double check that it will be a legitimate purchase and the vehicle is worth the price.

Consider Finance

If you are thinking about taking out van finance to pay for the vehicle, you will need to do some research into how much you can loan and what the repayment options will be. Set yourself a budget of how much you want to be repaying a month and stick to it.

Safely make the transaction

When paying for the van you need to ensure that you use a safe payment method. Why not ask to pay half before they give you the keys and half afterwards. This will allow you to have peace of mind that they won’t just take your money and run. It is best to pay via a bank transfer so that you have evidence of a purchase to their account. If they insist on you are paying in cash, then meet in a safe and secure place. Get a receipt for the purchase with details of both the van and the seller on it.

Transfer of documents

Once payment has been made, the registered keeper has to send the V5C log book off to the DVLA or go online and update who now owns the vehicle. It is best that you watch them do that where you are, so that you can’t be accused of stealing the van and if you are stopped whilst driving home, you will be fully registered as the van’s owner. As the new keeper of the van, you should take home the green V5 section slip.

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