10 Things You Need to Check When Buying a Used Van

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: May 31, 2023

Buying a used van can be an economical and practical choice for many individuals and businesses. However, it’s crucial to thoroughly inspect the vehicle before making a purchase to ensure you’re getting a reliable and safe transportation option.

In this article, we will discuss ten essential things you need to check when buying a used van in the UK. By paying attention to these key areas, you can make an informed decision and avoid potential headaches down the road.

1. Suspension

shock absorbers on used van

A well-functioning suspension system is essential for ensuring a comfortable and smooth ride experience. To assess its condition, push down on each corner of the van and observe its response. If the van bounces once and comes to a stop without excessive oscillation, it indicates that the shock absorbers are likely in good condition. However, if you notice prolonged bouncing or hear any unusual noises, there may be underlying suspension issues that require attention.

2. Marks on the Bodywork

Thoroughly inspecting the bodywork is essential to identify any signs of damage, particularly rust. Check common areas prone to corrosion, such as wings, sills, under bumpers, wheel arches, door frames, and corners of windscreens. Rust spots can indicate a deeper problem, potentially compromising the structural integrity of the van. Addressing such issues can be expensive, so it’s crucial to assess the extent of any damage before finalising the purchase.

3. Noises from Brakes

Brakes are a critical safety component, and it’s important to ensure they are in good working order. Find a straight piece of road to test the brakes. While driving, apply the brakes and listen carefully for any squealing or grinding noises. Such sounds can indicate worn-out brake pads that need replacing. If you encounter brake-related issues, exercise caution when considering the purchase or negotiate a reduced price to accommodate the necessary repairs.

4. Tyres

flat tyre on used van

Tyres are the only contact point between the van and the road, so their condition is crucial for safe driving. In the UK, the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre. Inspect the treads and sidewalls of each tyre, including the spare (if available). The sidewalls should be free from any damage or bulging, as these signs may indicate problems with steering, tracking, or suspension. Ensure all the tyres meet the legal requirements to avoid potential fines and ensure your safety.

5. Engine Temperature

Checking the engine temperature can give you insights into the van’s mechanical condition. Before starting the engine, make sure the bonnet is cold. If the bonnet feels warm, it could be a sign of an issue with the engine, such as coolant leaks or overheating problems. Repairing engine-related problems can be costly, so it’s best to identify any potential issues early on. Additionally, upon starting the vehicle, observe for excessive smoke or any unusual noises that could indicate underlying problems.

6. Interior

While the exterior is important, the interior condition of the van is equally vital. Inspect all the windows for cracks, chips, or signs of poor sealing, as this can affect visibility and potentially lead to water leaks. Take a close look at the interior dashboard for any warning lights or indicators that may suggest underlying problems with the vehicle. Don’t forget to check the functionality of the seatbelts to ensure they are in proper working condition.

7. Vehicle Documents

mot certificate on used van

Verifying the authenticity and history of the van is crucial for a smooth and worry-free ownership experience. Check the van’s details against an online vehicle database to ensure there are no outstanding finance or legal issues. Additionally, ask the seller to provide a full MOT and service history, usually kept in a book stored in the glove box. These documents will provide valuable insights into the van’s maintenance record and help you make an informed decision.

8. Electricals

Modern vans come equipped with various electrical components, and it’s important to ensure they are all functioning properly. Check the radio (if the van has one) to ensure it works and produces a clear sound. Test the electric window buttons to ensure they operate smoothly without any glitches. Malfunctioning electricals can be frustrating and costly to fix, so it’s essential to assess their condition during the inspection.

9. Check for Leaks and Odd Smells

Leaks and strange smells can be indicators of underlying issues that may require immediate attention. The most common leaks to check for are oil or transmission fluid leaks, which can be identified by inspecting the engine bay and underneath the van. Additionally, be attentive to any unusual smells emanating from the vents inside the van, as they could indicate problems with the cooling or ventilation system. If it’s raining during the inspection, take the opportunity to check if the doors and windows are watertight.

10. Lights

used van indicator and headlights

Lastly, ensure that all the lights on the van are in proper working condition. Check the functionality of the reversing lights, headlights, fog lights, and indicators. Faulty lights not only compromise your safety but can also lead to legal issues if not rectified promptly. Take the time to inspect each light and verify that they illuminate correctly.

By thoroughly inspecting these ten areas, you can make a more informed decision when buying a used van in the UK. Remember, if you’re not confident in your own assessment, it’s always a good idea to seek the help of a qualified mechanic or vehicle inspector. Investing time and effort in the inspection process will help ensure that you find a reliable and suitable van that meets your needs and expectations.