With an estimated four million vans now on Britain’s roads, this hard-working vehicle is even more popular than ever.
While an increase in demand for new vans continues to grow, it isn’t always your best option. A nearly new van or used van can prove equally as cost-effective.
So what is the best used van to buy in 2021?
Well, that depends on a lot of different factors, including your own personal preferences.
So how do you decide which van is right for you? What should you be looking for? And how much is it likely to cost you? Here’s everything you need to know.
How to find the best used van for you
For many business owners and self-employed, a van isn’t simply a way for transporting goods or people from A to B. It’s a fast, cost-effective way to grow your business. It’s as important as the materials you need and the skills you have.
So knowing that it’s vital that you get the right van for you and your business. It needs to be practical and the right fit for what you need it for.
Of course, not everyone wants a used van for only business. These versatile vehicles can double up or even be solely used for leisure purposes too.
What type of van should you be looking for?
There’s a wealth of used vans on the market to suit a range of needs. Each body style and size has specific benefits, depending on what you need it for.
Personal vs business use
The first thing you need to determine is how you’ll be using the van. If it’s for personal use, how many seats will you need for you and your family?
Will you need room in the back for camping or fishing equipment? Most of the best used van models have different cab options of up to six people.
A minibus is another alternative, but check the load space, as all vans will have different length alternatives.
Perhaps you want a van for travelling, in which case you need to find something that’s practical, but lends itself to comfort too. Or maybe a pick-up would be suitable if you’ll be towing a caravan.
If you’re choosing a used van for business purposes, it’s arguably even more important that you think about how it’ll be used.
Typically, a van is used to transport cargo, tools and passengers. With their reinforced space, they can pack far heavier and larger loads than a car.
Working out exactly how much you need to transport daily is important when picking a van. Once you know the typical payload and how much space it takes up, you’ll have a better idea of what size of van you need.
Again, comfort might not seem as important as practicality at this stage, but if you’ll be spending long periods of time in the driving seat, make sure the cab suits your needs too.
Urban vs rural
Where you’re going to be using the van is another deciding factor in which model to get.
If you’re based in an urban area, delivering to retail businesses in town or doing jobs that are fairly close to each other, you’ll want something that’s easy to park and manoeuvre.
Even height can play a part if you’ll need to park in an underground car park or take certain routes with lower bridges.
Access and security need to be considered too. If you’re going to be making frequent drop-offs, would sliding doors be more manageable?
On the other side of the coin, if you’re doing longer journeys to less urban areas, ease of movement doesn’t have to be such a priority and you can look to other needs such as payload or fuel-efficiency.
Diesel vs petrol vs electric
Fuel can be a major cost when it comes to running a van, so picking the right fuel type is vital.
Only a small percentage of vans on Britain’s roads are petrol, the favourite being diesel. Other options are hybrid vans, and electric.
Petrol vans have become less popular over the years, but there are still plenty to choose from.
They are generally cheaper to buy, but also have a lower residual value, so something to consider if you’re thinking of selling it on in a few years.
They also use more fuel in comparison to diesel, so aren’t always the most cost-effective if you’re using the van for longer journeys – although newer models are better for this now.
Most vans come with a diesel engine option. They are ideal for long journeys, as the engines are powerful and offer good fuel economy. If you’re looking for a van with the highest payload, the chances are it’s a diesel.
While they’re a convenient option, they’re not the most environmentally friendly, so you may struggle if working or needing to pass through low-emissions zones.
Powered only by electricity, these types of vans are becoming more popular in the wake of Government grants and tax relief.
Their driving range is limited, though, dependent on your payload and the size of the van. So they’re more economical for short, urban journeys rather than longer stretches; albeit, advancements in technology means EVs are improving all the time.
Hybrid vans are powered by two different sources – either petrol and electric or diesel and electric.
If your work takes you mostly to built-up urban areas, a hybrid van would be a good, cost-efficient solution.
How old is too old?
With any vehicle, age reduces value – which is a good thing for a buyer looking for a used van.
The golden rule is to not assume that because it’s newer, it’s in better condition. Although if it’s a newer model, it could be still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
Always buy a van with a service history that shows responsible maintenance and regular servicing. If possible, you want a van with a comprehensive history.
The best used van to buy in 2021
There are so many vans out there, so which is the best comes down to your personal preference.
However, we’ve put together a handful of those that come in at the top to help you on your way.
Ford Transit Custom
One of the most popular vans out there, the Ford Transit Custom is widely regarded as a good all-rounder. It’s practical, reliable, efficient and reasonably priced.
It’s available in two lengths, short and long wheelbase, and offers up to 8.3 cubic metres of load volume. It also has one of the highest payloads in its category, with a top weight of 1,459kg.
It’s an ideal van for a variety of trades from builders to couriers.
Launched in 1995, the Sprinter has remained the king of large vans ever since. And for good reason.
With a vast range of body styles, this diesel-powered, four-wheel-drive van is available as a five or seven-speed automatic.
Popular as both a cargo and a passenger vehicle, the Mercedes Sprinter also hosts a raft of safety features. It’s a robust van that’s just as at home for business as for play.
A tough, practical van, the Vauxhall Vivaro is known for its versatility, as well as its economical running costs.
Power comes from a choice of two diesel engines and, more recently, an electric version has been added to the range.
Load volumes and payload weights are good for this medium-sized van, with the larger version able to take on 1,458kg.
All in all, the Vivaro is a user-friendly package, car-like to drive, while getting the job done.
With a choice of high roof or standard panel models, the Renault Trafic can house up to nine seats. It’s one of the longer vans on the market and has a very good track record when it comes to performance and features.
It may not have the highest payload of some of the medium vans out there, but with clever interior features, good fuel economy and a stylish design, it’s definitely a contender.
The Fiat Ducato comes in so many guises, there’s really something for everyone.
Thanks to its impressive payload capacities that run from 1,000kg to 2,000kg, and gross vehicle weights of three to four tonnes, it’s a popular choice for motorhomes too.
There’s so much choice with the Ducato – three wheelbases, four lengths for the standard panel van and three different roof heights. It’s the van that can be tailored to anyone’s needs.
This quirky, van-based car is an affordable, popular light commercial vehicle that has become a favourite with families.
With a huge amount of cabin space, sliding doors for easy access, five or seven spacious seats and plenty of load space, it’s well-equipped with plenty of tech and comfort too.
One of the biggest selling small vans in Europe, the Berlingo is ready for adventure and flexible enough to meet a vast range of needs.
Finding the right van for you
Finding the right van for your needs can be tricky. That’s why our specialist van team are on hand to help with any questions.
Whether you’re a seasoned van owner and are looking into the prospect of a new model, or this is your first time in the van world, our team can help.