• Michael Boalch

Buying a van to convert in the UK

We initially thought that buying a van to convert would be simple, but in reality it was much more complicated than it seemed! After our long and arduous search to find the right van, we put together this guide outlining everything we have learnt.

Firstly, you need to decide which type of van is right for you. If you haven’t checked it out already take a look at our post about the best vans to convert here. There are a few things to figure out before you start looking. It’s definitely useful to browse the market and see what’s out there, but it’s best to avoid aimlessly searching for a van without knowing what you are looking for. Use our top 5 tips below to help focus your search and make it more time efficient when buying a van to convert.

1. Create a realistic wish list

2. Search in the right places

3. Have questions ready to ask potential sellers

4. Once you found a van do some final checks

5. Before you view a van, read up on typical faults etc

Create a realistic wish list

Before looking, write down what you want. Seems obvious, right? You should specify the make and model of the van, the wheel base and height you want, the maximum mileage you are comfortable going with, the length left on the MOT, the overall condition of the van (you will probably have to base this on photos), the distance of the seller, the selling price and finally the type of seller (ie. private, trade or auction). The questions you should ask yourself before you start out are listed below, if you want to know what our criteria was and how we bought our van, you can read our experience of buying a van to convert here.

What is my budget?

What wheel base length and load height do I want?

What age van would I be happy with?

Which make and model do I like best?

What is the maximum mileage I am looking for?

How far am I willing to travel for the right van?

Do I want to buy from a private seller or trader?

Get searching in the right places

We looked at four main places; Gumtree, eBay, Autotrader and Facebook Marketplace. These sites seemed to have the most affordable options and had regular listings. There are pros and cons of each of these sites and they all list both private and trade sellers. Our advice would be to scour these websites each day, if you have the luxury of time you can wait for the right one to come up. Vans can sell quickly, if you wait too long before contacting the seller it might have already gone. Some adverts are still up even if the van has already sold, annoying, but factor this in.

Have questions ready to ask potential sellers

If the listing doesn’t give you all of the information you want, the best thing to do is call the seller as soon as you can. Some people are just as fast replying to messages, but speaking directly is the best way to get all your questions answered and also helpful for deciding if you get a good feeling from the seller. To make things faster and to make sure we didn’t forget any key questions we wrote down some pointers to ask each time we called to enquire about a van:

Does the van have a current MOT? What is the current mileage?

Does the van have any service history?

Do you take payment by credit/ debit card or bank transfer?

Is a test drive available?

You might need to ask some more questions depending on the information in the listing.

Checks to make before you see the van

Once you’ve found a van, do some final checks before going to view it:

1. Check if the vehicle is taxed and has a current MOT Check the MOT history.

2. Buy an instant HPI check to make sure the van isn’t reported stolen and doesn’t have a dodgy history.

3. Ask to see any service history

4. Ask about previous owners and find out as much as you can about the van’s past use

Viewing and test driving

It's important to see the van in person before you buy it if you can. When we were looking for vans to buy in London, we saw a lot of good deals on vans up north but wanted to be able to see that everything was in order before we committed.

When you view the van, check the body thoroughly for rust, rotting and damage. Take the van for a test drive and make sure you feel comfortable driving it and that it drives well. Google the common faults for the specific model, there will be too many to test so look out for the major faults. Ask why they are selling it!

Our top van buying tips

1.Contact local dealers and ask them to get in touch if something comes in

2. Looking through listings daily can get tiresome and you risk losing enthusiasm. Fix a specific criteria to help you narrow down your choices Set alerts onGumtree, Google, eBay

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