Selling your van: how to get the best deal

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It’s almost inevitable that at some point you’ll need to dispose of your old van. It may well be your most valuable asset and realising its true potential is vital.

row of white vans

You’re under no illusion though, it’s earned its keep and no longer has quite the appeal it had when the dealer handed you the keys some time ago.  There are a number of options available but, first things first...

Get the sponge and bucket out

Clean it. Inside and out, very, very thoroughly. It may be worth considering a professional valet, especially if the van is a reasonably recent model, although the cost of this needs to be carefully considered. 

If it’s an old van with lots of bumps and scrapes, it’s almost certainly not worth the investment. If it’s a sound but dirty three-year-old van with low mileage, then it may well be. 

Assuming this is a cost you’d rather not bear then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.

  • Get rid of those empty coffee cups, 18-month-old newspapers and fast food wrappers in the cab (don’t forget to check under the seats and in all the cubby holes – it’s amazing what you’ll find there)
  • Buy some cleaning products and remove all the grime from the dash, seats and headlining. Pop in an air freshener. Take out any personal possessions
  • When tackling the outside, don’t forget the roof (often not easy, so usually overlooked). Again, investing in some cleaning products will help achieve a great finish. It’s worth putting some elbow grease into a full wax polish and adding some ‘back to black’ silicon on bumpers and rubbing strips etc
  • If it’s feasible, remove any vinyl sign writing. Try using a hair dryer to warm the plastic before peeling it off. Be warned though, it’s a horrible, time consuming task, and may well leave a ‘shadow’ which will need a strong dose of T-Cut or even a professional buffing to remove entirely
  • The van (or pick-up) load area needs clearing out. Again, if the vehicle is of potentially considerable value and the existing ply lining (you did invest in this, didn’t you?) is dirty, smelly, and possibly contaminated with oils, paint, tar or other nasties, it may be worth considering having this replaced 

Most working vans and pick-ups will have some external damage. Having repairs done prior to selling the vehicle is unlikely to be cost effective, but many scuffs and scratches can be removed with a little time and effort. T-Cut or any other mild cutting compound works wonders – just remember to apply a layer of polish over the area once repaired.

Find those documents – buyers love some history

  • You’ll need the V5 (log book)
  • Find that elusive spare key (they’re very expensive to replace and dealers will reduce an offer if it’s not present)
  • Service history: if the service book has gone missing, you’ll need invoices from your local garage to prove that the van has been maintained to schedule
  • Although MOT history is available online, some old certificates might prove handy to have

row of delivery vans

What’s the best way to sell a van?

It’s looking great, you’ve a stack of documents and history, but how do you find a buyer who’ll pay top notch money and with the least amount of hassle? 

Here are some routes to getting that cash into the bank, all with their own pros and cons.

1. Dealer trade in

Lots of advantages here. It’s quick, easy and totally hassle free. If you’ve any outstanding finance the dealer will work this into the deal and sort it all out. 

The main disadvantage is that at best you’ll only get a ‘trade value’ and you’ll be less likely to be able to negotiate a discount off the screen price of the new vehicle.

2. Dealer purchase

If you’ve a desirable, relatively young and low mileage vehicle, it’s certainly worth contacting franchised dealers to see if they would be interested in buying your van

They’re always on the lookout for good used stock and will often pay a premium, particularly if they know that they’ve a customer who might be interested in buying it.

3. Car buying service

You know the ones. These are perfect if you need to raise the cash quickly. An initial online valuation is followed up by an appointment at an appraisal centre where a firm offer is made. 

This is likely to get you a relatively low figure, but it’s all sorted speedily, finance agreements are settled off and the money gets paid into your bank.

4. Auction

Rarely used by the private seller. Values realised will sometimes be higher than those offered by online buying services, but there are seller fees to consider and if the van doesn’t meet your reserve you’re still liable for entry fees and will have to decide whether or not to try again the following week. 

5. Private Sale

This is where you’re likely to get the best return. It’s also where you’ll get by far the most hassle. Before advertising on the likes of Auto Trader or Ebay, do some research as to what your asking price should be. 

  • Take into account condition and mileage and look at advertised prices for similar models. Don’t think you’ll be able to command the same price as one advertised at a main dealer – these come with back up, preparation and warranty
  • You’ll need to have settled off any outstanding finance prior to sale (it’s not your van to sell if you don’t)
  • It’s vital that the money is in your bank before you let the buyer take it away 
  • Despite the fact that you’ve sold it ‘as seen’, this often doesn’t stop buyers calling a seller to complain if something isn’t right and they want some financial compensation (normally, they have no legal right to this)

If all this doesn’t put you off, you could certainly benefit financially from selling privately, but consider the time, risk and hassle factors. Are they worth it?

I started my career selling vans in the mid-eighties, progressing through dealer groups to management level. In 2010 I joined vehicle valuation company CAP, being made responsible for forecasting future used values for all makes and models of vans and trucks, this data being used by leasing companies and manufacturers to assess future risk. This role entailed very early exposure to new models including extensive testing across Europe.

In 2016 I started up my own consultancy business dedicated to the LCV industry. In addition, my freelance written work has been used by a number of clients and I am a regular contributor to WhatVan? magazine. I’m also a judge for their annual ‘Van of the Year’ awards.

To relax, I enjoy travel and walking near my Yorkshire home.

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