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RAC used vans for sale

The biggest advantage of buying a used van over a new one is the money you’ll save. Modern vans can be expensive but drop thousands fresh off the forecourt, and buying nearly-new means you can take advantage of those savings, driving something that’s still pretty fresh but with a much smaller number on your end of year accounts.

There’s never been so much choice either. UK van sales rose by 21% in 2023, to more than a third of a million registrations, and most of those will eventually hit the used market. The current van fleet encompasses everything from the tiny ‘last-mile’ Citroen Ami Cargo, to long-wheelbase, high-roof, Lutons, chassis cabs and more - and those looking to save money on running costs have access to an increasing number of all-electric models too.


Why buy a used van?

New vans are incredibly popular right now - so much so that during the last few years when microchip shortages and other factors squeezed resources for vehicle manufacturers, Ford prioritised Transit production over cars like the Fiesta. New vans are more expensive than ever though, especially as their technology and features begin to match regular cars.

The solution is to buy a used van. Much like with cars, a new van depreciates the instant you drive it off the dealer forecourt - in fact, the instant you fix numberplates to it. This can make a nearly-new or pre-registered van far cheaper than a new one, and a van that’s a year or two older even cheaper still.

Provided the used van has been looked after and properly serviced, you also won’t be missing much in terms of features, the driving experience, or the remaining life of the vehicle, as the quality and durability of vans is improving all the time. You may well be able to find something very close to the specification you’d have chosen yourself, and drive it off the dealer lot on the same day, too.


How do I choose the ideal used van?

You probably have a pretty good idea of what you need from a van based on your business requirements. Finding something is unlikely to be a problem, as there’s a huge variety of different vans out there, from the tiny Citroen Ami Cargo to the largest Luton-bodied Transits and Sprinters, but you can help to narrow things down with online search facilities like the RAC’s Simple Search.

Perhaps the biggest difference shopping for a used van today compared to a few years ago is the wider availability of fully electric vans. Previously the market has been dominated by diesel, and while that’s still mostly the case, urban operators especially might wish to consider going electric to lower their costs.


Should I buy a petrol, diesel, or electric used van?

You’ll find three main fuel options on the used van market: petrol, diesel, and electric. Petrol tends to be limited to smaller vans aimed mainly at urban duties, while diesel is still the main choice for the majority of operators. But electric vans are becoming more commonplace and seem to be getting more usable by the day, as costs come down and range figures increase.

Petrol vans tend to be quiet and smooth and are best for shorter routes with multi-drop deliveries, where an equivalent diesel engine may never be operating at its peak efficiency. They’re less common in larger vans, tending to lack the oomph of a diesel engine (unless turbocharged) and using more fuel on a steady cruise.

Diesel is still the dominant force in the van market. Modern diesels are much cleaner, more powerful, and less noisy than they used to be, though modern diesel vans still can’t quite match diesel cars on this front. They’re economical (the latest models especially so, at least with lighter loads) and if well-maintained can do hundreds of thousands of miles - though modern diesels can be quite complex, so servicing may be expensive.

Electric power is the new kid on the block and currently makes the most sense for urban use, especially in cities like London with low emission zones and congestion charging, where an electric van won’t just be cheaper to charge than a diesel one is to fuel, but also avoids large daily usage fees. Relatively short range figures mean longer motorway trips are still better served by diesel, but electric vans are vastly more refined, quicker off the mark, and getting easier to find on the used market.


Where can I find used vans for sale?

You’ll probably start your search on the internet, which gives buyers the option of searching not just their local area but the entire country for the right van - to the benefit of both choice and price, since private sellers and dealers no longer have to compete only with other local sellers but ones across the country.

If you don’t want to stray too far afield though, the RAC’s search tool allows you to look at vans within a certain radius. If you live in a busy city then it’s likely you’ll find something fairly close anyway, but being able to further narrow down your search by age, mileage, and colour should turn up a more manageable number of vans. The RAC tool will also tell you whether a dealer is RAC Approved or not.

With nearly-new vans you’ll most likely be looking at dealer stock, though some larger operators may sell off vans directly, while you’ll typically find older vans from private sellers or smaller used vehicle dealerships. Larger dealers are likely to offer more after-sales support than smaller ones, and private sales will likely be ‘sold as seen’. Remember too that almost all vans, unlike most cars, will be priced excluding VAT.


Basic used van checks

Vans are designed to withstand a tough life but that doesn’t mean you can throw caution to the wind when buying used. A nearly-new van should still be in pretty good shape, and is likely to have been serviced at the correct intervals, but you’ll still want to check both in detail. The advertisement should have information about the van’s condition, mileage, and any points of interest, but you can also call up the seller for more details, particularly its service history. The RAC’s history checker can help here too, highlighting any important details such as outstanding finance or if the van is old enough, MOT records.

If possible you should check the van in person too, for a closer look than is possible through the photos in an ad, and to get a general feel for the van’s condition - plus, the option to take a test drive and ensure it both drives well and to see whether it’s suitable for your needs.

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