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We’d all love to source a brand-new van to complement our business. Having the latest technology that keeps us entertained and safe on the roads is appealing and necessary. Even the look of the newest van models reflects an up-to-date business operating in the modern world.

For some of us though, buying or leasing a used van is the only option. It could be you are only starting out with little capital to invest upfront. Or maybe profit margins don’t permit purchasing a brand-new vehicle?

Therefore, a used van may seem like the perfect or possibly only option. There are, however, immediate risks associated with this. And let’s face it, you will want to know how many miles the van has left before it is time to retire it.

As a rough guide, the average mileage a van travels is between 12,000 to 14,000 miles per year. Multiply this figure by the age of the van and compare it to its mileage. This way you can estimate if the van has worked harder than the average annual estimate.

Further to this, most cargo vans have reliably covered 150,000 miles with little to no issues.

However, it is not uncommon for these vehicles to reach 250,000 miles.

Therefore, based on this information, a 150,000-mile van should be the maximum mileage target if you want to get some good use out of it.

Is Mileage The Only Factor To Consider When Buying A Second Hand Van?

Determining the optimal mileage of a second-hand van before purchase is by no means a guarantee for sourcing a reliable vehicle for your business. This process only provides an initial idea as to whether the van is worthy of consideration.

Mileage is a great indication for determining the “amount of work” a vehicle has gone through. However, it only paints one part of the picture.

Two identical vehicles may have covered the same distances. However, one may have been subjected to a lot more work by carrying heavier payloads!

This “extra work” transfers over to all the moving parts of the vehicle. As such this potentially reduces the lifespan of one vehicle more than the other.

Determining if the van has had a good life is imperative. Vehicles can be made to look clean and shiny, but often they have something more sinister going on underneath.

A little further investigation is in order, such as checking if the van has:

  • Been maintained regularly (check maintenance records)
  • Rusty bodywork
  • Been in any accidents (check insurance papers)
  • Suffered from major repairs
  • Been stolen and recovered

Maintenance Records & The Van’s History

Now that you are happy with the mileage of the vehicle, it is time to consider maintenance. Any machine, if regularly maintained and serviced will perform for longer.

If the van you are interested in is considered to be a commercial vehicle, then the previous owner(s) should have records of maintenance (it is mandatory). If they don’t, then this is a sure sign to walk away (no matter how good it looks from the outside).

These records of maintenance will give you a clear picture of how well (or badly) the vehicle was taken care of during its working life.

Used Vans & Rusty Bodywork

Although rusty bodywork can be an indication of how often a van has been used, it‘s normally a factor of age. For example, a vehicle may be used sparsely, but it can still rust due to being exposed to the elements over the years.

Rust will eventually take hold of all vehicles. More modern vehicles have bodywork designed to last as long as their engine. However, this is unlikely to be the case with older models.

It is therefore recommended to look for signs of rust. This includes looking for discolouration in the paintwork that could indicate bodywork repairs.

Tip: Rust can be covered up easily from the outside. However, the insides of the door frames are harder to reach. Usually, the effort of removing these to cover up rust is too great and time-consuming.
Therefore, if a vehicle’s body starts to rust, the first place to check is the door frames.

Other Practices That Can Affect A Van’s Life Span

How the van has been driven will impact the length of reliable service you may get from it. However, the same is true once you buy your used van. Handle it correctly and you will get more use out of it.

Consider the following tips to maximize the lifespan of your second-hand van:

A Van Is Not A Car

Manufacturers today often use car platforms on their vans. This gives their vans car-like driving performance and stability. However, it is still worth noting they are not cars and require different driving patterns.

When fully laden, vans get heavy. As a result, any erratic and forceful driving will add to the stress on the vehicle and its moving parts.

Braking distance is another factor. With greater momentum, the greater the braking distance. Forcing your brakes puts added stress on other parts of the van and its brakes. This is also dangerous to you and other drivers on the road.

On the other hand, an empty van has different handling and driving characteristics. This is especially true in high winds that make it prone to drifting.

In short, slow down your speed and keep a larger distance between you and any vehicles in front of you.

Impact of Incorrect Tyre Pressure

It is quite surprising how few people check their tyre pressure! Let alone doing it regularly.

We know that under-inflated tyres will worsen your mpg. For every 1 psi missing from your vehicle’s four tyres, you lose 0.1% of your gas mileage (not a huge loss).
However, this translates to getting 3.3% more mileage for the same amount of work if tyres are properly inflated.

What’s even more surprising, a 1 psi loss on each tyre means a 10% faster-wearing tyre. This wear also translates to working the mechanics of the van harder than need be. But more importantly, under-inflated tyres will also affect the stopping distance of your vehicle, particularly when fully laden.

Always check your tyres when buying second-hand. In fact, for peace of mind, it might be easier to fit in new ones.

Vehicle Strain Caused By Incorrect Loading Practices

Your van is designed to haul payloads. It, therefore, spends a considerable time of its life “lifting weights”.

To maintain the longevity of your van, ensure it is loaded correctly and within the recommended parameters.

All vans have a Gross Vehicle Weight Ration (GVWR). This figure takes the van’s weight when empty, plus the weight of the load you will be adding onto it. Working backward means you can calculate the load you can add to the vehicle. Exceed this figure and you’ll likely cause damage to the van (especially a used one).

To confuse matters more, each axle has its own weight limits. Therefore, as well as not exceeding your payload, the weight on each axle should not be exceeded either. This basically means your payload should be distributed evenly as possible.


Although mileage is a good indicator of whether or not you should purchase a second-hand van, it’s only one indicator to look at.

There’s no doubt that with a little homework and a sprinkle of luck, purchasing a used van can make for a fantastic investment! They have a lower upfront cost and similar running costs to a brand-new one.

However, there are risks associated with this. Get things wrong and you will more than likely get a bad return on investment!

There is however another option that we haven’t mentioned, and that’s to lease a van for your business requirements.

We specialise in providing brand new vans with all the latest technologies, all with a finance plan built to suit you. This allows you to manage your finances with a choice to own your very own brand-new van at the end of the plan.

Be sure to contact us or give us a call at 0800 027 3923 with whatever questions you may have. No question is too small for us. We are here to help!