Investing in anything for your business always has to be considered carefully because no one wants to waste profits on a hasty decision. What’s more, transport is often one of the biggest single outlays for startups and small businesses, so getting it right first time is crucial.

If your business is based at home, or in an office, you probably won’t need to think about branding when it comes to buying a car or van—and unless you’re transporting things around, you’re likely to plump for the former. But if you use your vehicle to deliver goods or services, or use it to commute to many different places of work, then it becomes an extension of your company—and a valuable marketing tool.

Having a vehicle that matches your needs is therefore high priority when choosing your next set of wheels. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of six key mistakes to avoid when shopping for your next business van.

One size doesn’t fit all

It might be true for wrist watches, but not for vans. If you’re a florist or a wedding cake baker you’ll need a small, nippy van with fantastic suspension to stop potholes ruining your work. If you’re a builder by trade, you need something that’ll fit your ladders, toolbox, and can handle heavy loads.

Similarly, workers who are based in built-up areas or residential locations, such as delivery drivers, will probably benefit from a smaller model that can be accommodated in standard parking spaces and can squeeze down narrow streets; whereas if you take things up and down the country, a bigger, more robust machine may be in order.

However, it’s important not to opt for anything bigger than you need. Larger vehicles often cost more in upkeep and are more difficult to maneuver—so before you invest in a new behemoth, figure out if something more compact would suite you better.

Losing sight of your van’s purpose

It’s easy, when confronted with a selection of vans and an eager dealer, to be persuaded into buying something that’s not quite what you want. At all times, remember what the purpose of the van will be.

If it’s a workhorse, you want something well-built with a good reputation for reliability. For the latest reviews on different makes and models, you can try Whatvanco, the big sister to What Car? to get advice on the best option for your needs.

If you expect to be towing things, rear wheel drive is a definite bonus. On the other hand, if part of your job involves heading off road, 4WD is clearly a bonus, whether it comes fitted as standard or as an add-on.

At the end of the day, the dealer doesn’t know exactly what you need—they just want the sale. So don’t be swept up by all the jargon or tempting offers—instead, only choose a vehicle that matches your personal specification.

Paying extra for unnecessary extras

It might sound obvious, but we’re all guilty of it. Weddings are usually the biggest culprits, with extravagant extras being portrayed as crucial to the perfect experience—but beware, because vehicle traders aren’t far behind. From sunroofs in northern Scotland to four-wheel drives in inner city London, sellers are constantly finding ways to make us pay for things we’re never going to need. So wear your sensible hat to the showroom, and think about how much use you’ll actually get out of each detail.

If you know you’ll be making a lot of calls, Bluetooth in the cab is a reasonable extra. Conversely, things like inbuilt satnav or autopilot functions aren’t going to get a lot of use if you’re based within a few miles of home. A sliding side door, on the other hand, might be a game changer for you.

Don’t be lured into parting with cash for things you’re simply not going to use—and if the vehicle you’re after comes with them as standard, try using them as a haggling tool. After all, if you don’t want them, why should you be paying for them?

Not looking at the vehicle history

Don’t ignore the information your van’s road history gives you. Look at the mileage—does it seem consistent with the kind of usage you’d expect for this type of vehicle? Has it had a lot of owners? This could signify that the van has problems that owners don’t want to deal with, or that it’s been used as a hire vehicle by different companies for a year or so each, which is perfectly reasonable. However, if it has been a hire van, check out the company to see what purpose their vans fulfill—if it’s been used for heavier jobs than it’s designed for, there may be damage to the suspension, engine or body.

Equally, use the history to check if important work has been carried out at appropriate times, such as cambelt or fuel filter changes.

Not checking every detail

If you’re considering buying, then go over the van with a fine tooth comb. If you don’t feel confident, then pay for a professional to do it for you—but either way, make sure you look at every aspect of the van before you pay up.

After all, it’s worth finding all the flaws now, rather than 12 months down the line at the next MOT. If you’d like some clues as to what to look for, AXA has compiled the top ten van MOT fails—worthwhile reading at any stage of your van-driving career.

Externally, check for rust, dents or signs of collision damage. It sounds ridiculous, but also verify the number plates match at the front and rear. Ensure all lights are in working order, and all doors of the van open correctly.

Internally, inspect cab seats for excessive wear, seatbelts for integrity, a clean dashboard (with little wear—plastic shouldn’t see the same levels of degradation as fabrics) and check the electrics are in working order with no warning lights on the display.

In the rear area, look to see if there are any linings or racks fitted, or holes where they previously would have been. If you don’t want your own racks, having the old holes on show might put you off; others might not mind so much.

Finally, and worth mentioning in their own right, are tires. Most people assume the vehicle they’re buying is already fitted with the correct tires—and when buying from a dealer, they most likely are. For private sales, always check the tire size against the handbook—if the wrong tires are fitted they may have compromised the quality of the drive in years gone by, and speak of an owner with little regard for looking after their vehicle correctly.

Not getting insurance in time

Again, this one might sound a little obvious—but it’s surprising how many people don’t realize you are legally required to have insurance for your new vehicle before you can take it off the forecourt. Even if you already have a valid policy that allows you to drive other vehicles, it doesn’t count. To ensure you don’t break the law, many dealers will now require proof of insurance before they’ll let you drive away – although they’re usually happy to let you buy the vehicle without any documentation.

If you’re buying your van privately, you may also need insurance simply to take it for a test drive—though this is rarely an issue with traders as they can use trade plates for the purposes of the test. Short-term insurance lasting from an hour to a few weeks gives you the flexibility you need to arrange a test drive or get your new van home.

For standard 12-month cover for your new wheels, find the best van insurance quotes through insurance comparison websites—use the options boxes to customize your policy requirements, find the one that’s right for you, then simply purchase your chosen quote online or over the phone before, or at the time of, buying the vehicle.

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Annie Button
Annie Button is a Portsmouth based writer and recent English Literature graduate. Annie has written for various online and print publications and specializes in business and career development. Follow @anniebutton1994 on Twitter.

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