A Guide to Buying Your First Van


If you're starting out as self employed, or your business purposes have changed and you now need a van, then knowing where to start in purchasing one can be a bit daunting due to the number of vehicles available.

There's also quite a few things that you should take into consideration including what you'll be carrying on a daily basis, how many passengers, if it's going to be new or used, and what insurance you need.

Our guide to buying your first van will take you through some of the considerations needed as you join the world of van drivers.

Know Your Needs

If you're a builder it's likely that you'll have different needs from a baker and vice versa which is why, arguably, the most important part of purchasing a van is knowing exactly what you need from it.

Firstly you'll need to anticipate what you'll be transporting so that you can rule out which vehicle type you don't need.

Payloads and load volume will vary slightly from model to model within a size range but working out an average of your daily weight and checking the size of items being carried will help you immensely.

A few examples of item sizes and weights for context:

  • A single Euro Pallet is typically 1200mm x 1000mm in the UK
  • A 5L tin of paint weighs roughly 7kg
  • A bag of cement is 25kg or 50kg

You'll also need to consider how many people will need to fit in the van as this can make the difference between purchasing a standard panel van or a crew cab variation. For the most part you won't need to look at additional seats, especially if it's just for yourself, but always worth a consideration if you'll use it outside of work hours too.

Your final consideration should be for any additional equipment that your van will need. They'll all come with a set of standard equipment on the model but you may require others such as adaptive cruise control, LED load space lighting, a rear view camera, or parking sensors.

Do Your Research

Make sure to do plenty of research on your chosen van from as many sources as possible to make sure that it's the right choice for you. This will help you to identify if there are any recurring issues with specific models, what realistic fuel consumption figures look like, and what features are a necessity.

Every brand will supply copious details about their vans which will highlight, not only features and model options, but technical specifications. You'll be able to see the maximum payload and cargo load space and, for larger vans, any conversions and styles available.

Reviews from motoring websites are a great way to start as these are generally not associated with any specific brand so will give an opinionated review and highlight both successes and flaws of the models.

New or Used?

Once you've decided one which van you'd like to buy as your first van you then need to decide if you're going to purchase a brand new van or a used van, both with their own advantages.

New vans have several obvious benefits over a used van. These will be the best vans in terms of condition as they've come straight from the manufacturer to you via a safe and secure dealership. They'll also have never been registered to previous owners so no one has driven it incorrectly or accidentally reversed into a wall, again keeping it in perfect condition.

A new van doesn't need an MOT for three years, which also helps to reduce your running costs, as well as giving you peace of mind that all of the parts are in the best working condition possible. If there are any issues, however, then the manufacturer's warranty is there to support you and take care of most issues.

With a new van it's likely that you'll need to wait to actually get hold of it, particularly as things stand with production times and parts for new vehicles. It's not going to be an issue if you're forward planning but if your need is much more urgent then you may find the wait times too long.

By contrast, a used van will usually be available imminently meaning that if you need it in the immediate future you should have no problems. You'll also have a lot more choice from used vans, especially with vans with conversions, so you can have the advantage of being able to get exactly what you want when you want it.

The cost of a used van will also be much lower than if you purchase a used van and it will depreciate slower too. As vehicles lose the largest amount of their value in the first few years of their life, buying a used vehicle means that there's a chance that this may have already happened (depending on the age of the vehicle you purchase).

Get the Right Insurance

Whilst most car and van insurance policies are very much the same there are a few additional things to consider when you go to insure your van.

If you're not sure which van insurance group your vehicle falls into, your V5 document will be able to let you know. Line J in the vehicle information section will show that your vehicle falls into one of these categories:

- M1: It’s a car and you need car insurance
- M2: It’s a minibus and you need minibus insurance, not van insurance
- N1 or N2: It’s a van and you need van insurance

From here you can then decide whether you need private or business insurance. Private van insurance will only safeguard you in the same way as your car insurance so trips to the shop, holidays, and visiting friends and family are all suitable for this. If you do these trips but also make deliveries, transport business items, or use it to commute to work then you need to look at business insurance.

From here there's another choice which will look at how the items in your van are classified under the policy.

Carriage of Own Goods means that it's only your own personal items that you transport e.g. tools for work. Courier will cover you if you're a delivery driver so if you deliver packages or food then all of your goods are covered too. Haulage cover is for delivering business goods over a long distance with one destination per job.

If you're purchasing multiple vans, usually five or more, then fleet insurance is most likely the best option for you. This will look after multiple vehicles being used for a business under one policy from one provider.

It's also worth looking at add ons for your policy too such as breakdown cover, optional tool cover, legal cover, or employers' liability cover. Policy providers have a variation of these for most vans and others to suits your business but will add an extra cost onto your policy.

Think About The Future

The final things you want to think about is the future of your van, which might seem odd before you've even bought it! Ideally you want to think about options that will make it easier to look after your van and any issues that may occur.

Most brands will offer an option to take out a service plan when you purchase your van, new or used. This allows you to pay either upfront or monthly for the services for your van which is a great option for splitting costs and but also sets you up for several years of care.

A warranty is the other consideration that usually goes hand in hand with a service plan. Like new cars, new vans will come with a manufacturing warranty, usually at least three years, which will protect against any defects that are deemed to be an issue from the manufacture of the van.

Outside of this, most dealers will also offer their own warranty or an opportunity to extend the manufacturing warranty which will suit used vans perfectly. These are usually a little stricter than an original warranty and often restricted by mileage so worth checking before you purchase.


Ultimately there's no right or wrong choice when choosing your first van you just need to make sure that it's the best van for you. There are many different makes and models, all with their own unique benefits and features.

If you're still unsure or you have further questions, our knowledgeable team at Clark Commercials are always on hand to give you the best advice for choosing your first van.

Clark Commercials