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AUCTIONS: Know your big van buyer

Date: 27 June 2007

For any business requiring a brand new large van there is plenty of choice, with parcel delivery fleets, glazing companies and contact hire organisations usually snapping them up.

However, all these large vans aren't so welcome in the used market, as Duncan Ward, BCA's UK business development manager - commercial vehicles, explains: "Unlike the short-wheelbase van, which is relatively compact, just who wants a three-metre wheelbase, high-roof van parked on their drive every night? (And who would want to be their neighbour?) They are specialist tools and unless a MWB/LWB van will really earn its keep - perhaps in courier delivery, window replacement or carpet fitting - many used buyers will plump for the smaller version."

Ward continues: "These vehicles are very much purchased to satisfy the requirements of first life rather than second, and in the used market supply of high-mileage LWB vans can far outweigh used demand.

"With more and more going into the new market, supply and demand in the used market may get even more skewed in the future. Some commentators suggest that in years to come, used long wheelbase vans will have to be cheaper than short wheelbase examples."

More thought

All this means remarketing these large panel vans needs a lot more thought than just taking vehicles off-fleet and selling them. It is a process that begins with the purchasing of the vehicles coming into the fleet. "That's what the big operators do because they appreciate that the specification of the van at the front end is a vital part of whole-life costs," says Ward.

Having established the market is relatively limited compared to other LCV sectors, it is important to know what buyers look for. With many going into 24/7 delivery work, a powerful and reliable engine is top of many buyers' lists. Even though today's modern engines are designed to give several hundred thousands

of miles service, the buyer still likes to know it has been maintained properly. Make sure a full service history is provided at the time of sale to give buyers peace of mind on the mechanical condition. Versatility is also important for the second user, so one side-loading door is necessary and two is preferable.

“Some commentators suggest that in years to come used long wheelbase vans will have to be cheaper than short wheelbase examples.

Duncan Ward, BCA

Low-mileage examples are highly prized but exceptionally rare because transport is their primary job.

"The few that do make it into the halls make very strong money and we often see multiple buyers bidding on one vehicle," says Andrew Shepherd, Manheim's senior group auctioneer. Similarly, it is unusual to find MWB/LWB vans in clean condition free from damage - they require no specific qualification or license to drive and are a big van (often too big) for the ordinary driver. It's no surprise that many used examples bear the scars of navigating tight areas. "This being the case, the combination of clean and low mileage means that interest and prices inevitably soar," says Ward.

However, as damage isn't unusual, and the vehicles are designed to face a tough life, Shepherd argues that "exterior condition is of less importance to buyers, and as long as the basic vehicle mechanics are in order these vans will continue to run and run, making them a particularly attractive second-hand buy."

Safe and secure

In terms of spec rear doors should be solid because rear windows are seen as a security risk by many van drivers, and increasingly the used buyer expects all the driver comforts such as remote central locking, electric windows, decent in van entertainment and even air conditioning. Bearing in mind these vans may end up delivering to all points of the compass, factory-fitted satnav is also becoming increasingly desirable.

Used buyers generally don't like the medium wheelbase/low roof configuration, either, as it's neither one thing nor another, while low-powered examples are best avoided - whatever the configuration.

When choosing colour, white is fine, as is silver, green or blue metallics. Buyers generally don't like the obvious corporate utilitarian colours - brown, orange, yellow and green, for example. Wherever possible ensure these colours are factory finish. If you have to dress your vans in company colours, consider keeping the van in a sensible base colour and applying vinyl graphics with the company logo on. Also make sure vans are ply-lined to protect from 'inside-out' damage, and consider fitting a bulkhead - it's essential if aircon is fitted, and adds further protection to the driver from shifting loads.