AUCTIONS: Small is beautiful in used van market
11 December 2007
Buyers at auction are paying more, proportionately, for smaller vans than for their larger cousins, but it's not just size that matters when it comes to desirability
When it comes to panel vans, it's the short-wheelbase variety the second-hand market wants more than any other.
Consequently, small light commercials perform strongest at auction and, according to Manheim Auctions, retain more than 35% of their new list price compared with 22% for some larger models.
Star performers include the VW Transporter, but it's Ford's Transit that is the dominating force in the SWB market.
"It's clear why the Transit continues to do so well," says Duncan Ward, BCA's UK business development manager. "It comes in a wide range of payload variants, a choice of power units, three roof heights and a huge range of options. It means the Transit has something for everybody and is the brand name that used buyers look for in the small-van market. The very latest Transits have taken the market by storm and, since launching into the used sector at BCA a year ago, remain highly desirable.
"Buyers prefer the manual shift and the vast majority go for diesel. There are a few dual-fuel versions around and these do best when sold within reach of London's congestion-charge zone."
The Transit might be dominant, but other manufacturers are trying to catch buyers' attention. Take, for example, the joint project that created the Renault Traffic and Vauxhall Vivaro launched in 2001, with Nissan's Primastar (the 'retail' version) following a year later.
The Vivaro is the major volume player and consequently the most widely available; with its sportier looks and standard whistles and bells, the Sportive models are the pick of the bunch. As it is a little scarcer, buyers tend to favour the Trafic, while the Primastar is rarely seen from corporate sources.
Supply and demand in the used sector inevitably means that rarer models are much sought after, and prices can rise sharply for well presented examples, particularly short-wheelbase versions of the Iveco Daily, VW LT and Mercedes Sprinter. "The Toyota Hiace in both SWB and LWB is also extremely popular, along with the LDV Maxus and Mercedes Vito, appealing to the less utilitarian user," says Ward. "The LDV Maxus is still not around in large numbers and so those that reach auction tend to be eagerly sought."
The larger LWB panel vans have seen increased popularity with recent driver licensing and tachometer legislation on 7.5-tonne trucks.
"These are true workhorses and tend to rack up their mileages faster than their smaller cousins," says Alex Wright, commercial vehicle sales director at Manheim. "Obviously, those in good condition with lower than average mileage sell first. According to our latest LCV market analysis report, the average mileage on vans in this sector, with an age of between 36 and 48 months, is just short of 95,000. Based on the popular three years/60,000 miles contract hire/lease period, a van coming back in this sector with 60k or less is fought over by our buyers, as long as condition reflects the lower mileage. Early terminations or repossessions are in strong demand, given that they are still under manufacturer's warranty."
Again, in the halls it's the Ford Transit that is popular. This time it's the 350 and, according to Manheim, those with the newer 115PS engine derivative are fought over by main dealers and large retail pitches. "The Citroën Relay also attracts interest from buyers who will save themselves £1000-£1500 on an equivalent model to the Transit," adds Wright.
Buyers' expectations are generally rising in the panel van sector. Specification is very important and is not lagging far behind the level that motorists expect in their own cars. Consequently, vans with aircon, satnav and metallic paint are much favoured over more basic white models.
Take your spec
In terms of body specification, a side-loading door is a must (two is even better), and a bulkhead is necessary protection for the driver and passengers and essential when ordering air conditioning. The interior must be protected with ply-lining to prevents loads causing bodywork damage.
BCA's Ward also says that those fitted with a tailgate rather than standard rear doors will generally sell at a premium purely through rarity, while glazed rear doors are not liked because they are seen as a security risk for any contents carried in the van.
Ward continues: "Fussy corporate schemes in obscure colours are not good news, and even worse if the paintwork is not a factory finish. Wrapping vans in corporate colours is a viable alternative these days and the results can be spectacular."
Finally, livery removal is essential, but if you are a seller don't just get the vinyl stickers removed and leave it at that with your company name showing in outline. Make sure your remarketer can deliver a quality machine-operated polish to finish the job properly, leaving a completely clear and clean panel for the next owner to rebrand.