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AUCTIONS: Small on deliveries but big on returns

Date: 16 October 2007

Cheap and easy to run, comfortable and won't fill up the drive or stop light entering the neighbour's living room - that's why car-derived vans are so popular at auction

Second-hand buyers are very keen to get their hands on car-derived vans, that's according to both Duncan Ward, BCA's UK business development manager, and Alex Wright, commercial vehicles sales director at Manheim Auctions.

"Hatchback 'vans' may have no greater capacity than the average estate car, yet they are hugely desirable and sought after," says Ward, while Wright states: "Demand is high for used vehicles in this sector and usually exceeds supply."

That doesn't mean, however, that buyers are not judicious.

"Buyers look for a sensible mileage in line with the age, and for the vehicle to be in overall good condition," says Ward. "High mileage is okay if the condition is good, but lower mileage is much preferred.

"A little cosmetic damage to paint and trim is acceptable, but more serious body dings and scrapes suggest the van has been hard-worked."

More often than not these can be repaired using smart (small to medium area repair techniques) - removing dents, scratches and interior damage - at the point of sale by your remarketing partner. Manheim reports an increase in the number of fleets undertaking smart repairs on this type of van.

Wright adds: "Many vans enter the market with low mileage, and having spent time in an urban environment, so have a hard life. Buyers will look out for worn brake pads, disc wear and worn tyres - investing in repairs to this damage will ensure a vehicle sells first time and for strong money."

Small diesel models are most sought after in this area. Thanks to low insurance and high fuel economy they are a cost-effective new option for any fleet and are a popular buy in the used market. Manheim expects to see an increase in demand for vehicles with CO2 emissions of 120g/km or below over the forthcoming months owing to the imminent reduction in VED (road tax) and potential exemption from the London congestion charge.

However, there is a place for petrols.

"While diesel is almost universal in the commercial market, the odd petrol hatchback van will always do very well because they are so rare," says BCA's Ward.

In terms of specification, Ward says the higher the better as the second user is likely to be a self-employed tradesperson or small-business owner: "Aircon, metallic paint, alloy wheels, in-van-entertainment and satnav will make the van much more saleable."

Ward continues: "Being small, hatchbacks can take brighter, jazzier colours than larger vans. However, really fussy schemes will put off the used buyer who obviously will want to brand it to his or her own business requirements. It's worth considering vinyl decals if you want to turn your van into a mobile billboard. These can be removed at remarketing time and - combined with a good level of pre-sale preparation - will leave a solid base colour for the next owner."

Star performers for Manheim include the Renault Clio and Vauxhall Corsavan. Unusual models also sell well - in a recent Manheim auction a batch of white Ford Ka vans entered the market for the first time, causing an unexpected stir. They sold first time and the majority for above CAP average price.