Are used buyers paying extra for side-loading doors, satnav and metallic silver paint? Tony Rock finds out whether it’s worth speccing extra kit on LCVs

When it comes to increasing the desirability of load-lugginging estate cars at auction, specification plays a surprisingly key role. But does the same logic apply in the cargo-carrying van world?

Duncan Ward, BCA’s UK business development manager – CVs, believes so, and says he has long championed fleets to up-spec vans at acquisition time to make them more desirable.

Ward says: “When you are offering upwards of 400 vans in some of our bigger sales, you notice how buyers gravitate towards the best presented, well-specified vehicles. Generally, a better specification will make a van more desirable and saleable, and higher-spec vehicles will often sell the first time they’re offered, improving cash-flow for the seller.”

Ward continued: “When valuing options, it is important to remember that price is always relative to current market conditions, the demand from buyers and the presentation of the vehicle itself. For example, in the current market, if you offered a van with every option imaginable, but it was in poor cosmetic condition, any possible premium would be wiped out by the buyers’ concerns about the time it would take to repair the vehicle.”

Eddie Parker, head of LCVs at Masterlease, agrees that condition is paramount, although his opinion on options in general differs from Ward’s.

“Options such as satnav, Bluetooth and aircon still aren’t having a great impact, as condition is still the main criterion that influences buyers,” he begins. “They are demanding great bodywork condition and mechanically sound vehicles backed up by a full service history. In order for an LCV to attract a high price it must stand out from its peers, and unfortunately extras or options are not a key selling point in this difficult market.

“Bulkheads or ply lining will be considered worthwhile, but the lack of importance placed on gadgets highlights the fact that LCV buyers tend to be no-nonsense people who aren’t swayed by flashy extras.”

Ply’s best

According to Ward, possibly the best value extra that can be specified is interior ply-lining.

“Used buyers expect to see it and it will protect vehicles from the bulk of ‘inside-out’ damage,” he says. “In terms of added value, it might add £100, but the real benefit is that the van is more likely to be in a more saleable condition after three or four years’ hard work.”

Alex Wright, sales director, commercial vehicles at Manheim Auctions, agrees, saying: “Ply-lining does not necessarily add value, but when considered from the viewpoint that it protects the asset, it more than pays for itself.”

Side-loading doors are the second key option for fleets to consider.

“A single nearside SLD is probably the bare minimum these days,” says Ward. “Potential value in the used market can increase by around £150 for a single, depending on the vehicle.”

As for two SLDs, Wright says: “Twin side-loading doors can add up to £200 on car-derived vans, and up to £500 in panel vans – dependent on age, mileage and usage.”

Satellite navigation, however, doesn’t deliver the kind of residual advantage that might be expected.

Wright explains: “Factory-fitted satnav is rare in car-derived and panel vans; the portable units have boomed in popularity and now, with mobile phone software, the premium is less.”

It’s not all bad news, though, as Ward says that despite satnav not being “the deal maker it once was, a good quality factory-fitted integral system might add £50 to £100 for the right buyer”.

According to Ward, other forms of in-van technology offer similar returns to satnav.

“In-van entertainment and Bluetooth connectivity may add some value to a retail-standard vehicle, but any increase would be marginal – say £50,” he says. “Parking sensors are rare but might also add £50.”

Air conditioning, however, adds between £100 and £200 depending on the vehicle, according to BCA.

“Aircon is highly valued when combined with a bulkhead, otherwise all that cool air dissipates into the load area and simply burns money,” says Ward, while Wright adds “operators of large fleets consider the additional fuel consumption involved” if a large panel van doesn’t come with a bulkhead.

Manheim reports that come disposal time, so called ‘lifestyle’ vans, featuring alloy wheels, chrome side steps, chrome detailing and finished in metallic paint perform well.

“They are far rarer so continue to make strong money,” says Wright.

“Trim and finish are often overlooked, but can add some considerable value to the right vehicle as the self-employed tradesman will always favour a van that bristles with ‘car-like’ options,” says Ward. “A good retail colour could add £300 to £500 on the right van, when compared with a standard white finish, and if paired with a decent set of alloys add another £200. What should be avoided are obvious corporate colour schemes.”

Spec up

The disposal experts’ advice for the future is not to scrimp on options when buying new because you’ll be at a disadvantage in the long-run.

“Where cars go, vans inevitably follow and today’s extras will be tomorrow’s standard,” advises Ward. “Volume operators should certainly bear this in mind if they are ordering large numbers of basic models – it could mean their vehicles are out of step with buyers’ needs when they are sold in three or more years time.”