• What to look for when buying a van

    I thought it might be useful to have a thread of what to look for when buying a van, seeing as nomadic living is full of people saying help, what do I look for?

    So here is a list that you can print out and take with you when going to look.

    Check for rust at the bottom of door posts, wheel arches, sills, (the bits underneath the doors where the body meets the floor pan) and check inside the wheel arches for holes or serious rust. Surface rust is to be expected if you're buying something a bit older. Don't worry about it. Worry about the fat stuff that bulges out.

    If you can get underneath have a good look at the chassis. Any bends/kinks/damage is bad and probably mean it has had a bad accident at some point in its life. Avoid huge bulging bits of rust. Again, surface rust is to be expected.

    Check that all doors, boots, bonnets, etc. meet up where they're supposed to. If they don't it can be an indicator that it's been involved in an accident and the body is a bit twisted. Though not always. (the door on my bedford doesn't shut well because there's a bulge in the wheel arch that i haven't got round to fixing.) Be suspicious if there are problems with most doors.

    When you get there, see if the engine is hot or cold, and if the seller has been running it before hand. Ideally you want to hear the engine start up from cold. Then try and leave it running through out the inspection so you can hear it warm up and watch how high the temperature gauge goes. Also smell for overheating. It is a distinctly different smell from the normal warm smell of an engine. Listen for any odd noises from the engine. It should be running fairly smoothly and not making too many rattling noises.

    Once inside the vehicle, put your foot firmly on the foot brake while in gear and lift the clutch to make sure it stalls nice and cleanly. If it makes a fuss about stalling it's clutch is probably not too healthy. Also check how high the bite of the clutch is. Be wary if the bite point is very low. If you get the chance to drive it, pay attention when pulling away to see if it's juddery. Obviously it might judder a bit because it is an unfamiliar vehicle to you, but if it does it excessively the clutch plate could be warped.

    Sit in the drivers seat with the clutch down and go through all the gears to see how easy they are to find. If it is like stirring a bowl of custard the gearbox may be on it's way out. If it's a much older vehicle you are looking at, it might just be a case of not knowing where the gears are, so if you can go for a drive with the owner, watch to see if they have any trouble getting it in to gear.

    When you go out for a test drive listen all the time for clonks, especially when cornering. Ideally take it somewhere where you can do three point turns and listen when turning tight corners. Clonking can often be an indication of knackered suspension, knackered anti roll bar or many other unhealthy things.

    When you get a nice bit of straight road, take your hands off the wheel to make sure it stays in a straight line. If it doesn't, the tracking could be out. This is a very minor problem to solve so it doesn't matter if it does, but it's worth checking the tyres extra thoroughly on the insides, because if it does pull a lot there may be uneven wear and they will need replacing.

    When you have a nice stretch of straight road with nothing behind you, try braking with your hands off the steering wheel. If it pulls to one side then the brakes will be needing attention. When you get back, check the temperature of the wheels by touching the centre of them. If they are very hot there is probably a brake sticking somewhere.

    Once you've parked up after the test drive have a look underneath and see if there is anything dripping. Oil leaks in older vehicles are the norm so don't panic over a few drops. Lots of drops are not so good.

    Check all the lights and electrical things, windscreen wipers etc. If one or two don't work it's not a huge problem, might just be a bulb or two gone. If quite a few don't work there could be a whole mess of electrical problems waiting for you!

    As most of us are always on a tight budget when looking for a van, you are highly unlikely to find a vehicle without faults. If the vehicle you are looking at does have any of the problems listed above, it doesn't mean you definitely shouldn't buy it, it just means you should budget for the repairs and use the faults as a bargaining tool to knock down the price!

    That's pretty much all i can think of for now, but there are bound to be lots of things i have forgotten and lots of things i don't know, so if those of you with vehicle experience want to add to this list (or correct me on anything i've got wrong) then that would be great.

    Good luck with your new vans!

    This article was originally published in forum thread: what to look for when buying a van started by stardust View original post
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. Genevieve's Avatar
      Genevieve -
      I wish I had been on here to read this before I bought Genevieve...I ended up with a 600 bill for welding due to rust the first time I put her through the MOT plus I have had to have the alternator refurbished and a new starter motor put in! She works like a dream now and has just passed her MOT with only 6 minor advisories.

      Excellent article.
    1. Enigma_rising's Avatar
      Enigma_rising -
      ooooh thankyou hunny) this will come in mighty useful when i finally have the cash for a van, lol i wouldnt have known to look for half that stuff. nice one
    1. SUNSHINE AND CO's Avatar
      SUNSHINE AND CO -
      Great info i will be taking a copy with me, was out bid on a mini bus this morning i was crying lol hope to find a bus/van/ambulance very soon x
    1. good life's Avatar
      good life -
      good info cant wait for my next van project!
    1. mikema's Avatar
      mikema -
      Thanks Stardust this will help when i start my search for my first van some common sense stuff that we need to be reminded of,great article.
    1. tree's Avatar
      tree -
      get a transit they are the best by far .ive owened load of vans but the transits always the best cheapest and most reliable
    1. hippy dave's Avatar
      hippy dave -
      Two rules for buying a dream rig .. never trust a hippy & steer clear of showman ...ow and a 3rd watch out for the 'white elephants' going cheap at auctions ..
    1. julianthegypsy's Avatar
      julianthegypsy -
      Quote Originally Posted by tree View Post
      get a transit they are the best by far .ive owened load of vans but the transits always the best cheapest and most reliable
      Really?
      Mine looked really clean...until it fell in half, rotted from the inside out and only 8 years old with 75,000 on the clock, I was not impressed.
    1. scruffy steve's Avatar
      scruffy steve -
      Quote Originally Posted by tree View Post
      get a transit they are the best by far .ive owened load of vans but the transits always the best cheapest and most reliable
      oh sorry tree, cant help it, you have had loads of Transits because they all fell in half

      I'm afraid there is a bit of truth in the Transits rotting, I have seen a few mates scrap theirs over the years, look good but totally rusty around the vitals.. Get a shity Sherpa and go a bit slower

      Something to watch for is [ yep Perkins engined Sherpas do this ] smoke with diesels..

      I want to tell you a short story, I have a smoky Sherpa, not really bad but enough to make the testers eyes water, however at MOT time I turn the pump down, the van loses lots of power but smoke decreases enough to get through the test.. what I am saying is; if the old van you are looking at is not smoking but couldn't pull the skin of a rice pudding it might have been turned down a bit...

      If the seller tells you it needs injectors and they are making it smoke, the injectors on my van were 50 each.... and the back one was a bastard to get out
    1. kitkat's Avatar
      kitkat -
      Hey guys i liove in my ldv school bus, was just wondering if you have any ideas about what to do about the fridge, have got one but is not plugged in as unsure wether to do electric or gas or wether to bother at all, survived lasted last summer without but was wondering if there was a clever option............. cheers x
    1. clash65's Avatar
      clash65 -
      How strange, iv just joined ukhippy and have found the article i didnt know i was looking for lol, as im about to buy a petrol/gas van, does any one anything about these, reliability n wot not
    1. clash65's Avatar
      clash65 -
      Quote Originally Posted by hippy dave View Post
      Two rules for buying a dream rig .. never trust a hippy & steer clear of showman ...ow and a 3rd watch out for the 'white elephants' going cheap at auctions ..
      Wasnt that johnny rotten that said never trust a hippy(im offended lol)in the swindle, so was it the showman at the auction that was selling the white elephant, or have i been side tracked here somewhere lol ,sorry hippy dave couldnt resist
    1. gee's Avatar
      gee -
      ok hears some more advice older vans have better diesel fuel systems because they have mechanical pumps if ur buying newer common rail/elecric computorised junk be ware! the bills can go into thousands the injectors are hundreds so old mechanicals are sound just watch the tinwork but newer means anything over 70 to 100 thousands a bit iffy unless owned by a person who has been meticulas with the services and filters conditioning etc, they will go better and be more eco on the fuel but they hate bio diesel which turns to sludge in most diesels but ruins new electric pump type diesels, its a bit of a minefield!
    1. FunkyFro's Avatar
      FunkyFro -
      Fair play for starting this thread.I'm looking for a new project at the moment.I've found loads of well priced possibilities on this sitewww.mobile.de.It is german and they will be left hookers but for aanyone planning on bumbling round europe this is perfect!I'd say the 1990's mercs are the way forward.Bloody reliable and turn on a sixpence!Well that's my two penneth!!
    1. doc.fixit's Avatar
      doc.fixit -
      we have a merc 609D. a 1987 big old merc that has done about a 100,000 miles. No electronics and built to last in third world countries.a very long build period.over twenty years ending in 2006 so loadsa cheap spares although over the ten years we have owned it since I converted it to a home i have only needed service items.As an engineer and general repair person I can do anything on it and it does weigh 5 1/2 tons loaded but it is reliable and simple, (a bit like me), so not everybody's choice but i am very satisfied.love y'all bry d
    1. Barefoot's Avatar
      Barefoot -
      I’m going to printout this list and pass it onto a friend who’s currently in the market for a vehicle!
    1. Spanishpeach's Avatar
      Spanishpeach -
      Proved really useful in helping us non mechanical minded peeps here, make up our mind.Many thanks for all the useful info.
    1. castlevera's Avatar
      castlevera -
      get an old iveco done thousands of trouble free miles and it runs better on vo/rvo just cange fuel filters often (4)
    1. erch's Avatar
      erch -
      I read an article about a guy who used a Renault Trafic as a home for a while. It had loads of good info. If I can find it again I will come back with a link details
    1. roadrebel's Avatar
      roadrebel -
      thanks all the machanics on here for there advice i am going to be spending more time back on the road travelling from eco village to eco village offering any of my experiance an knowlegde cant spell my skills dont lay there haha it true n e way it was like listining to my dad teaching me about motor bikes and trailers an trucks am one of 11 children to the same parents both now deceased however reading that brought back a lot of info i forgot to think about now. mind i hope i never have to work on the ones i get haha else i be calling mr n mrs doc,fixit for help haha am selling my r1 bike to get it so better be good ha ha although pembrokeshire wales a beautiful place to ride bikes it also great place to travel an roam by van dog ahtes me going on the bike he insists i take him an the bike should go. no man been able to persuade me to not ride bikes n e more but for my four legged pal ty dog the truckers nightmare he a black dog big slinky fast you never know he is their til you turn round good dog gentle but on it an he trailer born wise friend n e way i will be sure to take on your advice i no it sound advice it reminded me to take a look at the petrol filter to an drain bit of oil from the bottom of the oil tank drain nut or whatever you mechanics call it haha i can hear my old man going on to me now thanks for bringing back the flashback of useful knowlege right am gone be safe all any ideas of vans i may consider for me an me hound you think i would be wise to look up for cost effective fuel an reliabilty i appreciate you thoughts. safe travels may you keep a fair wind on your cheek.... not your ass cheek