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Buying Advice - Commercial Vehicles: Buying a Van Privately



Check out the seller

If buying privately, it's wise to do your research on the seller as well as the van.


Get a landline telephone number but you should be aware that it could be for a public telephone box or might transfer to another phone. Call the number to check.


Always meet a private seller at their home address. Check that the van is registered on the V5C Registration Certificate (the “log book) to that address and look for signs that they reside there.


If you feel unhappy with the other party, trust your instincts and walk away. Do not be tempted by that elusive bargain.


Check the paperwork

Examine all the legal documents, plus any available details of the van's service history. The V5C Registration Certificate is the official document that records the name and address of the current and previous keepers, registration, chassis and engine number, make, year, model and colour.


Make sure that V5C has not been tampered with and that the document is watermarked. Compare the document with another V5C or look at the V5C for your own vehicle. See the DVLA website for more information www.dvla.gov.uk


Check that the vehicle identification number (VIN) matches that on the documents, and has not been tampered with. The VIN number is in at least three places on a vehicle. The 'visible' VIN plate is under the windscreen, on the nearside (left) of the van, under where the tax disc should be. The 'VIN plate/sticker' will normally be somewhere under the bonnet. There will be a number stamped in the main body that is located differently for each type of vehicle. Be very wary if there are any signs that etching or numbers have been tampered with or removed.


Look for a full service history, complete with dated rubber stamps, in the service book (but see the warning, below)


If the engine is reconditioned, ask for evidence, such as a bill or, preferably, a warranty


The MOT certificate, which must accompany all vans over three years old, is the evidence of the van's basic condition on the day of the test. Also check old MOT certificates (if the van is more than four years old) to see if there is a consistent story on the mileage. The general rule of thumb is: the more paperwork the better. A stamped service book is good, but actual receipts for servicing are better. It is not unknown for service books to be faked, so check that the stamps don't all look like they were created on the same day. It is far harder to forge receipts.


next: Checking the van