When new is not for everyone
If Light Commercial Vehicle sales can be used as a measure of general economic health, then 2014 was the year the country shook off its recessional blues and got back on track.
This sales surge has only begun levelling off.
Attractive discounts, scrappage offers, and low-rate finance helped to entice van drivers and fleet owners out of their tired machines and into new vans.
In fairness to the manufacturers, something extraordinary had to be done because the notion that existing commercial vehicle owners could trade up and into another used van was purely fictional.
Used vans simply did not exist in any decent volume.
To put it bluntly, the vans being traded in against new models had been kept by their owners for so long that they were fit only for scrapping. And so the used van market suffered a drought in supply.
There is still a shortage but things are not quite so bad this year.
Normally, when stock is scarce, residual values rise.
However, in the light commercial van market, such generous offers on new vans meant used-van values at the top end were moderated and kept in check.
Strong demand for commercials of all ages helped prop up values at the older end.
All of this means that spending a few extra euro buys you a fresher machine.
If you are in the market for a used van, or are making your first foray into the commercial market, here are some recommendations and top sellers to keep an eye on.
w Pick the right size van for you. Whether you are a florist, plasterer, carpenter, or builder, your van is another tool of your trade. w Be sure to choose one with an appropriate payload and power output for your needs.
w Buy from a dealer. Vans should be thought of as revenue generators. They are needed for travelling to prospective clients as much as travelling between jobs and wholesalers.
w If your van is off the road, it is costing you money. Get a guarantee.
w Maintain your van properly. A well cared for vehicle will always make good money when the time comes to sell it, which means you will pay less to trade up.
w If your company logo is on the side of the van, then keep it clean so it presents your business in the best possible (and easiest to read) light.
w Values can fluctuate depending on condition and mileage. Always compare like with like.
Peugeot Partner/Citroen Berlingo
Before the Ford Transit Connect came with three seats, the Partner and Berlingo (basically the same van) had this niche feature virtually to themselves.
In reality, the three seats can be thought of as two-and-a-half seats but the option of squeezing in a third person on occasion makes the Partner/Berlingo an attractive package.
Both come with a great 1.6 litre diesel engine and usually have decent trim levels.
Look for Active model Partners in particular.
Ford Transit Custom
The Transit Custom looks and does the business in equal measure.
There are loads of variants from which to choose but the main sellers are the Custom 250, 270 and 290.
The first two are short wheelbase vans, whereas the 290 sold better as a long wheel base. There are two trim levels and both sold equally well. Opt for a Trend model over Base version if you want some goodies.
If your accountant looks at you with a frown because the price of the Transporter is higher than its competitors, then point out the strength of its residuals.
This mid-size van from Volkswagen is consistently highly sought after on the used market and so it represents a great purchase.
Not only that, it has a strong 2.0 litre diesel engine and the overall finish and road handling make it an effortless drive.
The T2800 LWB 102 is ideal for busy tradespeople.
If you are driving longer distances and carrying heavier loads but don't need a large van, then opt for the T3000 LWB with 140bhp.
Opel Vivaro/Renault Trafic/Nissan Primastar
These are grouped together as they are essentially the same van.
Always better sellers as long wheel base variants, the reason these vans are so popular is partly because they start out cheaper than Fords and Volkswagens, but also because they happen to be excellent vans.
You might find that the Primastar 2900 LWB costs a fraction more money than its cousins on the used market.
Buy the one with the lowest mileage and in the best condition and you won't go wrong.
Volkswagen Crafter/Mercedes Sprinter/Ford Transit 350
If you are shifting heavy loads or covering a lot of ground, then the Crafter, Sprinter and Transit should be on your shopping lists.
The Renault Master deserves a mention here too because it represents such excellent value for money, but the other three vans are responsible for moving an awful lot of goods around the country.
A new Crafter launches this year, so watch for better availability of the old one on the market.