When it comes to buying new vehicles, most van fleet operators, unsurprisingly, opt for base spec models. After all, with money tight it seems the most cost-effective way of running a commercial vehicle fleet.
But what seems cost-effective at buying time is not necessarily cost-effective at selling time as anyone who attends one of the many UK van auctions will attest.
As vehicles come into the halls, eager buyers will be looking to purchase vehicles that will sell easily to second users. And increasingly those second-users are expecting comforts such as air-conditioning, a good quality sound system and even built-in sat-nav.
It’s all a matter of assessing wholelife costs when buying new vans – and fleet operators would do well to heed the words of the auction experts or risk losing a fair chunk of money in a vehicle’s lifetime.
When it comes to looking at added extras in detail, some curious anomalies start to appear.
Take metallic paint for example. Few, if any, fleet operators would choose this option, which nor-mally costs around £300. But according to the experts, a van with metallic paint will fetch up to £500 more than a flat-finished van at auction.
As ever with number-crunching exercises, the equation is not quite that simple. If your van with metallic paint is scraped and scuffed, which is quite probable, it will cost more to have resprayed with a metallic finish, so this will have to be factored in.
A problem also arises when looking at rear parking sensors, which appear as an option on just about all van price lists. (Fleet Van believes they should be standard fit).
Parking sensors will add around £200 to the cost of your van new and will, according to the experts, add about £50 to the value at auction – making a net loss of £150. But those sensors will probably save you hundreds of pounds in damage repair costs over the fleet life of
The problem here is if you are asked by your bosses to justify the expense of adding parking sensors. Their benefits are nigh on impossible to quantify: your drivers are unlikely to tell you about their near misses.
Sadly, safety extras do not seem to add value to used vans, whereas cosmetic options such as alloys wheels and metallic paint do.
Duncan Ward, BCA’s UK business development manager – commercial vehicles, said: “When you are offering upwards of 400 vans, you really notice how the buyers gravitate towards the best presented, well-specified vehicles.
“If you are a professional buyer for retail, you know that certain vehicles will stand out in adverts and on the forecourt and you want those on your shopping list. In a sim-ilar fashion, end-users buying at auction will seek out the best vehicles they can buy with the budget they’ve got – and if a van with twin side loading doors, a bulkhead and air-con is on offer, that will be the one they bid for if the alternatives are basic models.”
According to BCA, the best long-term value extra is interior ply-lining – used buyers expect it and it protects against ‘inside-out’ damage.
All sizes of vans benefit from this ‘extra’. In terms of added value, ply-lining might add only £100 or so, but the real benefit is that the van is much more likely to be in a more saleable condition after three or four years’ hard work. An otherwise clean van valued at £5,000 could easily lose up to £1,500 if its side panels are extensively blemished from inside-out damage.
BCA also sugg-ests that side-loading doors are as essential for the smaller car-sized vans as they are for 3.5-tonne vans.
Alex Wright, managing director of Shoreham Vehicle Auctions, said speccing a vehicle correctly will help it sell more quickly, and keeping the age of the vehicle and the target audience in mind are key when deciding what will increase its value at the point of sale.
The age of a vehicle will often determine whether it is worth speccing or not. While spec works well on newer vehicles, it can be detrimental to older vehicles, as the replacement, repair and maintenance of new technologies can cost more than the vehicle is worth.
Wright said: “Additional spec on white vans over six years old is not generally necessary.
“Younger vans will sell better with spec. Sub five-year-old large panel vans should always be fitted with electric wing mirrors, as these are much sought after.
“Air conditioning will increase the value of smaller vans, especially if they are dark in colour and are fitted with a bulkhead, but can be more of a burden in large white vans with no bulkhead, as the system has to work hard to cool a large space, consequently eating precious fuel.”
Vehicles that benefit most from spec, according to Wright, are the high ‘lifestyle’ vans such as the Volkswagen Transporter, Mercedes-Benz Vito and Renault Trafic.
Reversing sensors, air-conditioning, colour-coded bumpers and cruise control all change their value.
Wright said: “Whether alloy wheels add value to a van is down to personal taste. Quality alloys can look good and reduce the weight of a van, which for a commercial operator means they can carry a heavier load.
On the downside, damaged alloys can be expensive to repair. Another consideration is steel wheels, which can look just as smart with wheel trims, but are more practical to repair and replace.”
Metallic paint sells better on younger, sub four-year-old vans with little wear and tear, according to Wright, but it can make repairs more costly.
He said: “Someone looking to buy an eight-year-old Ford Transit with a damaged panel will favour the white over the silver van, as the cost of repairing or replacing the panel will be more than the van is worth. On a three-year-old Renault Kangoo, however, the buyer is more likely to favour the silver over the white van.
“Built-in sat-navs and in-cab phone charge points are important, but operators looking to maximise the value of their vehicles when selling them on should also look at in-built docking stations or adaptive cradles for a range of communication equipment.”