Managing van wear and tear

We look at the best precautions you can take to preserve your van, and what happens when you end a contract or sell it


Vans can be a shop window for your business, but they are meant to work, and that means everyday knocks and scratches. We look at how to preserve your workhorse and what happens when you end a contract or sell it.

Right for the job

If you’re setting up with one or more new or used vans these can be bought outright, leased or on a subscription (a short lease you can end early), choosing the right size of van and fittings for the job will be key to keeping it in good shape in addition to regular servicing and checks on tyres.

If you’re mostly driving around towns and cities with small loads, then a small van is less likely to get knocked and will be easier to park. Also consider who will drive it.

“Parking sensors are the easiest route, says Steve Botfield, senior editor, commercial vehicles and motorcycles for the valuation experts Cap-HPI. “You’re giving your driver the ability to know how close they are to somebody else. A rear camera is just the same – they normally mount them at the top of the rear doors – that will give more than enough information to the driver.”

Vans straight from the factory in standard form have painted metal floors with ridges. “The floor will get damaged very quickly,” says Charlie Coull, subscriptions manager for our Expert Partner, Vanango.

“All it would take would be a stone to get caught underneath. And side walls – if somebody turned a corner, all it takes is for a toolbox to hit the side and you’ll see a dent showing outside.”

Vanango, like other suppliers, will ask what the van is to be used for when it goes to a new owner. “We would speak to a customer about what the van would be used for and ask them if they need anything else in the van. Are you going to need the general three-tier wooden racking? Some people go up to metal racking but it depends on the weight they need in the vehicle.”

Franchised van dealers and independent companies offer a lot of kit for the interior for your van and extras such as roof tubes for metal piping, brackets for ladders and interior shelving and storage systems – at a handsome price. For more of our advice on racking see here.

Everybody loves ply liners

As you’ll have found with any rented van, there will be a lining of wooden sheets covering the floor, the wheel arches, the back of the cab, side walls and doors. This is called ply lining, cut to shape for the interior of each van which can take spills, scratches and dents. If one section is damaged it can be easily replaced. Ply liners also make a van quieter and are a first stop for camper van conversions.

“Ply lining is really a pre-requisite when an operator puts a new vehicle on the road,” says Botfield. “What you don’t want is for anything inside the vehicle to either damage the side walls from in to out – you see loads of vans with those kind of dents on them.

“That ply lining protects the interior and cost-wise is easier to take out and replace than employ a body shop to repair those dents and paint the side of the van.”

Again, while manufacturers offer ply liners but also composite materials moulded to the shape of the floor, ply fitted either by a mobile specialist such as United Van Liners or by your van supplier will be cheaper. “If can get away with doing the bulkhead, sides and rear doors you could be looking at between £300-£400,” says Botfield. “But that makes your vehicle more saleable than somebody else’s.”

Ply liners are quick to install and replace. “We can have guys on site for an hour,” says Coull. “Some of the smaller vans can take 20 or 30 minutes, if that, especially if they are using a specialist who will turn up with pre-cut sheets to fit that loadspace.”

Companies such as Vanax supply pre-cut kits which you can fit yourself with a power screwdriver. However, a ply liner is not for all uses – if you’ll want to regularly hose out the van, you’ll needed a moulded plastic liner.

Damage when you return a lease or subscription van

When you come to the end of a van lease, subscription or sell it to a dealer, just like a car the condition will be assessed but the standards of normal wear and tear and whether you pay any penalty charges are different when it comes to Light Commercial Vehicles (vans and pick-ups)

As with cars, leasing and subscription companies should be following the acceptable wear and tear standards set by the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA) for vehicle returns. You can and should request your leasing company to provide you with a copy of this.

The BVRLA’s Fair Wear and Tear Guide for LCVs provides drivers and operators of contract-hired, leased, and financed light commercial vehicles with an industry-wide accepted standard that defines fair wear and tear. BVRLA members are able to obtain copies of these guidelines for their customers. The BVRLA standard is not legally binding, but it is a good guide of what to expect and gives you a starting point for any disputes you have with the leasing company over whether any damage should be considered fair wear and tear.

It expects there to be dents and scratches on any part of a van and sets down the size of what is considered acceptable at the end of a lease or subscription. For example, recognising that vans worked harder in the pandemic, in 2021 it increased the tolerance for scratches, from 25mm to 50mm. Areas of vans are colour coded by how much wear they are allowed to have and the load bay and rear step is top, shaded yellow.

“We’re open and honest,” says Vanango’s Coull. “Customers have a copy of the booklet. We have magnetic rulers which we put on the side of the van to show the length of scratches or scuffs on panels or wheels when we’re talking to someone. Our guys are trained and will do a pre-inspection before the customer gets here, then it’s however long that customer feels they need to check that vehicle themselves.”

Of course, this is cosmetic damage. If damage makes a vehicle unroadworthy, it can’t be left. “We ask them to provide monthly pictures of the vehicle to make sure that the vehicles are roadworthy,” says Coull. “If someone’s dented a vehicle and it’s showing sharp edges that needs to be looked at.”

At the end of a contract the majority of leased vans are sent straight to auction houses, and names such as Manheim, BCA and Aston Barclay have their own grading for condition and provide a report for bidders (most of which are online). These are not the same standards as the BLRLA guide, as Botfield from Cap-HPI explains:

“The BVRLA guide gives some reassurance that when a non-owned vehicle goes back to a leasing company they will provide an estimate of damage. There isn’t a standard cost across the board. One might charge £50 for an alloy wheel, another £75. It’s not like-for-like, but it gives an indication to the operator when he puts it in.”

How does van condition affect value?

Values of used vans went up almost a third during the lockdowns of 2020 when demand for parcel deliveries meant that anything with wheels and an MOT would sell, but now, even with the shortage of semiconductors for all kinds of vehicle, values are coming down and van buyers and dealers are more concerned about condition.

If you’re selling a van yourself, it will definitely be worth replacing a paint-spattered ply lining as it gives your van the edge of another and the dealer knows that they don’t need to bargain for remedial work and sell it on quickly.

Used van values are provided by Cap-HPI in the same categories as cars by ‘clean’ ‘average’ and ‘below’ standards plus mileage, but some damage is expected, says Botfield. “A clean van would be something that doesn’t need any external bodywork doing, any internal bodywork doing, has got all the paperwork and is in good condition.

“The average one still needs all that paperwork because it gives credence to the vehicle’s history and who owns it, but you might have a few dimple dents that takes it down that level to average condition. Below could be anything apart from a non-runner.”

As an example, a 2019 Ford Transit 350 L2 2.0-litre diesel front-wheel-drive EcoBlue 130ps H2 Leader with 60,000 miles is £17,800 to the trade in clean, £16,500 average and £14,150 below.

The price a dealer will pay for a van will also be guided on how it’s been used during its working life, and mileage is a lesser factor. A van used by a utility company in towns could only cover 20,000 miles in three years but it would have been mounting the kerb all the time and had tools thrown in the back of it. One van could have worked for a courier that’s worked 24/7 or florist five days a week.

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Russell Hayes
Russell Hayeshttps://amzn.to/3dga7y8
Russell Hayes’ early career was 14 years of motoring journalism in print, television and online. He worked for What Car? and Complete Car magazines, the BBC's original Top Gear programme and Channel 4's Driven. Since 2007 he has written motoring history books on subjects including Lotus, TVR, the Earls Court Motor Show, the Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Beetle and Bus and the original Aston Martin V8. Now a full-time author, two more books are in the pipeline for 2021 and 2022.

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