Used Vans

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Used Van buying 5 tips

1. Do your research. Knowing the details (design history, number built, rare options, etc.) about the year, make and model of van you want to buy is the first step in getting serious about becoming a classic van buyer. Search itaggit’s member roster for anyone who owns the type of van you’re contemplating buying. 99.999% of classic van owners like to correspond with others of their ilk…even if you are just a beginner. Widen your Internet search to look for van clubs for the particular vehicle you’re thinking about. They’ve already done the exhaustive work of compiling production records, serial numbers and which days the plant went on strike. You may have to pay to join, but the fee is usually nominal, and is a bargain in regard to the wealth of info at your fingertips as a member. You should also buy a book or two about the van you’re searching for. Again, someone else has done the painstaking research before you, allowing you to narrow in on a specific year or model that’s more rare or otherwise more desirable than another.

2. Know the prices. Yes, there are the occasional screaming bargains to be had, but most of the sales that take place (whether online, in person from an owner, or from a classic van dealer) fall within a range that directly corresponds with the condition and rarity of a particular van. Just like with late-model used vans on a dealer’s lot, there’s low, average and high “book value” on every collectible van out there. Finding those sources is easy on the Internet, but don’t forget to also check the for sale ads in venues like hemmings. com and collectorvantraderonline.com. Pretty soon you’ll get to know what the vans are selling for, and what you can reasonably afford.

3. Buy the seller as well as the van. With more and more classic van sales taking place online these days, you may not get to meet the seller in person. So, how can you be sure he’s telling the truth about the van he’s describing? Well, you can’t…but you can take some of the mystery out of the equation by doing what I call “buying the seller.” After you talk about the van in question, ask the seller a litany of things about himself, his work, where he lives, what other vans he owns, and what else he’s sold recently. Much of this may seem like idle chit-chat, but you’re actually getting pieces to the puzzle of truth. For instance, I always ask what other vans the seller owns. If he’s selling a 1967 Mustang and he’s owned two others, and has another vintage Ford product in the driveway, I tend to believe that he knows what he’s talking about on this particular van. But if you see in the background of the photos that his yard’s a mess and there’s a van up on blocks in the driveway, chances are he hasn’t taken the best of vane of the van you’re asking about. And, one more very important part of your checklist: Does the seller balk at answering your questions, or does he regale you with a day-by-day dissertation of the van’s restoration process? Again, most collector van owners love to talk about their van…especially one they’re trying to sell. If the seller is slow or curt in answering questions, I’d look elsewhere.

4. Documents, photos, histories. In this day and age, nothing is more important than thorough documentation. As prices rise on collector vans of all types, so does the market for counterfeits. The honest sellers will say their van is a “clone”, “tribute” or “built up” model, meaning, for example, they took a 6-cylinder Dodge Challenger and put a 440 V8 under the hood, but are not trying to pass it off as the “real deal” (another phrase often used.) By contrast, the dishonest sellers will do all they can to make that former 6-cylinder van look and feel like the “real deal” 440 R/T, which can be worth double, triple or more than even the best 6-cylinder on the planet. The most valuable vans will doubtless come with a three-ring binder stuffed with items such as original window stickers, build sheet (a computer list of factory equipment) deciphering, old registrations, repair receipts and photos of any restoration work. Yes, even with all that, vans can still be phonied up, so caveat emptor, my friend. If the van you’re looking at just somehow doesn’t feel right to you, pass on it. There’s always another one out there somewhere.

5. Do your diligence. Okay, so even after the seller has sent you photos of every nook and cranny of your dream used vans, it’s still up to you to do the necessary diligence before buying. And this needs to be done in person. But if you can’t drop everything and fly across the country to look at a particular van, there are classic vehicle appraisal services that can do it for you. Plan on spending a few hundred dollars for their service, but I call that cheap insurance. They’ll give you a multi-point checklist of what’s right and what’s wrong with the van, including looking at if it’s a true “matching numbers” van (a vehicle where the engine serial number matches that van’s VIN) or not. Be advised however, that not every classic van came with such matching number stampings from the factory. But for the ones that did (such as Corvettes) the price difference between a numbers matching van and one with a “NOM” (“not original motor”) can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Again, do your diligence on the exact van you’re looking for, so you’ll know the right questions to ask, and the right amount to pay. There’s nothing at all wrong with buying a NOM van, so long as the seller states it as such and you’ve paid the proper price for it. Many vintage van enthusiasts prefer a NOM van because they get all the looks and performance of a numbers matching machine, but at a far lower cost. And, all this should be about having fun, anyway.

Ford Dealers, Vauxhall dealers

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