Used Commercial Vehicle Buying Advice from CPD


Unlike a new vehicle, fresh from the factory and unloaded off the transporter complete with a manufacturer’s warranty, a used commercial vehicle will usually have travelled tens of thousands of miles humping, carrying and grafting for its previous owners.


So regardless of the type of vehicle you are considering purchasing, you can increase your chance of netting a reliable workmate through taking note of the below considerations.
Inspect the Bodywork
Arguably the most important element to check for when purchasing any used vehicle, is the presence of rust. Although most obvious on wings, doors and bumpers – ensure you also check the wheel arches and at the corners of the windscreen. It’s important to also check not only the vehicle, but the vehicle’s body. This may include tipping bodies, cages and traffic management bodies.

During this inspection, you should also consider the following:

  • Are the panels consistent?
    • Is there any recorded evidence of an accident?
    • Does the colour match across all panels?
    • Is the exhaust in good condition?
    • Are the tyres legal?
    • Does the condition of the vehicle match up with the vehicles recorded mileage?

Inspect the Suspension
Walk around the vehicle and confirm that it is standing level. Press down on each corner of the vehicle, if the shock absorbers are in place then the vehicle will bounce back without a problem. If you have any reservations about the performance of the suspension, view the previous MOT and take the vehicle on a thorough test drive.

Inspect the Engine
You don’t have to be a mechanic to carry out some simple checks which will confirm the overall condition of the engine and its associated parts. Carry out the following checks:

  • Search for oil leaks around the engine block
    • Look for worn, damaged and frayed belts and hoses
    • Check the oil levels, look for a smooth consistency. Gritty, lumpy or foamy oil could signal underlying problems
    • When the vehicle is cold, inspect the water levels. A tinge of anti-freeze is fine but keeps an eye out for oily traces and low water levels.

Learn the History
Failing to check three key elements of your new vehicles history is an unnecessary risk, which may cost you in both the long and short term. The three main elements you need to consider are:
In layman’s terms, a vehicle has been clocked if it has had its displayed mileage turned back to increase both its saleability and value. It’s estimated that almost 600,000 vehicles in the UK have been ‘clocked back’ the below information gives you some tips on how to spot this increasingly common problem.

  • Check MOT Certificates and Service History – The correct mileage is recorded on every single MOT, so review these and ensure there are no odd gaps or periods when the mileage is lower than the previous year. If there aren’t any old MOT’s you can check the details online using the V5c. It is also well worth matching the recorded MOT mileage to the vehicle’s service history documents.
    • Commercial vehicle interiors are generally built pretty tough, so look out for clear indicators that the mileage and usage may be higher than is claimed. Focus on worn out interior items including steering wheels, seats, pedals and switches. With regards to the exterior, listen out for clunks and bangs which may indicate prematurely worn out bearings and parts.
    • Test drive some similar models. Through test driving similar models, you can get a real sense of how the vehicle should both drive and perform.

Outstanding Finance
It could be that the vehicle you are considering purchasing has outstanding finance on it, making it the legal property of the finance company. If this is the case, you can easily come to an agreement with the finance company, and still end up owning the vehicle. Do not however, rely on the seller’s word that they will settle the outstanding balance.

Insurance Write Off
A history check may reveal that that the vehicle you are viewing has been written off or categorised as a total loss by an insurance company due to damage or theft. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean you should walk away from the vehicle, tell your insurance company about the classification, it won’t affect the yearly premium you pay, however it may affect what your vehicle is worth in the event of a pay-out.

Note that you may have some difficulty in re selling a written off vehicle, any potential buyer will share the same reservations you had at the point of purchase. It is also possible that the vehicle will no longer be marketable as part exchange at dealerships. Remember to have a full mechanical inspection carried out to ensure that the repairs have been carried out to a good standard. Never pay full book price for a written off vehicle.

CPD Bodies Ltd of Stockton on Tees, North East England, are leaders in Commercial Vehicle Bodybuilding and repairs, specialising in hand built premium quality Truck and Van Bodies. Based in Stockton on Tees in the North East of England, we are accessible to all areas of the UK, offering a pickup and delivery option for our commercial bodybuilder services in dedicated towns and cities across the country. We pride ourselves on fast turnaround times and quality of workmanship regarding traffic management and repairs alike.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here