How To Buy a Van: Things To Know

How To Buy a Van: Things To Know

Van life is more popular than ever before, especially with the advent of YouTubers and influencers highlighting the wonders of traveling the country in a comfortable van with a bed and a small kitchen. However, vans are also great transportation solutions for families, especially soccer moms or dads who teach Little League teams. Furthermore, vans can be ideal for carpooling to work with your coworkers or for many other needs.

However, buying a van isn’t the same as buying another type of vehicle, like a sedan or a pickup truck. You have to look for different features and consider a few key points. Today, let’s break down how to buy a van by going over some important things to know as you shop.

Choose the Type of Van You Want

Firstly, decide on the type of van you want to purchase so you end up with a vehicle that suits your needs or desires. Van types primarily differ based on their sizes and features:

  • Small vans, often called minivans, are perfect for taking kids and a small amount of camping gear around. They are great family vehicles through and through
  • Medium-sized vans, including the Chevy Astro Van. These may include enough room for sleep but are mostly used for cargo transportation
  • Large vans, also called cargo vans, are used for mobile businesses, construction companies, and conversions. Converted large vans usually have seats that can fold into a bed or other furniture, plus a few storage options
  • Extra-large vans, which are ideal if you want to take a long road trip and bring your home with you on the journey

Generally, larger vans are more expensive and require more gas and maintenance to keep running. You may also need to do some work on the van to convert it into the ideal vehicle for your needs.

2WD vs. 4WD

We recommend thinking carefully about two-wheel-drive vs. four-wheel drive. 2WD vans’ engines only move the front two wheels, meaning they are less suitable for off-road excursions. 4WD vans’ engines power all four of the wheels simultaneously, but they are also heavier and a little more expensive in terms of fuel economy. But they can be better for driving across hazardous or bumpy terrain or driving safely in inclement weather, such as during rain or a snowstorm.

Either option can work for your chosen van, of course. But the right drive system depends on your wants/needs.

New or Used Vans — Which Are Better?

There are also plenty of used vans on the market, but it can be tough to know whether they are worth your while. New vans are more expensive, but you’ll probably have fewer maintenance issues. Plus, vans tend to carry their miles more heavily than other vehicles, so the older the van, the less worth your time and money it is.

Ultimately, you’ll have to balance between budget and newness when selecting the right van for you. If you do decide to purchase a used van, be sure to follow the inspection and test drive tips mentioned below.

Find a Van From a Dealership vs. Private Seller

When you purchase a van, you can either go to a dealership or buy the van from a private seller.


Dealership purchases are oftentimes great if you are looking for a brand-new van or if you want to ensure that your used van is in reasonable condition. Dealerships will help you get financing or a loan for your van in many cases. If you choose a place like Carmax, you’ll also be guaranteed that the van works up to a certain quality or be able to return it for a refund if it gives you trouble later.

Private Seller

Buying a van from a private seller is riskier, but you could end up with a great deal if you find the right person. You can find van sellers on listing sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Some states, such as California, may have a bigger range of available vans to buy.

Regardless, sure to do a lot of research about the used van you plan to purchase and:

  • Ask why the owner is selling the van
  • Check out all the pictures of the van
  • Ask about maintenance reports or potential issues

If you buy a van from a private seller, set up a neutral meeting location and negotiate for a good asking price. The best places to buy a used van include police station parking lots or the parking lot of your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. These locations will ensure that the seller doesn’t try to rip you off.

Inspections and Test-Drives

Regardless of where you purchase your van, do a thorough inspection and take it to a certified mechanic. The mechanic can make sure that it isn’t damaged in any way and that you won’t run into major maintenance hurdles later down the road.

You should also test your van by taking it on a quick drive. If a private seller or dealership doesn’t want you to do this, walk away; they may be trying to hide something about the van. Your test drive should include a brief ride on the freeway so you can see how the van accelerates and stops. If you aren’t used to driving vans, you’ll want to practice before beginning your road trip or using the van as your major commuting vehicle.


Whether you buy your van from a private seller or a dealership, you’ll need to make sure it comes with the right paperwork. Specifically, you need:

  • The van’s title and registration information
  • The van’s maintenance manual or booklet
  • The odometer reading, which is legally required to be filled out at the time of the sale in most states
  • The van’s insurance information
  • The vehicle identification number or VIN

If you’re buying a used van, make sure the seller has all this paperwork ready to go when they show up for the sale. That’s why it might be wise to finish a used van transaction in the parking lot of the DMV; that way, either you or the seller can quickly run inside and get any other paperwork you’re missing before wrapping things up.


Buying a van new or used is a big decision. But if you purchase the right vehicle, you’ll be well-equipped to enjoy a long road trip, to ferry your family back and forth from soccer practice, or to tackle any other transportation task you might have. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to buy a van if you only need one for a short while.

Instead, you can contact Advantage Rent-a-Car. Our diverse fleet includes plenty of vans of varying sizes, including minivans, large vans, and everything in between. Plus, our rental locations are well located at convenient spots, like the parking lot of airports. Contact us today for more information and to rent the perfect van for your needs!

1 Odometer Disclosure Why is an odometer disclosure required? The Truth in Mileage Act (TIMA) is a federal law that requires the | Department of Transportation
What Is a Car Title and Why Is It Important? | Investopedia
How It Works: 2WD vs. AWD vs. 4WD | Consumer Reports

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