Much like the used car market, used van sales have seen a glimmer of light. According to auction houses used LCV prices fell by an average of around 27% overall in 2008, close to £1,000.
But there are green shoots of recovery. Average prices were on the rise in January, and February has also seen rises, albeit small at 1.8%.
James Davis, Manheim group commercial manager, said: “It’s difficult to forecast where the used market for LCVs will be at the end of this year. One thing that is definitely happening is leasing and contract hire companies are extending vehicles more and more.
“From the dealers I have spoken to demand is still there. Demand is good enough that dealers are buying to stock models.”
One of the major differences for the used van market in comparison to the last recession is the internet.
Business and retail customers can easily search out prices from across the UK and much like cars, customers can extensively research specifications and variations in price.
Duncan Ward, BCA general manager for commercial vehicles, said: “The last decade has seen steady growth in the used car market.
“Everything was ticking along quite nicely and then a slight blip occurred in the first quarter of 2008. I think there was more panic in the car market, but vans were following closely behind. A decline started in residual values as well as demand until, at the back end of last year, LCV prices had reached the bottom.”
Since the start of this year, BCA has seen a remarkable resurgence in used van activity, said Ward.
This surge in demand has come from two main places.
Many people who were putting off buying new vans have had to make a decision and have gone for the cheaper used option.
Another is that bigger trade businesses have been making staff redundant and those people are now deciding to go it alone and looking for their daily workhorses in the used market.
Although things are starting to look up in the used market, Ward believes the turnaround will still take time.
He said: “I can’t see the market bouncing back to normal levels this year, but it’s very difficult to predict. There will always be a business need for vans and that’s not going to change.
“People were so worried about the market place last year that they were putting off a purchase for as long as they could. I think a threshold has been crossed and optimism is starting to return.”
Dealers should be concentrating on acquiring stock in the £4,000 – £5,000 price range which is ready to retail and needs little or no servicing work. This is a notable step up from the conditions at the end of 2008, when the sub-£3,000 market was strong, but little else was attracting buyers.
“It will always come down to condition and that goes for whatever the situation the market is in.”
Ward’s advice to dealers was to keep an eye out for hot vans with high power outputs. While it would be expected that customers and businesses alike are reining in their spending, Ward said top-spec vans like the Volkswagen Transporter Sportline, Vauxhall Vivaro Sportive or Ford Transit Sportvan were proving popular.
He said: “Because they’re so hard to come by they always get snapped up.
“The double-cab pick-up market has also seen a really big turnaround this year. It’s one of the nearest things you can get to buying a standard car, so it might be the case that buyers are killing two birds with one stone by buying something they can use privately as well as commercially.
“There’s also been recent activity for older, higher mileage examples simply on price alone. Values have recovered somewhat this year, but remain well behind where they were when the credit crunch began.