Purchasing a vehicle in general is tough enough as you consider things like new/used, mileage, manufacturer, etc. I think the goal for any purchase in life, especially something as potentially expensive as a van, is to make sure research is completed, pros/cons are weighed, and some peace of mind can be had based on your decision. As you continue on your journey to finding the van that is right for you, whether that be van life or just an adventure-mobile, there are several things that can come to mind while choosing that vehicle. The information in this article is representative of my viewpoints on how to purchase vehicles and could differ greatly from yours. I hope you can find something useful as a takeaway.

New or used?

We can argue both ways for this, but I have a bias towards newer vehicles. I was raised in a family where my dad would purchase a new vehicle, but then keep it for 10+ years. I’ve bought 3 cars in my life, 4 including the van, and it is 50/50 on new or used for me.

The two used cars I’ve bought in my life were a used 1991 Subaru Legacy and then a 1994 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight. Both vehicles treated me well, so I can’t complain about used car purchases.

My first new car purchase was my 2007 Hyundai Tiburon. I was in love with the body style, and landing a good job after college, I decided to put some hard earned money towards that. The car was great, I liked knowing that I was the only owner of it and I didn’t have to worry if something happened to it without my knowledge.

When I bought my van, the biggest consideration for me was new or used. I started looking into both because I wanted to maintain an open mind about which to buy. One thing that I noticed was that the specific model I wanted, ProMaster 2500 high roof, kept its value pretty well when it came down to viewing used offers online. I’ve listed a couple of helpful searches later on in the article that go into more detail about pricing, but I was finding 2017 models that had about 25k miles and were only about $2,500-3,000 less than the new asking price. The new pricing I found at most dealerships were anywhere between $30,500 and $32,000 depending on the model. To me, that peace of mind of knowing I was the only driver for those first 25k miles was worth that extra money, so I narrowed down my search to mainly new models only.

Dealer Experience

No offense to any dealers reading this…but I’ve got some things to say! Overall, I think things have changed from how I grew up and my experience with buying through a dealer. It was always ingrained in my mind that you could haggle with a dealer and try to get what you want in terms of pricing. That is definitely not the case currently, or at least not with a commercial vehicle. The price is the price and that’s about it. I made countless calls to every dealer in the area, even some in other states, and typically speaking, what the price is online is what your end price will be (not taking into account taxes). There are pros and cons to this I suppose, in that you won’t get to the dealer and get a “deal”, but you won’t spend more on the base price at least.

My opinion of dealers and the entire experience definitely felt like a ton of work, but I made it that way. To be totally transparent, I came into it with the thought that I would be able to play dealers against each other with different pricing, but it didn’t really work out too well. These ProMasters hold their value really well and they are typically bought by businesses, imagine using a cargo van to actually haul cargo and not live out of, so it is pretty common for deals to only be made in bulk quantities if at all. One advantage to what you see is what you get is that you can do a proper comparison and then see who responds and treats you the best during your phone calls.

The best advice I can give is to do your research and find the best deal you can find online, give them a call and ask as many questions as you can before you get there. We live in California and one thing I’ve learned about this state is that customer service is not a major priority. I moved here from a smaller city in Wisconsin where you aren’t just a number, so things are slightly different in such a large state (understandably so). Getting your questions answered prior to your appointment at the dealer is the best way to try and get in and out, however, even with an appointment that I made, I was still there for about 4-5 hours. This was mainly due to waiting in line to talk to the dealer and then near the end they cleaned up the van I was purchasing. So not a horrible thing to sit and wait for!

Provided below are a couple of things to think through as you’re at the dealer or finance desk.

  • Extended Warranty: Decide if you want an extended warranty before going in. They will make you feel like you need one, but do you really? If you feel this is necessary, consider looking at options outside of the dealer as well. I actually went with this option as I’m a fan of warranties and felt it was a good value add-on since this was going to be my home.
  • Vehicle Service Contracts: Sometimes it’s beneficial to roll your maintenance into the price of the vehicle so you can really see how much you’re paying if you’re on a budget or prefer having that be a part of your loan (should you be financing). Companies outside of the dealer, such as Ally Auto, offer great alternatives. Again, I went with Ally Auto and felt it was a great value add-on.
  • Budget: Knowing how much you can afford to pay on your loan can help you reduce the amount of interest you are paying. It is in the benefit of the dealer/financial institution to keep you on the hook longer so you pay them more interest. Do yourself a favor and see what you can afford and keep the principle payment higher by having a shorter loan time.

All in all, I had a pretty good experience over at Huntington Beach Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. The finance manager there was really helpful and easy to work with. I’d say that was the best part of the experience as he wasn’t trying to push add-ons at me. Let Chris Rhyner know we sent you!

Gas or Diesel?

This is a large topic to write about on it’s own. Here are the 5 main things we took into consideration.

  • Fuel Economy/Cost of Fuel/Fuel Availability
  • Maintenance Cost
  • Longevity
  • Travel Restrictions
  • Resale Value

You can read the entire article we wrote that describes the differences. Buying a Van: Gas vs. Diesel

Helpful Websites

Spread the word

Theres nothing better than bugging your friends and having them keep an eye out for good deals to try and get a van. Sometimes the best deals can come from word of mouth. I’ve heard stories of others who had a friend of a friend that was itching to get rid of a vehicle they no longer use. If anything, having more eyes open for sales or special offers could come in handy as you are searching for the vehicle that best fits you.

Conclusion

It’s tough to say what the best choice is when choosing which van to purchase or where to purchase it from. No one can really decide that for you. My advice would be to look at all of the things you want out of your van, what you consider difficult in terms of maintaining yourself versus having someone maintain it for you, and think a little bit about your long term goal. Venturing into this lifestyle probably paves the way for not knowing where you’re headed in life, so just give the options some thought and your decision will work itself out!