Can you buy and sell vans and commercial vehicles from home?

Yes you can buy and sell vans and commercial vehicles from home. Selling vehicles from home maybe the optimal business model for most used dealers and vans flippers as it has many advantages. In fact many small and medium sized dealers have sold their forecourts and garages in recent years to start trading from home. 

Operating from home offer a much better work life balance than is traditionally found in the motor trade. Allowing you to start and end your day largely when you choose, as long as your work is complete and leads have been followed up.

This control over your day can make your life much easier, especially if you have a family as well as a business to look after. Whether it’s balancing school schedules, medical appointments, or collecting a van from the bodyshop all can be done a little more easily when you work from home.

Stress is normally a big factor in the motor trade and trading from home can reduce that massively. The average commute in the UK is now around two hours a day. So imagine the benefits of not having to travel to a garage of forecourt each morning.

As well as saving money on renting or paying a mortgage on a garage or forecourt you will save a small fortune on business rates, taxes and insurance. Personal spending will also be down on fuel, vehicle maintenance, transportation, parking fees, lunches bought out, and more can all be reduced or eliminated from your spending entirely. These savings add up and put more money back into yours and the businesses pockets. You may also be able to take advantage of the tax relief available from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for working from home.

There are also sound environmental reasons for working from home and the COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted some other key advantages of this kind of setup. Most traders I know that work from home have been largely unaffected in caparison to their high overhead competition.

You will most likely also see an increase in productivity when you work from home. This is mostly due to fewer interruptions, which would normally occur in a garage environment. By contrast, working from home allows for a quieter environment that can give you more focus.

You may want to setup a small office at home if you have the space, with lots of dealers setting up offices in their home garage or garden shed. Alternatively you could convert a spare room or add an extension. But in lots of cases you can run the business from the kitchen table or the comfort of your living room sofa. Whichever way you choose it will most likely be warmer and more confutable than a cold garage or leaky porter-cabin.

Depending on where you live you can also store your stock at your private residence. Alternatively you could rent some storage local to your area if you are short on space. Additional storage may add some cost but it will be a fraction of the cost of running a garage.

Most home traders subcontract the valeting of the vehicles out. But valeting and detailing from home is also an option. As is the carrying out of general vehicle repairs and maintenance if you have the right home. 

Obviously all this is all easy if you own a substantial property with plenty of parking and a good sized workshop, shed or barn. But even if you live in a small apartment and only have on street parking you can trade from home. All the dirty and noisy parts of van trading can be outsourced if you just don’t have the space, and I maybe stating the obvious but you definitely want to keep your neighbours on side.

I have heard some horror stories over the years form other dealers about having issues with neighbours. But in almost all of these stories the dealer was at fault and being unreasonable. These situations are totally avoidable and obviously should be avoided at all costs. The last thing you want is hassle with the local council and authorities.

Personally I outsource all the mechanical, valeting and bodywork repairs to local businesses, and only use my property as a base for storage and as an office. I doubt most of my neighbours would have any idea what I actually did for a living if it wasn’t for the ever changing vehicles. I very rarity have a potential buyer come to property, and normally arrange to pick them up from a convenient location with the van they are interested in. This suits my current market and location very well. You will obviously have to tailor your business to your personal situation. But where their is a will there is a way.

Conclusion

Trading from home may not work for everyone but many full and part-time car dealers operate successfully in this way and have done for many years. The key enabler in recent years has been the advancement in technology, and in most cases a smartphones and an internet connection will be all you need to run the business. Customer attitudes have also changed over time, with people now being used to buying expensive items over the internet. So having a large and elaborate premises is no longer a needed to be viewed as a ‘legitimate’ dealer.

Switching to dealing from home can also be a great move for established dealers. Overheads can be very high for van dealers with garages premises or forecourts. With most dealers needing to make tens of thousands a month just to cover the overheads. You will mostly likely sell fewer vans when operating from home, but your net profits may very well be the same!

You will have to look and your own situation and need to decide whether this is the right strategy for you. But in most situations the advantages are clear and easily outweigh the disadvantages in almost every case. 

It is also the easiest and cheapest way to start out in the car business, as it allows you to test the waters without committing to buying a property or signing up to a lease.