Flipping vans on Craigslist can be a great way to make some extra cash. But selecting the right vans to flip can make all the difference to whether you succeed or not, how quickly your van sells and how much money you make when it does. Our experience flipping vans on Craigslist has taught us that you should focus on inexpensive vans that would appeal to a small local business or private driver just looking for good reliable transport. These vans are also generally fast sellers, simple to appraise and make good margins on. Below we will guide you though exactly what you should look for when looking to flip a van on Craigslist.
What size van should I buy to flip on Craigslist?
We would recommend looking for a small to medium sized vans from the likes of, Ford, Fiat, Renault, Suzuki, Hyundai, and VW. Larger vans are to be avoided unless they are cheap. Our experience has taught us that bigger LWB vans can be significantly harder to sell as the majority of buyers are looking for smaller vans.
How much should you spend on a Craigslist van flip?
Most part time van flippers are operating at the $2,000 – $3,000 price point, working on a $1000 margin. So you need to be looking for vans that can retail at $1995 and owe you no more than $800 – $1000, or $2995 with a stand in price of $1500 – $1750. Leaving a little movement to get a deal done and still maintain margin.
You will make a little more on some deals and a little less on others, but most seem to average $1000 per deal over the course of a year. You might start buying vans at $500 and trying to get $1000 retail. But most successful long term flippers operate in the two to three thousand price point. This being the fastest moving part of the market, allowing for great profits and a fast turn over if you get it right.
Which van colours sell best?
You really do need to think about colour. With the internet being such a visual experience everyone searching for a new van will be looking at colour first. It’s a big deciding factor in any van purchasing decision. So you need to be focusing on it too.
Most van traders will avoid red, green, brown and beige. However we have done well with orange and even pink vans on occasion. Pink is always rare and has a certain appeal to a certain customer type, who will happily pay a premium. But if you are just starting out and only have a van or two in stock you may be best sticking to the more conventional colours.
What spec you should look for and what to avoid?
You need to approach a vans spec level in a similar way as you would a vans colour. For example a low spec van is always at a disadvantage against a more common middle specification, and a funky coloured interior won’t always appeal to everyone.
Seat colour in general should be black or dark grey. Lighter interiors show wear and tear more easily. Brighter leather colours such as red can look cool, but can reduce the number of potential buyer. Air conditioning, remote central locking are all essentials these days and alloy wheels are desirable. As is some form of phone connection for calls and music.
If a van smells funny you should walk away. I have tried every kind of wonder cures for this, but you will never be able to fully remove bad odours. If a vans smells of dog or smoke it’s always going to. So just don’t put yourself at a disadvantage.
Manual vs Automatic
When you are starting out I would stick to manual gearboxes as a rule. Some vans are very popular in automatic and in the last few years gearboxes have improved massively. But if we are talking small vans, then manual gearboxes are by for the most popular. You are also much more likely to have an issue with and automatic box and repairs are normally always expensive.
Should the vans I buy to flip be Diesel or Petrol?
If you are sticking to the small vans principle. Diesel vans are normally best, you need to stick to low capacity engines. Probably no bigger than say a 1.8 turbo.
We don’t have a problem with petrol vans. But the low fuel economy can make them much harder to sell on so we try to avoid them at lower price points.
Does mileage matter when flipping vans on Craigslist?
Needless to say that the lower the milage the better. But with small vans ideally something in the range of 40-80,000 miles is an easy van to flip. But some vans wear mileage better than others. I would rather be in an 100,000 mile Volkswagen that a 40,000 mile Renault.
Service history essentials when flipping secondhand vans
Service history is important at all price points. But maybe even more so at the lower end. People and businesses looking at this end of the market need a good van on a budget and are worried about getting stung. So always make sure the van has at leased some history. If its missing some years or hasn’t had a recent service, allows me money to get it done. A recent service is more important that what happened 5 years ago.
One question you will always be asked and always need to ask yourself is… has the cam belt been done and does it need doing soon? Cam belt changes are often the reason people part exchange a van in the first place. They range in cost from a little as £300 to thousands. So it’s vitally important that you know if the engine is belt or change driven and make allowances in the budget if it requires changing.
If the car has no history, even if its super cheap it’s probably best to just walk away.
The condition of the bodywork is important when flipping a cheap van
It’s amazing what will polish out. I have bought vans with what appears to be five or six panels of paint work. Only to find it all polishes out after 15 minutes with some compound and a cloth. But these vans are the exception and not the rule.
I don’t advice buying vans that need anything more than a smart repair. Little jobs like bumper corners, painless dent removal and alloy wheel repairs. Larger jobs can again be time consuming and expensive. I have lost count of the times I have waited weeks for a bit of trim or a panel to arrive only then to find the bodyshop is fully booked for a few weeks. Resulting in long delays and money tied up.
So even if you are experienced in the dark arts of van body repairs, I would still advice buying a clean van needing as little body repair as possible. Allowing you to turn the van around as quickly as possible.
It’s great if you have a little mechanical knowledge. But it’s not essential at all. I know very successful dealers with almost no understanding of how and what an engine does.
But you can always find a course to educate yourself, or simply watch hours of Youtube content. Most dealers learn on the job, myself included. But obviously with a smartphone in our pocket the internet is a great place to find information on almost any van or problem. This resource can be invaluable. A quick search while inspecting a potential purchase can be very insightful.
I would also advice nurturing a good relationship with a small local garage. This can be invaluable especially when you get something wrong. These garages are normally a gold mine of information. Plus if you bring them regular business you can normally arrange a trade rate. This relationship can be very important and can sometimes be a good source of stock. The first van forecourt I rented came from one of these relationships.
You should always carryout a HPI or VIN check
The final thing your flip need is to have a clear finance and crash history. These checks mean the van has no outstanding finance owing on it, this check will also tell you if the van has ever been in a crash. If you are buying from a Franchise Dealer, they will normally have checked the van on the registry already and can supply a copy to the certificate. If not it is essential you do this yourself.
Basically if you buy a van with outstanding finance on it. You will be unable to sell it on and may face the loss of any funds you have invested, as the van technically is the property of the a finance company who registered the interest. So it is essential any van you buy regardless of cost or age is checked.
We don’t advocate selling anything recorded as being in a crash. Leave the car for someone else. They are always hard to sell on and never worth the hassle.
So to summarise the ideal Craigslist van flip should be a…
- Small van with low running and insurance costs
- Retailing between two & three thousand pounds, with a £1000 margin
- In either White Grey, Black, Blue or Silver
- In the appropriate trim level and interior colour
- It should have a manual gearbox
- It should be Diesel powered
- Having covered under 80,000 miles
- Have full service history
- With no major bodywork or mechanical issues
- and be HPI clear
There is a lot of money to be made in flipping cars on Craigslist, and once you have found you ideal flip you simply repeat the process again and again it really can be just that simple. If you follow these simple guidelines you should be well on your way to car flipping success.