Best of all, now is an excellent time to buy. Not only has there been a significant number of superb new vans introduced since the last time The Grocer ran its annual van round up, but buying methods and practices have also changed and you don't simply have to go to a pricey main dealer to buy a new van anymore. Buying through a UK dealer is still by far the most preferred choice, even though van prices have not fallen correspondingly with new car values over the past 18 months. That said, the main dealers are extremely keen to deal and there are many special incentives and offers around to tempt buyers, plus you can haggle a better price fairly easily. Buying from a main dealer means your vehicle will be covered by a warranty deal that's unique to the UK and usually far superior to the level offered on the continent. Some are also tied to a servicing plan for that length of time, too, so check with the dealer. This is the most painless way to purchase for many hard-pressed business operators with whom time is money. Apart from purchasing brand new you can also buy nearly new', the trade term given to vehicles that are almost factory-fresh but already registered, either by the dealer or the van manufacturer. They may well have only delivery mileage on them, but are classified and sold as second hand and usually at highly attractive prices. There is a third option and this is buying what is known as an ex demonstrator. As the term implies, these are vans that dealers use to demonstrate to customers. Again, good deals can be had but take care here as they may well have been used hard by dealers and customers on demonstrations and can be a lot more tatty and used' than they should be for their age. It's a buyers' market now, and canny customers can save a packet by shopping around and comparing the deals offered. Haggle hard for the best deal! Now for the buying from abroad option. It's common knowledge car prices are much cheaper abroad than they are over here, and if you are prepared to put in the effort, you can find similar deals for vans across Europe. However, there are more hurdles and drawbacks to overcome when importing a LCV into the UK. It's all to do with red tape or what is better known as Single Vehicle Approval. You just can't buy a vehicle from abroad, drive it home and register it. There's quite a bit of paperwork and this includes type approval ­ fitness and legality of that vehicle for use in the UK. A car or van imported from Europe must come with a Certificate of Conformity ­ a letter proving it meets full European standards and is suitable and legal for the UK. But, with LCVs this is taken further and instead of this uniform Type Approval across Europe, applied to cars, each LCV needs National Type Approval certificate in every individual country it is sold in. To obtain this, you need to contact the van manufacturers or concessionaires concerned and apply for it. In the case of a Ford for example, this costs £50 plus VAT but may take up to a couple of weeks to arrive. Without this you can't register the vehicle. And if you cannot obtain a certificate (for whatever reason), it will also require a UK Single Vehicle Approval test. The good news is that for light commercials under 3500kg it's essentially the same test as applies to cars imported from outside the EU and costs £60. The bad news is that from August this SVA check will become much tougher and may cost around £1,500! Further expense is required on commercials over 3500kg where most will certainly need to be plated with their weights on the chassis. These are issued after the vehicle is given an MOT test, costing £37. You may also run into some extra work with the SVA test and you may need to submit evidence your particular vehicle is actually the same type that is sold elsewhere. Thankfully a normal van brochure is usually adequate here! There are other hurdles to overcome, too ­ such as waiting much longer for the vehicle than if you bought from a conventional UK main dealer, the need for special insurance cover to drive the van back to the UK (speak to your insurers first), registering it on these shores (you need to do this pronto, otherwise the vehicle may rack up too many miles and be classified as second-hand), sorting the VAT, and, of course, paying for the vehicle. The latter is subject to currency fluctuations and it can dictate how much a bargain an import turns out to be, but you can buy' the money in advance from special finance brokers at the best rates. Alternatively, you can open a foreign bank account. If all this sounds too much hassle, and for many over-worked businesses it is, you can short circuit the buying process by using a import vehicle broker, who for around £400 will, over the phone, do all the hard work and deliver it to a UK port or even to your door, ready to be put to work. Given all the potential pitfalls, it's money well spent. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}