Transmission Van

Paul McDonald | 01 Apr 2019

About the author

Paul McDonald

Leisure Editor

Paul has worked for Glass's since 2001 in various customer and vehicle valuation orientated roles, before becoming Leisure Editor just over a year ago. In his current role, he's responsible for keeping up to date with conditions and trends in the Motorcycle and Touring Caravan markets so we can provide accurate and reliable values to our subscribers. This means he's out and about a lot visiting dealers, manufacturers and auctions as well as analysing observation data.

If alternatives to daily chores exist, most people opt for the easy option. In the modern world with all the latest gadgets from mobile phones, navigation units to tablets, what could be easier than letting the van take the strain of constantly changing gear? Surely, this must be safer when travelling in unfamiliar surroundings allowing drivers to give the road their full attention whilst at the same time being less stressful.

Today most manufacturers of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) include automatic transmission options in their ranges. Historically, the Transit MK-2 of the late 1970s and early 1980s even had an optional automatic transmission. However, over the years, the majority of LCV buyers have not embraced this technology.

Until recently, in the LCV market the take up of automatics was low. Driving with a heavy payload, automatic vans were slow and clunky and the extra cost of ownership did not warrant the purchase. There were also significant reliability issues with units failing regularly. Due to the nature of the vehicle, the van’s main purpose is as a business tool and reliability is paramount. Due to these issues, manual transmissions became the preferred choice of van buyers.

As manufacturing and technology improved, automatics have become efficient, reliable and less expensive. Automatic gearboxes are now feasible alternatives to manual transmissions if buyers can afford the premium versus manual transmissions.

The modern automatic can offer good fuel economy as well as a smooth ride. For fleet managers, having vans with automatic transmissions means anyone with a license can drive them. Therefore, if some drivers only have an automatic license this will not be an issue.     

Although this appears to be a little peculiar, in the LCV market, buyers consider how saleable vans will be in the future, before they buy one today. Large businesses buying numerous vans analyse how much their asset is likely to be worth in future years. This analysis includes whether a van with an automatic transmission is a good investment.

The main question here is whether a van with an automatic transmission will depreciate slower than the manual equivalent. There is a simple answer, the experts at Glass’s regularly see in the used market that vans with automatic transmissions retain a higher resale value due to the reasons noted above and in addition, they continue to be in shorter supply. Put simply, as soon as one appears in the auction halls there is a flurry of bidding activity especially when fitted to high specification vans.

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