Right Driver

How should you choose your company vehicles?

What decision-making process is best for deciding on the right company vehicles – cars and lorries – for your business?

We asked a number of companies how they did it, plus we’ll give you a reliable process to determine the best vehicles for your business requirements.

Damien Andrews from Dajon Data Management said that their services portfolio requires them to use vans to deliver and/or collect documents and media tapes across South East England. “When we were choosing the vans, we put a lot of thought into it as the quality of our services delivery partly depends on the vehicles. We are currently using 2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters and 2017 Mercedes-Benz Citan

“With the increased congestion charges for high polluting vehicles, we wanted to be as environmentally friendly as possible; we couldn’t use battery-powered vehicles as it could damage the information being carried.

We went for petrol-powered vehicles as our vehicles have to make several stops throughout central London, thus it is more economical and environmentally friendly.

The smaller vehicle (Citan) was chosen because our services require our drivers to unload and load from both sides of the van. This decision has increased our drivers’ productivity and efficiency.

We have also chosen silver coloured vehicles because we wanted to be separated from the stereotypical ‘white van courier man’ and position our brand as a higher-level document management services provider.

Dane Kolbaba from Watchdog Pest Control focused on driver comfort, “As a pest control company, vehicles are essential for carrying materials, pesticides, and the technicians. We debated a lot on whether to choose between a Toyota Tacoma or a more fuel-efficient van. We ended up going with the Tacoma because the driver is completely sealed off from any pesticide smell in the cab of the truck. With a van, we would have had to install a partition between the back of the van and the driver. Yes, we could have bought one with this partition but we felt the drivers would still be able to smell the pesticide and we don’t want our guys/gals to experience this.”

Jeff Neal from Penn Coat Inc focused on utility and professionalism.

“Firstly, they were selected based on utility. We haul 2000 lb floor grinders, 1000 pound dust collectors, sand, epoxy, paint, and other heavy material and equipment. Our trucks need to have a specific towing capacity to fit our needs.  In addition to towing capacity, they need enough seats to comfortably fit 4 men. We try to carpool as much as possible, which helps keep jobs running efficiently.

“We also have contractor vans. But these are mostly used for our painters. These vans are loaded with shelving, compartments, bins, and other organizational perks. This maximizes job efficiency when our painters can locate everything they need quickly.  These vans also have enough towing capacity to haul our trailer-mounted pressure washer, and small, 10’ long paint trailer.

“And since these are all commercial vehicles, they need to be uniform and appear professional.  So the owners selected white to be the consistent colour choice for all vehicles and trailers. According to them, the white looks clean, professional, and contrasts well against our logo.”

Charlotte Ang from Rentalorry Singapore said:

“Maintenance costs heavily affected our purchasing decision when we were selecting new vehicles for purchase. For certain brands, the vehicle spare parts are more easily available. This meant that if the van or lorry parts needed to be replaced due to wear and tear or damage, the service centers would have the necessary parts in stock and the repairs can be done quickly and efficiently. 

In addition, we chose brands that were more popular locally and one which the larger service centres were more familiar with. This vastly helped to keep our maintenance costs for our vehicles down. As we do not have a very large fleet of vans and lorries, keeping maintenance costs and downtime low are extremely important for us.”

Questions to ask when you are acquiring your company’s fleet

Do you want to own them, lease them or rent them?

This is the first question to ask yourself. You might want to own most of your fleet but lease some specialist vehicles with a guaranteed maintenance plan, then rent others if you have overflow work. There are companies that lease, rent and sell heavy vehicles – they’ll do everything for you, right down to signwriting – or you could pick and choose between the best local suppliers you have available at the time.

Leasing is by far the simplest as it will be a package that will most likely include maintenance, repairs and support. At the end of the contract, you will have to give the vehicle back.

Owning your fleet, however, could be cheaper over time, but you may need to pay more initially. You’ll also need to sort out your own maintenance and repairs.

What type of vehicles do you need in your fleet?

Standardisation within your fleet will make things much more simple and cost-effective. For example, if you can use the same make and model of van for your whole fleet, you may be able to negotiate better discounts, the vehicle is a known quantity and your drivers will be able to move between vehicles without having to refamiliarise themselves with how the vehicle handles and operates.

If you need multiple types of vehicles that span cars, utility vehicles, HGVs, etc, then you may need to talk to more than one supplier to get the best deal.

Figure out how these vehicles will function in your fleet, where you will store them, etc. You don’t want to replace your fleet with slightly bigger vans then find out you can’t fit them all in your yard or depot any more.

Does the new vehicle have a big enough payload? Can you fit whatever you need to carry into the boot? Will it stand up to the type of driving you need to do in it, e.g. off-road.

Will the vehicle still be suitable for you in 3 years time? Will your business have moved on?

It’s a good idea to involve your drivers in the decision as they may have insights into what’s wrong with the current fleet that they have not explained to you.

Availability

Some vehicles need to be ordered months in advance, particularly if you are purchasing an HGV with a specific trailer configuration.

Reliability

Don’t rely on word-of-mouth when considering reliability. Look for peer-reviewed studies that cover a large number of vehicles. Some makes and models have a reputation for being unreliable due to a history that might be 30 years old! For example, in the ’80s, who would have wanted a Skoda? But now that buying a Skoda is basically buying a Volkswagen (many of the same parts), this reputation is unwarranted.

Your image

Does the vehicle you are purchasing match your company’s image? Is it cool enough or too cool? Does that style of vehicle match your company’s values as regards environmental stewardship, for example.

If you are acquiring cars as perks, e.g. in lieu of salary, does the perceived value of the car match what the employee wants?

Financials and insurance

Ensure you talk to your accountant about the best options. Get some tax advice – some vehicles have VAT-return policies. Consider the CO2 emissions in relation to the amount of tax you need to pay.

Work out how much your fuel bill will change. As fuel can be 30-40% of the entire running cost, a vehicle that is more economical can pay for itself over its lifetime.

How much will it cost to modify the vehicles to suit your requirements for specialist equipment, security, etc.

Consider the resale value of vehicles you purchase and whether any modifications you make will affect those.

Talk to an insurance company about your requirements and who will be driving the vehicles. Where will the vehicles be stored? Will your employees use them for personal use? You might want a small, nippy vehicle for the city, but not all small, nippy vehicles are cheap to insure.

Signwriting

Once you’ve narrowed your selection to a few models, talk to a signwriter about what you need. Some vehicles are simply impractical to effectively signwrite. You have a mobile billboard for your company so you should take advantage of it.

Negotiate

There are certain times when you’re much more likely to get a deal buying a car. For example, when there’s a new model about to be launched.

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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