6 Things to Know Before Buying a Fleet Vehicle
Are you ready to buy your first commercial vehicle for your business? Purchasing fleet vehicles is one step in providing top-notch service to your customers; your employees will value them, too. Because vehicles are such a big investment, it’s important to make your decisions carefully. Here’s what you should think about before you ever make that trip to the dealer.
Fleet Vehicles Vary
If you’ve watched advertisements or been to car shows aimed at entrepreneurs, the term “fleet vehicle” generally conjures images of sleek transit vans. In reality, any vehicle that’s used as part of a team qualifies. Your business may employ sales reps to travel around the country, so sedans are a good pick. If you do construction, a 2-ton pickup may suffice.
Consider Your Financing Choices
Many businesses start out leasing their first fleet vehicle. This gives them a chance to explore how they’ll truly put their car or truck to work — for example, they can learn the typical mileage a vehicle will endure and understand how that may impact their business. If you plan on using pre-owned vehicles, buying outright might be a good choice. Find out if daily use of the vehicle will cause much wear and tear; if you think you’ll end up with a much more rapid depreciation schedule than a lease allows, buying might be best.
Buying From the Right Partner Matters
Fleet vehicles are often sold directly from the manufacturer or an authorized dealership, making it simple to get the newest ones from the factory and the white-glove service that accompanies them. If you’re new to fleet ownership, however, a dealership that specializes in fleet business can be a big asset. (These are sometimes called “fleet management companies” or “fleet managers.”) If you plan on buying or leasing several fleet vehicles a year, consider putting out a bid; fleet companies will compete for your business, giving you the pick of the mix.
Warranties Can Make the Deal
If you lease a vehicle, the warranty services and any needed maintenance are usually handled by the lessor. Working with an intermediary, however, leaves you committed to whatever warranty or service plan they offer. Get a sense of the track record of any fleet seller you work with before you buy, even if you’re getting a low-end, used model. Keep in mind that if a seller ends up going out of business, they can take that warranty or service plan with them — leaving you high and dry for the value of your policy.
Lease Rules Count
It’s worth noting the difference between a retail lease, such as what an individual consumer would buy, and a commercial lease. Even if you’re just testing the waters with one vehicle, push for the benefits that commercial leasing offers. These are generally more generous on mileage limits, wear and tear and usage allowances. Retail leases aren’t written to accommodate the demand most businesses put on their trucks or vans.
Features Are Worth the Investment
Business owners are at an advantage when picking and choosing the custom details of their next fleet vehicle. Unlike retail consumers, who buy one vehicle at a time, fleet owners are usually in the market for a few vehicles in a short period. Many businesses lease or buy 10 to 20 vehicles a year. With the number of vehicles you’ll need, essential features, such as tow capacity or all-wheel drive, should be requested up front. Consider the legalities of your business and location to match features to compliance regulations.
Get Ready to Roll
While launching a commercial fleet may be a significant move for your business, keeping these points in mind should help keep the process as pain-free as possible. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to hit the road.