If you spend a lot of time on the road, especially if you’re hauling tools or cargo, maintaining a fleet is often the most cost-effective step for a small business to take. If this is your first time buying or leasing vehicles, you might find yourself intimidated by the sheer number of options available on the market. There are cars, trucks, cargo vans and everything in between.
Let’s take a look at cargo vans and help you figure out how to pick the right one for your business.
Setting Your Budget
Before you start looking at options, you need to set a budget and decide how much you’re willing to spend on cargo vans and other fleet vehicles. Your budget shouldn’t just include the initial cost of the vehicle, whether you’ve decided to buy or lease. It should also consider things like fuel and maintenance, and what repairs might cost after a collision. No one wants to think about an accident in one of their fleet vehicles, but it helps you prepare for any eventuality.
Once you have your budget set up and ready to go, you can move on to the next step — assessing all the options currently available on the market today. There are a lot of things to take into consideration.
The first thing we’re going to look at is mileage or fuel-efficiency. Other than maintenance, it’s going to be one of your biggest fleet expenses. Cargo vans aren’t known for getting the best gas mileage, but some are definitely better than others. For example, the Nissan NV only gets 13 miles to the gallon on average, while others, like the best in class Ford Transit Connect, can get up to 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
Take a close look at the amount of time you’re spending on the road and the distance you’re traveling. Gas mileage is going to be a big player in your choice and can become a major expense.
Options: Cargo Space
The next criteria you’ll want to look at is the amount of cargo space in the back of the van. This will depend on the number of tools, supplies or products you need to transport. More isn’t necessarily better, especially if having extra cargo space means less gas mileage.
Take a close look at what you need. Going back to that Ford Transit, the classic cargo van can carry a payload of 4,650 pounds and has 487.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Some other models may not be able to haul that much, which is why it’s vital to do your homework.
Next, you’ll need to look at storage capabilities. We’re separating this from the cargo space category because your exact needs will vary depending on the type of business you operate. For example, a plumber would need tool racks that attach to the sides of the cargo area, while a florist might need extra space designed to secure fragile vases and flowers.
Some cargo vans may come equipped with different storage options, but you’ll need to take a closer look to see what will work best for your business. Once you determine your needs, you can easily narrow down your selections.
Modern cargo vans come with a variety of technological advances that make it easier to maintain and monitor your fleet. This won’t be the kind of high-tech infotainment system that you might see in a passenger vehicle. Instead, you’ll find things like GPS and navigation — useful for finding client locations or monitoring delivery routes — as well as things like Ford MyKey, which allows you to restrict speed and radio volume to keep fleet drivers safe.
MyKey is proprietary to Ford, but nearly every manufacturer that offers fleet vehicle sales has its own version. Software like this makes it easy to monitor and customize your fleet.
Safety should be your No. 1 priority when choosing a cargo van or other fleet vehicle. You can have the best drivers in the world on your payroll, but you don’t have any control over other drivers on the road. With that in mind, accidents will happen. The best way to protect your fleet drivers is to invest in a cargo van that has a high safety rating.
You may even want to add optional safety features, such as lane-keep assistance and emergency braking if they’re not included as standard equipment. It will add more to the vehicle’s overall cost, but you can’t put a price on employee safety.
Take a closer look at the performance options that are available for the cargo vans you’re considering. If you’re going to be hauling a lot of items, you’ll need something that has plenty of torque and horsepower. On the other side of the coin, if you’re only moving tools and people, something with less power but better fuel economy might be the best option.
Cargo vans aren’t going to have the power of a racecar. That’s not what they’re designed for. However, you don’t need to motor around in a big van with a tiny engine if it’s not going to serve your needs.
Choose What Will Work Best for You
When it comes down to it, choosing a cargo van or a fleet of them for your business is a very personal choice. That’s why there are so many options out there. It makes it easier for everyone to find or create the van that will work best for their individual needs.
Do some research and choose the cargo van that will work best for you. Take a close look at your needs, your budget and your potential applications for these fleet vehicles. You might find that what works for your neighbor doesn’t work for you — even if you’re in a similar line of work. Customize your cargo vans to your particular needs, and they’ll serve you well.