When you’re considering buying a vehicle for business use, think carefully about how you will use it. A boggling array of vehicle types exist: hybrid cars, light trucks, minivans, sport-utility vehicles, and more. Which is right for your business? Ask yourself these questions to find out.
- How much will the vehicle be used? First, estimate how many miles the car will be driven annually to determine the importance of fuel efficiency. Next, consider the types of trips your vehicle will make. Will they be short hops in a city with a lot of traffic or long drives on rural roads? For in-city driving, a hybrid or all-electric car can greatly improve fuel efficiency because these cars don’t idle and burn gas at stoplights. You can easily compare fuel efficiency and other vehicle features online at many sites, including Kelley Blue Book and MSN Autos.
- What will the vehicle transport? If you just need to get yourself to client meetings, a subcompact car might do the job. If you’re delivering furniture to customers, you probably need a truck or a van.
- Will more than one driver use the vehicle? If your company car will be shared by several employees, consider one that’s easy to operate. Some vehicles allow you to preset the driver’s seat settings for several different drivers, which can be a nice perk. Also, with multiple drivers sharing a car, dings are more likely, so consider purchasing a vehicle that doesn’t have complicated grillwork or other extras that could be pricey to repair.
- Where will you store the vehicle? Will the company vehicle be in a garage or out on the street (maybe providing some free advertising for your business)? If it’s going to sit outside, be sure to pick a vehicle that’s durable and has a no-fade color.
- Will customers see your vehicle? If so, what you drive up in will say something important about your company. If you’re a gardener, rolling up in a worn-out van might work. But if you’re a management consultant, a more upscale, newer model transmits a positive message of power and success.
- Does the vehicle reflect your corporate values? In the 21st century, companies aren’t just sellers of goods and services. They have corporate values that reflect the image they want to project in the community. If prestige is a key quality you want to communicate to customers, a Lexus or a Mercedes may be a good choice. However, if your company maintains a core value of caring about the environment, a Toyota Prius or Camry hybrid works better to make that statement.
- Do you need more than one vehicle? If your business needs more than one vehicle, consider whether you should stick to one make and model or purchase entirely different vehicle types. Buying several of one type of vehicle from one dealer may improve your buying power and allow you to cut a better deal, particularly if you’re buying a new vehicle from a dealership. On the other hand, you might save money by mixing up your choices: getting a van for deliveries but a cheaper compact car for client meetings.
Business reporter Carol Tice contributes to several national and regional business publications.