You may decide that purchasing a separate vehicle is the ideal way to move your business forward. If you own a service-based operation that has to make house calls, such as a plumbing company, that might indeed be the case.
But you should be aware of certain considerations before you commit to commercial vehicle ownership. It’s not as simple as you might believe: there are liability issues you’ll want to understand first.
Starts with defining the need. Is this vehicle closer to a convenience rather than a need? If you’re not a service-based business, and you’ll be driving the vehicle only once a week or so, it may be better simply to stick with a personal vehicle.
There’s also the option of leasing a car or truck, which eliminates the tax repercussions, insurance concerns, and other necessary obligations that come with owning a vehicle. If you’re only using the machine a couple of times a month, leasing may be a smarter and certainly cheaper option.
But if you expect to be using the vehicle multiple times a week for a period of three years or more, purchasing a new vehicle is more likely to be a solid move. Before you make the purchase, though, apprise yourself of the legal, financial, and other obligatory details.
- Become Acquainted with the Potential Liabilities
If a collision occurs while you or an employee operates the vehicle, your company may be liable. You’ll be responsible for medical costs, repairs, tickets, and other expenses that can arise out of the crash. Your insurance will probably cover the repairs and medical costs, but it may not cover any citations or personal injury settlements that may ensue.
There’s also liability due to human error. If your employee makes a mistake, such as driving drunk, you’ll be liable for the consequences. Even if several hours pass since your employee had a last drink, the alcohol can still be in his or her bloodstream, which will make your worker a dangerous liability on the road.
This is just one of many liability concerns you ought to take into account before purchasing a vehicle. If you design and impose proper rules and regulations, you may minimize at least some of the risk, but you won’t necessarily eliminate it altogether. Be prepared for what might come next.
- Understand Commercial Vehicle Insurance
Accidents on the road will happen, even for the most cautious of drivers. You must understand commercial vehicle insurance fully: coverage, rates, payment options, repairs, and the procedures following an accident.
Most important, be clear about who and what is covered in the case of an accident. If someone other than an employee was driving, your policy might not cover it. There can also be legal penalties for allowing a non-insured individual to drive.
- Know the Costs
You may need to amass some capital for the purchase of a commercial vehicle before you can make the investment. The cost of such machines is not cheap, especially if you need a sizable van or truck.
The purchase price won’t comprise everything you’ll spend, however. As you make up a cost spreadsheet, try to factor in the following expenses:
- Insurance policy
- Operating costs (fuel, oil, etc.)
- Routine maintenance
- Rising insurance rates
After you’ve done an analysis of the cost to purchase the vehicle, you’ll have a better idea of whether you can afford it. You can also compare that figure against the cost of leasing a vehicle for the same purpose, and decide which is the best option for your business. Also, keep in mind additional costs for running a business such as freight factoring which can cut into your margins.
- Choose the Right Vehicle
The wrong vehicle can leave you with some fairly weighty financial and legal consequences. You don’t want excess liability or the aftermath of a collision because your vehicle wasn’t properly suited to its purpose and operators. In addition, it’s all too easy to overspend on a vehicle when a more affordable alternative might have done just as well.
There are many criteria to consider when choosing the perfect vehicle for your business. The first is to define your needs: namely, how often you’ll use the vehicle and its primary purpose(s). Take this information to a reliable dealership that can find the right vehicle for you.
Just be careful when you go there. Some shifty salesman might try to sell you more than you need. Perform thorough research ahead of time and select a dealership that specializes in commercial vehicles.
- Screen and Train Drivers
Anyone who will drive your vehicle should go through an effective screening and training process. You can get the person’s motor vehicle record through the DMV to identify any history of collisions, DUIs, or other evidence of reckless driving. You might also do a drug test and inquire about alcoholism to limit your liability.
A training program to operate commercial vehicles properly might also be in order. The more your employees know about driving this particular vehicle, the insurance that covers it, and procedures to follow after an accident, the less financial stress you’ll undergo.