Picking The Right Vehicles For Your Company
Any HVAC business owner knows that a major key to success starts with differentiating yourself from the competition. But a less obvious factor involves how “different” boils down to a granular level: that is, choosing the right tools for the job, knowing that no two tasks are ever the same.
But before you break out the wrenches and tubing cutters for a quick inventory, take a quick look at your fleet. Matching the best vehicles to the appropriate task represents one more benchmark to incorporate into your day-to-day operations to keep your business humming. Here’s a breakdown of how various vehicle types match up to various HVAC assignments.
Cargo vans: Cargo vans (also known as panel vans) boast one major advantage: their lack of windows, which makes them less of a theft target. You can leave tools and other equipment the van all day long with minimal break-in risk. They’re also spacious for mounting tool shelves; a typical van such as the 2016 Chevrolet Express will have a cargo area length of about 124 inches and a height of almost 53 inches. The lack of side windows also means that you’ll have ample space for advertising via vehicle wraps or attractively painted logos. One obvious downside, though, is mileage. The Express is typical; it only gets up to 11 m.p.g. in the city and 17 on the highway. And that figure probably drops when the van’s weighted down with heavy equipment.
Pickup trucks: Because a pickup truck’s flatbed has no roof, you’re far less restricted on the height of objects you can carry. Hefty toolboxes mount easily by the rear window, and models such as the popular Ford F-150 can’t be beat for towing capability. Arguably the most popular pickup among American small business owners, it can tow 12,200 lb., the rating for a 4×2 regular cab model. (Super cab options are also available.) The one caution with pickup trucks is weather; having a proper tarp or cover on hand is essential if it rains, as is having items properly secured in strong winds. Mileage will be better than a cargo van; the F-150, for example, averages 19 m.p.g. city and 26 m.p.g. highway.
Hybrids: Standard cars are an obvious choice for salespeople out in the field, but depending on how many miles they’ll put in, hybrids deserve serious consideration. A typical hybrid gets between 44 and 56 miles per gallon, and can use $500 or less in gasoline per year. Popular gas-powered makes and models such as the Honda Accord and Volkswagen Jetta now come in hybrid versions. Understand, though, that they’ll be a long-term investment, as they can cost as much as $5000 more than their gas-only counterparts. If you’re looking to compare cost and performance, fueleconomy.gov has a web page where you can stack a host of hybrids against each other.
Gasoline vs. Diesel: With light-duty trucks and cargo vans, HVAC business owners have a choice in the fuel types their vehicles use. Aside from hybrids, gas and diesel models are the two main choices, and industry figures show that the HVAC industry prefers gas by better than a 5-to-1 margin. Diesel does get superior mileage—about 33 percent more, according to CarsDirect. com. But it’s also more expensive by 21 cents a gallon these days. Current statistics from the U.S. Energy Administration peg the average gas price at $1.86 a gallon, which diesel runs $2.07.
Finally, consider how much use you should expect to get out of the vehicle. The General Services Administration’s guidelines for its fleet vehicles dictate replacement of gas-powered passenger cars at a maximum of 75,000 miles; for hybrids, though, that figure climbs to 85,000. For 4×4 light trucks, replacement can occur at any mileage for hybrids, as opposed to 60,000 miles for non-diesel trucks. No matter what choices you mak, know that it only takes a few days of shopping around and gathering input from your crew to make smart decisions that will keep your business in the fast lane.
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