Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

How to Pick the Perfect Delivery Vehicle

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Choosing a vehicle to use for deliveries is a very important part of starting your new business.  If you’re like me when I started my company you already owned a vehicle and had no money to replace it or invest in a lot of new equipment for your start-up.  My main rule when looking to purchase a delivery vehicle is buying the appropriate vehicle for what you will be delivering, and then getting the best gas mileage possible.  A new Hummer may look cool with your logo on it, but is probably not the best choice if all you are delivering is documents. On the other hand your Subaru Justy won’t cut it when a client needs you to pick up a dozen tubs of mail on a daily basis.

I would recommend just starting with the vehicle you have, as long as it is in decent shape and reliable. The best way to guarantee you make it in a new business is to not go into a lot of debt to get started, that means use what you already own. Luckily for me I had a 1988 Ford Festiva which was a great little box of a hatchback could hold tons of stuff and still got 43mpg, they don’t make ‘em like them anymore. Whatever you drive is going to be good enough, even if it get lousy gas mileage your expenses are going to be less than buying and insuring a new(er) car.

If you have the money to trade up to a more appropriate vehicle I would suggest getting a smallish hatchback that gets good gas mileage.  What I am using right now is a Scion xB, in my opinion the perfect vehicle, it gets good gas mileage and holds a ton of stuff, and at over 200,000 miles has never had a major repair.  My wife drives a Pontiac Vibe (same as Toyota Matrix) and it gets even better gas mileage and more cargo room than my Scion, other contenders for great little delivery hatchbacks are Nissan Versa, Nissan Cube, Kia Soul, Honda Fit, Chevy HHR.  I always buy new, because I like the new car smell and most cars these days come with 5 years of roadside assistance included, plus you are under warranty for 3 to 5 years.  I like the security of owning a brand new car and knowing it will be reliable for at least 4-6 years before I have to replace it.

The next step up, is a small pickup truck or a minivan preferably a striped down cargo version of minivan model.  I have used a small pickup truck before and it was a great delivery vehicle.  I had a camper shell on it and it could hold lots and lots of stuff.  I used it for delivering office supplies for a very busy company and when that company decided to go in-house with deliveries I immediately got rid of the truck. Why?, gas mileage, pickup trucks, even the small ones don’t usually get very good gas mileage.  The other issue is safety, here in Kansas where we get more ice than snow and 40 mph winds a rear wheel drive pickup truck is just asking for trouble.  The small cargo van is probably a better choice than a pickup.  You have a lot of easily accessible cargo room and probably the safety and snow performance of front wheel drive, plus you can put a nice big logo on the side of it, and it probably gets decent gas mileage compared to a pickup truck. For something that is kind of a micro cargo van Chevy has a cargo version of their popular HHR hatchback. This may end up being my next delivery vehicle.

If you really need something to haul around a lot of stuff I would check out the brand new (to the States) Ford Transit connect.  If you haven’t seen one of these you will soon, they are all the rage in Europe and I have already seen a lot of these here in Kansas of all places, and everyone I have seen is completely wrapped in vinyl the whole thing is a giant rolling billboard.  What’s so cool about this vehicle is that is it has a very short wheelbase and length but is extra tall.  So it is easy to park and get around in urban environments and has huge cargo capacity.  The ultimate delivery vehicle would have to be the Sprinter delivery van.  These things were originally made by Mercedes Benz and are now a Chrysler product, they come in a variety of lengths and configurations and are very tall, and very cool looking.  Your logo wrapped on that vehicle would surely attrack lots of eyeballs,  unfortunately I have no need for such a vehicle but we can all dream can’t we? The Ford Transit is almost as cool and starts at less than $22,000 plus $3-5,000 for the full vehicle wrapped in vinyl, rolling billboard look. Well get into wrapped vehicles in another post.

Comments

3 Responses to “How to Pick the Perfect Delivery Vehicle”
  1. Gary Vicari says:

    Our dealership uses Scion xB’s for customer shuttles with great success. One has 188,000 miles; the other 164,000 with nothing more than regular maintenance and some body work for the dents and dings.
    Anyone have knowledge of a conversion kit for raising the roof on the Scion xB to make a dynamite cargo delivery vehicle. They go used for $6,000~10,000 . With the Ford Transit at $22,000, we think the Scion xB with a raised rear cab has the potential to match the Ford at half the price. Any examples of the use of camper tops attached to a “chopped” and raised top???

  2. Larry says:

    I have been an independent contractor for 18 years in Jacksonville, Florida. I started out with a 1988 Ford Aerostar that I already had and it did great adding another 100,000 miles. I bought a new 1994 Ford Ranger with matching topper that I drove for 250,000 miles and no major repairs. I traded it on a new 1997 Ford Ranger using the same topper and taking it to 450,000 miles when it became difficult to shift. I then bought used Aerostars for a while. I bought a new 2006 Scion XB and I am at 430,000 miles so far with only an alternator repair and normal maintenance. This has been my BEST VEHICLE EVER. I get 29mpg hwy and 31 city. I still have the original clutch and I save on brakes by downshifting and I enjoy better control and safety with my 5 speed manual transmission. I’m moving to Salt Lake City in 2012 and I’m not quite sure which vehicle to buy next. I would like to start my own courier service at that time. I will need advice and assistance at that time.

  3. Scott says:

    I agree that when starting out you simply need to use what you’ve got. That’s exactly what we did. We loaded up my 1994 Toyota 4Runner with so much weight it was doing a wheelie. I don’t recommend overloading your vehicle, but you do need to make some money with what you’ve got before spending money.

    Once the 4Runner got too small, we started renting a cargo van for deliveries. We didn’t make much profit, but we were able to prove to ourselves we had a viable business before spending a ton of money on a vehicle we might not use. Once we had some more money we went bought a good used box truck off eBay. We have repeated that process with the next seven delivery vehicles as we grew.

    We just bought a good used Sprinter with some scratches and dents but well kept by a single owner. In concept it is the perfect courier vehicle and has worked out for us so far in the last 2 months we’ve owned it.

    Scott Kristiansen, Owner, The Best Courier Service Ever Inc

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