Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

Small Fleet Best Practices: Purchasing

March 2006, by - Also by this author

Bug Doctor
Paramus, N.J.
Fleet: 25 Ford Rangers with caps.

Bug Doctor President and founder Stuart Aust soured on the dealership experience years ago. He recalls dealers trying to sell him options he didn’t need or put him in a vehicle he couldn’t use. One dealer asked him to go with a blue pickup he had in stock, and invert the blue company logo to white to keep the Bug Doctor branding — just backwards. “I got to a point going into the dealerships where I’d have to bring a few aspirin with me, because I knew of the headaches coming,” he said.

Aust surveyed members of his industry association on how they acquired fleet vehicles. Because he prefers new trucks every three years, he found leasing works best for him. The trucks are on a three-year/100,000-mile lease through a small leasing company. Aust now heads up the association’s committee for vehicle leasing and is working with leasing companies on a package for the association.

Aust installed a GPS system to keep tabs on drivers. Better routing and curtailed unauthorized use of the trucks have cut down mileage substantially, allowing him to save money with a lower mileage cap on the lease.

Aust realizes the brand-new look instills a level of pride in his workforce. And though he figures he’s paying a bit more, it makes business sense. “Some of these other companies are riding around in 15-year-old vans and you think as a customer I would never call this guy.”

Being in a service industry, Aust appreciates being serviced. If he needs a vehicle on short notice his leasing agent is “calling all over the place.” The leasing company delivers new trucks to his door with a tin of cookies and picks it up when the lease expires. “The leasing guy makes it happen, and it’s just a phone call away,” says Aust. “What’s really neat is I don’t have to go to a dealership anymore.”

Easy Turf
Escondido, Calif.
Fleet: 9 3/4- & 1-ton Silverados. 11 enclosed, open and dump trailers.

Easy Turf, a field turf installer in North County, San Diego, just happens to be across the street from a Chevy dealership. Owner Dave Hartman used to be in the car business, so he knew how to negotiate hidden dealer profits like holdback. “I went into the dealership and said I just bought this growing company and here’s what I’m willing to do, are you willing to play,” says Hartman.

Hartman started with one truck but now takes advantage of fleet incentives. He takes the retail rebates when they’re higher. He’s also a member of GM’s Business Central, a no-obligation program for small businesses that offers added incentive options on every purchase, such as money toward an upfit package or a Lowe’s Gift Card.

Purchasing works best for Easy Turf, as the trucks don’t put on enough miles to warrant a lease. In fact, Hartman’s oldest truck only has 80,000 miles. His deal across the street is pretty cut-and-dry: $100 over invoice minus incentives.

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