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The best way to approach a fleet provider

Every business has different priorities when it comes to taking on a fleet provider. Here, we explore some of the things you should consider.
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If your business needs a range of vehicles, it’s important to approach a fleet provider armed with the right set of questions to make sure you don’t get taken for a ride. Here’s a guide to what you need to know up front.

Before approaching a fleet provider about taking on vehicles, it’s important to define the exact business needs.

There are plenty of questions a decision maker will need to ask themselves. For example: Do I know what type of vehicles I want? What’s the budget? How many vehicles are need? Do I know how the company will finance them? Do I want to own or rent?

Once this has been determined, businesses are in a much better position to speak to a fleet provider – but there are still some things that set suppliers apart.

Here’s a guide to some of the things those engaging with a provider should look out for, and how they can decide where priorities lie.

It’s not all about money

This might seem counter-intuitive to many businesses on a budget, but it’s not all about the upfront cost of the vehicles.

For a start, it’s important to get to grips with the finance methods available – some financing options, such as a contract purchase, provide the option of taking full-ownership at the end of the hire agreement. This might mean a higher up-front cost, but increases flexibility later on.

There is a vast variety of financing options for fleet vehicles, and more info about them can be found through another of our fleet articles.

Aside from the cost of the vehicles, another thing to consider is the added extras. Does a provider cover fleet maintenance and insurance? Will it replace a vehicle if the event of an accident?

These are important questions to ask at the outset so a company doesn’t get caught out down the line – if management knows they are responsible for breakdown cover, this can be factored in at the beginning.

In addition, it is also crucial to make sure a fleet provider offers good levels of customer service. This can be tested by looking at its website, determining if there is a specialised team and ringing the helpline to see how quick it is to get through to someone and discuss a query.

Outsourced versus in-house

On the topic of looking at options for operating a fleet of vehicles, one of the first things to consider is whether to run the fleet in-house or outsource it.

As with outsourcing any service, there are pros and cons. An outsourced service is great when a business has a small team and doesn’t have the resources to handle everything in-house, but it means the service is operated from a distance – making it much harder to keep an eye on it.

This is particularly true for an outsourced fleet management provider – the fleet of vehicles is never in a company’s control, it simply rents the services of the vehicles and the drivers.

If a fleet management provider uses third party subcontractors, it becomes further and further from their reach – it can become tricky to maintain consistency and quality control.

Furthermore, it’s important to check what is offered as part of the arrangement – look out for hidden costs, such as charges for extra mileage, breakdown or replacement vehicle fees, or even contract termination fees.

For small businesses especially, it is vital that any fleet provider can offer flexibility at short notice – if it needs to scale up, does it have the vehicle supply to provide cover? If there is a decline in orders, can a company shrink its fleet without incurring charges?

Naturally, the questions to ask a fleet provider will vary from business to business. Every company should consider where its priorities lie, and factor in the size of a fleet and the nature of services provided.

It is worthwhile taking a moment to sit down and make a list of everything a business wants, and needs, to know before anyone signs on the dotted line.

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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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