If you know you need a work ute, then you might have some ideas on what would be useful to have in that truck.
Buying a vehicle for your business is an investment in the work you do, something you should be proud of and take pride in. So making sure you choose the right vehicle - not just the one that you think is right initially - is vital.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of storage in the cabin
- Make sure it’ll work for your work
- Money isn’t everything
This isn’t going to tell you how to suck eggs, but here are a few things that you might not immediately put on your “must have” list when thinking about a new work vehicle.
- Decide what the vehicle’s primary job is. This might seem like a redundant point, especially to be number one on this list - but you really need to think hard about what your work vehicle is actually going to be doing for you. For example, buying a dual-cab ute for work, but buying it because it can also fit the kids in? Not the smartest business decision, if it means you can’t fit all your tools in the tray, or you need to make two trips instead of one to a worksite. So make sure you size up what you need - and buy the ute that best suits your specific requirements for work, not for anything else. As mentioned in some of the articles in this guide, a dual-cab might be the right vehicle - but a single-cab would suit more tradies more of the time, especially if you’re a sole trader. And the choice between cab-chassis and pick-up is another important one, because while a pick-up might have smoother lines and a more cohesive look, it also has inherent compromises that you can overcome with a cab-chassis or built-to-spec tray solution.
- Don’t cheap out. Why would someone want to spend money with you, if you won’t spend money on your tools? The primary thing here is that a ute isn’t just a car to get from A to B, but a tool for your work. And, like a wise man once told me, the poor man always pays twice. That means that if you go with the really cheap ute instead of spending a bit more for a better business solution, you might ultimately end up swallowing a bitter pill. I’m not saying spend your life savings on that big American pick-up with the supercharged V8 - in fact, spending too much on your work vehicle can be off-putting to clients, because they’ll think they’re footing the bill for you to live a better life than them.
- Sit in it, and make sure the cabin works for you. Interior designers have a really tough job, but some of them do it better than others. Never is this more evident than if you are trading up from a particular car to a new model only to realise that one of the key features you appreciated in your old truck isn’t in your new ute - like, say, cup-holders up on the dashboard. You’d be forgiven for initially not thinking too hard about the interior of your ute, but remember - a lot of the time, a cabin is also an office: a spot to sit and make calls on a rainy day; a place to file all that important paperwork in piles on the dashboard and in the door pockets. I say that with jest, but storage spaces for documents is just one example of how a work ute can be a workable option or not. Utes don’t typically have the same levels of storage as vans - but in a cab-chassis Transporter or Crafter or Sprinter or LDV Deliver 9 you’ll find smart spots to store folders in overhead bins, and, typically, storage slots on top of the dashboard, too.
- Drive it how you usually would on the test drive. A dealer might raise an eyebrow if you ask if you can tow your work trailer or load up a tonne of stuff in the tray before you buy your new ute. But that’s not your problem. With the realms of reality, it is important to try and replicate what you’d like your new ute to do for you. So, if you know you’re going to have to do a lot of reverse parallel parks in tight spots, find some tight spots and do them. Or if you know you will spend more time at 110km/h on the freeway, but the dealer is trying to convince you to just go for a drive around their predetermined loop, insist on what is going to help you decide if the vehicle is the right fit for your life. Remember, if you’re going to drive this thing for work five days a week, and up to a couple of hours a day, you want it to feel right from the start.
- Be sure of its work capabilities. It is important to know what your work ute is actually physically and legally capable of doing, because you do not want to be caught overloaded, as it could cost you a fine, and you don’t want to be found to have been using the vehicle beyond its intended purpose, as it could cost you your new-car warranty. There are ways around the payload limitations of a vehicle with GVM upgrades and revised suspension systems, but you also need to do your research on whether that will also impact your warranty. If your work ute is going to be used to tow a heavy trailer all the time - maybe you work in tree lopping and tow a chipper from site to site - you need to be fully aware of the limitations when it comes to towing capacity and towball down weights, and the effect those things can have on the gross combination mass (GCM) of the vehicle.
- Test the phone connection. This might sound really dumb, but you will too if anyone you call about work stuff can’t hear you well enough. Literally, you should call someone from the car when you test drive it to make sure they can hear you, and get them to call you back to see if the quality is good in both directions. I know, it sounds really daft, but I have a mate whose new ute sounded terrible when I called him and he answered, but fine when he called me back. Obviously, there are plenty of outside factors that could play a part in this experiment. But you want to know that if you are taking a call that could make you money, that your potential client can hear you okay.
Hopefully these tips help you think beyond the standard “I like the look of it” and “it’s got a diesel with more torque than the others” mindset.