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Driving the debate: leasing vs. buying vans for dog care transportation

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As the owner of a medium-sized dog care facility in London, and as a company that currently both leases and buys vans, I would like to shed light on the pros and cons of leasing versus buying vans for dog care use, and hopefully assist GoFido’s readers to make informed decisions about their transportation needs.

Leasing a van for dog transportation can be an attractive choice, and for good reason. With lower upfront costs, leasing allows businesses like ours to allocate funds elsewhere, whether it’s investing in high-quality equipment or expanding our services. The flexibility of leasing terms is also advantageous, enabling you to upgrade to newer models as technology evolves, ensuring the safety and comfort of our clients’ dogs.

Also, leasing often includes maintenance and repair coverage, which has proven to be useful for our day care when we have leased vehicles. Unexpected repair costs can quickly add up and strain a budget, but with leasing, you can rely on the leasing company to handle general repairs at little or no cost. But just to be clear, this tends to only apply to regular wear and tear repairs – such as a clutch that needs replacing – plus services. We are obliged to pay for our own mishaps and damage. Also, if we have to call the RAC to change a flat tire, the leasing company will charge us for it, even though it would be inclusive if we arranged for our own breakdown recovery package.

There are other potential downsides to partnering with larger leasing companies. Their vast fleet of vehicles can result in longer repair times as they handle a higher volume of vans. Despite being a reasonably large day care, we still pale in comparison to companies in other industries that lease tens or even hundreds of vans. Also, navigating through large bureaucracies can introduce communication gaps and cause delays in issue resolution, and problems in terms of conflicts with invoices.

For a time-sensitive industry like dog care, this can pose challenges and disrupt our operations, causing inconvenience for both our clients and our team. And – as all dog carers who offer pick-up and drop-off know – the show has to be kept on the road. If one of our dog vans breaks down, a standard courtesy vehicle is of little use to us as it is not equipped to transport dogs.

The alternative is to buy vans. When you purchase a van, you have full ownership, granting you the freedom to customise and modify the vehicle to cater specifically for dog care transportation, whether it be beefing up the air-conditioning for the dogs or installing a privacy window or two. This level of customisation ensures the utmost safety, comfort, and convenience for the dogs in our care, enhancing their overall experience.

Another advantage of buying a van is the potential for long-term cost savings. Purchasing a van does require a large upfront investment when compared to leasing, but it can lead to significant savings in the long run. Once the van is fully paid off, you no longer have monthly lease payments, allowing you to redirect those funds towards other critical aspects of your business. Over time, the cost of ownership may prove to be more economical than continuously paying leasing fees. Vans are true workhorses, and with proper maintenance and careful driving, they can easily rack up hundreds of thousands of miles, even when our drivers occasionally give them a few scrapes!

Ownership also provides freedom from mileage restrictions. As a company, we cover considerable distances transporting pets. There are no mileage limits to worry about, giving us the flexibility to drive as much as necessary without incurring any additional charges or constraints.

Being able to pick and choose suppliers and the mechanics we use is another huge advantage. We have built a fantastic relationship with a local workshop, and they have saved our bacon more times than I care to remember! Of course, the downside is we have to pay the bills for all of this bacon, but we get a fixed van back on the road in short order.

Lastly, there is the potential for resale value. While not the primary reason for owning a van, it is worth considering that a well-maintained dog van can hold its value over time. When the time comes to upgrade or make changes to your fleet, you have the option to sell your vans and recoup a portion of your investment. This added financial benefit can be a valuable asset to your dog care business.

Having both leased and bought vans, I can confidently say that buying has proven to be the better choice for our company. While leasing offers upfront cost savings and some maintenance coverage, ownership gives us the keys to flexibility, speed, and control – and in our line of work, that’s absolutely essential.

Seb Byrd is the owner of Capital Dog Care Ltd, and the Editor of GoFido

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