Buying a Van for Your Tradie Business: What You Need to Consider

About the Author: Ashley Thomson
Ashley Thomson

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to buy work vehicles for your electrical contracting business employees:

Employee Needs:
• Do employees need vehicles to perform their jobs? If employees must travel to different job sites throughout the day, then company vehicles become a necessity.
• How many employees require vehicles? You’ll need to assess how many vehicles you need based on the number of employees who travel for work.
Cost vs. Benefit:
• Cost of buying and maintaining vehicles: Consider upfront purchase costs, ongoing maintenance, fuel, insurance, and potential depreciation.
• Employee car allowance: Instead of company cars, you could offer a car allowance to offset employee expenses for using their own vehicles for work.
Tax Implications:
• Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT): In Australia, you may need to pay FBT on the value of the car benefit you provide to employees. This may be less applicable for specially designed work vehicles.
• Tax deductions: You can claim tax deductions for business-related expenses associated with company vehicles.
Here are some general guidelines:
• If several employees require vehicles daily for work purposes, then buying company vehicles might be cost-effective and improve efficiency.
• If only a few employees need vehicles occasionally, a car allowance might be a better option.
Additional Considerations:
• Employee preference: Some employees might prefer the convenience of a company car, while others might prefer the flexibility of using their own vehicle with an allowance.
• Vehicle type: Consider the type of vehicle best suited for your electrical work. You might need durable trucks or vans equipped for tool storage and safe electrical work.
Ultimately, the decision depends on your specific business needs and budget. Consulting with an accountant or financial advisor can help you weigh the cost-benefit analysis and tax implications.
There are several reasons why buying work vehicles for your electrical contracting business might not be the best option:
• High upfront and ongoing costs: Purchasing vehicles requires a significant initial investment. Additionally, you’ll be responsible for ongoing expenses like maintenance, repairs, fuel, and insurance for each vehicle. These costs can add up quickly, especially if you have a large fleet.
• Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT): In Australia, providing company cars to employees is considered a fringe benefit, and you may be liable for FBT on the value of the car benefit. This can add a significant tax burden to your business.
• Management and Liability: You’ll be responsible for managing the vehicles, including scheduling maintenance, tracking fuel usage, and ensuring they are properly insured. Additionally, you’ll be liable for any accidents or damages that occur while employees are driving the vehicles, even for personal use.
• Limited flexibility: Company vehicles typically come with restrictions on personal use. This could limit employee flexibility and potentially create resentment.
• Employee car allowance as an alternative: Instead of company cars, you could offer a car allowance to offset employee expenses for using their own vehicles for work. This can be a more cost-effective option, especially if only a few employees need vehicles occasionally. Employees might also appreciate the flexibility of using their own car.
Here are some additional things to consider:
• Employee needs: If some employees only need a vehicle occasionally, a pool car system might be a better option than providing each employee with their own vehicle.
• Vehicle depreciation: Vehicles depreciate in value over time, which can be a significant cost for your business.
• Environmental impact: Consider the environmental impact of a company vehicle fleet, especially if you’re not using fuel-efficient models.
By carefully considering these factors, you can decide whether buying work vehicles is the right choice for your electrical contracting business.
Besides the general pros and cons of work vehicles for your electrical contracting business, here are some specific factors to consider when making a purchase decision:

Vehicle Functionality:

Cargo space and payload capacity: Think about the tools and equipment your employees typically need to transport. Will a car suffice, or do you need vans or trucks with enough space and weight capacity?
Towing capacity: If employees need to haul trailers with generators or other heavy equipment, consider the vehicle’s towing capacity.
Organization and storage: Look for features that aid in safe and organized storage of tools and materials. This could include built-in shelving, compartments, or lockable cargo areas to secure equipment and prevent damage.
Safety and Durability:

Safety features: Prioritize vehicles with good safety ratings and features like airbags, blind-spot monitoring, and backup cameras. Features like automatic emergency braking can be especially valuable for work vehicles driven throughout the day.
Durability and reliability: Choose vehicles known for reliability and durability, considering the demands of electrical work. You might want to research common maintenance issues for specific models.
Operating Costs:

Fuel efficiency: With today’s fuel prices, fuel efficiency is a major consideration. Look for vehicles with good gas mileage or consider electric or hybrid options if they fit your needs and budget.
Maintenance costs: Research the typical maintenance schedule and costs associated with different vehicle models. Regular maintenance is crucial for safety and longevity of the vehicle.
Additional Considerations:

Vehicle branding: You might consider the branding aspect. Company logos and contact information on the vehicles can be a form of mobile advertising.
Employee comfort: If employees spend a significant amount of time driving, consider ergonomics and features that contribute to driver comfort, such as comfortable seating and climate control.
Financing options: Explore different financing options like loans or leasing to determine the most suitable approach for your cash flow.
Remember, the ideal work vehicle should be a balance between functionality, safety, cost-effectiveness, and the needs of your electrical contracting business.

What are the pros and cons for buying new work vehicles and also pros and cons for buying used ?

New vs. Used Work Vehicles for Electrical Contractors
New Work Vehicles:


Reliability and Warranty: New vehicles come with a manufacturer’s warranty, offering peace of mind and potentially lower repair costs in the initial years.
Latest Technology: New vehicles often boast the latest safety features like automatic emergency braking and driver assistance systems, enhancing employee safety and potentially lowering insurance premiums.
Fuel Efficiency: Newer models tend to be more fuel-efficient, reducing operating costs over time.
Branding and Image: New, clean vehicles with your company logo can project a professional image and act as mobile advertising.
Customization: You might be able to configure new vehicles with specific features or upfits tailored to your electrical work needs.

Higher Upfront Cost: New vehicles carry a significantly higher purchase price compared to used options.
Rapid Depreciation: New vehicles depreciate quickly, especially in the first few years, which can be a significant financial loss.
Higher Insurance Costs: Comprehensive insurance for new vehicles is generally more expensive.
Used Work Vehicles:


Lower Cost: Used vehicles offer significant savings upfront compared to new models.
Slower Depreciation: Used vehicles have already undergone the initial depreciation hit, meaning their resale value is less likely to plummet as quickly.
Wider Selection: The used market offers a broader range of options in terms of makes, models, and features, potentially allowing you to find a great fit for your specific needs.

Unpredictable Reliability: Used vehicles might require more frequent repairs and maintenance compared to new ones. There’s also a higher risk of encountering unexpected breakdowns.
Limited Warranty: Used vehicles typically come with limited warranties or none at all, meaning you’ll shoulder more repair costs.
Outdated Technology: Older models might lack the latest safety features and fuel-efficient engines, potentially impacting safety and operating costs.
Unknown History: It’s crucial to thoroughly research the vehicle’s history to avoid major problems down the road. Consider getting a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic.
Additional Considerations for Electrical Contractors:

Electrical work demands: Choose a vehicle with enough cargo space and payload capacity to handle the tools and equipment your employees typically need. Consider features like roof racks or trailers for bulky items.
Electrical code compliance: Ensure any modifications or upfits to the vehicle comply with electrical codes for safe operation.
Ultimately, the best choice depends on your budget, business needs, and risk tolerance.

Here’s a quick decision-making tip:

If budget is a major concern and you’re comfortable managing potential repairs, then well-maintained used work vehicles could be a good option.
If reliability and minimising downtime are top priorities, and you’re willing to invest in the upfront cost, then new work vehicles might be the better choice.