The first thing you need to decide when choosing a van is whether to buy new or second-hand. The biggest factor here is likely to be budget, so think carefully about exactly what you can afford. If you can stretch to a new van, you will have the benefit of choosing from the latest vehicles on the market, which are generally more fuel-efficient, safe and comfortable to drive then older models. New vans also tend to look smarter, which can speak volumes about your business.
If you do opt for a new vehicle, do some research on the options available in your price range and consider the following factors: the size of van you need — remember that larger vehicles will be harder to manoeuvre; the engine size — models with four-cylinder capacity will be more fuel-efficient than those with larger engines; and refrigeration requirements — does it need to be ambient, chilled or frozen? Do you need multiple temperature compartments?
Experts at www.thevanwebsite.co.uk say you should also think carefully about how you are going to finance your van. “Consider all of the methods of van finance — including loans and leasing. Van leasing will be best suited to those who like the idea of driving a new van every few years and who want lower monthly payments. Loans are the best choice for people who want to own the van outright and drivers that travel flexible distances.”
If a new van is going to cost too much, there are plenty of good-quality second-hand vehicles on the market. Vans4butchers.co.uk says that if you are buying second-hand, it is best to buy a normal panel van and get a refrigerated van specialist to convert it. “That way you’ll have a guarantee on the refrigerated unit from day one,” it says. As when buying a new van, make sure you do your research on the make and model you want.
Once you have found a van, check price comparison guides to make sure you are not being overcharged. If buying from a dealer, check they are registered traders and are members of an industry body, such as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders or the Retail Motor Industry.
The AA recommends that you never view a used vehicle in poor light or at night, because you won’t be able to evaluate the condition effectively. You should also avoid rain, because water obscures scratches, dents and other problems. Look for vehicles with a good service history and ask to see the vehicle registration history and previous MOT certificates. It is possible to run an online check of MOT status and history by visiting http://tinyurl.com/6jth99p.
Always make sure you test-drive the vehicle and, if possible, get it checked over by a mechanic.
Once you have your van, it is worth considering getting it sign-written. Having a logo on your van is a great way to advertise your business and it is relatively cheap when compared to other forms of advertising. Prices start from around £200 for graphics with a name and logo, to £2,000 for a complete vehicle wrap on a long wheel-base, high-top vehicle. “Even if you went to the higher end of the scale it would last about seven years,” says Luca Cabano, owner of graphics company Boss Dog. “£2,000 for seven years isn’t much at all and if you have a van that drives around London, everyone is going to see it.”
Sign-writing does not take long, says Cabano. “If a butcher wants a complete wrap it will take a couple of days. If he is just having some graphics and sign-writing, normally it is a couple of hours.” Some companies will even come to you to do the work, although for complete wrapping the van will need to be taken to the workshop.
Cabano warns that some traditional sign-writing companies don’t have the skills to carry out complete vehicle wrapping, which is a relatively new concept. “There are a lot of people out there who claim to be able to do it when in fact they can’t,” he says. “Butchers should go to a reputable wrapping company and have a look on their website first to check that they do lots of wraps and know what they are doing.”
Insuring your van
Insuring a commercial van is more complicated then insuring a personal vehicle, especially if it is refrigerated. “There are only a select few insurers who will insure refrigerated vehicles, because of the potential costs of damage,” explains Julie Carter, of specialist insurance broker Adrian Flux. The number of deliveries you do and your mileage will could also limit the market, she adds.
For this reason, Carter recommends that butchers looking for insurance should get on the phone, rather then relying on quotes found over the internet. “Sometimes, when you get a quote on the internet, there are certain areas where you will not be covered. With any internet quote we recommend you get it validated and confirmed that you are covered,” she says.
Carter says there are several ways to cut down the costs of insurance, such as keeping the vehicle in a secure unit, ensuring it has security devices fitted and getting it sign-written. The drivers on your policy can also affect costs. “The insurance will be rated on the highest-rated driver, so if you have a youngster on there, or someone with lots of convictions, it would be rated on them,” explains Carter. If you need more than one person to drive the vehicle, you can often get a multiple driver policy.
Your van insurance will not cover any tools or materials in your van, so make sure you take them out overnight and do not leave the van unattended and unlocked. You might want to consider taking out goods-in-transit insurance to cover meat against loss or damage when it is in the vehicle. “You would need to take out a separate policy for this,” says Carter. “It could also be that if you have a shop policy, it will cover the meat while it is in transit, or you might be able to get a bolt-on.”
If you do a lot of deliveries, or have more than one van, you should think about getting GPS vehicle tracking systems fitted to your vehicles. Tracking systems have a number of benefits, the most important of which is that you know where your vehicles are at all times. This means you can ensure your driver is working efficiently and monitor delivery progress, so you can tell your customers exactly when they should expect their produce. It it also easier to find your vehicle if it breaks down, or is stolen.
UK vehicle tracking supplier Remote Asset Management says that businesses can expect a “remarkable immediate and permanent change” in driver behaviour once vehicles are fitted with tracking systems. “Knowing precisely where your drivers are and where they have been helps with many aspects of your day to day operation, improving efficiency and reducing wasted time.”
Vans are becoming increasingly fuel efficient but with fuel costs rising, deliveries can still be a burden on your budget. One way to reduce fuel costs is to choose energy-efficient tyres. Most of the main tyre companies now produce energy-efficient models and, according to The Campaign for Better Tyres, a group dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of tyres on fuel efficiency, the best performing tyres on the market can reduce fuel consumption by 10%.
“Energy-efficient tyres produce less friction as they roll along a road, which
reduces fuel consumption,” explains Layla Redway-Harris, campaign officer at the Campaign for Better Tyres. “By choosing energy-efficient tyres next time you buy tyres, you can significantly
reduce your fuel bill.” Harris adds that, from 2012, it will be easier to buy energy-efficient tyres because new legislation will require all tyres to be labelled at point of sale with information on their
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