Free advice on truck buying and leasing from real lawn care business owners.

Hey Clippers! Dave Tucker here to talk about an important question in the lawn care world: Should you buy or lease your trucks?

Most growing lawn care businesses are going to need a truck eventually. Many will need a whole bunch of trucks! But a truck is a significant investment. You don’t want to just get one at random without doing the math.

There’s not just one school of thought when it comes to getting trucks for your lawn care business. Even among CLIP users, there are plenty of folks who always buy and folks who prefer to lease. So instead of telling you exactly what to do, we’re going to share their advice with you directly. Hopefully, their perspective will help you determine the best path forward for your lawn care business.

The case for buying.

Many CLIP users are big believers in buying. “My advice is to buy a good truck, set up the way you want it, take care of it, and keep it,” says one. “The thing to consider is what will the truck cost you in the long run. Have your accountant run what is called Net Present Value. This is how you can predict long-term costs and value.”

Quick vocabulary lesson: “Net present value” is just a fancy way of asking, “How much will this cost me over time?” It’s a great metric for predicting the long-term value of your investment, which is, in this case, a truck.

If you buy your trucks new, you can also look into additional warranties and maintenance plans. Here’s what one CLIP user says: “Our fleet are new Chevys, always with additional warranties purchased to give us 100,000-mile warranties. We have BP fleet care for our vehicles, and our preventive maintenance is relatively low.”

Some CLIP users recommend buying used trucks instead. One in particular is strategic about buying fleet vehicles, such as 14-foot vans, from rental companies like Ryder.  He says, “We attach ramps on the rear. Most of these trucks are about four years old, with about 80,000 to 100,000 miles on them, and they sell for $10,000 to $12,000. Ryder keeps them very well maintained, and we have had very few problems with them. We have found that the sales location is willing to negotiate, and all we usually do is paint the vehicles, have signage done, and out they go.”

Here’s another way to go about it: “I go to utility equipment auctions. Most trucks are specced out heavy like we need them, and we fabricate bodies that work for our purposes.”

One other argument in favor of buying: Lawn care trucks can take a real beating. Dings and dents are all but unavoidable. If you own the truck, you don’t have to worry about paying for that wear and tear at the end of a leasing period.

The case for leasing 

The primary benefit of leasing appears to be financial. In the words of one CLIP user, “The only real reason to lease is if it makes more tax sense to write it all off at once, to show the bank you have more cash, etc.”

Says another, “Every time we have looked at leasing, it costs 6-10% more to own that vehicle over 5-7 years. The key [question] has been, does it allow me to utilize my current cash for other things? We therefore lease a few vehicles.”

At the end of the day, it comes down to this: Do the math. Do what makes the most sense for your business.

One word of advice from me personally: I’m never in favor of buying more than you can afford. If a new truck is too expensive, look into used ones. If that’s outside your budget, consider a lease. The best thing you can do is take a close look at the numbers before you make any decisions. No truck, no matter how big and shiny, is worth putting your financial stability at risk.

So tell us what you think. Do you buy? Do you lease? Any tips or tricks for getting the best deal? Tell us in the comments!

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