Your most important measure of success as an independent contractor is your bottom line. How much money do you have left over at the end of the day?
The car you use for delivery can be one of the most important factors in that success. Your car may cost you more than you realize, but do you realize that the right car can bring more money in for you? If you have a car that allows you to be on the road more, the result is a greater earnings potential.
The Most Important Factor (Hint, it’s not gas mileage!)
If you are a full time driver, the number of times you fill the gas tank can make you think fuel efficiency is the most important factor in your choice of vehicles. The reality is that even on gas guzzlers, your gas expense is a small part of what it costs to drive your car. Most drivers don’t realize that on newer or higher value cars, every mile they drive can cost them more in lost value than it costs in gas. 30,000 miles in a year – not unusual for full time drivers – can drop several thousand dollars off the value of a car. We don’t think of that as an expense because it doesn’t come out of our pocket on a daily basis. But the expense is real and it’s something that is felt when you get thousands of dollars less when you sell it or trade it in, all for no other reason than the additional miles.
Really, the most important thing to think about isn’t even an expense item. While it’s important to know and be realistic about your expenses surrounding your car, it’s even more important as a business owner to start looking at your car for how it helps bring money in. The most important factor in choosing a car is its potential to add to your earnings, not what it costs you. Not all cars are created equally in this way. Here are some things to think about:
How Long Can You Stay In Your Car?
This is perhaps the most overlooked issue when people think about the car they use. A fuel efficient car may cut your gas prices in half, but if that car is uncomfortable, driving becomes more of a grind, and it’s easier to make an excuse to knock off early. What you save in gas could be minor compared to what you lose because you aren’t delivering.
Many drivers report that driving can become painful. If your car is not a good fit, it can put stress on your back or your joints. Getting in out of your car multiple times a day in the wrong car can take a toll on you. If the seat isn’t comfortable, if you are cramped, if several hours of vibration in a rough riding car creates pain, you could find that the wrong car makes it physically impossible to keep driving.
What’s it like to just BE in the car? Is it easier or even more enjoyable to be in your car all day if you can listen to podcasts easily? Does it keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter? Is the ride smooth enough to be enjoyable (or at least bearable)? Just like any job you take, your work environment can make all the difference in the world. If the environment is good, it’s easier to go to work. If your car environment is good, it’s easier to do more deliveries, and more deliveries means more money.
I’m a taller guy, so I drive a larger car. I honestly believe I make more money, and more profit, because my car is comfortable enough to spend a large chunk of my day driving around. I’m not worn out by the drive, and driving doesn’t make me miserable to the point of wanting to knock off early, and I make more than enough extra because of that to offset what I pay for gas.
Will the car keep running?
The worst thing that can happen to you is not being able to drive because your car is having an issue. Your cost then is not only the repair cost for the vehicle but it’s also the money you are not making because you’re not out driving. That adds up even more quickly.
You also have to look at conditions where you live. Does it snow a lot? You want a car that isn’t shut down with the first flurry (especially when bad weather can be the most profitable time to drive). A car with good tires that handles well in the rain is critical somewhere like Seattle. A car with good oomph might be more important in areas with large hills.
When your car is in the shop, you can’t drive it, and if that’s your means of making money, you can’t make money. While newer doesn’t always mean more reliable, it’s something to consider. You want to look at the overall condition of the car, whether it’s solid. An ugly beater that is mechanically sound can often be a far better choice than a great looking car that is constantly needing work.
Is the car efficient?
I don’t mean fuel efficient. I mean operationally – can you get in and out quickly and easily? What’s it like getting food in and out? Is it easy to park? Is it maneuverable? Sometimes these things can save seconds or even minutes per delivery. A minute isn’t much, but if you shave a minute off 20 deliveries in a day, that usually means you can get one more delivery done in the same time period. Take a delivery per day times several days a week times 52 times a year, and that one minute every time can add up to a couple thousand dollars a year.
Weigh all the factors
I drive a 1998 Buick Century. Gas mileage is terrible compared to most newer cars. But it’s in excellent mechanical condition, it’s reliable, and it’s something I can stay in for 12 hours when I want to without issue. It has its drawbacks – only 20 miles a gallon and its size sometimes can slow me down in parking. But its reliability, low maintenance costs, and comfort keep me on the road more than most cars might, and the extra deliveries more than make up for the extra gas cost. The 25,000 miles I drove
Because it’s a bit longer it does create issues parking downtown sometimes, that’s it’s biggest downside. But the fact that it’s reliable, it works well in bad weather, and it’s comfortable means I can drive more than I might drive in a smaller more fuel efficient vehicle. I pay more in gas for what most do but my other expenses are smaller. Maintenance is minimal and the resale value of my car is only about a hundred dollars off of what it would be without the 25,000 delivery miles I drove last year. All of that benefit for me far outweighs the additional gas cost.
But here’s the thing: I’m not going to tell you to go find a Buick Century. It could be awesome for you. It could be horrible. See, there is no ‘best car for delivery.’ Anyone who tells you otherwise is ignorant. You might love driving a Prius, I’d be miserable. I love driving my Buick, but I know some people would hate it just because it’s not their style. I believe my car makes more money. For. Me. I could give it to you and you might find it costs you money because you don’t like being in it and thus you don’t drive as much.
Tbe best car for you is one you can spend time in. It’s one you can keep driving. It’s one that when you factor in all things, helps you make the most money while not costing you so much that it eats up your earnings. Your best car will likely be something totally different than mine. Pay attention to the costs – they can be significant, but when you do that make sure you are factoring ALL the costs. More than anything, pay attention to what the car can do to help you bring more money in.