CommercialFleet

Vanity or common sense: Options and Residuals

Tim Cattlin

LCV industry consultant Tim Cattlin takes a look at the pros and cons of optional equipment for vans and the effect they may have on residual values.

Whilst the standard equipment level on most modern vans is at a relatively high level, it’s really important to ensure that, prior to placing an order for a new vehicle that consideration is given to optional equipment, either available from the factory and included in build, or aftermarket products supplied and fitted by the dealer or specialist outlets. Tweaking the final specification can result in the vehicle being more suitable to its intended operation, give the driver additional aid or comfort, and, potentially improve the resale value of the vehicle. Care should be taken however as poor option choice can, in certain circumstances detract from practical operation and / or the value of the van at disposal time.

It goes without saying that ply-lining of the van interior is a must for virtually any operator, protecting the side panels in particular from damage which is unsightly and expensive to rectify. Parking sensors, (or alternatively a reversing camera) ideally all round but especially at the rear will often pay for themselves in a very short time. Drivers are often guilty of judging the distance behind the vehicle when reversing by waiting for it to ‘nudge’ the obstruction and with bumpers on vans often being manufactured from fragile plastic and painted to match the van colour they can be very easily damaged. In addition, recognising this option of being great value to a second owner, the trade will generally pay a premium at auction for a medium or large van equipped with sensors.

Air conditioning , whilst enhancing the environment for the driver may at first glance look to be an expensive and unnecessary option to the fleet manager. At vehicle disposal however, much (and in some cases all) of this additional ‘up front’ cost can be recovered, especially for small and medium sized panel vans likely to be operated in their second life by an owner driver, air conditioning being probably the one single option that the used buyer might insist on and be prepared to pay a premium for. As a result the trade will seek out and fight over at auction a nice van with air conditioning and overlook a similar vehicle without the facility. Used values of Volkswagen Transporter, Mercedes Vito and Ford Transit Custom are particularly sensitive to the presence of this option.

Satellite navigation is clearly desirable to van drivers and can lead to a more productive operation. As a standalone option it is still relatively expensive however and, due to the proliferation of cheap and even free alternatives the used van buyer will no longer pay a significant premium. In addition, the trade are wary of the potential for missing SD cards or out of date maps and, as a result can treat satnav with indifference at times. Any residual value benefit is therefore likely to be marginal.

Although most employers will not wish to condone the use of mobile telephones whilst driving, even hands free, the provision of a Bluetooth facility would at least prove that they had given a driver an arguably safer and legal route to receiving or making a call. From a residual value perspective however, as a trader at auction would be unable to easily tell if the van had a Bluetooth function, he would assume not and therefore no premium would be achieved at disposal.

Many businesses still operate white vans but demand for vehicles in other colours, especially metallic paint has increased dramatically in recent years. Although residual value is often significantly improved (particularly for the small and medium van) it should be borne in mind that damaged panels may not only cost more to repair, but also that accurate colour matching is more difficult to achieve compared to a plain, solid colour. A van which has clear evidence of panel repair will suffer at auction and to this end, very careful consideration should be made before specifying a metallic finish on larger vehicles. Not only is damage much more likely, a second user in this, more utilitarian sector is generally less inclined to seek and therefore pay a premium for a ‘nice’ colour.

If a fleet has a very distinctive and non standard colour, consideration should be given to having vans wrapped in vinyl. Although not a cheap option (and careful, professional removal is vital to avoid damage) it has the advantage of helping to mitigate painful residual values, and, if the base colour is an attractive metallic, the potential for an enhanced return upon resale. The wrap also provides some protection to the original paint surface.

Alloy wheels. In a nutshell, look great on anything up to a medium panel van but not on a larger or chassis based vehicle. Enhanced residual values can be expected, particularly when coupled with a nice metallic paint finish on the van, and, providing the wheels are free from significant damage.

And finally, although not technically an option but worthy of mention is the choice of engine output when specifying a vehicle. Lower powered derivatives, whilst saving a little capital cost for those funding vehicles themselves are becoming very unpopular on the used market and can prove a challenge to dispose of, again, particularly in the medium panel van sector. Looking ahead, a power output of under 125PS may prove to be an unwise choice.

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