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Keep on truckin’

When it comes to what rental operators look for in a pickup truck, there is a lot of variation.


April 22, 2010
By Mike Davey

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When it comes to what rental operators look for in a pickup truck, there is a lot of variation. Very often the choice depends on factors such as the size of the company or the type of duty the truck will see. Given the sheer size and geographical diversity of our country, it’s not surprising to see that regional factors also come into play. The needs of a rental store in Moose Jaw will probably be very different from those of one located in Toronto or Montreal.

avalanche
‘Chevrolet Avalanche’


Brand loyalty also comes into play. When you’ve bought the same trucks for years, and they’ve been satisfactory, there’s not a lot of motivation to change to an unknown make and model.

Ed Dwyer is the owner/operator of C&T Rentals & Sales in Winnipeg. His truck fleet consists of eight vehicles, the majority of which are Ford F250s.

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“I need what I call a ‘rental duty’ truck. For me, that’s a Ford,” says Dwyer. “We prefer trucks with four-wheel drive, and a power tailgate. We’re also now getting extended cabs. You need that extra room in the back, for hard hats, fire extinguishers, extra clothing and boots. Lots of times we have to send two people to a job site, so they can’t just pile that stuff on the passenger seat.”

Dwyer says the four-wheel drive is a must-have for a rental store that does the type of business he does in that area of the country.

ford_sd
Ford Super Duty


“In the spring, the job sites turn to mud, and you need a 4×4 just to make sure you don’t get stuck,” says Dwyer. “In the winter months, you’ve got to deal with snow. A lot of times, we’re the first at the job site. Snow doesn’t get cleared until 10 a.m., so a truck that isn’t four-wheel drive just isn’t going to cut it.”

Power tailgates can be expensive, but Dwyer believes that not investing in them is a false economy. “A power tailgate pays for itself by saving wear and tear and preventing injuries. Regular tailgates don’t last, and you don’t get a good return on your investment.”

This is a sentiment with which Dave Campbell would probably agree. Campbell is the co-owner of St. Thomas Rent-All in St. Thomas, Ont.

gmc_sierra
GMC Sierra


“We tend to go with three-quarter-ton GM trucks with power tailgates,” says Campbell, citing many of the same reasons as Ed Dwyer. “We go with –three-quarter-ton pickups because we do a lot of towing, and they’ve got the power and the heavy-duty brakes we need.”

Rental operators tend to go for substance over style. After all, it’s about getting the job done, not winning the world’s flashiest truck contest. However, that doesn’t mean that style has no effect. As Campbell notes, styling in pickup trucks has made things a little bit harder for some rental operators when it comes to loading and unloading.

“They keep curving in the top of the box more and more for reasons of style,” says Campbell. “Two models ago, you had tons of room, but now you’ve got a lot less.”

ram
‘Dodge Ram’


One place where Dwyer and Campbell definitely don’t agree is on the use of four-wheel drive. “If the job site is not accessible, they’ll have to come and get it,” says Campbell. “We’re more in the city than some other operators, so we really don’t need four-wheel drive as much.”

When it comes to buying or leasing, the rental operators we spoke to came down firmly on the side of purchasing the vehicles outright. Bill Walker, manager of CM Specialty Equipment Rentals in Saskatoon, notes that buying is very often more cost efficient than leasing.

“The ownership here prefers buying to leasing,” says Walker. “Recently, we leased a vehicle for three years. We started out with a $45,000 truck, and when the lease was up the buy-back was only $23,000. There’s a very good chance that we could have simply purchased a good used truck for that much money.”

It isn’t just the cost that turns rental operators off leasing. For some, outright purchase simply means fewer hassles.

tundra
Toyota Tundra


“We’ve stopped leasing, and bought the last three trucks. If you own it, you can sell it whenever you want. When you lease, you’re locked in, and it’s a hassle,” says Ed Dwyer of C&T Rentals & Sales. “Even though I’m in the rental business, I don’t think it’s a good deal to rent a truck, which is basically what you do when you lease.”

Although rental store vehicles tend to see fairly hard duty, Dave Campbell says that you can get more than your money’s orth if you take good care of them.

“We plan for a truck to last for 10 years,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve always bought outright, rather than leasing. We’re looking at things in the long term, so it just doesn’t make sense for us to lease.”

Brian Schaan is manager of the special events rental division of the Handy Group of Companies, located in Saskatoon. The firm serves as evidence that not all rental companies can do what needs to be done with regular pickups. The company has an extensive truck fleet, with three 12-foot cube vans built on one-ton chassis, three 24-foot cube vans built on five-ton chassis, four half-ton trucks, and two one-ton trucks with flatbeds that are used for tent delivery and set-up crew.

Schaan points out that they also prefer to buy, rather than lease.  “In the long term, we prefer to purchase rather than lease,” he says. “Because we also have an equipment division, we can do all of our maintenance in-house. A lot of the time we’ll buy used vehicles, especially the tent vehicles, because they only need to run for half a season.”
 
The best way to determine which truck is right for you is to first decide exactly what you need. Once you’ve got that figured out, you can start researching various makes and models. There was a time when you essentially had to depend on the manufacturer for this information. However, today a wealth of information lies at your fingertips. Make extensive use of the Internet for your research, and don’t depend on any one source. There are many different forums and sites on the Internet devoted to vehicles, including work trucks. Even when buying used, these sites can provide you with a wide variety of reviews, written by both professional automotive journalists and consumers.

The more research you do, the less likely you will be to regret your decision later.


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