From the February 2001 issue of Entrepreneur

Do you need to purchase additional vans or cars as your business expands-but your budget says no? Before begging your banker for a loan, consider fleet leasing.

The benefits of fleet leasing include better rates, personalized service for your company and extended warranty programs. Because auto manufacturers, dealers, leasing companies and fleet management firms are eager for your business, they'll offer deals and training programs to help you set up your own fleet.

You don't need a bunch of vehicles? Fine. Joanne Wilkins, manager of ARIPlus, the small-fleet division of Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based Automotive Resources International, says business owners can qualify for fleet-leasing benefits with just 10 cars.

Wilkins suggests that first-timers list their driving needs before they decide what types of cars to lease. Opt for more economical engines and down-size company cars, or switch to light-duty trucks, which depreciate less than cars.

Your lease will depend on your business's needs. "If you employ [salespeople], you'll need leases with unlimited mileage," says Wilkins, "but other [types of] drivers can probably stay within the 15,000-mile-a-year limit most fleet leases offer."

Talk to your financial advisor. If he or she says you're spending too much maintaining purchased company cars, then check out the potential savings you can get from fleet leasing. You can find more information at www.bobit.com, www.fleet-central.com and www.fandimag.com/home.cfm.

Fleet Facts

Consider these factors if you're thinking about fleet leasing:
Know how much cargo you'll have, the options you'll need, the amount of people that'll be in your car and how heavy the payload is.
Do you haul heavy cargo? Look for a trunk with a low lift-over floor.
Worried about extra paperwork? Hire a fleet management company. Your lessor may offer the service or be able to recommend one.
Get everything in writing, especially if penalties are charged for excess mileage and early lease termination.
Calculate the annual mileage for each company driver.
Check past maintenance and driving records. If one of your employees is harder on cars, consider providing a more rugged vehicle.
Compare warranties for full or partial coverage.
Inquire whether the fleet lessor offers 24-hour emergency service.

Jill Amadio has reported on the automotive industry for 23 years as an editor and consultant.


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