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Power in Numbers: The Benefits of Entering Fleet-Vehicle Territory If your business has as many as 10 vehicles, you've entered fleet-vehicle territory, a place with its own rules--and benefits

By Grant Davis

In 2007, Namasté Solar, a company that installs solar-power units, acquired a used Dodge Sprinter diesel cargo van. "We could run B20 biodiesel in it," says Max Christian, co-founder and COO of the Boulder, Colo.-based operation. "It got almost 25 mpg, which was much better than a Ford Econoline van, and at the time it was a unique vehicle. It fit our image, and it was the cheapest, best vehicle we could afford."

Flash-forward six years, and Namasté is maintaining a fleet of 10 Sprinters, four pickups and six Toyota Priuses. And Christian is in the process of formalizing the company's next generation of vehicles, weighing the pros and cons of leasing or buying cargo vans to help carry out roughly 300 installations a year.

Compared to the stressful, hard bargaining associated with consumer purchases from a dealer, the commercial fleet transaction is more relaxed, according to Isaac Bouchard, a broker with Preferred Auto Brokers in Englewood, Colo. "There's very little negotiating with the fleet sales manager at a dealership," says Bouchard, who also runs CarBuyingTipsGuide.com. "These guys get paid to move units, so the margins are tiny or even below invoice to begin with. As such, the process is more about a relationship than price--they're going to remember you when you roll over your fleet every three years and take care of you."

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