Vehicle

Covered Vehicle Solid State Home Inspections

One of the most expensive tools a Home Inspector needs is a dependable and appropriate vehicle. Dependability is important as you can't afford to let a home inspection client down because of mechanical breakdowns, but you also need a vehicle that is appropriate for carrying your tools and your public image.


Fuel Economy

Fuel prices are one of the big costs for Home Inspectors. Fortunately for Home Inspectors, we only tend to burn fuel when we are working which keeps our fuel costs variable to the amount of revenue we are generating. Fuel economy can be impacted by the size of the vehicle, type of vehicle, and engine efficiency but a large part of fuel economy is based on the driving habits of the operator. Hybrid and electric vehicles may help conserve fuel costs, especially if you do a lot of idling in slow moving traffic.


Carrying Tools and Security

A good home inspection vehicle needs to be able to carry inspectors tools and ladders securely. Ladders are the largest tool inspectors carry and a ladder capable of reaching a second story roof will need at least about 6' horizontal space. Some ways to accomplish this are:

  • Roof Racks - Roof Racks can convert most any passenger car to carry a ladder effectively. A disadvantage of this system is it can be awkward to load and unload ladders for one person.
  • Truck Bed - Truck beds typically come in 5.5', 6.5', and 8' sizes. 5.5' beds are common on 'crew cab' trucks and are often not big enough for a two-story ladder to lay flat. 8' beds are typically on more commercial grade trucks. A disadvantage of truck beds for ladders is they will slide around if not well secured.
  • Fold Down Seats - Many longer vehicles like SUV's, wagons, and crossovers have fold down rear seats which can accommodate a two-story long ladder. A disadvantage of this configuration is having to listen to the ladder rattle in the passenger cab when driving.


A second concern for tools is security as tools are common item for thieves to steal from commercial vehicles. Security can be accomplished by:

  • Keeping Tools in the Passenger Cab or Trunk Space
  • Using a locking truck cab or cover
  • Installing purpose built security cabinets
  • Using Chains, cables, and locks on exterior tools
  • Keeping tools with you inside homes at all times


There are not perfect solutions to tool security and it is also important for home inspectors to carry insurance to replace expensive tools if they do go missing.


Marketing

The vehicle you drive will say a lot about you as a Home Inspector.  A pickup truck, a smart car, and a Porsche Cayenne will all give your clients and Realtor partners a different perception of you as a home inspector and it will impact your future business and referrals.  


If you want to portray that you are a successful home inspector, your vehicle should be a recent model, be in good repair, be kept reasonably clean, and should look like you are a tradesperson. Great vehicles for Home Inspectors should look a lot like you would see your local plumber or electrician driving. Pickup trucks and white vans are excellent choices while full sized SUV's and mini-vans are also ok. Less appropriate vehicles are sports cars, full-sized sedans, and luxury brands as these are not common choices for trades people on the job site.


Your vehicle can also be a big part of your marketing campaign. Adding your company name, slogan, and phone number can help potential clients and Realtor partners recognize you working in their area. If you are going to add graphics to a vehicle, you have to do it right. A magnetic sticker tells clients you are not fully committed to your profession but a full vehicle wrap in bright orange may say you are trying too hard to be noticed. Again, take your cues from plumbers and electricians and notice the graphics they use in your area as a guide. $500-$1,000 in graphics on your vehicle could be the least expensive price per client impression of any advertising you may do for your business.


Driving Access

If you working in an urban environment, you will inevitably end up needing to park underground or navigate a tight parking lot. Choosing a full sized crew cab pickup with the 8' box and off road suspension and tires may impress your friends but you might have to walk from blocks away to find a parking space you can fit into. This is also true for many high truck cabs and some vans.


There are also times you will be sharing a tight amount of parking on a small driveway with one or two Realtors, your clients, and your vehicle. You don't want to give off a bad first impression by driving an oversized vehicle and making your clients walk a distance to the inspection. Whenever possible, always park on the roadway and give your clients the best parking spot at the home.


Total Life Cycle Costs

A vehicle is a business expense like any other tool and it is important to do a cost/benefit analysis on the full costs of owning a vehicle. Consider how long you want the vehicle to serve you and try to calculate all the life time costs:

  • Purchase cost or total monthly payments of ownership cycle
  • Estimated total fuel costs based on average business levels
  • Insurance Costs
  • Maintenance and Repair Estimates


For example, hybrids have lower fuel costs but a higher initial purchase cost and there is some concern about replacing battery packs in the future. Consider the total cost of owning and operating the vehicle and don't allow initial sticker pricing or 'future' savings to make the decision on best value without doing the full ownership math.


Final Thoughts

While there are not 'right' and 'wrong' vehicles for home inspectors, the choice of vehicle will have an impact on how you are perceived by clients and Realtor partners as well as play a role in the marketing of your company. Clients see Home Inspectors as 'experts' in the building trades so emulating what trades people drive is a good start in the right direction.


By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.

Solid State Home Inspections Truck

Solid State Inspections F-150 (retired) with white graphics on the job.

IMG 0280

2013 Solid State Ram 1500 - White with colour graphics on the job