You nervously click the mechanic’s pen in the waiting room.
A man in greasy coveralls approaches.
“How bad is it?” You ask.
“I’m so sorry. He’s not gonna make it.”
It finally happened. The car you’ve had since “Day One” of your cleaning company has finally departed for the great garage in the sky.
It’s time for your cleaning company to get a new car.
I’m going to give you the answers to all of these questions and more:
- Which one will bring you the most value?
- Which one will help you grow your cleaning business the most?
Why Should You Get a New Vehicle?
On average, it takes a tenth of a second for us to judge a person by their face. Typically, longer exposure doesn’t significantly alter those impressions either.
This is also true of the way people judge companies and their employees.
If a potential client’s opinion is built in less than a tenth of a second of seeing your company, it’s going to be based on:
- Your marketing materials
- Word of mouth from an existing client
- Your vehicle (Is it an eyesore? Or does it look professional?)
What do you do when you’re creating marketing pieces for your business? Do you slap together some words, and send it out… or do you spend hours to craft the perfect cleaning ad for Facebook?
What about your cleaning services? You put 100% of your effort into doing the best job possible. This makes it easier for clients to fall in love with your work, and refer you to their friends and family.
You don’t neglect the first two ways clients see you, so you can’t neglect your vehicle either.
Your vehicle is a mobile billboard and you should be using it as such (I’ll tell you about the right way to brand your vehicle in a moment). In the same way that you take great care with your service quality and your marketing, you should carefully consider the message your car sends.
If it’s constantly dirty and damaged, held together by Duct tape and prayers, you need to invest in a new car for your cleaning company.
How Do You Choose the Right Vehicle for Your Cleaning Company?
Sifting through the ocean of makes, models, and options can be intimidating.
There are four primary considerations that will impact your business’s bottom line for the life of the car:
- Fuel Efficiency – A few MPGs better is worth paying extra. This vehicle will be on the road constantly, you’ll make up that extra money in gas savings very quickly.
- Insurance Costs – This will drop as the vehicle depreciates, as long as you drive safely. In general, the larger/heavier the vehicle, the more expensive the insurance. Check with your commercial insurance agent to get more information about where to save money here.
- Maintenance Costs – Do a little research into parts and service. Will third-party mechanics be able to easily and cheaply obtain parts or will you have to work with a dealership? Are there common problems (transmissions going out at 40k miles, etc.)
These are the three things that are going to cost you money throughout the life of the vehicle so we want to consider them ahead of other concerns. If you can’t afford the constant maintenance and terrible fuel economy, the low price of the lemon is wholly irrelevant.
There is one last major consideration:
- Space. If you own a residential cleaning business, this will not be a huge problem for you – even a two-door coupe should have enough trunk space to fit your supplies. However, if you are using carpet cleaning machines, or window-washing gear, you may need something larger.
Note – this article will focus solely on House Cleaning Businesses. Here are some resources for other kinds of cleaning businesses:
- Best Vehicle for Window Washing Business (Forum Post)
- Best Vehicle for Commercial Cleaning Business (Article)
Final considerations when purchasing a vehicle for your cleaning company:
- Total price or monthly note – While it’s worth paying a premium to get better gas mileage or lower maintenance costs, make sure to stay within your budget. Figure out what you can spend every month without straining your business.
- Safety – Don’t cut corners here. Check the crash test ratings of the vehicles you’re looking at. Poor safety ratings can be a deal breaker on an otherwise solid car.
The Top 5 Cars for a Residential Cleaning Business
Below, we’ve compiled a list using several different resources from service companies.
We’ve also included the suggestions from this Inc. article that talks about Molly Maids and their recommendations to franchise owners.
Should You Finance (Even If You Have the Cash)?
Financing scares some people.
Making a long-term financial commitment is a big decision and you should approach it cautiously. You may want to speak to a third-party advisor to ensure you can handle the expense of a vehicle… especially if you HAVE to finance because you can’t afford to purchase the vehicle outright).
That said, even if you can pay cash money for a vehicle, you should consider the cost of financing against the value that money would accrue in savings and the value of fluidity (having cash on hand).
You can use Bankrate’s financial calculators to check the total cost of a car loan versus what the money would make in a business savings account.
I ran a test for you:
Let’s say you want to buy a new vehicle that costs $20,000.
If you finance the vehicle for 5 years, you’ll end up paying $21,562 (or $1562 in interest) according to this calculator.
And according to this calculator, if you invest that $20,000 into a business savings account for 1.1% APY (Annual Percentage Yield) for 5 years, you would end up with $21,124.47 (or a gain of $1,124.47).
What this means: If you finance your vehicle AND put the money in a business savings account, you will only spend ($1562 – $1124.47) = $437.53 above the car’s price.
That means if an emergency arises, or you need to take advantage of a profitable opportunity, you will have the money ready to go.
Having a significant amount of money in the bank can protect your business from catastrophes and help you weather seasons of poor cash flow. Sometimes, it pays to finance.
How to Match a Vehicle to Your Brand Messaging
Picture this: you’ve just hired “Eco Solutions Organic Cleaning” to clean your home.
The cleaner arrives in a beat-up, extended cab, diesel-engine F-250 that’s belching black exhaust. It has a tiny magnet cling on the unpainted driver’s side door with Eco Solutions Organic Cleaning’s logo on it but it’s partially obscured by mud splattered up the door.
The “Eco Solutions” company vehicle:
What’s wrong with this picture?
A huge, smoke-spewing truck is off message, even from the company’s name.
The truck doesn’t communicate clean and fresh, it’s covered in dents, rust and mud.
It doesn’t communicate friendliness, it’s honestly a little intimidating.
Now imagine a second scenario: Eco Solutions Organic Cleaning’s cleaner knocks on your door. You didn’t even hear them arrive.
You glance out a window and see a Toyota Prius in your driveway. It’s wrapped with a colorful print of cleaning supplies and bubbles with the logo positioned prominently in several places. The streakless shine of recently cleaned glass glares in the sun.
Because Eco Solutions Organic Cleaning has given itself a name that implies that it’s eco-friendly and “green”, it’s on message to drive a battery-assisted, quiet vehicle.
The wrapping on the car communicates:
- What they do (cleaning supplies and bubbles)
- Who they are (name and logo)
- Implies significant expense (wrapping a car isn’t the cheapest endeavor)
Their company vehicle is entirely on message for how they present themselves.
You can use your vehicle in the same way you choose a photo for a Facebook ad: to convey something about your company. What message does your vehicle convey?
A Quick Guide to Maintaining Your Company’s New Vehicle
- Open your Owner’s Manual
- Copy the Relevant Service Information – Oil, Transmission Fluid, Coolant Flush, Tire Rotations, etc.
- Make a Spreadsheet that shows what services should occur at what mileage (you can include all company vehicles in the same spreadsheet).
- Add a weekly reminder to your calendar to check the mileage on company vehicles.
- Log that mileage in the spreadsheet and plan to perform any upcoming maintenance.
Following the Owner’s Manual is definitely the optimal way to keep your vehicle on the road for as long as possible.
Because you’re using your company vehicle to advertise your company, you want to keep it clean. Washing a vehicle every day is more than likely a waste of your time. In general, it will be cheaper and more efficient to pay for an unlimited washing plan at a local car wash.
Bring something to read, jam to the radio, or silently enjoy the amazing machine you’re riding through (my preferred method of riding the car wash). It takes a few minutes and keeps your car looking good, which, in turn, makes your company look good.
Why You Should Turn Your Car into a “Rolling Billboard”
One study from B2B Media found that, on average, a vehicle in an American city is seen by 40,000 to 70,000 people a day.
That’s 40-70k impressions you could be making every day, if you advertise on your vehicle.
To top that off, more than 60% of people would rather purchase a service from someone they’ve heard of before – even if they can’t remember where they’ve heard of you.
This should put the cost of a wrap for your vehicle into perspective:
- The average vehicle wrap costs between $1000-$3000, which seems like a lot until you consider that you’re buying a “rolling billboard.”
- Meanwhile, most billboards cost anything from $10,000-$30,000… and that’s just for ONE MONTH. A car wrap will last until the car breaks down.
B2B Media also compiled stats on car wraps from various studies. They found that people ranked car wraps as memorable and unique as television commercials with greater reach than local cable ads. Imagine putting the power of a television commercial on your company vehicle. You don’t pay for ad time every month, you pay once and you’ve got your billboard.
If the $1-3k price tag is too much to ask (especially since you’re also purchasing a new car), don’t completely neglect your rolling billboard: use magnet clings. They’re not as big or noticeable as a full wrap, but they’re significantly more affordable and still generate a substantial amount of impressions. Most local print shops can make them for around $100 a pair (one for each side).
To track the effect of your magnets or wrap, consider including an “offer word” on them (for example, “Just mention ‘Car’ when you call us and we’ll give you a $5 discount!”).
This way you’ll be able to track who’s coming in from your vehicle advertisements.
Purchasing a new vehicle is an investment in your cleaning company.
That investment is a huge decision but, more than likely, you found this page because you know that you need to purchase a new vehicle.
This article will show you:
- How to effectively communicate the quality and value you provide
- How to use your car as a marketing tool that generates 40k+ impressions every day
Do your research, bookmark this page and come back to it as you make this decision. Talk to your insurance agent. Talk to other owners in Facebook groups. Gather as much information as you can and you will make the right decision.
Patrick Hoffman is Marketing Director at Service Autopilot. He specializes in managing marketing campaigns and giving marketing strategies to the Lawn Care, Landscaping, and Cleaning Industries. When he's not writing, he's reading books on marketing, self-improvement, or science fiction.