How to Mitigate the Hidden Costs of Used Vehicles

For organizations looking to expand their fleet in an economical way, used vehicles are a great option. But to ensure procurement savings don’t eventually spin into maintenance budget overruns, fleets should keep an especially close eye on their pre-owned assets.

How to Mitigate the Hidden Costs of Used Vehicles

Used vehicles have been an integral part of fleet operations since time immemorial. But ever since the pandemic threw global supply chains into disarray, pre-owned vehicles have been especially important to a wide variety of fleets. With new vehicles hard to come by, many organizations purchased their first used vehicles during the multi-year vehicle shortage. Others went from purchasing fleet vehicles, new and used, to solely adding pre-owned vehicles to their fleet. As a result, it's quite likely that the average work vehicle these days has significantly more miles on it than in years past.

That heightened mileage introduces a challenge for fleets with ineffective expense-tracking practices. While used vehicles are more affordable than their new counterparts to procure, they often require more service work to stay operational. For particularly unreliable used vehicles, over time, additional maintenance and repairs can make them cost-effective to keep around. Organizations that neglect to keep a close eye on their fleet costs run the risk of throwing good money after bad with these vehicles.

Fortunately, there are ways to ensure that the resources you invest into keeping your used vehicles operational are well-spent.

Minimize vehicle issues with preventive maintenance

While preventive maintenance (PM) is essential to the health of any vehicle, it's especially vital to used vehicles. Depending on how rigorously it was used by its previous owner, a used vehicle might already require specific maintenance from the moment you buy it. For example, many vehicle manufacturers recommend that owners perform certain service actions more regularly once a vehicle reaches a certain age or odometer reading. To keep a used vehicle in optimal condition, it's best to heed these recommendations.

Customizable PM schedules can make addressing the specific maintenance needs of different vehicles much easier.

 Instead of having a set service procedure for all of your vehicles, customizable PM schedules instruct your technicians to perform the exact maintenance a particular vehicle (or particular group of vehicles) requires. More individualized maintenance results in fewer issues and breakdowns and more efficient use of your maintenance resources.

Closely monitor your fleet expenses

Fleetio provides organizations with comprehensive, real-time visibility over their expenses. Make more informed decisions that take your resources further.

Use reports to monitor cost per mile

As vehicles age and rack up miles, they become more costly to keep around. Most obviously, seasoned vehicles tend to suffer breakdowns more frequently than their fresher counterparts. More breakdowns means greater repair, parts and towing costs, not to mention losses in productivity due to increased downtime.

But breakdowns aren't the only factor driving up the costs of vehicles that have seen considerable use. In a variety of ways, vehicles become less efficient as the years go by. For example, tiny contaminants that make their way past oil and air filters build up in engines over time, resulting in lessened lubrication of vital components and higher amounts of friction. To overcome these internal resistances, engines are forced to work harder, and when they do, they consume fuel at faster rates. And while regular oil changes can greatly reduce this issue, no practical maintenance practices can eliminate it entirely.

So, to ensure that keeping a timeworn vehicle around makes financial sense, it's imperative that you closely monitor its cost per mile. With fleet reports, you can instantly pull up how much you're investing into a group of vehicles or an individual vehicle, saving you the hassle of running the numbers yourself. If your fleet management software is capable, consider creating a report specifically for used vehicles or even used vehicles past a certain age or mileage. If you operate a mixed fleet of new and used vehicles, this setup will allow you to compare the maintenance expenses of the two groups, making it easier to identify excessive spending.

Encourage considerate vehicle care from personnel

Consciously or subconsciously, fleet personnel tend to treat newer vehicles more gently than vehicles that have already seen plenty of use. From keeping their interiors cleaner to being more mindful behind the wheel, there's something about vehicles fresh off the production line that makes people want to keep them in pristine condition for as long as possible, even when they don't belong to them. Perhaps psychological studies into the effects of new car smell exposure are warranted.

Regardless of reason, the way personnel treat their vehicles has a direct impact on how well they hold up and how much they ultimately cost to maintain. To ensure personnel don't handle their vehicles in a needlessly destructive manner, fleet managers should periodically review inspections of used vehicles for thoroughness. Convey to your personnel that whether a vehicle has 10,000 miles or 100,000 miles on it, the inspections it receives should be comprehensive and deliberate.

Additionally, fleets can monitor how their drivers behave on the road through the use of telematics. In addition to being a major safety concern, behaviors like speeding, sudden braking and idling can accelerate wear and tear of fleet vehicles. Telematics can notify fleet managers when these behaviors are detected, allowing them to require additional training or institute whatever countermeasures they deem appropriate.