According to a new survey by Ford and Manta, an online resource dedicated to small business, small business owners often need vehicles that can do double duty in helping them grow their businesses while keeping their busy families on the move.
Only 42 percent of respondents use their business vehicles for business reasons all the time. One quarter drive their business vehicle for non-business related travel 25 percent of the time, while another 17 percent drive their business vehicle for personal use half the time.
“Dual use was one of the key considerations in the design of Ford Transit Connect,” says Yaro Hetman, Ford brand manager for Transit, Transit Connect and E-Series. “Customers appreciate [that] the seats fold down for deliveries during the week and the vehicle works well as a family van on weekends.”
Approximately 13 percent of small business owners surveyed rely on vans for their businesses. One quarter drive trucks, 16 percent drive another type of service vehicle, 23 percent drive cars and 18 percent drive SUVs.
Regardless of which vehicle they choose, flexibility is key for these entrepreneurs. Nearly half of the respondents said they use their business vehicle primarily for driving themselves to appointments, 36 percent use it to carry equipment to job sites, 30 percent make deliveries and 8 percent transport customers.
“One day we’re using our Transit to move merchandise between stores, the next day we’re using it for event support for charity functions,” says Stuart Hunter, founder of Columbus-based roll:, which sells bicycles, clothing and gear. “The next day it’s supporting our race team where it becomes a mobile changing room. The versatility was really key to us.”
Hunter is one of three small business owners who won $5,000 to upfit Ford Transit and Transit Connect vans in the “Driving the American Dream” contest, conducted by Ford and Manta. The other winners are Steve Ozment, owner and operator of Flowerama in Columbus, and Manuel Mendoza, owner of La Patisserie, a bakery and catering company in Charlotte, N.C.
Connectivity Technology Boosts Productivity
Business errands are made more efficient when entrepreneurs can leverage mobile technology in their vehicles, according to the survey.
Almost three-quarters of respondents say they would be more productive if they could make hands-free calls through a Bluetooth-enabled system.
For some respondents, 25 percent hands-free phone calls are the No. 1 thing that gets them through spending a lot of time in their vehicles. For others, snacks help them power through.
Purchase Price, Maintenance, Resale Value
In addition to making the most of their time on the road, small business owners are keen on maximizing their financial resources. Half say purchase price is a top consideration when determining which vehicle to buy for their businesses. Ford Transit is the best value for fleets in five out of six full-size van categories, based on Vincentric 2015 fleet awards analysis of full-size vans. The short-wheelbase midsize Ford Transit Connect XLT was named Best Fleet Value in Vincentric’s mini passenger commercial van category.
Nearly one quarter of survey respondents say maintenance is a top consideration.
“The reason I continue to buy Ford vehicles is they hold up, as they’re not expensive to maintain, because they do what they say they’re going to do,” said Ozment, who uses Transit Connect to deliver flowers. “That one is checked off the list. Our Transit Connect is rock solid unequivocally the right answer.”
Other factors guiding small business vehicle purchases include fuel costs for 22 percent of respondents, repairs for 17 percent and insurance for 11 percent of small business owners, according to the survey. More than 10 percent say resale value is a top consideration. Ford Transit Connect retains its value better than any other vehicle in its segment, based on ALG’s residual value forecast for the 2015 model year.
Many of the small business owners surveyed feel strongly that their vehicle purchases should support other American businesses. Nearly 65 percent say it matters that their vehicle is assembled in the United States.