Yes, that's right – no 'darlings' or 'dears' today. That's because, this time around, it's not Auntie Gertie at the wheel, it's me, your trusted designated driver, Steve!
I asked my Auntie Gertie to let me have her blog for a week, because I want to talk about something important that I don't think she's ever brought up, at least recently – and that's the issue of whether you should buy or lease vehicles when you're a self-employed, independent owner driver.
To Buy or to Lease
Anyone who is or has ever been an owner driver has come up against this question at some point. ANYONE. If you say you haven't, you're either lying or you started your company last week and are still using your own van. If your operation is anything but small and local, you will have had the thought. And you will probably have asked a lot of people for advice. And, chances are, you will have received a lot of different answers from each of them.
That's because there's no real answer to the question. It's one of those things that work on a case-by-case basis. For some people leasing is appropriate, for some buying suits better - and anyone you ask will only be speaking from experience. As an owner driver myself, with a few years' experience working independently, I have been asked this question many times – and I always make a point of telling whoever asks that my solution worked for ME, and may not work for them at all.
Even still, hard as the question is to answer, some resources at least do try to help new owners faced with this question by highlighting the pros and cons associated with each option. For example, leasing – that is, renting a vehicle long-term, usually for months or even years at a time – sometimes turns out a little more affordable, partly because insurance, road fees and so on are usually covered by the leasing company and you don't have to worry about them. Also, your upfront costs will be a lot cheaper, as the total cost of leasing will be spread out over the duration of the contract – which is great if you're strapped for cash.
On the other hand, buying a van makes it yours – meaning you can fine-tune it for performance, make any necessary upgrades and adjustments right away and generally stay on top of maintenance a lot more than with a leased vehicle. It also gives you the freedom of not being financially tied to a monthly contract – unless, of course, you choose to pay for it in instalments.
Both options are tax-deductible as expenses, so that isn't a deciding factor either way. As such, what you have to account for when making your decision are things like mileage, upkeep and logistics. Weighing these aspects up is the only way to make an informed decision about what works best for you as an owner driver.
Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all solution that works for everyone – if your first choice doesn't work for you, don't be afraid to change tack and try something different.