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Replacement standards may vary depending on an operation’s needs but in most cases fixed intervals are in place. Is this really the best approach?

When it comes to vehicle replacement policies, most fleets use fixed cycles driven by a variety of factors – such as operating and maintenance costs, lease contract or financing terms, or tax advantages related to new equipment.

But whilst replacement standards may vary depending on an operation’s needs, in most cases fixed replacement intervals are in place.

Indeed, in many fleets, these intervals have been prevalent for so long that they often go unquestioned.

Is this really the best approach?

There’s many reasons to consider a more flexible vehicle replacement cycle focused on the best performing and less costly makes and models for your operations. This type of enhanced fleet vehicle replacement criteria could involve:

 mixing different strategies for different functions
 shortening or lengthening cycles as needed
 or even making use of short-term programs

infographic on fleet vehicle replacement policy

Here are some of the top things to consider, when it comes to pinpointing the best vehicle replacement policy for your fleet:

What are your real world needs?

Working out the most effective replacement cycles for your vehicles isn’t always easy. It could be that mileages vary greatly across different parts of your operation. The key is to interrogate your data, considering each need separately to assess whether a change in replacement cycles could lead to long-term savings.

Can you take advantage of the market?

Frequently, you may find there are short-term financial incentives that are very attractive and actually make sound economic sense. For example, manufacturers sometimes offer aggressive incentives for specific models or subsidise leases that have a lower monthly cost. If you are in a position to take advantage of these savings, it might work well for your operation.

Is it worth lengthening cycles in times of uncertainty?

“One in three vans on UK roads is now at least 10 years old, as businesses continue to put off investment in their commercial vehicles fleets, says finance provider LDF.” – Commercial Fleet

Economic uncertainty often causes fleets to extend vehicle lifecycles by opting for longer lease terms or delaying purchases. While extending lifecycles puts off the need to make a decision until you have a better idea as to what is happening to your business and the economy, this kind of thinking can create problems. For instance, older equipment might lead to higher maintenance costs and repair bills, including items that are no longer covered by a manufacturer’s warranty.

“A functioning fleet is vital to business continuity and each day of downtime costs the company money, with RAC research suggesting downtime can cost companies up to £500 a day.”  – Utility Week

Are any suitable short- or medium-term solutions available?

If you identify a requirement for a vehicle that will need to last only a year or two, many leasing companies offer short- and medium-term contracts for new vehicles, some of which are renewable at 6- or 12-month intervals. These programs can provide a degree of flexibility without entering into a longer-term commitment.

Would reallocation work?

“The latest FN50 research found that average end-of-contract mileage charges are at a four-year low of £439, with 21% of returned vehicles incurring charges” – Fleet News

If some of your vehicles have less mileage than others, a strategy may be to swap around equipment. This technique can help:

Balance utilisation across your fleet
Avoid leased vehicles being turned in with higher mileage than their contract allows
Reduce the costs that come with operating older equipment

How can you make an informed decision?

Whatever path you take for vehicle replacement, you need to crunch the numbers to better understand how your fleet is being used, and identify opportunities.

Take steps to gather useful fleet information and conduct a thorough assessment of vehicle replacement cycles to identify which equipment is more/less efficient and costly to operate.

(Fleet management software can help you consider all of these factors. You can use it to create reports to compare the cost of extending lifecycles to replacing equipment. This data can also help to create different scenarios so you can evaluate ways to optimise the use of your current fleet.)

Having looked at all of the factors in detail, it could be that a standard replacement cycle is the best option for your operation.

However, it is worth every effort to understand if other choices may also work well for your fleet – to help you make the most informed decision possible.