CHICAGO — When you’re in the market for a delivery vehicle, there are any number of factors that can draw you to one.
Things like load capacity, fuel efficiency, or its size and shape. Don’t forget about maneuverability, maintenance or safety. And if you’re thinking solely about dollar signs, the ownership costs (purchase price, fuel, insurance, etc.) and resale value have to be front and center.
It can be argued that considering these factors plus others is important when trying to choose a vehicle that’s likely to support your laundry delivery business for years.
But don’t allow a glitzy new van with all the bells and whistles to distract you from the specific needs of your laundry operation. What, where and how you deliver should dictate your means of delivery. It’s about integrating a vehicle into your larger operation, not tailoring your operation to fit the four wheels.
Let’s visit another launderer to see how they approached choosing the right delivery vehicle.
THE VAN LIFE
Since 1995, Thorpe’s Laundromat and Dry Cleaning has positioned itself as the “go-to source for expert laundry services for customers in West Warwick, Rhode Island, and beyond.” The community isn’t metropolitan but it isn’t rural, either, says owner Charlie Crosby: “We service Kent County, Rhode Island. It’s probably 150,000 to 200,000 residences.”
Aside from welcoming self-service customers, the business offers “complete” pickup and drop-off laundry services, including delivery to both residential and commercial customers, as well as drop-off dry cleaning (contracting with a cleaner that performs the actual work).
The retail side of the laundromat occupies 3,000 square feet, or roughly half of the building it’s located in. Thorpe’s employs five full-time employees and two part-timers. Its fleet, according to Crosby, consists of two used Dodge Caravans, Tradesman version.
“So, your Caravan is their standard, ubiquitous minivan, right?” says Crosby. “And the Tradesman version was built in an identical shape but without any rear passenger seats. Both (of our vans) have no rear windows, just panels where the glass would be. That’s great for messaging, you know?”
Crosby drove a Dodge Caravan passenger van for his family for 16 years, so he knew they were reliable.
“We bought both of these vehicles for about the same price. They were around $5,100. They’re cheap to insure. You don’t need to put full coverage insurance on them. We put gas in them, change the oil, do the tires and brakes. They’s cheap to operate. That’s a big deal.”
With 225,000 miles logged, the 2014 is getting a little long in the tooth—“...runs fine but it sounds like there’s a dozen angry men inside the engine with hammers”—so Crosby recently bought a 2013 model with 150,000 miles on it.
He knew what he was looking for and used websites like Craigslist and Cargurus to find one. If and when he performs the exercise again, he’ll be paying attention to certain attributes.
“I guess to pick just two or three, they would have to be general cargo requirements, ease of access and probably relative safety. The vehicle is easy enough to operate. You don’t have to have any specialized skills. And it’s easy to train on.”
While no vehicle is perfect, Crosby does believe one exists with no “cons.”
“Insofar as the vehicles we’ve operated, my feelings haven’t changed at all,” he says. “The pros of the vehicles that we have far outweigh the cons but having said that, I do believe a vehicle does exist that they would have no cons and that would be an electric vehicle with walk-in capability and a 250-mile charge range.”
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].