In the world of automobiles, only a very few vehicles actually retain their value.  Year after year, late model Jeeps, high end sports cars, and the lowly work truck or van are all proven to hold more value in the used market than all the Hondas, Toyotas, and forgettable mid-sized SUVs ever made.

At Expertec, we’ve learned a lot about how to make pickups and vans more desirable on the jobsite, but how can you make sure that you keep trade in – or at least resale – value up on your work truck?

There’s two schools of thought on this and we have a definite opinion on which one makes the most sense.

On one side of the coin, there is the argument that any change to a vehicle lowers its value or, at the very least, doesn’t add to the overall value of the vehicle.  If you are going to trade it in to a dealer, there’s actually some truth to that statement.  Putting $5,000 worth of rims, tires, and stereo equipment into a Honda only makes it a Honda with a bunch of stuff on it that relatively few buyers will be interested in.  A dealership will assess the value of the car based on what the car is and the mileage, not “how cool” it is.  That same Honda may make a teenager swoon and pass over his or her hard-earned money, but the target market of the dealership isn’t very interested in such a vehicle.

Too many times, though, we see well-meaning tradesman and business owners that believe the same is true for a work vehicle.

Not so! And that leads us to the other side of the argument:

A vehicle that has been built for the conditions it will encounter is infinitely more valuable to someone who works in those conditions.

Let’s use two hypothetical examples…

You buy a brand-new work van, drop it off at our Calgary location, and have it outfitted with everything you need for your plumbing business.  You have a shelving, storage racks, a lighted workspace, and a functional ladder rack installed that can double as a pipe rack.  In doing that, you add $100 to your monthly payment.

Five years later, you’ve paid that van off, but it is still going strong.  It has a little over 250,000 km on it, but except for some wear and tear in the seats, all the systems work properly and all the maintenance has been kept up.

Our other example is your competitor – they bought the same van, but instead of upfitting it properly, they cobbled together some old steel racks, bolted them amateurishly to the interior, installed a used ladder rack, and built a very basic workbench inside the cargo area out of untreated lumber.  The upside was, they did maintain it, so the drivetrain is still in good shape.

Who do you think gets more on trade – or in a sale to a private buyer?

You do, of course – because your van has been built for the conditions it will encounter and is infinitely more valuable to someone who works in those conditions.

In other words, not only have you gotten five years of efficiency out of a purpose-built van, you continue to recoup your investment all the way up to the point that you sell it. 

There’s another, more subtle reason for the increased resale value of custom upfitted trucks and vans, too.  There is a definite, though intangible understanding from the buyer that, by having a professional handle the customizing and outfitting, the sellers aren’t afraid to do things properly.  Such a buyer draws the impression – true or not – that the company that would take the time to “do it right the first time” would also not defer maintenance issues and would fix any problems quickly before they became bigger problems.  Without ever saying anything, the seller is able to command a premium in resale value over other vehicles not only because it is a desirable unit, but it was built by a first-rate company for professional use.

Many of the vans and trucks that we upfit for our clients are work models, but these units retain very high resale value because they serve a definite purpose for the buyer.  You may not have a sports car, but the retained value of a custom work vehicle cannot be denied – and its usefulness throughout its time in your company is far superior to something cobbled together.