Almost two-thirds (64%) of businesses using light commercial vehicles (LCVs) say that controlling the cost of servicing and maintenance is their main concern when choosing vehicles to buy or rent.

This is according to a survey conducted by market research company, GfK, and commissioned by Northgate, one of the UK’s largest LCV rental companies.

The survey polled the views of a broad cross-section of businesses with fewer than 500 employees who acquire LCVs for business purposes.

Nearly half the sample (45%) identified service, repair and MOT as a main cause for vehicles being off the road, second only to breakdown (53%) which typically also results in servicing and maintenance. As many as 60% of the sample considered the provision of like-for-like replacement vehicles as a key factor to consider when choosing an acquisition deal.

Comments from vehicle managers taking part in the poll included the view that the cost of acquiring a vehicle is not the same as price. One respondent told researchers that keeping the price low is no good to customers without the offer of a replacement vehicle, or if the service and maintenance is unreliable. Saving on price does not equate to an overall saving when the total cost of the whole service is factored in.

“Vehicle downtime is a major headache for any business using an LCV,” said Eddie Aston, UK managing director, Northgate. “Inclusive service and maintenance is now a priority for businesses acquiring new light commercial vehicles. Our research shows that vehicles are off the road for an average of 12 days per year and downtime means hassle, expense and, at worse, loss of business. It causes extra paperwork, unplanned expense, loss of productivity and it reduces the opportunity for advertising. Added to that, if a vehicle has been tailored to an individual business’ needs, it will often be difficult to replace.”

The survey also found that, although businesses attempted to manage this downtime to avoid unproductive periods, few had any formal processes in place.

“Any business’ reputation is dependent on getting the product to the customer on time or fulfilling a service requirement to an agreed deadline. Vehicle breakdowns and downtime in general mean you are letting the customer down and adversely affecting your productivity into the bargain,” said Mr Aston.

As such, vehicle managers should make sure they do their homework and consider the overall cost of a vehicle before signing on the dotted line.