Leather seats; 18 inch alloys; built-in sat nav. They might sound like luxuries but according to last year's Volvo Drive report, which polled over 250 fleet managers, such options figure high on any company driver's check list when sourcing a new lease vehicle. In fact, such luxuries only come second to concerns about the amount of Benefit in Kind tax drivers will need to pay on a particular model.
Options are important, then; so it's a shame that they're the sworn enemy of any budget. What might seem like a sensibly-priced vehicle can suddenly find its price swelling to that of a luxury plutobarge if you get tick-happy on the option list. So which options are essential and which should be given the hard shoulder?
View the PDF version of this Infographic: 'Option Lists: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly'
Adaptive cruise control – this radar-based system monitors the vehicle in front and automatically adjusts speed to keep a pre-determined distance between the two vehicles. The safety advantages are obvious: less tailgating, less chance of a collision and the system even works in rainy and foggy conditions. On flat roads at least, such a system can help with fuel consumption.
Lane-changing detection system – this system lets the driver know that they are drifting into another lane. Alerts can come in the shape of warning sounds, lights flashing on the dashboard or a vibration through the driver's seat; the latter being the subject of many schoolboy-like fnarr, fnarr gags...
Parking sensors – no, they're not as cool as HUD-based night vision but for fleet managers, this is an essential option. Scrapes, bumps and dents are common on company vehicles thanks to hurried, butter-fingered parking. This spells hassle in the shape of end-of-contract wear and tear charges. Choosing front and rear parking sensors can mean real savings in the long-term.
Other factory-fitted options: Bluetooth connectivity (essential for hands-free calls, which means there's no excuse for drivers being caught on their mobile); iPod/MP3 connectivity (the less fiddling with cables, the better); and heated seats (if you're going to insist on pricey leather seats, then heating them in winter months is essential) are all worthwhile options.
Depreciation matters – whether buying out right or hire purchasing a company vehicle, expert advice states that packing a car or van full of options can be a waste of money in the long-term. Even the latest factory-fitted sat navs and swanky interior lighting can be worth next to nothing come hand-over time. Trade pricing guide CAP says that optional extras generally only retain around 20% of their value. Instead, better to choose the right trim level in the first place that will include many sought-after luxuries as standard; these can hold up to 90% of their cost come resell time.
And the ugly...
A matter of taste – no matter how deep your pockets, money can't buy you taste. Company drivers might want to personalise their vehicle with a unique paint job or fancy seat coverings. But sadly, many of us have the design sense of a newt – whereas vehicle makers don't (SsangYong being the exception that proves the rule). So stick to their official choices or it could spell disaster come resell time.
Accessories – vehicles aren't about driving anymore; they're about 'lifestyle', dudes. Most vehicle makers offer an obscene amount of merchandising for brand fanboys and girls to deck themselves, their vehicles and even their families out in. How about a delightful Aston Martin ladies' crepe de chine scarf for over £130? Or a Mercedes-Benz handbag for £545? Or, for the cash-strapped, a pair of Lexus cufflinks for £14.99? Mmm, classy.
For more ideas on controlling your budget, please download our eGuide ‘Shipshape: How to keep an eye on your fleet servicing costs’
Guest Post: James Knight is the fuel management consultant of The Fuelcard Company, the largest commercial reseller of company fuel cards in the UK. You can read more on his expertise in fuel control and solutions on vehicle maintenance by reading Fuel Cards Blog here. You can also find him on Google+ and Twitter.