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A close friend of mine, who has been a residential building contractor for about ten years, has just traded in his pickup for a minivan to work out of.

Before seeing his setup I thought it sounded a little crazy but to me after checking it out, it seems like its going to haul what he needs just fine.

He bought a sharp looking red minivan and had the whole thing lettered up. Has a custom roof rack and the entire back is shelved out and has a place for everything. Also had some heavy duty springs installed along with a nice reece hitch.

He then bought a nice used utility type trailer, around 5x10 or so to haul anything bigger or pickup materials and such. He gets most of the material delivered. He will also use his utilty trailer for his larger tools needing a ride to job site.

Now before this setup he had a 1/2 ton pickup with a 5x8 enclosed trailer. He says the van holds everything he needs and will save a lot in gas expenses.

My first thought was, is this a professional setup in the eyes of his customers? When he pulls in to do an estimate and meet clients for first time are they going to think any less of him for driving this minivan instead of a pickup truck?

I know a lot of other trades are going for the smaller more economical vehicles for work. But what about a carpenter?

Thoughts?
 

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I see nothing wrong with a small work van----

When I see a contractor driving a $40,000 show off truck, I assume they are going to be over priced.

This is a 'show me,don't tell me' business----the results speak for themselves---I believe Basswood worked out of a mini van at one time---I'd have hired him if he hauled his tools in a rickshaw---
 

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The Ultimate Wire Hider
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It all depends on the presentation of what you're driving.

If it looks likes it's his wife's "soccer mom" van or if it's beat up with dents and missing hubcaps then it may look less than professional. Clean looking vehicles make the best impression, however, it's more forgivable for a truck or work van to have a few dents than it is for something that looks more like a passenger vehicle.

So if your guy did his decals and put a ladder rack on it, I'm sure that it looks more professional than some of these hacks who drive minivans with mis-matched paint, a missing headlight, loud muffler, etc.
 

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Average home owners like to know the people they hire are successful. In fact, we live in a society where we are judged on these things. Right or wrong, it still happens.

Successful contractors seem to have nice new and appropriate vehicles. Is the model or type important? Maybe not as much as a clean newer type vehicle.

When I see a contractor in a rusty van I make the assumption he is broke and can't run a business. When I see the same vehicle with crap all over the dash I make the assumption he can't even organize his life let alone a project.

With that said, I know two contractors who own mini-vans and they appear to do quite well.
 

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We've had this discussion a million times, I don't think it matters what you drive, it's the work you do.
 

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My electrician drives a minivan as his work vehicle, his guys drive Sprinters. All lettered.

Its funny what people judge on, but judge they do.

I dont judge professionally by any one thing, I need at least 2 things to make a negative judgement. My reason is, I have known quite a few very good tradesman and sub contractors with trucks that looked like bombs went off. My dads old concrete guy had a 15-20 year old pick up, trash in the floor boards, receipts and cigarette packs on the dash, tools piled in the bed of the truck. He was never late, finished on time and produced flat, strong slabs. Never had to tell him to use stirrups or chairs, beams and footings were straight and square.

Thats just one example. A foreman I worked for doing commercial form work was the same way, and he was one of the best all around carpenters I have ever worked with, very organized job manager, very loyal to the company. I wish he lived closer, he would be running a crew for me.

The plumber we used to use drives a pickup exactly like the old concrete guys, so did his helper. Now his personal vehicle was immaculate, and rarely driven. He retired very well, he was one of the more expensive plumbers here. He still does a little service for his nephew, who he gave the company to.

One of the better GCs here drives a 15-16 year old truck that is showing its wear. By all accounts, certainly his product speaks for itself, he is a very good contractor. He charges accordingly im sure. David Gerstal mentions in his book that he always drove an older pick up, and he was a high end GC. My old boss never drove a flashy rig, he is certainly a multi millionaire, and as far as high end remodeling, he is certainly #1 in volume here.

I think its funny when I hear contractors assume someone is "over priced" because he is driving a nice truck. That is very assuming. That guy may just choose to spend his money on a nice truck. Maybe he does a lot more volume than you realize. Maybe he is just very good and charges a good mark up.

I drive a nice, 3 year old pick up. Im sure no one would think im over priced because of it, its not flashy. For all you know, maybe I have an airplane or a 90k ski boat, or a second home on the beach. My point is, it is absurd to judge someone strictly by one thing.

If a guy drives a POS, his cab and pick up are in disarray and he is late, he can kick rocks. If a guy drives a nice truck, pulls up on time to an appointment, but talks on the phone for 5 miniutes, therefore becoming late, and has a self important or fake attitude, he can kick rocks. Or if a guy has a 60k King Ranch and he knows his stuff, is professional, and prompt, I will likely put his contact info in my phone. My septic contractor fits that description, and he is very good, and not cheap.
 

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Lazy Millennial
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A lot of the cable providers around here have their techs using minivans with roof racks. It looks pretty professional to me. In my opinion the modern minivans are looking more sleek and less like bubbles.

A spray foam contractor here has his guy drive a dually diesel and a massive trailer from job to job while he drives a smart car. He has the little thing done up with signage.
 

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There was a landscaper in Austin that drove a beater truck and lived in a trailer. His thinking was if his employees thought he was getting rich, they'd want a bigger slice of the pie.

There are downsides whichever way you go, depending on who is looking at your vehicle, so just get what you feel is the best setup for what you do.

I almost never haul more than 1/4 ton in the truck or pull heavy trailers, so I could probably just use a baby trailer and an escort wagon. Putting stuff on to a lower surface than the truck bed would actually be handy for me.

Putting ladder racks / ladders on a minivan really decreases highway MPG, so it isn't as good as you might think if you do a lot of highway driving. Cable installers, electricians, and even some plumbers are using minivans up here, but the plumbers tend to go for full size vans because of all the stuff they carry.
 

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I guess it fine if he can make that space work. I doubt I could get anywhere near the tools and equipment I need into one even with a trailer. As someone already said once loaded up with tools and ladders your MPG ain't gonna be much better than a truck. Most new trucks get 20-22mpg loaded or unloaded but a mini van would get maybe 24mpg unloaded but load that thing up and your gonna get 20mpg and maybe 10mpg with a trailer so really not cost savings in fuel.
 

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Minivans (other then Astro/Safari types) may be suitable for light duty type work. They are basically a car with a van body on top. I see this all the time. People trying to use Caravans, Uplanders and Freestars as work vans. The rear tires are always right in the wheel wells. They are not built to be work vehicles, have a look at the suspension on one.

The Astro/Safari is RWD/AWD with leaf springs in the rear and a full front subframe. Some are even 1/2 tons. Those older minivans worked well for contractors.

Caravans, Uplanders, Freestars, etc= Bad idea.
 
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