Car contract-hire is a contractual arrangement where you hire a car, van or light commercial vehicle for an agreed period of time, for a fixed monthly rental. Once reserved for large fleet operators, car contract-hire (CCH or car leasing) is now widely available through leasing companies, vehicle manufacturers and specialist leasing company franchisees. And here’s the big secret for getting the best deal…
Will you choose a Seat Ibiza, a fleet of Mercedes vans for your West Midlands business, the latest Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), a BMW 3-series diesel or a high-spec 5dr Range Rover? Whatever’s on your want list, success with car contract-hire is less about knowing every detail of leasing yourself than finding a reliable, experienced, well-established broker with the industry clout to help you get a great deal.
That’s the big secret. If you get this right and build a mutually trusting partnership with your leasing company franchisee, you really don’t need to spend hours studying personal contract-hire law and all the available personal leasing options from manufacturers and finance companies. And of course, because leading leasing company franchisees benefit from the buying power of the major leasing companies, choosing the right franchisee can get you access to fantastic discounts.
Just as a good leasing company franchisee shortcuts your route to the most appropriate agreement, you only need to research the right company to make everything else easy.
But first, why not talk directly to the major vehicle leasing companies? And what’s wrong with business contract-hire deals from your Ford, Volkswagen or Jaguar dealership in Stourbridge or Kidderminster? Nothing actually, because (provided they’re reputable firms) they’ll be able to offer you a contract-hire deal. Well, they might, in the case of the car dealership, but you won’t have a choice. It’ll be their deal or no deal: whether you’re talking to VW Finance, Ford Finance or Jaguar-Land Rover Finance, and whether the agreement is a corker or decidedly lacklustre. The one thing you’ll be sure of as you stand in the showroom is that the deal was primarily designed to be profitable for the dealership and manufacturer.
So what about going direct to the leasing company? That’s fine if you’re sure their product’s the best for you. But it’s a big marketplace out there and deals change monthly, if not by the hour... Are you sure?
This leaves you with a large or small specialist. Let’s assume you can filter out the leasing industry’s rogues (sadly, like any business sector, they exist). Who do you approach? You could find a name online to approach. You might hit lucky, with an absolute gem. Or you might end up with one of the big boys who only wants to talk deals if you’re going to lease a few hundred cars.
But if you’re a sole trader, or small business running a fleet between one vehicle and about 25 vehicles, how do you find a broker who matches your standards of customer service and integrity. Above all, a broker who will understand your car leasing needs and work their socks off to get you the right deal?
Whether you’re in Birmingham or elsewhere in the UK, here are seven tips for finding your perfect contract-hire partner for petrol, diesel, PHEV and electric cars and light commercials.
1. How long have they been in car contract-hire?
Length of time in car leasing is a good general indicator of knowledge and experience. Of course, as in any industry, a new start up could arrive with enthusiasm, integrity and genuine intentions of doing a great job. That’s fine, but they’ll never match the decades of experience and established contacts of a longstanding company that shares that enthusiasm and integrity. Based on this, we’d recommend seeking a business ‘with legs’, a car contract-hire broker who’s ridden the tides of economic change for twenty or thirty years and is still successful. It’s a great starting point.
2. Family businesses make a difference
We’ve all seen the difference a good family business makes. The team seems to work harder, is more engaged and, with their personal livelihood at stake, more motivated to please you. Of course there are great companies that aren’t family businesses, but all things being equal, you’d expect a long-established family business to be a safer bet. Just something else to consider…
3. Trust your first impressions
'People buy people' is one of the oldest business adages and it’s never been more relevant than today, as so much customer service interaction is being automated and de-personalised.
Once you’ve shortlisted a couple of car contract-hire firms, call them and note carefully what your intuition says about their response. Abruptness, making you feel like an unwanted distraction or polite brush offs are immediate warnings. So’s the reaction of the customer agent when you say you only want to lease a Fiat 500, don’t plan to run more than two small Renault vans, or aren’t sure contract-hire’s right for you anyway.
On the other hand, a genuinely warm welcome, friendly manner, lack of pressure and enthusiasm for preparing a single-vehicle proposal speaks volumes. You’re onto a winner…
4. Make sure they know their car leasing stuff
Now it’s time to really test their knowledge. This is where you establish that they really understand the differences between business contract-hire and private contract-hire, or guaranteed future value and residual value. You’ll get a strong impression of the company and the team from your conversations. Allow a bit of time; knowledge borne of years in leasing, as distinct from ‘quick-fix sales speak’, will soon be apparent. Small-but-important details really matter – such as how better residuals with higher-spec vehicles lower your monthly rental so you can lease a car you’d thought was beyond your budget.
5. Do they really want to know you
Another thing that should come over as you discuss your requirements is that the person you’re talking with, and the company as a whole, really wants to know you. You’ll soon sense whether they’re determined to understand your contract-hire objectives and build a long-term relationship.
The inherent nature of car contract-hire, with typical contracts between 24 and 60 months, means you can easily change broker when your contract ends. A good leasing company franchisee won’t want that. They understand that today’s new client is potentially a valuable revenue stream for decades. And that every client has an address book full of prospective clients. That’s probably why they’re still in business after several decades!
6. Can you talk to the same person (almost) every time?
Well, maybe not every time, but certainly someone who knows about your last conversation and can continue where it left off. Chances are that bigger brokers operate a call centre and you may not talk with the same person every time. And of course, with the biggest vehicle leasing firms, your initial contact almost certainly won’t have time to talk in detail about leasing a single vehicle. It’s nothing personal, just a fact of life if they’re routinely dealing with huge corporate fleets...
7. Straight talking and integrity
You’ll soon figure out whether the company can come up with competitive car leasing deals. And in the unlikely event that they can’t? Be grateful when your contact gently explains why they can’t do what you want. Maybe they’ll offer an alternative, but what you don’t want is a too-desperate salesperson trying too hard to manipulate the numbers and your expectations so they can close a deal…any deal. If that happens, the likelihood is that it’s in their interest, not yours. And that’s not the object of the exercise…
So there you have it. In a nutshell, the secret of car contract-hire nirvana lies not just in getting the deal that’s right for your wallet, but in finding an experienced, professional, friendly adviser with integrity and your best interests at heart.
About West Midland Vehicles
West Midland Vehicles Ltd (trading as Westmid) was formed in 1980 and is based near Birmingham in the heart of England. We’re a second-generation family business specialising in car contract-hire as well as leasing of vans and light commercial vehicles.
Ask our existing customers how much store we put in knowledge and professionalism – and the pride we take in offering a bespoke service and knowing about the offers that can save you lots of money.
Whether you’re seeking a company fleet or a single private car, our knowledge, experience and exceptional customer care is here for you. Remember to ask us about the Finance Lease Funding Scheme too – it’s a fabulous way of funding your dream vehicle.
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