View Full Version : Full Size Van vs. other vehicles

Bruce Ramsey
12-13-2007, 03:20 PM
I would like to hear from inspectors who have in the past or are using a full size van with graphics or lettering on the sides.

I don't need the space or capcity of the van for the tools I carry, but it seems it would be a traveling bill board. I would think it would fit with the percieved image of a home inspector and lend credability.

For those who use or have used full size vans with lettering, did you notice any difference in your volume or where your leads came from? If you did but do not use a full size van any longer, why did you stop?

Randy Navarro
12-13-2007, 03:37 PM
I had a full size white Ford cargo van for 6 years w/ no lettering. I loved the space, but no seats.

I now drive a Chevy Astro with lettering. Much smaller but with seats for the kids. Gas mileage also sucks, btw.

I've gotten two calls: 1) one guy wanted an inspection that afternoon and wanted to know how much I charged 2) one guy called me and tried to sell me something.

I think the lettering's cool but wouldn't spend the money on it again, especially now when times are slow.

Jerry Peck
12-13-2007, 04:34 PM
I had two Astro vans, then went to a full size conversion van.

Nothing was lettered, just liked the ride and, as Randy said, full use for the family.

In my last Astro van and the conversion van, I raised the floor up on 2xs so I could slide my Little Giant ladders in under everything else. Had to turn the back seat sideways, though, so I could still see out the back window.

Rick Bunzel
12-13-2007, 05:42 PM
Given a choice I would go for a small wagon, crossover SUV or Honda Element.
I currently drive an Expedition and the room is largely unused. I have a Little Giant and Xtend & Climb so don't really need lots of room. I have no motivation to get rid of it as it is reliable and paid for. I will be migrating to a Subaru Outback wagon in a couple of years when my wife upgrades. I do have signage on the rear quarter glass. It cost me $100 to have the lettering done and looks good.


Dan Harris
12-13-2007, 06:38 PM
I bought a chevy hhr panel van in June
Lettering installed on both sides and rear window, cost me $400.
Since then I got 4 new home warranty inspections, from neighbors of other new homes I was inspecting, and 2 calls from realtors going down the road to schedule an inspection all due to the lettering.

Joseph P. Hagarty
12-14-2007, 07:16 AM
The HHR Panel looks pretty good.

How is the interior configured?

Dan Harris
12-14-2007, 07:23 AM
Flat floor from the front seats back with 3 storage compartments under the floor. The side doors open with a button on inside.
The best thing about it.. 28-29 mpg. city and freeway combined, 40 bucks to fill up, opposed to 75. for a full sized PU

Rick Vernon
12-14-2007, 07:29 AM
I went from a full size Ford half ton with topper to a Honda Element. Easier to get to things and better configured than the full size. 21.5 foot ladder fits down the center inside, 2 12' ladders, tools, etc.
I like it better, I go further on the gas and the clients are amazed that it all fits.
Lettering on the rear window (removed wiper) and rear side windows just let people know who you are, very few calls but looks professional


Jim Luttrall
12-14-2007, 08:42 AM
I have used a full size Chevy PU, Chevy s-10, Extended Astro van, Dodge Dakota and now a Scion Xb.
I bought the Xb for the novelty/marketing factor when I relocated and basically had to start over. It is as you mentioned, a rolling billboard.

Utility and fuel mileage were also factors, but on down the line from the novelty.
When I say novelty, I have an image of the fully lettered truck (not really a truck, but what else do you call it?) on my cards, web site and brochures.
I don't get many calls (but I do get some) directly from the truck, but I do get recognition.
"Oh, your the guy that drives the little box..." type responses when meeting people, etc.

I am fully satisfied with the lettering/marketing aspect as well as the usability factor of the vehicle. 30 mpg ain't too shabby either. Also, Fully loaded the price was less than $16,000 including roof racks and lettering.

It is much easier to work out of than the van, full size trucks, etc. The only thing that came close was my S-10 pickup with a topper that covered my tools, etc.

My only real complaint with the Xb is my choice of ladders has to go on top out in the rain and freeway muck, but I use the largest convertible ladder I could find.
If I used anything shorter, I would have it inside since there is plenty of room.
If you want to see it, go to my web site. Mr. Inspector.Net - Mr Inspector - Allen Texas - Allen (http://www.MrInspector.net)

Scott Patterson
12-14-2007, 09:26 AM
I have used an F-150 for about six years. I like the ride and comfort of a full size truck, but the gas mileage sucks!

I'm really considering moving to a crossover type SUV. The Ford Edge is on the top of my list. Lots of space in the rear; All wheel drive; Sits almost as high as my truck and most important is that my 6'2" 260lbs fits in it comfortably!

The hardest part of changing to a new vehicle is that I have not had a car payment for about two years!

Eric Barker
12-14-2007, 10:26 AM
I started with Ford Explorers and they worked fine for many years. But spending so much time in them I began to feel cramped. Now I'm in an Expedition. And for the first time, I have all the options. I carry a lot of equipment which fills the truck and since the 3 ladders are inside they're always dry and clean. The one thing that I've gotten away from is keeping the outside of the truck clean - it's a bear to wash.

Since this is the only vehicle that I drive (non-work included) I didn't want lettering all over it. When we drive anywhere this is the vehicle we use. Like Scott, I don't fit well into smaller cars (like my wife's Toyota). While lettering is not essential, it does present well when you pull up to a job. Going out to dinner at the country club and pulling up to the valet says something else. But since I'm more of a Wendys junkie it doesn't bother me.

Rick Bunzel
12-14-2007, 10:37 AM

Why so many ladders? I built a box for my Little Giant and Xtend and Climb out of formica faced Masonite. I put velcro on the bottom and use a couple of bungees to keep it from floppy around. Ladders are stowed on edge so I can pull them out individually. It worked pretty well and even in panic stops ladders have moved much.


Rick Hurst
12-14-2007, 11:04 AM
If it only had a ladder rack.

Aaron Miller
12-14-2007, 11:54 AM
I'm now 139,000 miles into my fourth Dodge Caravan. I drive them for 200,000 miles and then trade in what's left whether I need to or not. I get about 26mpg.

When my attorney, doctor, dentist, stock broker, et al. add lettering to their vehicles I will have two choices:

(1) Find real professionals to work for me, or

(2) Add lettering to my van - Nah, never . . .


Scott Patterson
12-14-2007, 02:01 PM
I have used magnetic signs for years and with great results. I can take them off when I have a job that I know the folks do not want other folks to know what is going on, etc. Yes, I know that many think they look cheap, but I really do not have a problem with that or have I ever had a person act like that when they see them.

Signs are very helpful when you are working and the neighbors call the police or sheriff's dept on you for being at a vacant home.

I would say that I get 10 or so inspection calls a year from the signs on my truck.

Eric Barker
12-14-2007, 02:07 PM
Rick B.,

Some inspectors accumulate meters, flashlights etc, for me it was ladders. 11' for just inside, 17' for roofs and 22' for more reach. The 22 seldom gets pulled out but it has been useful though not for every single instance. I use to stack them on the driver's side but then thought that if I got rear ended really hard it probably would not be too good for me.

Rick Hurst
12-14-2007, 03:20 PM
I have magnetic signs on my truck which I pull off and toss in the front seat every night to keep the HOA neighborhood patrol off my case. NO "work vehicles" can be visible at a home after 8pm. unless its an emergency repair.

As everyone else has mentioned I get several calls a year from someone you might mention they were beside me on the road or behind me at the drive-thru at the Whataburger and give me a call or to ask about something at their own home.

Having those signs can sometime be a hassle too. You have to be really courteous on the road or someone will call the number on your sign to complain about something. When I've gotten those type calls, I always thank them for letting me know and that I'm going to fire that guy when he comes in. ;)


John Goad
12-14-2007, 04:50 PM
I prefer the truck, all tools are seperate from the cab & so is the noise that comes with them.
Besides the advertising & marketing that comes with the signage 100% mileage is deductible & I always hated keeping mileage logs

Rick Hurst
12-14-2007, 06:30 PM
Careful writing off any vehicle lettered or not 100% unless you can prove you have another vehicle for personal use.

I've been audited before for this and it can be a pain in the arse to claim that you didn't stop once for something of a personal use. I now claim only 95% and have not had any issues in doing so.

The audit started out due to a high expense of fuel charges written off. Can you believe that?


John Goad
12-14-2007, 06:43 PM
95% sound good, I went through an audit a few years ago & will do whatever it takes not to have to go through that again.

Jerry Peck
12-14-2007, 08:57 PM
This is what I used. Now our daughter drives it (I've removed the raised floor and turned the seat back the way it was originally - best of all ... it is paid for).

Glenn Duxbury
12-15-2007, 10:02 AM
I've come to really like my (old, but trusty) Dodge Caravan. Rear hatch is a great 'rain-lid' to comfortably stand under for our VERY wet climate 'up here' in British Columbia (Canada).

Holds all I need & ladder rack up-top works fine for the Loooong ladder I use for outside (unless just a Rancher, or if there is a balcony /deck to elevate me).

Lotsa room for displaying Co. signage and 'more about us' (BBB, my professional Ass'n. [http://www.bcipi.net], etc.), so nothing lacking there...

I've gotten a few jobs from the display & my 'Sign Guy' literally fell over when I cheered about 'finally' getting one (the 1st), as he was certain this would've really brought-in lots & lots.

Mileage ain't great, but haven't yet found a better all-around replacement, which would offer all I now have.

-Glenn Duxbury, CHI (Certified Home Inspector - 1 of only 40-50 in B.C.)

Erby Crofutt
12-15-2007, 12:53 PM
Plymouth Voyager. I drive em into the dirt or until they no longer look good.

I get plenty of calls for having the signs on it. And they come off when I don't want them on.

Though everybody that mentions the vehicle as the reason for the call says they were sitting behind me. Never had anyone say they were sitting beside me.

Though I've had a lot that say they see it around town and looked up the number in the phone book or the internet.

Aaron said "When my attorney, doctor, dentist, stock broker, et al. add lettering to their vehicles I will have two choices:"

They've got a physcal location to promote themselves and the money to afford billboards, large yellow page ads, etc. I don't have any of those. I don't think signage on my vehicle makes me less of a professional. But, hey, if you do, it's a free country.

Never had anyone call to complain about the driving. If I did, I'd probably do what Rick does but I'd ask them to make a formal complaint by letter with their name and address and then send them a nice gift certificate for caring enough to report the a-hole so I could fire him.

If you're a jerk driver, you probably shouldn't have signs with a phone number. Just set out an orange cone with a sign in it when you're doing the inspections.

Eric Barker
12-15-2007, 01:30 PM
"If you're a jerk driver, you probably shouldn't have signs with a phone number."

Erby - you're right about that. My frustration has been tempered once or twice by the info on the truck. Too easy for anyone to track down me and my home address.

Brian Cooper
12-17-2007, 03:13 PM
Here's my rig...


A 2003 PT Cruiser (Gt, wow that didn't make a difference) Magnetic signs on the doors because my wife doesn't want permanent decals on it.

It holds my junk...


Not pictured are my cell phone, clipboard and camera (duh). I keep it real simple.

John Arnold
12-17-2007, 04:08 PM
I have magnetic signs on my truck which I pull off and toss in the front seat every night to keep the HOA neighborhood patrol off my case. NO "work vehicles" can be visible at a home after 8pm. unless its an emergency repair.
I have magnetic signs on account of the great City of Philadelphia will tell you to GET LOST if you show up at a recycling or trash drop-of center with any indication of a business on your vehicle, no matter the type of business. I can't, for instance, deliver leaves I've raked off my yard to the city recycling/composting center with a home inspector sign on my vehicle (Subaru Outback). Pretty aggravating.

Jim Dull
12-17-2007, 05:48 PM
I have a Dodge Dakota with a topper and magnetic signs. Gas mileage sucks and I don't believe I have ever received any business from the signs.

Jim Robinson
12-17-2007, 07:11 PM
My Dakota mileage isn't too good either. I get about 17 in town, and 22 on the highway. I live at high altitude, but man our highways are wide open, so you'd think it would be a little better. I have the six cylinder 3.0. What kind of mileage do you get? I love the truck, apart from the $50 fill up charge.

Billy Stephens
12-17-2007, 07:49 PM
Kia Sportage Wagon 4 X 4 , 5 Speed , With the Mazda Licensed F Series Duel OHC Engine. Roof Rack. 17ft Gorilla Fits in the back.

Almost 25mpg. city. Not to bad for a 4 wheel drive. :)

Magnetic Signs.

Back-Up on pdf.

Matt Fellman
12-17-2007, 11:14 PM
My vehicles throughout my HI career have been the following:

89 Toyota 4runner
95 Toyota 4runner (upgraded shortly after starting)
99 F150 (loved the increase in space - @ 6'4" 240# the Toyota was pretty tight)
05 Nissan Titan (A race car in a 1/2 ton truck body)
06 Chevy Duramax (current vehicle.... love the diesel, I mainly bought this because my wife wanted a 5th wheel vs travel trailer and because my Titan was almost out of warranty)

I love the space a full size truck offers... also, it's great to have a big rig to pull trailers and haul firewood or gravel whenever needed.

I've thought of going with an older 'beast' truck to tow the 5th wheel and haul dirt/gravel and then get a minivan or something economical for inspections. It just doesn't pencil out though since I deduct about 80% of mileage.

As for signage, etc. I've never had any.... I think it's a business decision and it's different for everybody.... Mainly, I just like being annonymus.. not like I'm out robbing banks everday but if somebody pisses me off in traffic I just can't keep from giving them a piece of my mind or at least my horn.... With the way the world is these days I just don't care to travel around with a 'nametag' on my rig. I also do a fair amount of other stuff that isn't inspection related and I'd rather not have my phone # plastered to me all of the time. The magnetic signs seem like a good compromise. Like a lot of things in this biz I can see both sides of the sign on the truck vs not.

Overall, the vehicle expense write-off is one of the nice benifits to this line of work. My buddies that sit in a cubicle all day are certainly jealous..... Although, I do occaisionally think of them in their nice warm office while I'm cramming myself over a heat duct while trying to avoid a pile of rat crap :)

Aaron Miller
12-18-2007, 05:33 AM
I see that a majority of inspectors opt for signage like plumbers, carpenters, A/C techs, carpet layers, masons, septic tank cleaners, et al. either permanent or removable. I assume that this is directly corresponding to the opinion that the majority of clients initially have of home inspectors: tradesmen. No one, and I mean no one person in the real estate transaction that I ever met, whom I would consider to be professional, has ever had signage on their vehicle.

The title company attorneys do not. The brokers and agents who make the most money do not. The appraisers do not. The structural engineers do not.

I do hope I live to see the day when the practitioners in this industry view themselves as professionals and not tradesmen. This sort of image building has to start with each one of you.

Nothing says "whore" like a sign on the door.


John Arnold
12-18-2007, 05:55 AM
Nothing says "whore" like a sign on the door.

One of the most ridiculous statements I've ever heard. I guess home inspectors should be so far above it all that we shouldn't advertise ANYWHERE!? Our clients should just be guided to us by Divine Providence! Get over yourself.

Aaron Miller
12-18-2007, 07:20 AM

Struck a nerve, huh?


Billy Stephens
12-18-2007, 09:19 AM
One of the most ridiculous statements I've ever heard. I guess home inspectors should be so far above it all that we shouldn't advertise ANYWHERE!? Our clients should just be guided to us by Divine Providence! Get over yourself.


If you were Married to a Realtor,Broker just think of all the business that would be Steered to you with out any effort / (business effort). ;)

Signage also tells the neighbors why you are there and cuts down on" What You Doing?"

Rick Cantrell
12-18-2007, 10:08 AM
I am married to a RE agent. I no longer do inspections on houses where she is the sellers agent or the buyers agent. Has cost me several jobs.

Billy Stephens
12-18-2007, 11:39 AM
I am married to a RE agent. I no longer do inspections on houses where she is the sellers agent or the buyers agent. Has cost me several jobs.


That's smart as to the perception of conflict of interest.

Hope Her other contacts makes this up for you. :)

Jack Ahern
12-28-2007, 07:20 PM
Large white chevy van--then--large black chevy van. Used them in my other life(Ceiling Contractor) along with Home Inspecting. Full time in HI now. 100% use of the vehicle for business.
Next vehicle will most likely be a tricked out Highlander. Just big enough to carry my HI toys. With commercial plates in the Great Comm. of Mass. you need permanent lettering or you get parking tickets.

The name of my company is --Jack Ahern Home Inspection Service Company and I am not ashamed of it. Nice permanent lettering. Gets me jobs!!

Sure scares the stuff out of the local Reeeeltors when they see the big black van rolling up the driveway.

Jim Zborowski
01-24-2008, 08:04 AM
Personally, I use a Dodge quad cab with a hard cap. You can lock tools and fold up ladder in it, no one knows it's in there. Gunmetal blue with silver lettering. Big enough to pull a 24' car trailor with if need be, which happens a few times a year.Of course, we have a Dodge Ram Daytona as our usual transportation, so I don't worry about the copmpany use only thing. But as was said, you do have to be a bit calmer driving, since your name is on the side. For me, that has been majorly offset by the advertising benefits I have seen.

Jim Vaughn
01-25-2008, 08:18 PM
With so many complaining about gas mileage, I figured I should jump in here. I started with a Toyota diesel p/u with a captop, switched to S-10's with captops until '02 when I bought a lightly used Honda Hybrid Insight. If I need the extension ladder, I drive the '99 S-10. Otherwise, I use the Honda - 55 mpg and up, even around town. Tool bag and 12.5 Versa-ladder fit in the back.

Jerry Peck
01-25-2008, 09:41 PM
This is a 'get-you-anywhere' inspection vehicle - Hummer H-6.


Billy Stephens
01-25-2008, 09:51 PM
This is a 'get-you-anywhere' inspection vehicle - Hummer H-6.

With some of the Neighborhoods I've been to lately ( If it comes with a 50 cal. ) & (Armor Upgraded ) sign me up. :D

Joseph P. Hagarty
01-25-2008, 09:52 PM
Minivans, pickups and assorted vehicles....