Updated: Dec 18, 2022
What are the best cars for delivering? I get that question all the time. Turns out (in my experience) the best car for delivery drivers isn’t a car at all…it’s a truck. A Toyota pickup truck with rear wheel drive. No 4x4 or TRD or any added terminology used to charge you more. A basic truck. If you can find one. If not, let’s talk about what else makes a good delivery vehicle. There are plenty to be had.
No truck? No worries. The next best vehicle for local delivery is the Toyota Corolla. It's the most trouble free, reliable, and longest lasting vehicle (in its class) in the world today. Third best? Any Toyota. Any year will do.
You want the most value out of a vehicle. You want the chosen vehicle for this work to be like a sponge you could squeeze money out of. You can help create that value by knowing what you’re looking for in the job you’ll be doing.
Set a Budget
You have to know what you need for the job, and what to spend for your needs. This is not like shopping for a normal car that you'll use as your personal vehicle. Of course - you can, but don’t expect date nights to be impressive...or lucky. Most times you'll have to set comfort and style aside to get the best value.
I’d say the high end of the budget for a delivery vehicle would be around $4500.00. The low end would be like playing Limbo. How low can it go? - is the only question.
Avoid Typical Mistakes
I often see drivers making two mistakes. The first is value shopping by buying a few years old - to early model European car (or any model VW). I call it value trap buying. Why? Because these cars look stylish, have fancy branding, can be had for next to nothing - and aren't worth much. Think Mercedes, BMW, or Audi.
Ask yourself why those cars are so cheap. "But Pacman,” you might say, “You said look for value, and this is cheap. It’s such a deal!” Don’t fall into that trap. My dad once bought a 50lb bag of cat food for three bucks, problem was...we didn't have a cat. The old man never could pass up a bargain. We had to force-feed the dog for four months.
How's that buttery leather interior gunna feel when the car won't start because a module shut it down? Nice to have power windows... until they get stuck halfway up...in the rain. And the price tag to fix them is thermospheric.
Your goal is to get a car to make money with, not to spend money on (and spend you will on these little gems!). Your aim is to have your car on the road, not on the side of it waiting for an expensive tow.
While these value-trap autos have great engines... they're notorious for bad electronics and too much plastic. Ask any car tech about electrical work and watch their eyes glaze over. It's tedious, frustrating, hit-or-miss work and you will pay for every miss. And there are misses o'plenty.
The second mistake is buying a new car, then deciding to deliver in it. You either already bought the car and decided you would deliver in it to pay the note or you buy the car to do the job. That's like tragic thinking telling a big mistake to hold it's beer.
Avoid this at all costs - because all costs is exactly what you're going to pay for this decision.
Any car is gunna take a beating out there in delivery land. It's a fact. Your strategy should be to get the cheapest car to take that beating without too much money for upkeep. That is when you’re making money in this business, not by going into debt on a depreciating asset. Which, in this case, is depreciating at a compounded daily rate. You want your vehicle to print money, not burn it. Get a beater.
Years ago, I would pay a few hundred dollars for my cars and squeeze what life I could out of them. Terminals, I called them. I was the person they were talking about when they said, drive it til the wheels fall off. When it had its final breakdown l'd strip any VIN number I could find and leave it on the side of the road for the orange sticker of death.
I once paid $150.00 for a 15 year old Toyota Corolla - with a bent frame - that was burning a quart of oil a day. I paid $200.00 to have the frame straightened out and drove that thing for a year without dropping another dime on it.
I never changed the oil because I was putting in a new quart every day or two, so I reasoned it was changing its own oil.
I sold that car for $400.00 and the buyer still got a better deal than if he went out and bought a five year old Mercedes. He used it as a delivery vehicle for a year or so, and made his money back in the first week. If he had financed a new car to do the job, he'd be underwater in six months - between amount owed and depreciation.
What Make or Model?
Consider any Japanese or Korean model. Refrain from Italian, German, or Swiss and any performance, or luxury American models. Most American cars are ok because they're likely cheap. Parts and labor are cheaper as well. Don't consider sports cars or anything that looks like it would be fun to race, it likely was.
Turns out this is one time in life you don't want options. You want as cheap as you can get, without as many options as possible. Pro tip: options break and after break comes fix, which means cost. Case in point; manual vs power windows.
Ugly cars are cheap because everyone wants to be stylish - vanity is expensive. Ugly with high mileage shouldn’t scare you - it should excite you - because engine longevity is a given on most cars these days. Again, options are not good things in delivery cars, but ugly is - because it drives down the price.
The CVT transmission is questionable in early model vehicles that used them. Hondas and Nissans are the main culprits there. With that caveat - they're decent cars. Hondas affinity for timing belts continues to baffle me. While they're good cars, having to change the belt every 100k miles at great expense is a deal breaker for me.
My Toyota had 400k miles on it when it got trucked by an inattentive driver talking on their cell-phone. My present vehicle came with 170k miles on it. It's approaching 300k as I write this post. Currently, my dash warning lights flash like Rudolphs nose as I mount my ghetto sled - sans door handle, and play Santa to thousands of hungry eaters. It ain’t pretty but it works.
So, let's recap. Let's use a thing I call The Terrorist Toughness Scale (TTS).
Toyota takes first place and it's real simple why. When you see a photo of terrorists in the desert with a machine gun mounted to a pickup, what kind of truck is it? Hint...It ain't a Chevy. And when those terrorists finish using that gun do you think they're gunna hang around for a couple of Bud Lites?
They need the most dependable ride they can get to move out fast. They need something that'll handle the punishment of the harsh desert. They need something they can bet their lives on. Something that's going to start every - single - time.
Nissan is a very distant second place. They're the second most popular vehicle you see these cats in and they would be correct. I would have to vote the same way. And that rounds out the top two spots on the TTS. Yup, it's either numbers one, two or BOOM!
Honda, despite of being one of the best built cars in the world, gets the nod at third place. I would've scored them second - but belts.
American cars settle in to fourth for the cost factor of repairs and initial investment. They aren't well made.
And finally... Korea comes in fifth because they tie with American car quality. But they're more expensive to fix and they have more options.
Disagree with my Terrorist Scale? Go ahead and google terrorists in trucks.
That's it! That's my list and reasons why I selected the ones I did. I've owned a lot of cars and I've seen a lot of things happen with mine and others. You can use this post to your benefit or disregard it at your peril. Thanks for checking it out, and as always, your experiences are welcomed.