Utility in Utility Vehicles?

Can the dealer service what it sells? Is the dealer certified? Does the dealer have factory trained technicians? Will the service department provide a loaner while your unit is out of service? Can/will the service department order parts “Down Unit” so the vehicle will be up and running as quickly as it could be?


Never underestimate the power of a strong warranty. Sure, you might pay for it up front, but if your fleet administrator, vehicle mechanic, and operators are vigilant, you’ll more than benefit from a good initial or extended warranty.

Preventative Maintenance

Whether you have an “in-house” vehicle mechanic or use a commercial maintenance service, a good, aggressive preventative maintenance program (PM) is pivotal. By using one, your fully- burdened operating costs will remain relatively flat. Your utility vehicle dealer should be able to provide you with the manufacturer’s anticipated operating cost per hour.


Utility vehicles, just as any other piece of equipment, can be dangerous. Having your local dealer include operator safety training in the purchase price is yet another key to successful implementation of a vehicle. The training should also include some type of cross-training experience for the repair technician and/or commercial maintenance service. Keep in mind, the more your operators and mechanics are comfortable with a purchase, the lower your operating and maintenance costs will be.


In my experience, utility vehicles are primarily operated by seasonal staff. This poses a unique problem… The seasonal employee may not have the advantage of attending the in-service training you may have arranged. In that case, you’ll need to spend the extra time with your seasonal staff on operator training and vehicle safety. If the workers know you’re serious about safety, your maintenance costs will likely be lower. If you have a returning seasonal, ask his or her input prior to purchasing. User comments might provide value.

Once you have assessed and filtered all of the information, it’s time to begin your search. Demos are key. Contact as many vendors as you can who make vehicles within your above analysis.

Decide on a specific use or course, so that your data will be similar between units. Schedule a project around your demo. This will ensure a real world test of a manufacturer’s product.

Also schedule as many operators to test the equipment, create a survey form, or hold open discussion meetings that exclude the salesperson but include the vehicle mechanic.

Ask other park districts or municipalities. Sometimes they can help you cut your search by offering a real life analysis. You might even be able to send your operators to that location to test drive the equipment before making contact with your salesperson.

Last of all, take your time. Seek utility. I have made decisions based on what I thought was a fair analysis in an effort to move the purchase along, only to find I could have done better had I waited.

In the end, it all boils down taking a utilitarian approach to the process. And just like the utility vehicle you’re purchasing, you’re success is dependent upon performing many functions in order to get good results.

Mike Wegas is manager of Cleveland Metroparks’ Fleet & Fleet Safety Management department.

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