Where to start when looking for a new work whip
Buying a new ute is pretty exciting for a lot of us. These days we are definitely spoilt for choice. There are some fantastic utes available which can do almost everything except brew you a coffee on the way to work. In recent years, dual cab utes have occupied two of the top three positions of car sales in Australia and every manufacturer wants a slice of the pie. Mercedes Benz is even in on the act and many other brands are emerging onto the dual cab scene in Australia.
Tradies, however, need to be more discerning than the average customer when choosing a new set of wheels. After all, utes and trucks are the most important tools of the trade. Not only do you need to get yourself safely to the worksite, you also need to get your gear, often worth thousands of dollars, there as well.
The first step on the path to new ute nirvana is analysing what the vehicle will carry. Is it purely a work truck? Will it be used to cart the family and gear on holidays as well? Does it need off road capability? Will it tow a trailer? How much weight will I put in it? Do I need a body of some kind to store and secure gear? How often does it need to be off the road for servicing?
The answers to these questions will put you on the right path to the correct vehicle for your needs. The single most important question above relates to weight. Get this right and you will have a ute that drives and rides like the manufacturer intended while keeping yourself, your work mates and your family safe. Get it wrong and your ute will ride like a marshmallow, handle even worse, especially in emergency braking situations, attract the attention of road authorities, break expensive components not covered by warranty and even create a scenario where your insurer may wipe their hands of your new investment.
The first step is to weigh your current tools, equipment and trailers. Take no shortcuts as you need this to be right. Then add some wiggle room for those days where you’re carting a bit more gear than normal, and then a bit more for potential job growth.
Then, check out the prospective vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and Gross Combined Mass (GCM). The GVM is the total maximum weight the truck can carry including the vehicle itself and all loads and accessories (including people and fuel). GCM is a combination of the GVM plus the maximum weight of any trailer and its load. Many manufacturers will provide a weight calculator on their websites to help you work these numbers out. If not, you can quickly determine if a vehicle is suitable by finding out the vehicle’s tare weight in the brochure, add your loads and trailer weights from above and compare to the GVM and GCM. If you get close to the manufacturer’s limits, the vehicle is likely not suitable.
However, there are still options. The obvious one is to look at a slightly bigger vehicle that will carry more weight, like a small truck or cab chassis version of a van. These vehicles have come a long way and are definitely a good option for load carrying, increasing space, towing and comfort. Failing that, many of the big national suspension companies offer GVM upgrades. They will re-certify some vehicles as a second stage manufacturer and legally upgrade the vehicle’s suspension and brakes. This will allow the vehicle to safely handle the increased axle loads and overall GVM.
Don’t be afraid to ask your car dealer, suspension supplier or body manufacturer to help you with this process. Anyone in the industry worth their salt will be able to help and make sure you get the best outcome. If they won’t help, then find someone who will.
At the end of the day, the goal is to have a vehicle that is reliable, safe, fulfils your every need and allows room for growth over many years of ownership. Who knows, if you work out the numbers right and have capacity to spare, maybe you can fix the manufacturer’s oversight and install a coffee machine in the back for smoko!