Upfits, or upgrades to a commercial vehicle body, are indispensable to all kinds of contractors, drivers, and other workers. Although there are many benefits of upfits, obtaining an upfitted truck or van can be a complicated process. To help provide further clarity, we reached out to Jake Clarke, the Fleet & Commercial Director at Hall MileOne Autogroup, to answer your top 10 questions about vehicle upfits.
1. What are the primary benefits of upfits?
Upfits allow a customer to customize a vehicle to fit his or her specific needs. While the OEMs offer several factory options, upfit companies allow the customer to add additional equipment to complete their jobs more easily and efficiently.
2. Upfitting requires a lot of decision making; how can I know I’m selecting the right vehicle/equipment/vendor?
With the various sizes, lengths, and materials, I would always recommend deferring to your local commercial salesperson to make sure you are getting the right tool for the job. One of the benefits of our Hall Commercial Department is that we are able to offer several brands of vehicle and work with several upfitters to make sure we are quoting the right vehicle, rather than trying to force something onto the customer.
3. How affordable are upfits?
“Upfit” is a broad term used to describe anything from adding a toolbox and light bar to a $100,000 crane body. The price all depends on what the customer is looking for.
4. What kind of upfit advice can I get from my local dealership?
Like many things, not all dealerships are built the same. While a dealership may be able to check on availability or speak in broad terms regarding specifications, it takes a true commercial specialist to help with all of the ins and outs. Dealerships are more retail focused and know about things like reverse sensors, dvd packages, and leather upholstery, while a commercial specialist can speak to you about GVWR, Cab-to-axle dimensions, weight distribution, and more.
5. What are the pros & cons of the three main upfit acquisition paths?
a. Standard (vehicles come upfitted straight from the OEM factory)
You will receive your vehicle turn-key from the lot, so you greatly increase your chances of getting a vehicle quickly. These vehicles, however, may not have all of the extra features that could help make your job more efficient. With commercial clients, efficiency equals money.
b. Custom, single-source (dealership working with an upfit distributor on your behalf)
As with Hall’s commercial department, everything is handled on the customer’s behalf. We make sure the vehicle has the necessary equipment to accept the upfit equipment, and that the additional equipment is both legally and structurally sound. It takes away a lot of the guessing and researching that a customer has to go through, since our commercial specialist can offer options and various solutions to problems the customer may not have even thought about.
c. Custom, multi-source (buy a vehicle from a dealership, go to a distributor yourself)
The customer may not be well-versed in truck or van specifications, and could end up buying a vehicle that will not work with the body or equipment he had in mind.
6. Can I upfit an old/used vehicle?
As a general rule, you can, but the used vehicle may not have all of the equipment necessary to accept the upfit body or equipment. You also need to be aware that commercial customers buy these vehicles as tools, not toys. By the time they trade them in or sell them, they’re usually in pretty rough shape.
7. Once I go to a dealership, how long until I can drive away with my upfitted vehicle?
Before the supply chain issues of the past year, a customer was able to find already-upfit vehicles pretty readily. With plant shutdowns, microchip shortages, and all of the other interruptions, availability has been drastically decreased. As a result, a customer may be able to find a chassis on the ground, but it may take a couple of months for a full body installation. If a customer is just adding something small, however, like a shelf and a partition to a van, then that could be done in about a week.
8. If I go to a distributor on my own, how long will it take them to upfit my vehicle?
The timeframe all depends on what sort of installation is being done and parts availability.
9. Who can I go to for upfit maintenance and repairs?
Depending on the work needed, dealerships may be able to handle most of the repairs. With something more severe, our commercial specialists usually step in to help coordinate and oversee the necessary work to be done.
10. What is the craziest upfit you’ve ever provided, or heard about?
With the “Van-Life” trend going on currently, we had a customer proudly send us pictures of an old Caravan bench seat that he had bolted to the floor behind the front seats of his Ram Promaster. A prime example of customers being unaware of the “ins and outs” of this world, our commercial specialist stepped in to remind him that not only was that not legal, it was definitely not the safest option. There were no reinforcements to the wall or floor to help protect the rear passengers, no rear airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, etc. While the customer thought it was a simple way to add more passengers, a commercial specialist could have helped facilitate a customer rear seat to meet all safety requirements.
Conclusion: Thanks again to Jake Clarke from Hall MileOne Autogroup! For more information, you can read our overview of vehicle upfits and check out the benefits of upfitting your vehicle. And if you’re ready to purchase an upfitted vehicle, start your search on CommercialTruckTrader.com, where you can filter your truck or van searches by upfit make and type.