Custom or Standard: Which Upfit is Right for You?

Custom or standard – which type of upfit design is right for your commercial vehicle? If you were at the 2017 CONEXPO-CON/AGG, you may have seen Summit Truck Bodies’ custom 2016 Ford F-550. With its cool and precise design, Summit was understandably proud of their ability to upfit highly specialized trucks. Yet their impressive custom display contrasts with a growing trend in the industry for more standard designs. This had us thinking it would be a great time to look at the benefits of both custom and standard commercial vehicle upfits!

The Case for Custom: From construction to utility operations, there are lots of technicians and workers performing various tasks, each requiring a variety of different equipment. The available vehicles, it could be said, need to be as diverse as the jobs to which they’re assigned. A plumbing/HVAC package may be the best upfit for one technician, while a locksmith requires a different vehicle configuration. The National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) describes the “diverse applications, limited volume, and nearly limitless body and equipment variations” of commercial vehicles and says those factors “dictate” individual design and production, on a custom-order basis.

A custom upfit can involve chassis, bodies, trailers, and equipment, which requires complex coordination between existing networks of manufacturers, upfitters, dealers, & distributors. Some upfitters work so closely with manufacturers that their modification shops are right next to production factories so upfits can be installed right off the line and sent to you “turn-key ready.” Whether your desired upfit is a simple ladder rack attachment or a comprehensive body overhaul, working within the established channels of the industry can help you more easily acquire the specifications you need.

The Strength of Standard: Upfits are usually expensive investments, so it can be frustrating when an upfitted truck or van sits on the lot because its custom specifications don’t meet current consumer needs. Consistent components – like partitions, shelving, and safety equipment – that still allow for variations make vehicles more versatile and available for use across trades. You can even pre-upfit vehicles if you find a good price but don’t yet have a specific technician assignment. A standard design also requires less of the manufacturer or upfitter, which decreases costs and increases the potential for volume-purchase discounts.

The consistency of standard upfits means that stock parts and equipment can be easily interchanged or loaded onto any of your standard vehicles. This helps you cut order-to-delivery time and gives you greater flexibility if a truck or van needs to be repurposed or assigned to a different job or work-site. Finally, limiting differences between vehicles – giving consistency to where things are and how they work – can enhance safety and simplifies new-hire training.

Whether you prefer the custom packages, or like standard specs, understanding all the upfit options available to you can help your business take advantage of the best opportunities for your commercial vehicles.

Do you prefer custom or standard upfit designs? Let us know in the comments below!

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