One of the first things you need to consider when starting a dog walking business is what sort of dog walking vehicle to get. You need to think about how many dogs you think you will walk at once and whether a petrol or diesel makes the most sense. Electric may soon become an option as well but currently the technology is still in its infancy. All the cars I’ve owned for the last 10 years or more have been diesel and despite a current anti-diesel trend in big cities I still think they make the most sense outside somewhere like London for the following two reasons:
- Diesel vehicles are generally capable of higher mileages (longer useful life) than petrol vehicles.
- Diesel vehicles are more fuel efficient than petrol vehicles.
Once I’d decided on a diesel the next decision was what size of vehicle to get. There are people who use estate cars or SUV’s for transporting dogs but in my opinion you want something square and boxy with no sloping roof lines. Essentially you want a van or an MPV that’s derived from a van. Dog crates tend to be very square so your vehicle should be too to maximise space.
At the larger end of the market popular models could be vehicles like the VW Transporter, Fiat Scudo, Citroen Dispatch or Peugeot Expert (the last 3 are almost identical and made on the same production line). The next size down and also very popular with dog walkers are vehicles like Fiat Doblo, Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, VW Caddy, Ford Transit Connect and the Renault Kangoo. This is the size of vehicle I wanted, perfectly suited to carrying about four dogs at a time, good on fuel and relatively reliable and cheap to maintain. Since all of these vehicles are available as a van or car this was the decision I had to make. How I approached this decision and the pros and cons as I saw them form the basis of the rest of this article.
Dog Walking Vehicle – Advantages of Van
Since it’s just Ewelina and I at home I don’t need more than 2 seats so a van was a real possibility. As I see it these are the advantages of a van.
- Transporting multiple dogs day in and day out can lead to your vehicle to have that ‘doggy’ smell. If you own a van with a full bulkhead then the driver’s cabin is completely separate from where the dogs will be.
- Vans don’t have windows. Some people argue that all that glass in a regular car acts as a greenhouse in hot weather which is not ideal for the dogs. To counter this however a regular car with air conditioning is likely to have a cooler interior than a van where the air conditioning won’t reach the cargo area if you have a bulkhead. The problem with dogs in hot cars always seems to occur when the car is parked with the engine off with no circulation. Realistically no dog is likely to be in my vehicle unattended for more than a few minutes whilst I am collecting or dropping off another dog. However just to be sure I feel it’s wise to invest in a 12v fan for any dog walking vehicle which works regardless of whether the key is in the ignition. Window blinds or tinted windows can also help reduce the impact of the sun. Another perceived advantage of not having windows is that you have much more space for signwriting your dog walking vehicle to help with advertising.
Dog Walking Vehicle – Advantages of a Car
- The first advantage of the car based versions of the vehicles I was looking at is their flexibility. If it’s to be your only vehicle, providing the cages can be removed you still have a 5 seater vehicle. The rear seats can be completely removed or folded away giving you interior space similar to the van models. When you need extra seats though there are there.
- Another advantage of the car based versions is the cost of insurance. There seems little logic to it but if you get quotes on a vehicle and explain most of the mileage will be business use, the quote for the car based versions will typically be about half that of the van based version.
- Another cost related advantage of the car based version of the vehicles I was looking at relates to the cost for road tax. Vehicle excise duty for vans seems to be at a flat rate and takes no account of the size of the vehicle or how polluting it is. Basically all commercial vehicles up to 3500kg maximum weight pay £230.00 tax for 12 months. There are some exceptions made for Euro 4 and Euro 5 vehicles made between short periods but chances are the vehicle you will be looking at will be rated at £230.00 a year. For large polluting commercial vehicles this rate might actually be in your favour over the car based equivalent. For example a Hyundai iLoad van will almost certainly be cheaper to tax than the MPV Hyundai i800, especially if you had the automatic version. For dog walking vehicles like the Fiat Doblo and Citroen Berlingo though, the car based versions are likely to cost around £130.00 to £145.00 a year to tax depending on the model.
- Perhaps the biggest advantage of the car based versions is the condition of examples you will find for sale. The vans have often been driven hard and have relatively high mileages. The car based versions of Berlingo’s and Doblo’s seem to appeal to older drivers or families who do lower mileage and typically regularly maintain their vehicles.
So as you can probably see from the image at the top of this post the vehicle I finally purchased was a Citroen Berlingo Multispace car based dog walking vehicle. The Fiat Doblo was also in contention and I especially like the idea of their long wheel base high top version. However the high top version is pretty hard to find. Also with the Doblo the vast majority of sales were the van version whereas the Berlingo has sold very well in the UK as a car as well as a van. I prefer the look of the Berlingo over the Doblo but truthfully that alone would not be a deciding factor. User reviews seem more positive for the Berlingo and that was one of the deciding factors for me. My used example came from a Citroen dealership. Now I have the vehicle I need to consider what sort of cages to get!
If you are a dog walker reading this feel free to comment about your buying decision. Perhaps you decided to look at ex police dog vans, or found something already fitted out with cages on the agilitynet website. I’d be keen to hear what dog walking vehicle you ended up getting and why.
May 2020 Update – I still own the Citroen Berlingo diesel but it’s now my reserve vehicle. In October 2019 I purchased a petrol automatic Renault Kangoo. My Lintran cage system fits in both vehicles. There were two main reasons for purchasing a petrol this time, as follows:
- The geographic area that I cover for dog walking has reduced. The improved fuel consumption of diesel is now less of a factor.
- Diesels are not really suited to short city journeys where the DPF can become clogged. Long trips away at weekends were becoming much less frequent.
Ironically, since the start of the coronavirus I’ve seen an increase in the number of requests for long distance pet transport jobs. Diesel can still make sense for these long trips and so the Berlingo may come out of semi-retirement.