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Factors in the final costs include not only the initial price, but the cost of financing and perhaps most important of all is the cost of maintenance, Gerace said. Departments need to look at the manufacturers’ abilities to support the apparatus over its life.
“You’re not buying apparatus for just year one,” Gerace said. “You have to consider the total life of the product.”
Gerace said departments that look to grants for funding must be especially thoughtful when writing them. Too many times, grants sought by worthy departments are kicked out because they are poorly written and not well-thought-out. “Poor presentations by rushed individuals can jeopardize the departments’ chances,” Gerace said.
Shane Krueger, sales manager of the rescue, fire division of Marion Body Works, is a big proponent of pre-sold demonstrator units for saving money. Companies, including Marion, are all going to build demonstrator units for shows and sales presentations. If a department can negotiate with the company, Marion will build what the department wants with the understanding that it will be driven a certain number of miles and be on the road for a certain period.
“We give a pretty good discounting on that kind of apparatus,” Krueger said. To save money, Krueger said, Marion will reuse and remount certain equipment on new apparatus – cord and hose reels, for example – if they are in good shape and arrangements are made at the time the apparatus is specified. “That can save departments a lot of money,” he said.
Another way to save money at the time of specification is to build into the apparatus accommodations for future accessories and equipment, he said. “It becomes almost plug-and-play when the department can afford to buy it in the future,” Krueger said, noting it is far less expensive to build for the future than it is to try to reconstruct after the apparatus is completed.
There are some items, such as lettering and graphics, that departments may find more affordable if done locally, especially if the shop is willing to make a donation or a cost reduction for the ability to claim the local apparatus as an example of its work.
Tom Whitmer, director of business development for Oshkosh Capital, a division of the Oshkosh Corp., parent company of Pierce Manufacturing, touts a proprietary lease program for Pierce apparatus as a good way of getting departments the apparatus they need. Pierce Flex Financing, which is exclusive for Pierce apparatus, offers serious savings for departments, Whitmer said. The Pierce financing program has a tax-exempt lease for municipalities where Pierce gets tax credits for leasing money to towns and cities and passes the savings on to the departments in reduced interest rates, Whitmer said, adding that the payments are tied to a department’s budget cycle and do not start until the next cycle.
“Interest rates are at historically low levels,” Whitmer said. “We believe it’s an opportune time to purchase equipment.”
Pierce, through Oshkosh Capital, offers 15-year, 100% finance programs at a fixed rate for the entire term with no closing costs, Whitmer said. Another advantage of leasing is not having to go to the voters for bond approval to get the equipment they need. “We think it’s a good solution for our customers,” he said.
Mike Watts, national sales manager for Toyne Inc., said when departments are looking for affordable apparatus, they should not be willing to sacrifice quality. To meet the needs of price-conscious departments, Toyne developed a program truck called the HQRP (for high-quality, reasonably priced), Watts said. Customers pick one of five body styles that have been pre-engineered and offer the accompanying cost savings.
“Not all trucks are created equal,” Watts said, adding that a higher-quality truck is going to last longer and give better service than a lower-quality unit.
“An apparatus will be around for 20 to 25 years,” Watts said. “So you have to look at total cost of ownership, not simply who is the lowest price at the bid table.”