The way that companies provide vehicles and vehicle allowances varies from one business to the next almost as much as the vehicles themselves. Where reps are independent contractors, companies tend to offer no vehicle allowance (or any other kind of benefit), because reps are expected to pay their own cost of sales. On the other hand, some companies where salespeople are employees include some kind of car allowance among the perks — or even supply reps (as well as production personnel) with vehicles and sometimes gas.

“We don't have a showroom, so we bring the showroom to the customer,” explains Andrew Mueller, office manager at Creative Energy of Virginia, located in Fairfax. Reps are supplied with vans big enough to fit their window samples. They're expected to pay for their own gas, though “they're free to work that cost into their price” as a fuel surcharge, Mueller says.

For the past three years, American Siding & Window Systems in Urbandale, Ill., has rewarded what sales manager Pat Pagano calls “our senior reps” with a monthly vehicle allowance of $400, which is combined with a monthly cell phone allowance of $150. Senior reps, Pagano says, assist in field training new sales hires, and the vehicle allowance “is a way of rewarding performance” and leadership.

Some companies will provide reps with fully gassed vehicles — a way to not only enhance their productivity but to also build brand awareness in the marketplace, because company vehicles function as rolling billboards.

At All County Exteriors in Lakewood, N.J., for example, “we provide them with vehicles and an E-ZPass and gas,” says operations manager Ross Marzarella. But the vehicles, Marzarella says, are not theirs to tool around town in. Instead, reps pick up their vans in the morning and they drop them off at the end of the day.

“We don't view it as a perk,” Marzarella says. “It's more of a marketing tool. I want my sales guy to show up in a freshly painted, newly lettered All County truck. And hope the prospect has seen it on the road already.” Recognizing the company's trucks “adds to the value proposition,” Marzarella says.