Choosing a vet ambulatory practice vehicle is a very personal decision. The decision involves many individual aspects of practice. This might include whether you will personally own the vehicle and be reimbursed for mileage used for your veterinary work, what type of equipment you will need to carry based on the services you provide, and what kind of weather conditions you are likely to encounter. Other considerations include whether the vehicle will be subject to personal use (especially if you will need to transport young children in car seats), your personal preferences for comfort and/or affordability, as well as reliability, gas mileage and repair costs.
Calculation for Vet Practice Vehicle
For a personally owned versus a practice-owned ambulatory practice vehicle, a mathematical calculation can help you to determine the best method for your situation. Jorge Colon, DVM, MBA, outlined this at the 2018 AAEP Annual Convention. He said this determination utilizes information such as the number of miles driven, the size and fuel efficiency of the vehicle, the cost of insurance and an estimate of the tax impact of the various scenarios to determine the most beneficial action. The interpretation of the details of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act complicated this decision. So, your accountant will be the best source for accurate, up-to-date information.
Colon’s work has shown that a larger vehicle size and luxury trim level might result in higher costs than the IRS mileage rate covers. A more modest SUV with good gas mileage will typically be adequately covered by the proscribed reimbursement.
For personally owned vehicles, the practice simply pays mileage to the vehicle owner at the IRS rate. This is meant to cover all expenses of the vehicle, pro-rated for the miles actually driven for business use. The IRS adjusts and announces the mileage rate annually. In 2023, this rate is $0.655 per mile. To have mileage reimbursed, veterinarians must keep accurate records and submit them to the employer.
The IRS watches entertainment, travel and vehicle expenses very closely to ensure they are truly for business, and not for personal use. The required records must include the date and place of the accrued mileage or maintenance expense, the amount and a short description of the business purpose. The IRS expects you to create these records contemporaneously—at the time of the expense.
Considerations for your Vet Practice Vehicle
Equine veterinarians in ambulatory practice often carry a laptop and a printer as well as all the needed equipment and supplies for the day’s scheduled and unscheduled (emergency) work. Having adequate space to work efficiently and comfortably—and having room for an assistant or a truck dog—can significantly improve wellbeing and decrease stress.
Comfortable, climate-controlled power seats that you can heat or cool or adjust while driving can prevent physical fatigue from long miles. A hatch that lifts and provides shade or cover from precipitation at the back of an SUV is another asset. In many practice areas, four-wheel or all-wheel drive is essential. Where you must traverse pastures or poorly maintained roads, adequate ground clearance is a must.
If you choose a pickup with a Bowie or Portavet unit, running boards allow easier access to the contents of the “wings” for shorter people.
A truck is much safer for occupants in the case of an accident. For safety, you should keep all equipment in the unit in the pickup bed. Alternatively, you can install a strongly constructed barrier between the passenger and equipment storage to protect those in the vehicle.
Choosing an ambulatory vehicle requires thoughtful choices. Having input or complete control over the vehicle from which they practice can be important for some veterinarians’ job satisfaction.