FAQ: Tax Rules for Business Use of Vehicles

 

Are you using or planning to use a vehicle for your business? The cost of using a vehicle for your business is a valid tax deductible expense for your business. Knowing the basics of tax rules on company cars can help you maximize your business tax deductions. And VinAudit’s market value tool (free for personal use) and market value API (bulk business service) can help you understand the business vehicles’ current market value in your tax calculation.

 

Here are the most frequently asked questions on tax rules for business vehicles:

 

What qualifies as a business vehicle or a company car?

 

A car, pickup truck or an SUV that is used in the regular operations of a business can be declared as a business car.  Vehicles used for equipment (for example, dump trucks) and used for hire like a taxi cab do not qualify. You may use a personal car or a leased car for business, but only the costs for business-related use are considered tax deductible. You may also write off a luxury car. According to the IRS, these are four-wheeled vehicles, used mostly on public roads, and with an unloaded gross weight of no more than 6,000 pounds. 

 

How do I compute the deductible expenses for business use of a vehicle?

 

Here are the two ways to determine how much you can write off for a business car. Each method has its pros and cons, with different results. It’s possible to have a larger deduction using the actual expenses method in one year, and still a higher deduction the next year using the standard mileage rate method. 

 

You can use the standard mileage rate to compute the taxable expenses on the number of miles the car was driven during the year for business operations. For 2021, use 56 cents per mile driven for business use of cars, vans, pickups or panel trucks. This method can’t be used for five or more vehicles or a leased vehicle for which the actual expense method was used during the lease term.

 

Using the actual vehicle expenses, you may include the cost of: maintenance and repairs, rental or lease payments (such as garage rent), tires, gas and oil, licenses, depreciation, and insurance. Commuting expenses from home to the place of business is considered personal, unlike driving from one business location to another.

 

Registration fees, taxes, vehicle loan interest, tolls and parking fees are covered in both methods. 

 

How can I claim deductions for the depreciation of a business vehicle?

 

This may not be obvious but the depreciation is already integrated under the standard mileage rate. You can’t claim an additional deduction for depreciation when you use this method. 

Using the actual expenses method, you can include the depreciation of the vehicle only if the business owns the vehicle. According to the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) of the IRS, you can depreciate the cost of the vehicle over five years. The cost basis includes the purchase price, title and registration fees and sales tax. It depends on how you got it and when you began to use it for your business: 

 

  • for newly purchased used in the same year, the basis is its cost

  • if acquired through trade-in, the basis is adjusted basis of the trade-in    (includes the original cost minus depreciation taken, plus cash payment

  • if converted from personal to business use, the basis is whichever is lower between what you paid for it and its fair market value at the time you convert it to business use

You can check the fair market value using a tool developed by VinAudit.com. VinAudit’s market value tool (free for personal use) and market value API (bulk business service)  offer estimates on the current value of the vehicle in the market based on sales of vehicles with a similar year, make, model, and trim. 

 

What are the tax deductions for a private versus company car for business?

 

As a business asset, a company car or a vehicle owned by a business allows more deductions including depreciation. Aside from actual expenses in using the vehicle, depreciation costs can be deducted at the rate in effect when the business begins to use the car.  Under revised tax laws, a business can even claim significant bonuses if it uses a vehicle exclusively for business. Use of a personal car for business does not qualify the owner to claim for the cost of depreciation. The business can reimburse expenses related to the use of the privately owned vehicle and then file those reimbursements as business expenses.

 

How can I claim tax deductions for a car leased for business?

 

You can use the standard mileage rate which is pretty much straight forward computation. However, if you use this method in the first year of leasing the vehicle, you won’t be able to switch to the other method the following year. 

 

With the actual expense method, you can deduct business-related expenses including lease payments You won’t be able to include depreciation which is applicable only for non-leased vehicles but subject to limitations under tax rules. 

 

If you are entering into a lease agreement, you need the vehicle’s fair market to determine the full extent of your deductible vehicle expenses. This information may be available on the lease contract but you can acquire this from VinAudit’s market value tool (free for personal use) and market value API (bulk business service). 

 

The fair market value can’t be more than $19,000 for passenger automobiles or $19,500 for trucks or vans on the lease term’s first day (values are applicable for leases that started in 2020). Otherwise, the lease-inclusion amount must be subtracted from the amount you can deduct as a lease payment. Check lease-inclusion amounts at the www.irs.gov. Look for Publication 463: Travel, Entertainment and Gift Expenses.

 

How do I track expenses for claiming tax deductions?

 

Claiming tax deductions for business expenses requires that you substantiate your expenses. Your records must include the amount, time, place or description, and business purpose of a particular deduction regardless of what method you use:  

 

  • Standard mileage rate method: total number of miles driven for the year, logs of trips for business purposes with mileage, dates of use for each day, destination and purpose of the trip

  • Actual expense method: receipts, cancelled checks or bills except for expenses under $75 (actual expense), dates when expenses were incurred, business destination when certain expenses are incurred (tolls, parking, or gas), bills or invoice that describes the character of the expense

Buying a Used Food Truck (2019 Guide)

When it comes to starting a food truck business, the first question is always “How much does a food truck cost?” If you’re buying a used food truck from an owner, the standard price is around $50,000 – $100,000.  If you’re looking for real world examples, you can go to the Roaming Hunger Marketplace, where you’ll find pre-owned trucks, trailers, and carts for as low as $35,000 (or less).

 

The real costs of buying used, however, can be a lot more complex. While it may seem like a steal, buying a used, as-is food truck is like buying a home that’s a fixer-upper.  What you see – and sometimes what you don’t – is exactly what you get.

 

Below we’ll tell you how to be a smart shopper as you invest in the most important piece of your new food truck business.

 

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Used Food Truck

 

Pros

Affordability

The price of a used, as-is food truck is significantly less than building or leasing a new truck. This can be a great fit if you’re handy/resourceful, and willing to invest some time into fixing it up (instead of paying someone else to do the same). For more information, here’s a handy guide on how the costs compare between a used and new food truck.

 

Possible Permits

A used food truck may already be permitted – ask the seller when and where to see if it’s in the areas you want to serve. For more permit tips, check out our Tips And Tricks To Make It In The Industry article.

Cons

Warranties are likely expired

Newly built food trucks come with warranties, but on a used food truck the equipment is likely older: that means you’re out of pocket when your fridge or generator breaks.

 

Unexpected repairs

Directly related – when you buy a used truck and cooking equipment, you aren’t 100% sure what works and what doesn’t.  Make sure you have some cash on hand to cover future repairs.

 

Outside financing is to get tough

Traditional lenders have a hard time evaluating the quality of a used food truck, so they’ll likely choose not to loan at all.  Expect to pay cash.

 

No flexibility in layout

The kitchen layout and equipment that it comes with may or may not work for your food concept – it’s hard to bake pizza on a truck designed for burgers.  So be ready to (possibly) compromise.

 

Permitting and inspection trouble

Just because the food truck was once on the road doesn’t mean it’ll pass permitting and inspection again or that it was ever permitted to begin with – so be doubly sure not to assume otherwise. 

 

Aesthetic problems

A used food truck might look a little rough.  Plan to put in some serious elbow grease or about $800 (standard) to have your truck professionally deep-cleaned. 

What to Do Before You Buy a Used Food Truck

  1. Learn the truck’s history. Ask for the VIN of the vehicle in advance and run it on VinCheck.info to look for accidents, liens, a salvaged title, mileage, etc. Remember, the truck probably had another life before becoming a food truck – that’s normal – but you want to know as much about it as possible.

 

  1. Check with local food truck authorities.  Do your research and talk to local government agencies about permitting and inspection requirements everywhere you expect to serve food. (Again – they might even be able to tell you if the truck you want to buy is already permitted to serve there!)

 

  1. Create an inspection list. You’ll want to focus on the condition of big ticket items like the generator, engine, transmission, and cooking appliances, but that’s no reason not to check whether the turn signals work and how much tread the tires have.  Make sure to leave empty space to make notes next to each item during the walkthrough with the seller. 

 

  1. Get expert’s opinion. When you go to view the truck for sale, try to bring both a commercial automotive mechanic and also someone with experience cooking on a food truck. They should be able to advise both on the reliability of the food truck and also help determine whether it’s a good fit for your needs.  Even if costs a couple hundred dollars for their time, this will be money well spent to ensure you’re making a sound investment.

 

  1. Decide what’s important to you. Just like buying an older home on a budget, buying a used truck means you’ll probably need to make compromises. Think hard about what’s going to actually contribute to the success of your food truck business and use those answers to evaluate whether the used truck you’re considering is right for you.


In conclusion, buying a used food truck means you need to put a lot more effort up front to make sure you’re covered in the long run. Once you’re on the road, you’ll need a reliable equipment both on the road and in the kitchen. For more information on starting and growing a food truck business, read the advice food truck owners gave on starting a food truck business.

Free Bill Of Sale Template

A vehicle bill of sale is a legal document given by the seller to the buyer. It reports that on a specific date, at a specific locality and for a particular sum of money the seller sold to the purchaser a specific vehicle of which he had lawful possession. It is a written instrument proving that the transaction was successful and that both parties were able to understand each other clearly.

The bill of sale will generally include the following information about the transaction:

  • A description of the vehicle and its vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • Any warranty that may have been agreed upon.
  • The final sale price of the vehicle.
  • The name of the buyer and the seller.
  • The state in which the vehicle was sold.

 

Completing the form does not transfer the title to the buyer. To complete the transaction, the buyer and seller should accomplish the following:

    • The buyer should apply for a new title in his name, take the Certificate of Ownership (Title) and this Bill of Sale to the local vehicle licensing office and pay the required fees and taxes.
    • The seller should submit a completed Report of Sale which releases his liability from the vehicle. He can report the sale by filling out the Report of Sale section at the back of the title. He can also go in person at any vehicle licensing office or process it online.

 

The process may vary depending on the location. Please contact your DMV to make sure that you have the correct instructions.

Download a free vehicle bill of sale here: Free Vehicle Bill Of Sale