Transportation Committee members who have experience in the industry are the most likely to anticipate issues. This experience can range from Metro Transit, Automotive/Truck sales to federal, state or local purchasing experience. Purchasing a bus is frequently a lengthy process. Interview several bus dealers to determine which have a heart and mind for ministry transportation. Ask for, and check with, references. Look for a dealer who asks questions such as: What ministries (children, youth, seniors or others) will be using the vehicle? Will its main function be local transportation or long distance travel? What is your driver complement like? Is a wheelchair lift needed?
Church transportation is a large capital expenditure. Regarding this, things to consider when buying a bus are: Will it be financed locally or handled through a major company? Does the dealer have resources to assist in locating financing? Depreciation is an issue. Does the dealer have a formal way of estimating vehicle values over time? Does the dealer allow customers to try the vehicle for a period of time without purchasing?
The bus industry differs from the automotive industry because it does not have a single, all-encompassing warranty plan. The chassis, coach, alternator, rear air conditioner, video system, and tires all have separate warranties. The dealer should be able to handle or direct you to reputable local service providers. Additionally, each warranty varies in length and mileage. Be sure to get a detailed explanation of each warranty.
Today, more and more churches are sensitive to presenting the best possible image to their community. Bus manufacturers offer a wide range of products. Fit, finish, and amenities speak volumes. Seating ranges from vinyl to leather, with fabrics offered in six levels. Fabrics are offered in denominational patterns, non-denominational patterns, and commercial patterns. "Side sliders" (an option that allows the aisle seat to move 2 inches toward the center) create additional hip and shoulder room. Footrests and overhead storage are frequently requested. Lap trays, book or magazine storage, and beverage are offered as well. Rear luggage compartments and under-floor storage compartments are popular options. Ministries are concerned about passenger comfort. New advances in ride improvement are a regular part of ministry vehicles regardless of size.
Fifteen-passenger vans are unsafe. Insurance companies and legislators are implementing requirements to phase them out over the next several years. Fifteen passenger buses are the safe alternative. Buses are built to safely carry passengers to their destinations. They are designed with a lower center of gravity to reduce the possibility of rollover. Dual rear wheels add comfort, safety, and security to the bus. Buses are much easier to enter and move through. A low first step, grab rails, and wide aisles add to the traveler's convenience.
While commercial buses are acceptable for most ministry applications, ministry schools may have to meet different requirements, such as providing Type "A" school buses. Dealers should be able to advise as to requirements and solutions.
The average ministry vehicle life is eight to ten years. Ministry vehicles are reputed to be the least serviced vehicles in the nation. Maintaining an ongoing commitment to regular safety and service checks is critical to the mechanical longevity and overall value of the vehicle. Where will the vehicle be parked? An oversized garage, barn, or shed can improve appearance and trade-in value in years to come. Who will be responsible for servicing the vehicle? Tire condition and regular maintenance go hand-in-hand with the dependability and safety of the vehicle.
Since 2005, two sizes have dominated the ministry transportation market. The 15 and 26-passenger buses have led, accounting for 60 percent of sales. Since 2008, churches have increasingly chosen vehicles that carry 30 or more passengers. Diesel engines account for less that 5 percent of total sales. Buses that carry 16 passengers (15 passenger + driver) require a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). In California and Pennsylvania this requirement begins with 11-passenger vehicles.
What can you expect to invest in purchasing new ministry transportation? Prices range from $40,000 for a basic 15-passenger bus up to $400,000 for a 50-passenger deluxe touring coach. From a practical standpoint, a quality 45-passenger bus in the $125,000 range is available. Include in the estimated costs: insurance, fuel, maintenance, repair, storage, and driver training.
Insurance companies are willing to share costs with customers who install driver cameras. Installing a global position locator makes tracking the progress of your vehicle easy and improves overall safety.
Call 800.464.2799 for more information.