Six Tips to Guide You in the Bus Selection Process
By: Mark Matthews
Here are six simple suggestions for guidance to churches beginning the bus purchasing experience.
1. Define your needs.
For example, will you be using this bus on a daily basis to transport school-age children to and from school and school-related activities? If so, this is considered fixed route service; most states require the use of an approved Multi Function School Activity Bus (MFSAB). Some states, such as Massachusetts and New Jersey, require a certified school bus.
Will you be transporting seniors, and, if so, will the vehicle need to be equipped with a wheelchair lift?
What kind of trips will the vehicle be used for? Extended journeys will require more creature comforts than short shopping excursions or field trips.
How many passengers will you be carrying? Keep in mind that once you get over 25 passengers, the chassis platform graduates to a much heavier configuration and the cost rises exponentially.
If you only plan a small number of trips annually with a larger passenger load, you might be dollars ahead to charter a vehicle for those few occasions. Keep in mind that luggage can also be transported in a pull-along trailer, which are very inexpensive.
2. Work with a reputable dealer that can be there to service the vehicle.
Make sure your dealer is able to provide service to all of the body components and make them explain how. You must realize that a bus body is made up of many components, with air conditioning being the most critical. Do not believe anyone that tells you their bus is fail-safe.
3. Diesel or gas?
Your committee members that come in with truck and bus experience will most likely suggest diesel. It is true that diesels will outlast gasoline engines. However, there has to be a cost benefit analysis performed.
A diesel engine will cost easily $5,000 more than a gas engine. A diesel will get on average 1.5 miles per gallon more than a gas engine in that same vehicle. You have your estimated mileage; you have the cost of the diesel engine. Do the math and see how long it will take to repay that investment.
4. Shop dealer inventories.
5. Do not be afraid of last yearís model.
6. Finally, keep your purchasing committee small and an odd number of members.
Mark Matthews has been a bus dealer for 32 years. His family business, Matthews Buses, was founded in 1967.