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Bus Buyers, Which Options Do You Really Need?
By: Dominic Menard

After you decide to buy a bus and what size bus you need, your next decisions will have to do with the options you need and don't need.

If cost is your only consideration, ask your bus dealer for a basic stripped down bus.

But before you do, consider these choices.


Diesel or gas? If gas, V-8 or V-10?

Most larger bus (over 30 passengers) will come with a diesel engine.

But for smaller (15 or less passengers) or midsize buses (up to 30 passengers), most churches choose a gas engine. You won't recoup the extra cost of a diesel engine unless you travel 40,000 miles or more a year.

So now, V-8 or V-10? You'll probably need a V-10 for midsize buses (16-30 passengers), but a V-8 should be fine for smaller buses (15 passengers and under), unless you plan to pull a trailer or do a lot of mountain driving. Then, get a V-10 gas.


Basic seating (vinyl on mid-back seats) with no seat belts works fine if you are just using your bus for around town. But if you plan to take trips with your bus, consider these 5 options.

1. Standard or Retractable Seat Belts Although seat belts are not currently required by law for commercial buses, at some point, they probably will be. Some dealers now include seat belts on all new buses. You can either get standard or "retractable" seat belt. Retractable seat belts, which roll up and store out of the way, are safer than standard seat belts, which can create a tripping hazard if they lie on the floor.

2. Seat Fabric Higher grade fabrics will be more attractive, comfortable and durable.  Level-5 fabrics, for instance, generally come with Scotch Guard, allowing the seats to resist stains much better.

3. High-Back Reclining Seats Your church members will really appreciate this option!  It makes longer trips much more comfortable and restful.

4. Foot Rests Another comfort-creating option, foot rests make it easier to relax on trips.

5. Seat Side Sliders This inexpensive option is probably the most popular add-on among churches. Side sliders allow the aisle seats to slide 3" into the aisle, creating more hip room between passengers.


Again, you probably won't need this option if you plan to use your bus just around town. But having room for storage on your bus opens up more room and comfort for the passengers and eliminates the need for other vehicles to accompany you on trips.

To add storage, you can either add Rear Storage or Overhead Storage, or both.  Overhead storage is ideal for purses, backpacks and small carry-on luggage. Rear storage is best for suitcases and larger travel bags. You can have Rear Storage with or without a Rear Storage Wall, which divides the seating area from the storage area.


Standard flooring is not as slip resistant as an upgraded flooring. The lowest cost upgrade is a ribbed rubber floor, which gives better traction but can be hard to clean up from spills. A better upgrade is a safety floor like Altro Flooring. This highly resilient vinyl flooring has silicon carbide and aluminum oxide grains for slip resistance. It is durable and easy to clean.


For longer trips, having a great audio/video system on your bus will be a big hit with your passengers. Your bus can be configured with multiple monitors and speakers so everyone in the bus will have the ability to see and hear whatever you are watching.

A popular A/V option is to add a DVD player and a flat screen TV. The flat screen TV is installed up front, and smaller monitors and speakers can be added to come down from the overhead luggage racks.

If you want to be able to speak to all of your passengers, consider adding a P/A system to your bus. And, to help the driver to get directions and know where he is at all times, consider adding a GPS system.

One more thing: Some states are beginning to require Backup Alarms or Monitors on new commercial vehicles. Be sure to check on that.

So, ask your dealer for costs for 1) extra video monitors, 2) extra audio monitors, 3) DVD Player and TV, 3) PA System and 4) GPS and 5) Backup Alarms and Monitors.

Co-Pilot Seating

A chassis option to consider is Co-Pilot seating. Having another person up front allows the driver help in navigating and watching for traffic issues. A co-pilot can also help keep the driver alert.

Upgraded Heating and Air

Standard heating and air conditioning will work for normal climates. But for colder climates, upgrade your heater; for hotter climates, upgrade your air conditioning.

These are basic options and upgrades that churches should consider when purchasing a bus. Get what you need and don't get what you don't need. Be wise about balancing your church's budget with your member's comfort and your short-term savings with long-term durability. Ask yourselves if you want a bus that is inexpensive but rarely used, or a bus that is used more, even though it cost a little more to properly equip it.

Do some research to determine which of these options are the best for your church.

Dominic Menard is director of communications for Carpenter Bus Sales, www.carpenterbus.com.

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