Aiphone banner

Is the Bus Company You’re Chartering Licensed and Insured?

January 8, 2024 jill Blog
Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmail


Why you should thoroughly vet your bus company before you take a trip

By Amy Nixon

Your church group is going on a trip, and you are looking for a bus service to take you where you need to go. So, you Google “bus companies in XX city” and watch as various bus “companies” show up, each advertising that they do business in that particular city.

But don’t just click on the first company that pops up. Be on the lookout for third-party companies, or bus brokers, that upcharge customers to try and secure a different bus company to book your trip.

These brokers often try to pay the bus company less than its normal rate and often cannot find a company that will do the job. That means you may end up with an email just days before your trip, letting you know they can’t fulfill your request.

Larry Killingsworth, former interim president and chief executive officer of the United Motorcoach Association, cautioned consumers to be careful of brokers.

The problem with a third party, Killingsworth explained, is that the consumer is not getting information directly from the company they are hiring.

“If you search ‘renting a bus’ in a particular city, sites may pop up. But when those links take you to a broker, that third party is just taking your information, farming it out to bus companies and taking a cut for themselves,” he said. “They are acting as an unnecessary middle person, and at times, some are disreputable.”

You Get What You Pay For

Mark Szyperski, president of On Your Mark Transportation, LLC, a consulting service to the motorcoach industry, agreed, adding that some brokers even take money from customers and never pass it on to the bus companies.

And, with fewer bus companies in business post-pandemic, customers should be aware of scams that seem too good to be true.

Can you imagine planning a trip for a student group, for example, and then having to cancel it at the last minute when the bus company doesn’t show up?

Or, what if you use one company to get you to your destination and another for your return? Consider being stranded at your destination when the second company doesn’t show up to take your group home.

“Before the pandemic, there were more than 3,500 individual bus companies,” Szyperski said. “Our industry now only has about 1,600 companies, and most of those are running fewer coaches in their service. So, real bus companies will say, ‘sorry, we are sold out on that date,’ but brokers still take the order and try to fill it.”

Another thing to check is whether the bus company you are working with is licensed and insured.

Ask whether the company has enough insurance to cover the number of people in your group. And, make sure they are a licensed business.

“All bus companies have to purchase buses that can run up to $700,000 each,” Szyperski explained. “They also must pay their staff and for the maintenance and upkeep of their facilities. If one company is advertising that they charge well below what others do, consider what they might be skimping on to get the cost down. There is so much more that’s important than just the price. Not all companies are the same.”

So, how do you determine which companies are legitimate?

First, look at the website carefully, Szyperski suggests.

He said, “Do they have pictures of real buses with the company name on them, or do they have stock photos of buses with no names on the buses?”

Are there customer testimonials? Is the website updated regularly with trips they’ve taken and pictures of their equipment?

Next, try calling the company you are interested in booking with. Ask them whether they have their own maintenance shop.

“When you have a problem with your car, you take it to your mechanic. If you have no problems, you don’t have a mechanic looking at it,” Szyperski said. “But with a bus company that has its own maintenance shop, you can imagine they are looking at their buses to see whether there is a reported problem or not. They don’t want their maintenance people standing around, so motorcoaches are pulled in for regular maintenance when companies have their own shops.”

You can even request to visit the facility. Is there a garage? What does the facility look like?

Ask for a tour and keep an eye out for maintenance, driver rooms and support staff. You don’t want to choose a company with a “shade tree” maintenance department, Szyperski warned.

Along those same lines, a new bus doesn’t mean it won’t fail. Just like a new automobile, new motorcoaches can have “bugs” that need to be worked out.

“It’s not now new the motorcoach is,” Szyperski said, “it’s how well maintained it is.”

You can also ask the company for their DOT number, and check that against their safety record by visiting This site will give you the physical address and contact information for the bus company you are researching. It will also give you the safety rating, which is even more important than any pricing information for a company, Szyperski said.

“Satisfactory is the highest rating a company can receive from the federal government’s safety audits,” Szyperski added.

Finally, if you are traveling across the country, you can search, a subsidiary of the United Motorcoach Association, for a list of real bus companies, and you can deal directly with them.

“ can help group organizers from a church or other organization connect with reputable motorcoach companies by sharing information about their upcoming travel plans with multiple companies at the same time, along you to receive quotes from different companies and decide who to use for your trip,” explained Scott Michael, president and chief executive of the United Motor Coach Association. does not allow brokers to list on the site. Only licensed motorcoach operators with actual equipment are eligible, Michael explained.

He said, “This helps you cut out the middleman and deal directly with companies who have motor coaches. We have heard many horror stories about consumers who found themselves dealing with a broker who promised to show up but never did because they didn’t have any buses in the first place.”

You can also search (The American Bus Association) for up-to-date membership lists of real bus companies. The ABA is one of the oldest National Associations in the United States. Checking their list of members will give you a good idea of professional companies.

Where’s the real value?

While you must get to your destination, what’s most important is the people you’re transporting, right?

The United States Department of Defense requires bus companies to go through a rigorous audit before transporting military personnel. You can ask if the company is Department of Defense Certified. Ask to see the audit if they say they are certified.

“These brave men and women put up with bad food, bad working conditions and poor sleep, but they will not travel with just any motorcoach company,” Szyperski said. “Why should your group consider any less?”

When Szyperski makes presentations to groups, he often states, “If there were to be a horrible accident and the parents and local media are standing in front of you asking why you chose that company, do you want to tell them, ‘it was the cheapest bus company I could find,’ or, would you rather tell them you looked at the best companies and chose the one that seemed safest? Take the time to do your due diligence on more than just price.”

While this may seem like extra work, if you want to make sure your trip gets booked – and by a legitimate company – it’s worth the effort.

“Make sure you do your searches early,” Szyperski said. “And don’t expect to haggle your way on the price. The companies that survived the pandemic are lucky to be here and are only in business today because they didn’t participate in ‘race to the bottom’ pricing prior to the pandemic. Look for safety first and price second.”

On Your Mark Transportation LLC is a consulting firm for the ground passenger transportation industry. This article was written by Amy Nixon, who writes press releases and blog content for their clients. With experience in transit, school bus, luxury transportation and motorcoaches, OYMT can bring a full range of extra services to an organization,  



Tags: ,