First, some good news: Near the end of 2018, Starcraft Bus and Glaval Bus, two of the largest shuttle bus manufacturers in the country, increased their standard bus manufacturers’ warranty coverage from 3 years/36,000 miles to 5 years/100,000 miles.
What that means is that if the air conditioner goes out in year four or five, the cost of repairing or replacing it doesn’t come out of your church’s budget. Under the 3 years/36,000 miles warranty, it wouldn’t have been covered.
This is not just good news, but it illustrates the vital importance of knowing about warranties that come – or don’t come – with your church’s bus.
If you’re the one charged with making decisions for your church’s transportation, know that the differences between warranties can have important financial consequences. And, unfortunately, bus buyers often don’t consider these consequences at the point of purchasing a bus.
When you buy a new car, you normally have one warranty that covers the whole car. Buses are different. You may have 10 to 15 different warranties, each covering different components of your bus.
Here’s a little background: Manufacturing a bus is a two-stage process. In the first stage, the original manufacturer (Ford, Chevrolet or Freightliner, for instance) makes the frame and adds the engine, the drive train, the suspension system, the battery and other basic components. This makes up what is called the chassis, or the base vehicle. Some will become trucks; some will become buses.
The second stage of manufacturing happens after the chassis is delivered to the bus builder (Starcraft or Glaval, for instance). The bus builder adds a body to the chassis. This is called the conversion, which is a term churches should readily appreciate! The body, or the conversion, is like the house that’s built on a foundation. It includes the walls, the roof, the seats, the windows, the extra air conditioner, etc.
The original manufacturer warrants what it creates, the chassis. For repairs on these components, you would go to a manufacturer’s authorized dealership, like a Ford or Chevrolet dealership.
The bus builder warrants what it adds to the chassis. Various components carry their own warranties – tires, various electrical components, air conditioners, heaters, wheelchair lifts and related components, for instance.
On incidents involving these components, the third-party warranties pay first, and then, if the component’s warranty is shorter than the bus builder’s coverage, the bus builder’s warranty pays for the covered repairs.
Additionally, a few major national bus dealerships offer additional warranty coverage beyond that of the original manufacturer and the bus builder.
As you can see, it can get complicated. The big picture, though, is that when you buy a bus, you will get a warranty from the original manufacturer, another warranty from the bus builder, some other warranties on components the bus builder uses, and, in some cases, an additional warranty through the dealer that you buy your bus from.
All warranties have exclusions, that is, damages that are not covered. These can be damages caused by abuse, neglect, accidents and normal wear and tear. Both the manufacturer and the bus builder, for instance, exclude things like light bulbs, windshield wipers, tires, and stains on seat fabrics.
Tires are warranted by the tire manufacturer, but after that coverage is gone, neither the original manufacturer nor bus builder offer extended coverage. Always be sure to look at both the list of what is covered and the list of what is not covered.
Because of the complexity of bus warranty coverage, some bus dealers have a dedicated warranty manager available to their customers. Here’s how it works with Carpenter Bus. (Other dealers may have a similar process. Be sure to find out before you buy.)
When a customer calls in with a warranty incident, the manager – we call him our warranty concierge – talks with the customer to identify the bus and its warranty coverage. The customer describes the problem, and the warranty concierge helps the customer find a shop to repair the problem. Carpenter Bus gets the repair authorization from the warranting party, and then usually pays the shop directly and collects from the party warranting the service. All the customer has to do is take the bus in and pick it up when it’s ready.
What to Look For
In the bus buying process, it’s vital to know that all warranties are not alike. They vary among the original manufacturers, and even more among the bus builders.
Most shuttle buses are built on either Ford, Chevrolet or Freightliner chassis. At this writing, Ford and Chevrolet both provide a 3 year/36,000 mile Basic Warranty; Freightliner provides a 3 year/50,000 mile Basic Warranty. For the Powertrain (engine, transmission, differential, drive shaft, and axel), both Ford and Chevrolet provide a 5 year/60,000 mile warranty.
Bus builders’ warranties on the bus body generally cover either 3 year/36,000 miles or 5 year/100,000 miles. The bus builders that are part of the Forest River family of companies, for instance, all offer 5 year/100,000 mile warranties. Those builders are Starcraft Bus, Glaval Bus, StarTrans Bus, Berkshire Coach, Elkhart Coach and Battisti Customs.
Most bus dealerships only pass on to their customers the warranties from the original manufacturer and the bus builders. A few other dealerships offer extended warranties. Carpenter Bus, for instance, offers a 5 year/100,000 mile conversion warranty on all new buses, and a special 7 year/Unlimited mileage conversion and chassis warranty on all new buses sold to churches. With the exception of the exclusions mentioned above, this kind of extended warranty provides you worry-free, money-saving, bumper-to-bumper coverage year after year.
When you’re comparing manufacturers, bus builders and dealerships – horsepower, air conditioners, seating styles and storage – be sure to also compare warranties. As you’re shopping for your bus, look down the road to see how far your warranty will take you.
This information is courtesy of Carpenter Bus, www.carpenterbus.com. Founded in 1953, Carpenter Bus has always taken great pride in providing products and services that are second-to-none in the bus dealer industry.