I Need a Bus… Now What?
Looking at buses can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin. The different sizes, seating options, amenities, and manufacturers mean that you have a lot of choices.
Let’s break it down into smaller steps that may help guide you:
It starts with a budget.
Just like it’s a bad idea to go house hunting before you know what you’re approved for, the same rule applies to bus shopping. Know what you can afford, because that will help determine a slew of options down the line. Look at your budget and get an idea of what you can work with.
Establishing a monthly payment that fits your budget also provides you leverage with a salesperson. A good salesperson will offer you to the best options for your needs. If you don’t come to the table with a pre-determined budget, you could be wasting your time looking at buses that won’t work.
What kind of bus do you need?
The second step is determining the “must-haves” and separating them from the “nice-to-haves”. That doesn’t mean you can’t have both in one bus, but narrowing your search based on what is required will get you moving in the right direction. Some ideas to consider:
• Are you looking for a new or used bus?
• What kind of transmission do you need?
• Will your bus be transporting cargo?
• Which safety features are important?
• What is the parking area you need the bus to fit in?
• How many wheelchair spaces are required?
• How long are your bus trips?
• Will you need a warranty?
• Will you be making frequent stops, like a shuttle bus?
Buy or lease? What makes sense?
A bus lease may make it more affordable, with no money down and lower monthly payments. However, at the end of the lease, you will need to replace it with a new one or be left without a bus.
Buying a bus can require more money upfront, as well as higher monthly payments. Once you pay it off, though, you have a bus you can continue to drive or sell.
Amenities still matter.
Once you know what you need in a bus, you can factor in what you want. Seat style, lighting, head clearance, and audio/visual options can be considered to help you narrow down the playing field so you can begin selecting the right bus.
Time to start browsing.
You can begin your window shopping online, or call a reputable bus dealer, to narrow down your search. Since you know your budget, what you need in a bus, and whether a purchase or lease better meets your goals, you can begin looking at the buses you want.
Schedule an appointment to test drive.
Now it’s time for the fun part: the test drive. Give your sales representative some ideas of what you’re looking for, so s/he can have them ready for you.
Your sales representative at the bus dealership can help you iron out some of the wrinkles. You may come to the dealership knowing exactly what you want… or you may still have questions. Both of those situations are absolutely okay. You’re not a bus expert, and no one should expect you to be.
If you still have questions, bring them with you and be sure you’re comfortable with the answers.
Then it’s time to hit the road.
This isn’t a normal test drive.
Be sure to try and copy the conditions of your typical bus drive. If you have a lot of stops, be sure to mimic that. Stop, open the door, close the door, and then proceed. If you do more highway travel, get your test drive up to higher speeds.
It’s okay to try the radio and entertainment system (if included), but save that for before or after your test drive. It’s important to stay focused on navigating the road, the feel of the bus, the ease of turning, stopping, working the door, and managing the wheelchair lift (if available).
Think it over if you’re not 100% ready.
You may have done your research and drive THE BUS you’re ready to move forward with. That is great! Your effort has paid off! But if you’re not 100% sure what to do, take a break to consider your options. Your representative will be happy to review your options, answer questions, and ensure you have all the information you need to make a choice. But if it’s just too close to call, think on it.