Senior or Retirement Services

If you are in the ever expanding field of retirement communities or senior services you realize that just keeping up is no longer an option. Facilities are getting nicer and more complete, residents are demanding more and higher quality amenities, and with billions of dollars at stake this market is becoming more competitive every day. In this marketplace resident transportation is no longer an option but a requirement for any facility to remain a viable option. And yet at the same time this can be a significant expense- not to mention confusing purchase. Van, Shuttle, or Car? ADA Compliant? Wheel Chair Options? Overall size? Number of passengers? Walkers? Comfort? Ease of Entry and Exit? Driver Training? Safety? These are just a few of the things to consider as you look to add a new bus or replace a current unit. Here are a few items that may help to cut thru the clutter and give you some guidance down the purchasing path. Please understand that we are biased to certain manufacturers but are also here to answer questions and provide advice regardless of the make or model of bus you purchase.

Step 1- Definitions – there are buses and there are vans. Vans are primarily made by the original manufacturer and then modified to become a high roof, add a lift, or adjust the seating configuration. These units are generally purchased by churches, daycares, and transportation companies looking to save money, and in the short term they do. They also are notorious for being unstable, difficult to drive, hard to enter and exit, and generally rated as unsafe to the point of being banned for youth transportation in several states. Buses however are built on a chassis manufactured by Ford or GM and have several safety components that are not found in a van. The chassis is rated for a GVWR that will accommodate the bus and passengers as built and a bus will have a longer wheelbase and a wider track. This will effectively give it a lower center of gravity and a larger footprint for added stability and safety. The passenger area or “coach” is provided by a 3rd party manufacturer and built to the end users specifications. Additional safety items in a quality coach should include full steel cage construction, reinforced window frames, a full perimeter floor frame, a tested square built door frame, and heating and cooling systems designed for a particular size unit.

Step 2 –Manufacturers and Dealers – There are Bus Manufacturers and Dealers and there are Brokers. If you have multiple facilities across the country you will need different options based on different climates. Are you getting individual service or are you getting more of the same, as it is easier for the salesman to duplicate the last order than to ask questions. Go to the facility, take a tour, see what you are getting and who is backing you up. Look at new technologies like low floor buses that offer ease of entry for residents that use walkers and allow wheelchair bound residents to be integrated into the social aspect of traveling. As with almost any product- everything is nice when it is new. The chassis are all made by Ford or GM so spend the time to learn what is underneath the shiny paint, the pretty seats, and the clean floors. Ask about testing procedures (every bus has to pass an Altoona test- so go beyond that). What is the warranty and who will address the problems when they occur? Common failure problems include electrical issues, AC units, door motors, and body panels. Look for outdated technology like composite body panels, fiberglass flooring, and one size fits all construction. Find an older or high mileage used bus and see how it has held up- structure, body, interior trim, and options. Buses are built to last 200,000 miles plus with normal maintenance so don’t be afraid to look at everything inside and out.

Step 3- Initial cost verses value – A common refrain is “the bitterness of poor quality will remain long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” and it is true. Buses are not made by angles in heaven- they are made by people in America (mostly in Indiana) and they will have issues. Look at the long term overall cost; the differences in safety, construction, durability, trade value, and dealer service will be significant between different brands. This difference when factored out over time makes the cost to buy higher quality bus very small. Also if you deal with a dealer such as Davey Coach who sells a large volume of buses we are far more likely to be up to date on the rebate and incentive programs that will save you money.

If you found this helpful and eye opening just think what we can do for you if we are specifically addressing your situation. Please give us a call at 303-683-9500 or email at info@daveycoach.com and find out how a professional can both help you and save you money.