There are a number of different reasons why your church might need a bus. Whether you're planning to use it to take Sunday School children on field trips or give seniors a safe, reliable ride to services, a bus can be used to enhance your ministry and provide more and better services to your members. Take a look at some things you need to know about buying a bus for your church.
Why Not a Van?
Until relatively recently, it was common for churches to choose large, 15-passenger vans for transporting church members. If your church has used vans in the past, you may be wondering why you should look for a bus now. There are a few reasons, including increases in insurance costs for these vans and changes to federal law. But the shift can be boiled down to one simple fact – 15-passenger vans are unsafe. Hundreds of people have been killed, and thousands injured, because of these vehicles. To combat the problem, federal laws were put in place making it illegal to sell these vehicles to transport children to school or church activities, and insurance carriers raised their rates or dropped coverage for these vehicles.
Even if 15-passenger vans were perfectly safe to drive, there are some good reasons to avoid using them for church transportation. If you plan to use the church vehicle to transport elderly members, consider that it can be very difficult to get into and out of a crowded 15-passenger van, and for those with limited mobility, it can be painful or impossible. A bus, on the other hand, is roomier and less difficult to get into. It can also be easily outfitted with accessories to make it more accessible for those who are handicapped.
Do You Need A Special License?
One reason that churches may hesitate when it comes to purchasing a bus is because they worry that the driver might need special qualifications to drive it. Whether this is true or not depends on what size bus you end up buying. In many states, like Florida, a commercial driver's license (CDL) is only required for a bus that seats more than 15 people. A mini-bus that seats 14 passengers and the driver would not require a special license. You should also know that even if your state doesn't require a CDL for a bus that carries more than 15 passengers, federal law – which you will be subject to if you're planning to cross state lines with your bus – specifies that a CDL is required for busses that carry more than 15 people.
For many churches, a mini-bus is sufficient for their needs. If you're shuttling church members to and from services or activities in your local area, you can always make several trips, which may be more cost-efficient than buying a larger bus that will be more expensive to purchase and maintain. If you do need a larger bus, though, you will need a driver with a CDL. No matter which kind of bus you choose, make sure to take your driver with you when shopping for your church bus so that they can test-drive it.
New or Used?
One thing that may surprise you about bus shopping is how much the prices can vary. Bus prices aren't regulated the way that personal vehicles are. That means that both new and used prices can be very different from dealer to dealer.
Your best bet is to set a budget for your bus first, before you start visiting dealerships. Then visit both used and new dealerships to find out what is in your price range. A new bus may be less trouble to maintain, but on the other hand, if you need accessories, like a wheelchair lift, a used bus that's already had the additions you want installed might be more affordable than buying a new bus and having extra features added on.
Discuss your specific transportation needs with the professionals at the bus dealership, and they can help you find the bus that most closely meets your needs. For more information, contact a company like Sawyers Bus Sales.