STEP 1: WHAT KIND OF BUS DO YOU NEED?
If you examine your needs rather than wants, you will quickly discover what the right church bus is for you. Take a moment to think about how you'll be using your bus. How many people does your Church need to transport? What kind of driving do you most often do? How long are your trips? Is it important that your next bus gets good gas mileage? Is it important your bus has a warranty?
In many cases people choose a bus because it has an eye-‐catching style or it is a trendy favorite. If you go in this direction, you may either break your budget or have to go bus shopping again soon. Let your needs, not wants, drive your decision.
Here are a few other questions to keep in mind when you begin your church bus-‐buying process:
- Do you need a heavy duty transmission? What safety features do you want? Do you require a lot of cargo-‐carrying capacity? Will you be doing any towing? Will the bus easily fit in your parking area?
STEP 2: HOW MUCH CAN WE AFFORD?
Regardless of whether you decide to buy or lease your next bus, establishing a realistic monthly payment that will fit into your budget is a crucial first step. How much should this be?
Estimate what your monthly church bus payment will be based on purchase price, down payment, interest rate and length of loan. Take the time to run the numbers now, before you go bus shopping. Write out the result and put this information into your church bus-‐buying folder. It will not only show you what you can afford, it will also help you control the numbers when you negotiate with a salesman.
STEP 3: SHOULD WE BUY OR LEASE OR NEXT BUS?
A lease requires little or no money up front and offers lower monthly payments. But when the lease ends your Church is left without a bus and a need to replace it. Buying a bus is more expensive initially and the monthly payments are higher. But at the end of the loan, you will own a bus you can still drive or sell. Alliance Bus Group offers Church bus financing options and also a Fundraising Assistance Program.
The Advantages of Leasing a Bus:
You can drive a better bus for less money. You can drive a new bus every few years. No trade-‐in hassles at the end of the lease.
The Advantages of Buying a Bus:
When interest rates are low, it makes more financial sense to own a bus rather than lease it. No mileage penalty. Increased flexibility means you can sell the bus whenever you want.
STEP 4: HAVE YOU CONSIDERED ALL THE BUSES IN THAT CLASS?
Today's church bus market is filled with great products. Most shoppers have difficulty keeping up with all of the vehicles manufacturers introduce and the changes they are making to their older vehicles, so it's important to do your research. Research all your church bus choices before you hit bus dealership showrooms.
STEP 5: HAVE YOU CONSIDERED ALL THE COSTS OF BUS OWNERSHIP?
Here is an often overlooked fact of bus ownership: one bus might be cheaper to buy, but more expensive to own. Why? Even if two church buses cost about the same to buy, one can depreciate at a different rate or cost significantly more to insure or maintain. Before you commit to one bus, you should estimate the long-‐term ownership costs of the church bus your group is considering. These costs include but are not limited to: depreciation, insurance, maintenance and fuel costs.
STEP 6: RESEARCH YOUR OPTIONS
By completing steps one through five, you should now have a good idea about what bus will work for you. Maybe there are a few church buses that fit your criteria. It's time to narrow down your choices to avoid being overwhelmed. List steps to help narrow down search.
STEP 7: SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT FOR A TEST DRIVE
It's a good idea to make your initial contact with a dealership by phone before going there in person. This can give you some sense of the business atmosphere you will be dealing with throughout the buying or leasing process. Schedule a full day when your group can go look at church buses or set up a time for the sales person to come to your location for a demonstration.
STEP 8: HOW TO TEST DRIVE A BUS
The goal of a test drive is to experience -‐ as closely as possible -‐ the same type of driving conditions the church bus will be used for after purchase. If you plan to operate a shuttle, drive the bus in both stop-‐and-‐ go traffic and at freeway speeds. If you will frequently drive your church bus in the mountains, try to find some steep grades to climb. Drive over bumps, take tight corners at aggressive (but not dangerous) speeds and test the brakes in a safe location, such as a deserted parking lot. Get in and out of the bus several times and be sure to sit in the back seats, especially if you plan on carrying passengers. In short, ask yourself what it will be like to live with the church bus you are test driving for a number of years.
Do not drive with the radio on -‐ you can evaluate that later. A new church bus is a big investment; make sure you spend enough time really looking at it. And then, consider one last thing: your intuition. If you are uneasy about a bus, follow your instincts. A vehicle purchase decision is too important (and expensive) to undertake without total confidence.
STEP 9: AFTER THE TEST DRIVE
After you have completed the test drive, you should leave the bus lot. Why? Because you will probably need to drive other types of buses at other dealerships, it's a good idea to do all of your test driving in one morning or afternoon. Driving several church bus vehicles back to back will help you uncover even more minor differences, which will lead to a more educated purchase decision.
STEP 10: GETTING READY FOR THE BUYING CYCLE
At this point you should have considered all the church buses in the class that interest you. You should have a good idea what you can afford. You should know if you want to buy or lease your next church bus. You should have test driven your top choices and are now ready to make your purchase decision!