Jul 08

What you need to know about buying pre-owned motorcoaches

Follow these tips from expert Anthony Vaccarello

on what to look for, and how to finance your purchase when considering adding a pre-owned bus to your fleet.

Why take Vaccarello’s advice?

Anthony Vaccarello understands the motorcoach industry from the ground up.

Anthony Vaccarello

Starting his career in 2003 as a sales representative, he moved up to become the Senior Director of Supplier Relations for Busbank.

By the time he’d left Busbank in 2010, he’d become the liaison between the company and the bus industry, forging relationships that continue to serve Vaccarello and his clients today.

Before launching BuyCoachBus.com (BCB), a certified pre-owned dealership, in 2018, Vaccarello held other positions in the industry: serving as President of Terrapin Blue, a leading consulting firm in the transportation industry, and as Senior Vice President for Subout, a leading clearing house for the charter bus industry.

The strategic partnerships drive the bus industry and help overcome the seasonality issue with brokers by offering pre-owned buses at better prices.

The advantages and disadvantages of purchasing a new or a pre-owned motorcoach

New buses have under 1,000 miles and come with a manufacturer’s warranty, but cost on average between $500,000 and $600,000.

This means a monthly payment of between $7,000 to $11,000, which puts many smaller bus companies out of the running when it comes to buying a new bus.

The advantages of buying a pre-owned motorcoach include having a set price point on most that follow Bus Blue Book value.

Savings compared to purchasing a new bus can increase profit margins, and are a good deal if bought from the right people.

The disadvantages of purchasing a pre-owned are obvious.

A buyer may think that a coach is a good deal, but catastrophe strikes in the form of mechanical issues.

Vaccarello has shared his best advice for evaluating pre-owned a motorcoach and not inheriting someone else’s problem.

1. Price

The most common mistake is buying on price only.

Of course, price is a huge factor, but shouldn’t be THE deciding factor.

Instead, focus on the powertrain, not the paint job or updated interior.

Yes, delightful paint jobs and comfortable interiors are certainly an important part of a business’s image, promoting cleanliness and safety, but first the motorcoach has to be able to be out on the road making money.

Your enhancement expenses can always be rolled into your loan, reducing your out-of-pocket costs while still ensuring your bus is an asset to your fleet’s public image.

    • Don’t be like the buyer who loved the paint job and all the other bells and whistles of a vehicle that, at $20,000 below market price, was an attractive purchase. The coach failed inspection just three days after being bought, and needed over $13,000 of engine work.
  • Another way to avoid unknown mechanical issues is to purchase a new or rebuilt powertrain at the time of purchase. Buying a certified engine or powertrain with a warranty are worth the investment if your pre-owned coach is high in engine hours.

2. Third-party inspections

They are a logical step, especially since the average price, around $400, is like an extra insurance policy to assure that you are making the right decision.

BCB inspections are based on a proprietary inspection plan designed and developed by TPA Group, Inc.

3. Warranties

Extended warranties on coaches are now a reality in BCB’s Certified inventory.Who wants to shell out thousands of dollars on a new or used engine or transmission?

Vaccarello tells buyers to understand the terms and follow the guidelines to save thousands of dollars on powertrain warranty, or bumper-to-bumper warranties.

It’s important to select those vendors with a successful track record in the motorcoach industry.

BCB works exclusively with Premium 2000+, with the belief that a good bus should be covered, but not all buses should qualify for this great plan.

4. Down Payments

Another mistake that Vaccarello sees is that buyers assume a down payment is always required.

In the BCB office, down payments are referred to as, ‘Skin in the Game’, meaning the financial institution uses the down payment as proof that the buyer is committed to the purchase.

Vaccarello’s recommendation is

If you have a limited ability to make a down payment, discuss this with your salesperson and the financing office.

Working with the right people will help you meet your needs, but you should always be prepared to spend between 10% to 20% of the purchase price.

5. Public image

You’ve done your due diligence, selecting a bus that is going to pass inspection, and one that you can afford, now is the time to make sure it is a pleasing addition to your fleet.

Vaccarello stresses the importance of taking the time when you first purchase the bus to attend to these details: paint, flooring, interior, upholstery, and other issues your passengers will notice.

Get your bus in tip-top shape

Graphics and Wraps

Have the selling party remove all graphics prior to pick-up.

If the paint isn’t in good shape underneath, consider wrapping your coach.

Why Wrap? It’s cheaper, faster, and wraps offer more creative freedom than paint.

Paint – average cost is $9,000 to $20,000

Full Wrap – average cost is $4,000 to $12,000

Interior and image

Comfort and appearance are critical to your passengers, and the reputation your coach company wants to build and maintain via word of mouth and through social media.

Creating a clean, safe environment enhances your brand and showcases the pride that a company has in its fleet.

Brightening the appearance with great upholstery is an easy fix.

Some operators are even opting for monogramed headrest covers, and have a wide choice of materials to pick from: cloth in bright or quiet colors, leather, or leatherette, at costs between $4,000 to $14,000.

Floors and Ceiling

Is there leaking or staining?

Look for signs of discoloration, where water may have pooled, and stretched silicon around the windows.

Does the floor have bumps or weak spots?

Are the seats anchored securely?

Address these issues with the seller.

Lighting, Heating, Air Conditioning

Check all switches.Inspecting the lighting is easy, as is fixing it, but addressing issues before purchasing could save you money.

Vaccarello recommends testing the basic air conditioning system first while the bus is running, and leaving the heating unit test until after seeing if the air conditioning works.

Get Behind The Wheel

You wouldn’t purchase a Ferrari without a test drive, nor should you put a motorcoach in your fleet without taking it for a spin.

We believe that buying a pre-owned motorcoach can be a fun experience.

says Vaccarello.

Having a good relationship with your salesperson and financier will help, as will understanding your purchase if you are buying ‘as is, where is’.

An important lesson to buy a pre-owned motorcoach

The prerequisite is a good powertrain, don’t be dazzled by the appearance and have a third party do an inspection.

Don’t be driven only by the price and invest in the warranty extension.

Test drive and take all the time necessary to look at all the details of the motorcoach in sunlight.

About The Author

Michele Zaccaria is the CEO & Founder of Allbus. With his desire to improve things, Michele loves to build Sengerio (simple online bus charter and limo software). Being a minimalist, he loves to surround himself with interesting people and to listen.