Many people will spend a long time researching where to get the best deal on a blender or which phone to upgrade to. Shouldn’t you put in at least that much time into choosing a limo or bus, when you’re spending hundreds of dollars, or more? There are a lot of limousine and bus companies out there. Some you know about and some you don’t. How do you find the right company and how do you choose who to call? When you do call, what questions do you ask? How much should you pay and for what? This article won’t tell you what company to choose (If DWS Coach isn’t right for you, maybe another company is), but it will tell you how to find the right company that will meet your needs and also what to watch out for!

First of all, think about what it is that you want. Like buying a car, there is a wide spectrum of options available and at different prices, depending on what model you want. Is your event an informal outing with a youth group? Are you only concerned with the group getting there, and not concerned with the trip? Maybe an old school bus is your best option. Low on comfort, but low on price. Is your activity formal, like a wedding or a corporate event, intended to impress? You’ll probably want the high end vehicles and will pay a high price to get what you want. This conveniently brings us to the second topic to consider – price.

It’s easy to say, I want the cheapest bus I can get, whatever I get or I need the best limo, so I will pay whatever I need to. But wait! There are a couple of things to consider that can help you out while pricing. First, there are different categories of vehicles that are mostly defined by size (passenger capacity). while there is a wide range of pricing for different vehicles, most vehicles that are within the same size category will be similarly priced. Don’t compare the rate of a town car with a 35 passenger limo bus. In order to get a better idea of what you are spending, break down the price, per person, by how many people will be riding. It’s actually cheaper to get a more expensive (and bigger) vehicle than multiple cheaper (and smaller) vehicles. And a lot more fun for the group, too!

When you are comparing rates between different companies, make sure you are comparing amenities as well. Remember to get a quote for the size of vehicle that you need, then think about what you would like your ride to be like. Do you want a great stereo? a TV? Row seating or perimeter seating? Etc.. You may very likely find that for just a little more money, you can get a lot more bus or conversely (watch out!) for a little less money, you get a lot less bus. When you think about the entire trip and event, spending just a little extra may be very well worth it. Also, don’t be afraid to haggle. If you don’t think the final quote is fair, ask if you can get a discount or something else for free. You may get it, you may not. Doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

The second thing to consider with pricing is that rates are not necessarily fixed. The hourly rates for DWS Coach are listed right on the website (www.dwscoach.com or click the link to check it out.), but could be less, depending on the charter. Some companies will list their hourly rates, but many will not. Why? Because they want to be able to change their rates depending on the need. This can be good for you or bad for you. If it’s a busy season or if they think they can get more money out of you, they will boost their quote. On the other hand, if it’s an off night and they would rather make a little money over no money, they may offer you a better quote. The problem is, if they won’t tell you what the standard rate is, you will never even know if you are getting a good deal or a bad one. In this industry, the time and day and certain details of your trip does affect the rates. Be willing to share the details of your trip so they will know how to meet those needs and give an accurate quote, but also be very wary of companies that evade questions about pricing or contradict themselves. This, again, brings us nicely into our next topic. Communication.

Transparency and honesty are real values of DWS Coach. I am sorry to say, that in my experience in this industry, there are a surprising number of companies that do not share these values. You must be aware and know what you are buying before you buy. When you call a company for a quote, it should be a dialogue. They should ask you questions about your trip and you should be asking them questions about their services. (Again, if they evade your honest questions, BEWARE!) The two of you should be learning more about each other for mutual benefit. It’s a more involved process than choosing which value meal to buy and as such deserves personal attention from the company you are dealing with.

Here are some things that you have every right to ask about.

The vehicle: You are paying the company for several things, including chartering a specific vehicle. If the type of vehicle you want is at all important to you, (and of course it is!), make sure you are guaranteed that specific vehicle when you book it. I know people who were very surprised and disappointed when a vehicle different from the one they thought they were getting pulled up in front of the house. What do you do then? You can’t cancel the trip on such short notice, and they know that. You wouldn’t go in to a restaurant, order a prime rib with a baked potato, get a Salisbury steak with french fries instead and accept, “Sorry, but the gentleman at table 5 payed us more, so we gave him your steak.” Also, you have every right to go see the limo. Ask to set up a day and time that you can come see the limo you want to charter. Check out the amenities and ask questions.

Rates: As I described previously, getting a quote can be a process involving several questions, but if a company refuses to answer a question about rates or attacks you for wanting to know, just move on to a company that isn’t so obviously trying to milk you. You wouldn’t go into a restaurant, order a chicken salad from the menu (who’s price is not listed), ask the waiter for the price and be satisfied to hear, “That depends, what did they tell you it costs next door? Are you going to share it with someone or eat it all yourself? Is this a corporate lunch or a private lunch?” You would tell the waiter to shove that chicken salad and then go to Wendy’s.

The company: You already know what company it is, you just called them…right? uhh…right? Again, I am sorry to say that there is a practice here that has given the limousine industry a very black eye. Outsourcing (or farming out). There is nothing wrong with it on the surface, however, many people abuse the system for their personal gain and at the cost of others, specifically, the consumer! Here’s what happens: you book a trip with Company X and pay Company X. Without informing you, Company X, is already booked at that time, but they know that Company Y is not. So they take a commission and farm out your trip to Company Y. If everything works out and you get what you want, then so what? The problem is, it often doesn’t work out. Company X only wants to make money by finding another company to farm out to. They sell the trip and wash their hands of it. Company Y hasn’t talked to you. They don’t know you or your needs. They assume Company X has arranged everything. All they have to do is show up and drive. Some companies communicate better than others, but this is what happens much too frequently: The wrong vehicle is sent. (Company X has what you wanted, but Company Y doesn’t even own that type) or…you’re billed for a different amount or the gratuity was included and now it isn’t or… other arrangements that you have made are not there (no champaigne, no group discount at the club, etc.) If a company has to outsource your trip to another company and they do it seamlessly, so that you don’t even know, then great! But if it is so seamless, why should they want to hide it from you? Be wary of companies that answer the phone with general terms like, “Hello, limo office.” or “Car service”. These are probably either operators who go by several different company names or transportation brokers. (more on illegal operators later.)

Transportation brokers: If you are not sure, ask if you are speaking with a specific company (“do you own your own vehicles?”) or a broker service. A broker service may be the way to go if you want help finding a vehicle, but you will of course be paying a little extra, for their commission. You also don’t get the personalized attention and accommodations that you will when speaking directly with a good small company. Personally, I don’t like dealing with third parties. I like to speak to whoever I am doing business with.

Private owner/operator: There are a handful of large limo companies in the Denver area that can afford mass advertising. You probably already know their company names. There are many more private owner/operators and other small limo companies scattered all over the Denver Metro area. You can find a gold mine in these small companies…or a horrible nightmare. DWS Coach is a small owner/operator company. I have been in the industry, keep my eyes open and have met many of these other small companies. Again, I am sorry to say, that I am more often disappointed by what I see and who I meet in other companies. I wonder how some of these companies can stay in business. On the other hand, I have met a few wonderful and invested entrepreneurs, like myself. It’s easy for me to say I’m one of the “good guys” and others are “bad guys”, so see some of the worst offenders for yourself. I’ve shared a few Denver news exposes on my facebook page, (dwscoach or link to www.dwscoach.com, then click the facebook link.) that describe some of the horrible situations that some of these companies left their customers in. In short, stranding them, denying services already paid for, dumping their customers last minute for a higher paying customer. Ouch. On the other hand, if you find the right small limo company, you will make a business friend that will meet your needs, give you personal treatment and give you far better rates than any of the big companies can or are willing to do. How do you know which is which? Two things – secondly, do everything already described in this article. But first, before you do any leg work, check this:

License/Authority to Operate: Every commercial vehicle in Colorado is regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). No exceptions. If a company is operating a vehicle without a PUC number, they are operating illegally. Why should you care, if you get a good deal? Good question. Getting properly registered with the PUC is a major pain in the butt. As a customer, you don’t have to deal with that, but you are also protected by that. All taxis, limos, buses, shuttles, etc. are required by the PUC to have proper commercial insurance, vehicles up to code and that drivers are qualified and licensed, among other things. So, if a company is not registered with the PUC, you can bet your chicken salad that they do not meet the minimun standards for these important requirements. (Remember the owner/operator mentioned above, who goes by several different company names? This can be an indication of the worst of two worlds – illegal (or legal) operators who are also farming out to other illegal operators. Danger Will Robinson! Danger!) Imagine that the driver, who had a couple beers while he was waiting to pick you up (yes, I actually see this happen) had an accident, injuring 15 people on the bus and the company’s insurance (if they even have any) doesn’t cover a penny. Obviously, you don’t even want to go near that kind of a situation, and it’s easy to do. All you need to do is check the PUC number for any commercial transportation company. DWS Coach’s PUC and DOT authority numbers are posted on the website, www.dwscoach.com under “about us”. If you don’t see a company’s PUC number, just call and ask for it. They are required to share it! If they don’t, stay away! And report them to the PUC inspectors if you are so inclined. Once you have the PUC number, go to the Department Of Regulatory Agencies site, then to PUC, then to transportation and find the “check PUC#” page. There is a direct link to this PUC page, once again on www.dwscoach.com, under “about us”.

So remember, think about what it is you are looking for, find a few options in that category, call around and ask lots of questions. Don’t just find the cheapest price, find the company that will be invested in making your trip safe and wonderful and the company that you will be happy with! I hope that you will try out DWS Coach and become one of my happy and regular customers, but if not, good luck in your shopping and have a great trip!