Transport Self-help kit: Providing transport services to your community

To buy or hire a minibus?

If you are planning a service that needs a minibus, you could buy one or hire from a local organisation. To make that decision, what do you need to consider?  Essentially there are two main factors: cost and how much you will use the minibus.  Minibuses are expensive to buy and run so you really need to think long and hard before buying your own.

Buying and running your own minibus

Minibuses cost from around £25,000.  Allow at least an extra £10,000 for a wheelchair accessible bus – and you can pay up to £70,000.  Budget for at least £5000 a year in running costs, including fuel – but that’s before adding depreciation so that you have some money set aside towards buying a replacement bus in a few years’ time.  

If you own a minibus, you and your team will need to:

  • Find a safe place to keep it

  • Arrange safety checks and servicing

  • Arrange MoT, tax and insurance and keep good maintenance records

  • Assess and train potential drivers

  • Keep up to date with legal and technical requirements for running a minibus

  • Raise funds to replace it.

As a rule of thumb, if you will be using a minibus on four or more days a week, it may make sense to own your own.  If you only intend to use a bus on one, two or three days a week, hiring makes much more sense in financial terms and will save a lot of volunteers’ time, allowing you to concentrate on running the service you have planned.  If you do decide to buy your own bus, choose carefully so that it meets your needs and budget.

Hiring a minibus

Minibuses are available to hire from both commercial and community groups and can be hired with or without a driver, who can be paid or voluntary, depending on where you hire from.  You could hire for a one-off or regular trip.  In effect, you only pay for what you use so this is a good way to start a new service on a trial basis, to see how many people use it.   

Case study: Woodley & Crampmoor Friendship Club

Woodley & Crampmoor Friendship Club organises an event at Woodley Village Hall in Romsey twice per month.  The club hires a minibus from Test Valley Community Services (TVCS) to pick up members around Romsey, take them to the village hall for the afternoon meeting, then take them home afterwards.  TVCS provides the minibus and a volunteer driver, who is normally the regular driver for that trip.

It operates under the TVCS Section 19 permit.  The minibus costs £15 for the afternoon booking, plus 60p per mile, so usually works out at about £25 per hire.  Members contribute a nominal amount for their journeys.

The trip is now so popular that the club would like TVCS to provide second vehicle, as demand is beginning to exceed number of seats in the bus (which is a 15-seater)!  There are no wheelchair users but a passenger lift is available should it be required.

Case study: Wellow School

Wellow School has regularly hired two minibuses from TVCS to take a class from Wellow to Totton for swimming.  This can be as frequently as weekly.  The vehicle is driven by two teachers who are MiDAS qualified and have satisfied TVCS about their eligibility to drive the vehicle.  The same charges are applied as in the Woodley example above and is again operated using the TVCS Section 19 permit.

There are three main types of organisation that hire out minibuses:

  • Community Transport schemes operate a pool of minibuses, most of which are accessible, and available for use by voluntary and statutory groups in their area. For more information contact your local schemes (see below).

  • Schools and voluntary/community organisations.  Hampshire County Council has an online Minibus Search facility (see below) where you can search for organisations in your area that have a minibus available for hire. Alternatively, you can directly approach local minibus owners about hiring their minibus. Organisations may be more willing to hire out their minibus if it is to provide a service within their local area.

  • Commercial organisations who have minibuses available for hire can be found in any business directory or search engine.  They may be self-drive hire – or could be coach companies that provide a minibus and driver.

For each minibus trip you will need to have driver. You can either:

  • Provide your own driver (paid or voluntary).  If you do this, you will need to ensure they hold the correct licence to drive a minibus and meet the criteria set by the minibus owner. (For example, they may need to be MiDAS trained).

  • Approach a community transport scheme about providing a driver with the minibus. Some have their own pool of volunteer drivers who are happy to drive for external groups.  Some may be able to provide a paid driver with the minibus, but this will increase the cost of the hire. If a driver is provided, the minibus owner should ensure the driver is appropriately licensed, and has had training such as MiDAS.  A CRB check is recommended if the passengers are children or vulnerable adults.  

Typical costs

Community Transport schemes tend to charge a fixed amount per day or half day, plus a rate per mile. See the Case Study for a typical example.  Other organisations may charge just a mileage rate.  Some charge according to the size of the vehicle, so don’t hire a bus larger than you need.  Costs can also vary depending on the type of trip and the type of organisation hiring the vehicle.

Some organisations may also ask for an insurance deposit, refundable under certain conditions.

The law

  • As a not for profit organisation, if your passengers contribute to the cost of a minibus journey in any way, you will need a Section 19 Standard Permit. If you are hiring a minibus from a Community Transport Scheme, you may be covered by their Permit.  Further detail can be found in the ‘Section 19 Standard Permits for Minibus Operation’ Community Transport Factsheet 4 (see below).

  • Where you are providing the minibus driver, it is vital that you are sure they are correctly licensed. Further details can be found in the Driver Licensing for Minibuses Community Transport Factsheet 1 (see below).

  • Passenger safety:  you have a duty of care to your passengers.  See the ‘Who should wear seatbelts in a Minibus’ Factsheet and the ‘Transporting children safely by Minibus’ Community Transport Factsheet 7 (see below).

Good practice

  • A minibus hire agreement should be provided by the minibus owner.  You should also be provided with information on who you should call if there is an accident, breakdown or other minibus related emergency.

  • Report any damage or wear and tear immediately to the owner.  If you have used items like the first aid kit or fire extinguisher on a vehicle this also needs to be reported so that these items can be replaced before the next time the minibus makes a journey.

  • Returning a minibus with fuel in the tank (or as specified), free of rubbish, in a timely fashion, and paying promptly for its use encourages the owner to continue to allow other organisations to use their minibus.

  • MiDAS (Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme) helps improve minibus safety by working with your organisation to improve driving standards and is recognised across Hampshire.  Many local organisations require drivers of their minibuses to have an up to date MiDAS certificate, including drivers who are driving their minibuses for external organisations.  For more information visit the MiDAS website (see below).

Where to get further advice

Community Transport Schemes operate in most District or Borough Council areas offering accessible minibuses for statutory and voluntary organisations to hire.

Community and Social Care Transport Team
Economy, Transport and Environment Department
Hampshire County Council
Telephone: 01962 846785

Email:  Community.transport@hants.gov.uk
Website: www.hants.gov.uk/passengertransport

Documents and web links

Hampshire County Council’s on line Minibus Search

Community Transport Factsheets produced by Hampshire County Council:
Community Transport Factsheet 1 Download Acrobat Reader to view this PDF 326kb: Driver Licensing for Minibuses
Community Transport Factsheet 4 Download Acrobat Reader to view this PDF 119kb: Section 19 Standard Permits for Minibus Operation
Community Transport Factsheet 5 Download Acrobat Reader to view this PDF 117kb: Who should wear seat belts in a minibus?
Community Transport Factsheet 7 Download Acrobat Reader to view this PDF 169kb: Transporting Children Safely by Minibus

The MiDAS website provides further information on Hampshire’s minibus drivers training scheme.