If you’re in a band and you want to tour then you’re going to need transport. For most bands starting out this takes the form of a splitter van; a vehicle with seats in the front half and an equipment storage area behind a bulkhead at the back. You can either buy one of these or hire one from a rental company.
Buying your own van can be a smart move in the long term. If you tour a lot you will save on rental fees and you also have the convenience of having the transport available and at hand whenever you need it. However, there are a few pitfalls to be wary of and some important considerations to bear in mind.
Get the right vehicle:
If you’re going to buy your own van its really important to get the right vehicle for the job. Often hire companies will sell off vehicles when they renew their fleets and this is an easy way to get hold of a ready built splitter van (expect to pay anywhere from £3000 – £8000 for an ex hire vehicle that is being sold for fleet renewal, depending on age, mileage and general condition). Bear in mind that a van being sold by a hire company will probably have covered a lot of miles and seen a lot of life. So you may want to go down the alternative route of purchasing an empty vehicle and having the seats and bulkhead installed by a third party, usually a specialist coachbuilder (coachbuilders will usually charge between £3000-£6000 to complete this kind of work).
You’ll also need to purchase a vehicle you can legally drive. If you passed your driving test after 1996 then you have the B and B1 categories on your driving license, which means that you can drive a vehicle with a gross weight of up to 3.5 tons and up to 9 passenger seats. Its important to check that the vehicle you purchase fits inside these boundaries to stay legal.
Most hire companies use 9 seat splitter vans based on 3.5 ton Mercedes Sprinters. This is because Mercedes Sprinters are about as reliable as you can get in the van world and have a higher payload than most other vehicles in the 3.5 ton gross weight bracket.
If you buy your own vehicle then its imperative to keep it well maintained. With tax and mot costs you should budget on spending in excess of £1000 per year just keeping the vehicle in good condition with regular servicing and parts replacement. The more miles you do, the more you will need to spend in maintenance. If you skimp on maintenance your van won’t last. Period.
Insuring splitter vans is a bit of a minefield, because they encompass to things the insurance industry really doesn’t like: the music industry and converted vehicles. You should expect to pay in excess of £1000 per year to insure a splitter van legitimately. Most domestic and commercial vehicle insurance policies explicitly exclude use by musicians in their small print, so make sure you check you’re getting the right thing. If you’re in an accident and the policy isn’t right they won’t cover you!
If you don’t want to buy your own van, the UK has a number of specialist splitter van hire companies (of which my company Vans For Bands Ltd is one) from whom you can rent a vehicle. You should expect to pay between £70-£100 plus VAT per day, depending on how high a spec vehicle you want. The benefits are that in return for your money you get a purpose built, well maintained and properly insured vehicle, that is right for the job. Rental vehicles, as a general rule, will tend to be newer and in better condition than the vans most bands can afford to buy themselves (they cost £30,000 plus to buy new and fit out) and as a result they can often present the best way forward for bands who want reliable and comfortable transport and don’t want the responsibility and financial outlay of buying and maintaining their own vehicle.
This is a guest blog post by Tarrant at Vans for Bands who offer splitter tour bus hire for the entertainment industry.
Image Credit: Mindtalk