Drive Scout Blog
Driving school vehicles: What models and equipment do you need?
By: Jackie Kass | Posted in: Operations
July 31, 2017
Many driving school owners are not confident when it comes to choosing and equipping their driving school vehicles. What make and models work best for driving schools? Should you buy used or new? What equipment do you need in the cars? How long should you keep the cars? What equipment do you need on the interior? Finally, what should you put on the outside of your cars? Keep reading because I’ll answer all of your questions about driving school vehicles.
Fleet maintenance is one of the most important aspects of operating a successful driving school. As an owner, you have to make important decisions every day when it comes to your driving school vehicles. Although there are many options, I’d like to share with you my recommendations. After years of trial and error, I think I finally have the answers to your many questions.
What kind of driving school vehicle should you consider?
There really is no right answer here. There are definitely pros and cons of different makes and models. Through the years, I have purchased Nissans, Fords, Hondas and more. In fact, you name it and we’ve probably had it in our fleet at one time or another.
The only car that made the final cut was the Toyota Prius. We ditched the rest and kept the best because maintenance costs are incredibly low, the gas mileage is incredible, and they last! We had Priuses drive easily over 200,000 miles and still run well. My other cars? Well, not so much.
Although I could be the poster owner for the Toyota Prius, the truth is that most Toyota vehicles would be a good choice for your driving school. I’ve also heard good reviews about Honda Civics. Although I highly recommend the Prius, the decision is ultimately yours. The things to consider before purchasing a driving school vehicle are:
- Purchase price
- Maintenance costs
- Gas Mileage
- Safety ratings
- Life of vehicle
Should you buy a new or used driving school vehicle?
If you are a new driving school owner just starting out, I would recommend purchasing a safe, good quality used car. That way, you’re limiting your initial investment while testing out the waters to see if the driving school industry is right for you.
When I opened my doors for the first time, I would scour local auctions, Craig’s List and Auto Trader for my vehicles. This worked initially and saved me thousands of dollars. Obviously, it’s cheaper to buy a used driving school vehicle, but finding a gem among a mountain of lemons takes time and effort.
That’s why buying used doesn’t scale as you grow and open new locations. If your driving school is growing rapidly or you plan to grow soon, I recommend that you buy new vehicles for your fleet. Buying new is easier and requires less time for growing schools.
The best advice I can offer is to find a reputable dealer that can offer perks like extended warranties or discounts. You could even offer to put the dealer’s logo with an active link to their website on your own website. The key to success is to develop a long-standing relationship with a quality car dealer in your community.
Another way to save on new driving school vehicles is to join the Driving School Association of America (DSAA). As a member, you can enjoy discounts on insurance, plus save on merchant services and car buying programs.
DSAA member benefits:
- Exclusive Insurance program with significant savings on business and car insurance
- Savings on merchant services through Transnational Bankcard
- Free subscription to a print-copy of The Dual News, DSAA’s official newsletter
- Advocacy through State/Provincial and National Governments
- Relationship building with others in the driving school and traffic safety industries
- Member discounts on all DSAA events
Head to the DSAA website to start saving. It’s definitely worth joining DSAA to take advantage of the new car discounts.
How long should you keep your driving school vehicle?
When determining how long to keep your driving school vehicle, the #1 priority is safety. In fact, safety is paramount. You never want to push the car to run longer than it should. By doing so, you are risking the safety of your students and opening your driving school to potential liability. If in doubt, pull it out!
The second priority is appearance. It may seem cliché, but you only get one chance to make a good first impression. You want your community to see clean, sharp-looking cars on the road. When your car(s) starts looking like it’s seen better days, consider replacing it.
From my own experience, I can keep good-looking, properly maintained cars on the road. I fully expect to get 150,000-200,000 miles out of them because we maintained regular maintenance schedules. I have even teamed up with a local car wash. For mentions in blog posts, I received a stash of free car wash coupons for my fleet. If I can do this, you can too.
So, when is it time to sell your driving school vehicle?
I don’t adhere to the policy of driving a car until the wheels fall off. If you’re spending a ton of money on repairs, it’s time to sell it. I really, really don’t recommend keeping a vehicle until it dies. It’s simply not safe and you’re putting your driving school at risk. If it doesn’t run right, keep it out of sight. Out with the old and in with the new.
What equipment do you need in your driving school vehicle?
Some schools and states don’t require it, but I definitely recommend having a second rear view mirror in all of your driving school vehicles. As an instructor, it’s an absolute must! Extra brake and accelerator pedals are also necessities because safety should always be your top priority and #1 concern.
We used DualBrake.com to purchase our rear view mirrors, plus extra brakes and accelerators. This driver education supply company has always been reliable and offers competitive prices. There are other vendors as well, so do your research before picking the one that’s right for your driving school.
What should you put on the exterior of your driving school vehicle?
Magnets are temporary and cheap looking. Car toppers shout pizza delivery. Your driving school vehicle is your best marketing tool, so why not take full advantage of it? Think about it for a second. Your car is a moving billboard that travels through every corner of your community. You want it to look GREAT and promote your driving school to potential customers.
I’m still amazed when I see nondescript driving school vehicles on the road. The phone number might be there, but it’s too small for even 20/20 eyes to read. Where are the logo and brand image? They should be prominent, visible and easily recognized.
On the flip side of the coin, too much information is almost as bad as not enough. According to Blue Line Media, an effective billboard gets its message across in no more than 7 words. Your driving school vehicle is a moving billboard, so don’t overload it with too much copy.
About four years ago, we started creating our brand image by selecting specific PMS colors, fonts, etc. This image was integrated into our website, in all of our online and print communications AND on all of our cars. I found a great printing company that developed a fantastic wrap for our driving school vehicles. And guess what? Our cars STOOD OUT.
I don’t mind spending a bit of money on these fantastic wraps. They worked for us and they will work for you too.
The wraps include our logo, phone number and website address. That’s it. Not too much, not too little. Just right! How do I know that they work? Because our cars generated calls and website visits. They are your best chance to put your best foot forward in your community, so be sure to spend a bit extra on high quality wraps.
In review: Driving school vehicles
So, there you have it. I hope I’ve answered all of your questions. Below are my tips when it comes to driving school vehicles.
- Consider purchasing a Toyota Prius (or any Toyota)
- New schools should purchase quality used vehicles
- Growing schools should purchase new vehicles and develop a relationship with a dealer
- Become a member of DSAA for a variety of discounts
- Don’t run cars until they die. Replace beforehand to limit liability.
- Install a 2nd rear view mirror, plus an extra brake and accelerator
- Wrap all of your driving school vehicles. Be sure to include your logo, phone number and web address