When you have a special occasion in the works, whether it’s a birthday, bachelor/bachelorette party, or prom, hiring a party bus can add another layer of fun and take the pressure off driving (or finding a designated driver if the party-goers plan to drink).
Party bus rental costs can vary based on the time of the year, the size of the bus, and your required amenities, among other considerations. Since pricing and packages tend to vary from one party bus company to the next, it’s always best to call a few companies to compare prices.
We’ve assembled the average prices nationwide and provided you with tips for understanding the process below.
Typical Party Bus Prices
Party bus rental fees vary widely based on the size of the vehicle you rent. You can expect the price to be at least $100-$300 per hour if you are requesting a classic or vintage vehicle, or if you need a model that can carry up to 30 passengers. The national average for party bus rentals is $580. Alternatively, how much it costs to rent a limousine will vary based on your location, the time of the week, and whether or not you want a luxury package (say for prom or a wedding), with a standard limo rental starting at approximately $65-$100 per hour.
Many companies offer package deals for specific kinds of festivities. That’s great to keep costs down if you are looking for certain amenities like a mini-bar, satellite television, food, or Wi-Fi. Wedding packages may include a ‘Just Married’ sign, champagne, and flowers. Bachelor and bachelorette parties may even include concierge services, which often includes the party bus operator planning the itinerary by partnering with various local entertainment venues.
Questions to Ask Before Booking
How Do You Arrive at Your Pricing?
Many companies charge by the hour for their services. Be sure to ask when the clock starts: is it when the bus leaves the garage, or when it arrives to pick you up? Companies that charge by the hour may require you to purchase a minimum number of hours. Fuel costs are often built into the package price, but don’t assume this. Ask the company if there will be additional charges for gasoline.
Keep in mind that pricing often varies according to the time of the year you rent a party bus. Summertime is wedding season, and spring is when proms happen. New Year’s Eve and all major holidays are also very busy times for party bus operators.
If your quoted rate is hourly, make sure to ask what amenities are included, and what may be extra, including the food and drink you want.
What Amenities and Services are Available?
Many party bus companies offer a host of amenities, such as food, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), satellite television, laser light show, music, and decorations. Look for a company that specializes in the type of event you are having to maximize the chances of getting everything you want. Don’t be afraid to make a special request if a particular amenity isn’t on the operator’s current menu.
Party bus operators often have partnerships with various local entertainment venues. So whether you want to do a bar crawl, attend a concert, visit wineries, or have a sweet 16 scavenger hunt, ask the company if they have any recommendations for your special event.
Are You Appropriately Insured?
Party bus operators are required to be insured for liability, and that cost is usually built into the price of the service. You should still have a conversation with the operator to discuss who will be liable if there’s an accident or someone gets hurt. Even if you are asked to sign a waiver of liability, know that you can challenge the operator in court if the worst happens. The waiver usually doesn’t stand up if there is negligence on the part of the company. However, when alcohol is involved, the party-goers can bear the responsibility if unsafe behavior results in injuries.
What are the Policies on Smoking, Drinking, and Eating?
You can expect to be charged for damages if the vehicle is soiled or damaged in any way and if you engaged in any activity that is not allowed by the party bus company. Smoking is banned in most vehicle rentals, as we’ve reported. In most cases, party bus companies will charge a fee if smoking occurs inside the vehicle. Eating and drinking aboard a moving vehicle also increases the likelihood of spills. While enjoying food and drink is often a part of any party, be sure that these activities are clearly outlined in the contract, and whether there is a surcharge for cleaning the bus afterward.
Are There Any Additional Costs?
Sometimes party bus operators charge in the range of $15-30 for additional stops. Consider asking your guests to arrive at a central location to save money in this case. Ask about the fuel surcharge. In many cases, fuel is calculated as a percentage of the rental fee. However, there are companies who pre-authorize an amount and then rebate any unused portion at the end of the rental.
Don’t forget to consider parking fees and tolls. Food and drink may also cost extra, and you may or may not be allowed to bring those items yourself. Finally, make sure the cost of the driver is included in your quote and ask if the driver’s gratuity is built into the price.
What Provisions Are in Place for Underage Riders?
In the case of prom parties, the riders will be underage and alcohol is strictly prohibited. Does the company monitor the items brought on board by the guests? You may also want to consider how some amenities could affect the celebration. For example, parents may not want their children’s party bus to include a stripper pole or satellite TV with access to adult channels.
What is the Deposit Requirement?
There will be a deposit required at the time of booking. Most companies charge anywhere from 20-50%, although it is not unusual for companies to require the full amount up front. If you are at all uncertain about the date of your event, try to negotiate a lower deposit or play it safe and wait to reserve the vehicle.
Can I Get That in Writing?
The best way to protect yourself as a consumer is to fully understand the terms and conditions of the contract. While most party bus companies operate legitimate, trustworthy businesses, there are some scams out there that over-promise and under-deliver. When you have the deal in writing, you have a much stronger recourse if the service does not meet your expectations.
Top Tips for Finding What You Need
- Book well in advance. Reserve the party bus as soon as you have a firm date for the event, particularly during the busy seasons.
- Go with a slightly bigger bus than you think you need. Capacity ratings are based on an average-sized adult of no more than 150 pounds, so reserving a bit more space can help give that sense of luxury. Keep in mind that you will not be allowed to overload a vehicle due to insurance concerns, so if you think additional guests may attend, go bigger.
- Be prepared to tip your driver 10-20% of the total rental price, if the tip is not included in the cost. Some companies do include an automatic gratuity, so be sure to ask about this before tipping. You may also want to provide the driver with an additional tip on top of the automatic gratuity if the service exceeded your expectations.
How to Get the Best Price
- Sometimes you can get a lower rate on an older vehicle. Ask specific questions about the make, model, and year of the vehicle you’re renting and, if possible, ask to see the vehicle before booking. You can also ask for photos and a written guarantee that you’ll get the vehicle you discussed at the time of booking.
- As with many services, the lowest price isn’t always the best value. Sometimes operators are under-insured or don’t maintain their fleet appropriately. Check with the Better Business Bureau before you book.
- It doesn’t hurt to ask what discounts may be available, and to try and negotiate a package price if you are requesting additional amenities.
- Choose your route carefully. If multiple stops cost extra, or a fuel surcharge will be assessed, take the time to plan an itinerary that will cover the shortest distance and include the fewest number of stops.
- Overage costs on hourly rentals can be very expensive, so consider going for a flat rate package for the whole day if you aren’t sure how much time you’ll need.
- If your event allows, considering reserving the bus for a weekday. Weekend rates are always more.
- Go directly to the source. Many booking sites are actually national brokers who add about 25% to the total price of the rental. Call local businesses directly to avoid this additional fee.