by Melanie Magness
Hiring a limousine is a guaranteed way to give your wedding or bar/bat mitzvah some extra flair. However, if your limousine service is poor, the luxury will pale. Imagine your dismay if the vehicle that arrives on the big day is dirty, in bad repair, poorly maintained, or even dangerous! There are plenty of reliable, well-established limousine companies out there, but there are also plenty of unethical, fly-by-night operations. By taking the time to ask the following questions when you are choosing your limousine service, you can avoid dealing with disaster on your special day.
First of all, how can you narrow down your choices to exclude the companies that are real losers? These questions will help:
- How long has the company been in business?
Can they provide references from past clients? Is the company a member of the local Better Business Bureau?George Raines, of Z Best Limousine Services, Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland, advises clients to also visit the state Public Service Commission web site. Legitimate companies are required by law to fully insure their vehicles and maintain proper permits. Compliance is regulated by the PSC. Says Raines, “Check out www.psc.state.md.us to see current records that will tell you all about the company you are considering.”
- Is the company a member of any industry associations?
Usually, to be a member of a professional association, a company must keep to a certain standard. Memberships in local livery associations or in the National Limousine Association are a good indicator that you are dealing with a reliable, professional service.
- What determines the cost?
When choosing your limousine service, bear in mind that price alone is not a good indicator of the best deal. The cost of a limousine is usually determined by the age of the vehicle, its size, the number of passengers being transported, the travel distance, the time of the year and even the day of the week. “During prom season, for example, which runs from mid-April to late May,” Raines states, “There are only seven Fridays and seven Saturdays. Those days are going to be extremely busy.”
- What does the price include?
Are there extra fees, such as sales tax, gratuities, drinks and food?
- Is there a signed contract?
If a company is unwilling to provide one, keep looking! A signed contract protects your reservation from being dropped at the last minute for a higher paying fare.
- How many vehicles does the company own?
Is there is a contingency plan in case the limousine you’ve hired breaks down? If so, make sure you have it in writing in your contract.
- How does the company handle overflow?
Will they transfer your contract to a partner company if theirs is overbooked for that day?According to George Raines, “Everyone in our industry works collectively as a team—when we’re overbooked, we will usecompanies in the area that we’ve done business with before. We know that their quality is up to our standards and that they are licensed with the state PSC.”
- Will the company provide proof of insurance?
Limousine companies are required to maintain insurance on their vehicles. The industry average for insurance coverage is $1.5 million, although many companies offer higher coverage.
Now that you’ve identified the more reliable limousine services, use these questions to help you narrow down your final selection:
- Does the company offer the vehicle style that best meets your needs?
When deciding on the body style you seek, consider your budget and the number of passengers you will be transporting. Will you need a town car? Stretch limo? SUV? Limo Bus?
- How many seatbelts are available for passengers?
Companies will tell you how many passengers their vehicle will seat, but keep in mind that there is a big difference between having your guests squeezed in tightly together versus having the space to sit comfortably. The number of seatbelts in the vehicle will give you a much clearer idea of the actual number of passengers the vehicle was designed to carry. Beware the company that tells you otherwise.
- Will the company show you the vehicle you are renting?
Are they willing to send you pictures, or allow you to stop by to see the car? If you are viewing pictures on a web site, make sure the pictures are of the actual limo you will be getting, not a generic stock photo.”Really, for the customer, it’s about going to see the cars,” advises Raines. “It’s easy for someone to sell you on the phone; you can’t see anything. We always encourage our clients to come to the lot and let them see the vehicles for themselves. Half the time, people will take a look at the size of the vehicle they think they want, then go for the larger car when they realize their guests will be more comfortable.”
- What is the age and condition of the vehicle?
Stretch limousines are expensive to maintain and repair. To avoid these costs, some companies will put off repairs until they are unavoidable. You certainly don’t want a vehicle that will break down on the way to your event!
- How are cars prepared for hire?
You want to make sure the limo will be cleaned, inside and out. Are the lights, television, radio, and other amenities checked to ensure that they are working? Is the glassware cleaned? Are snacks and drinks restocked?
- Are there signs on the vehicle?
You probably don’t want your limo covered with advertising logos. If there are signs, where are they located? How visible are they?
- How does the company select chauffeurs?
Are the drivers trained to carry out the luxury of the car by being courteous and professional? Are they licensed to drive in your state? How are drivers screened for drug use?
Finally, before you’ve signed the contract, be sure it includes the company’s deposit and cancellation policy. If you have to cancel, will you be able to get your deposit back in full? Don’t forget to find out about final payments as well—will a check for the balance on the day of the event be all right, or do you need to have everything pre-paid?
The way a limousine company handles your questions is an excellent indicator of their professionalism and approach to customer service. Steer clear of the company that is unwilling or unable to give you the information you need. Look for a company that gives you informative and courteous answers to your questions. If you get quality customer service when are selecting your limousine, you can reasonably expect the same high level of service as you celebrate your special day in style.