Touring Strategies: Renting Tour Vehicles


When you are in the start-up phases of establishing a new group, you may not want to make an investment in a touring vehicle. Instead, more pressing items require investment dollars such as promotional packages, photos, and recordings. Rather than increasing the wear and tear on one of the group’s own vehicles, renting a touring vehicle may be the best method of getting around.

In these early stages, the tours may not be more than one or two weeks long, sometimes even four or five days each. These are the perfect situations for renting. I offer some strategies to make your rental experience become more fluid and hassle free.

Before making calls to any rental company, it would be helpful to create an overview of your upcoming tour dates as far into the future as possible. Once you find a company that you like, you can leverage your rental rate if you reserve multiple dates with the company and assure them of ongoing rentals. Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you research the perfect rental company for your group’s needs.

  1. The vehicle size- many companies have mini-vans but do not have cargo vans or a van that will comfortably seat 15 passengers. The reality is that you won’t need to seat 15 passengers, but the normal mini-van leaves very little room for five people with luggage, instruments and equipment. Depending upon your specific requirements, you may have to pass on many favored companies in order to find the vehicle of the appropriate size.

  2. National companies vs. local companies- the value of a national company is evident. If you have a problem with the vehicle on the road, the likelihood of finding a replacement vehicle in small town, USA is greater with a national company. The national companies also are working on volume and have the ability to discount more widely. One of the problems with the large company may be that they are often only located at the airport, depending on where you live. Airport rentals often carry additional airport taxes and surcharges, increasing your daily rate substantially. If you have a chance to rent off-airport, you can sometimes save up to 12% on- airport surcharge taxes depending on the city. For example, if you live in New York City, renting a van in the city is almost impossible and renting at a major New York airport carries huge taxes and surcharges. If you take the time to travel to New Jersey, not only can you find van rentals, but also, the rates are much better.

    When you are touring close to home, using a local company may provide some advantages. You have an opportunity to establish a relationship with the owner. The owner may have more flexibility since they don’t have to answer to corporate headquarters that sets the rates. You may even be able to work out some sponsorship deal with a local owner. If you find a local company that has the appropriate vehicle, make a proposal to them for a sponsorship deal for the next year. They give you the van rent-free; you place their name on all your promotion during the year and mention their name on posters, in articles, and on radio. They get free advertising within their local community where they normally do business, and you get a touring vehicle. Trying this with a national company is possible but more difficult since you have to make proposals through the companies advertising departments or agency. If your tours are regional, a local company has more to gain by creating this sponsorship. Anytime you are building regional support, using regional companies to build your network benefits the communities where you and they live and work. That is a powerful point to make in any proposal for sponsorship.

  3. Make personal contact- whether you have chosen a local company or a national company, after your initial phone conversation, meet the manager or owner in person to make your proposals and discuss your intentions for a working relationship. Get the names and if possible meet the other staff. The manager or owner may not always be available when you arrange for your rentals. Be sure that anyone with whom you deal knows about any special arrangements you have made.

  4. Mileage- is an important consideration. Whenever you can, ask for unlimited mileage. Unless you have calculated the cost per mile to be under the distance you intend to travel, and you will always pay more for rentals without unlimited mileage.

  5. Corporate accounts- are always available even if you are not a legal corporation. Many times, however, corporate accounts carry rates that are higher than the promotional deals often offered. Depending on how often you will be renting, it is worth checking into these rates to establish yourself or your group with a corporate account. Once the account information is entered, you will receive similar treatment each time you rent. Keep in mind, though, that if you meet the manager and set up a profile with the company, having a corporate account may not be necessary and then you are not locked into the corporate rates. You want flexibility along with service.

  6. Advance reservations- is a must if you want to take advantage of any promotional opportunities offered by the company. They often have notice of upcoming promotions. You can always take advantage of larger discounts when making reservations in advance. Once you have established your relationship with the staff at your chosen rental outlet, call there for reservations in other cities at times when you are flying and then renting a vehicle. They will attempt to get you the best deal possible even in a different city. When you reserve in advance, you can always take advantage of full week rates and special weekend promotions.

  7. Last minute reservations- If you find yourself in a situation needing last minute car reservations, you will always get a lower rate when you call the toll-free number for a major rental company and make a reservation. Rates are always higher at the counter without a reservation. So when you land at the airport, go to a payphone, call the toll free number and make a reservation first. Then go to the counter where they can simply pull up the reservation and you will get a much better rate.

  8. Discount cards- can save you money each time you rent. AAA usually saves 15%. If you have frequent flyer airline memberships and you are renting in conjunction with a flight, you can get points. Most of the major car rental companies also offer discount cards that often come with professional memberships. As a member of a number of organizations, my membership card arrived with a discount card from Alamo, Hertz, and Avis. Each was good for a specific time period and had certain restrictions and specific codes identifying the organization. Always mention the discount card you have when making a reservation. They will calculate your rate accordingly and make a note of it on your reservation. When you go to the counter to actually pick up the vehicle, all the discount information will be included. However, you will have to show any discount card at the counter.

  9. Extra insurance- can add a substantial amount to your daily rate. However, you may be comforted knowing you will not have any out of pocket expenses should an accident occur if you accept the additional insurance liability coverage. If you have a Gold or Platinum VISA or Mastercard with a rental provision, it may not be necessary for you to take the extra coverage. Check your credit card information or consider applying for a card that has a rental rider to use for all your vehicle rentals.

  10. Pre-purchase gas- can often save you time, but if you rent from an office in a town where you are familiar with the local gas stations, it may be more cost effective to refill on your own before returning the car. When renting in an unknown area, the pre-pay option is convenient. You don’t have to rush when trying to make a flight even though you may pay a few cents extra and you have to purchase a full tank. Unfortunately, you have to make the decision before taking the car.

  11. Leasing and working with car dealers- is another option when looking for longer-term rentals of larger size vehicles such as vans. When checking for rental companies, include car dealerships. They may have the van you are looking for and be willing to work a lease agreement for those tour plans that are at least one month or more. If you plan on touring consistently throughout the year, you may even discuss a one-year lease. These agreements do restrict mileage, however, and may be a large enough deterrent to send you to a rental company. Read any lease or rental agreement carefully before signing.

    Considering a local car dealership also opens the potential for a sponsorship deal. Here is another opportunity to present a marketing proposal to the dealership in order to compel them to offer a vehicle or reduced lease rate in exchange for advertising on your tour.

    With any rental or lease situation, the fees are tax deductible since the rental is clearly for a business usage. Once the touring becomes regular and there is steady income, it may make more sense to explore purchasing a touring vehicle. Unless someone in the group has the perfect touring vehicle and is willing to offer it for the band’s use, renting an appropriate vehicle for each tour may be the most cost-effective way to travel.

And, I invite you to learn more about this and other topics important to your career development and to sign up for free weekly audio Biz Booster Hot Tip! Every Monday you’ll get another valuable strategy and technique that you can put to use immediately. You’ll find helpful books, career development seminars, Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course and information on booking tours, the music business and performing arts. It’s all waiting for you at Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician’s & Performing Artist’s Guide To Successful Touring, 3rd Edition.

* If you would like to reprint any of these articles, please contact Jeri Goldstein for permission.

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