Many of the people who visit our site have never booked a coach or bus with a driver in Spain before. To make the hire process more transparent, RentAutobus have created this page to explain how Spanish coach and mini bus rental companies calculate their bids and what you may see in their online offers. We hope that this short guide will help you plan and negotiate a coach hire in Spain that meets your travel needs and fits within your budget.
How coach and minibus hire prices in Spain are calculated
Clients often ask us how coach hire companies in Madrid calculate the value of their trips. It’s quite simple. Once the companies receive your travel plan they break it down into variables from which they calculate their base costs. From that they calculate their offer to you.
Let’s have a look at how the calculation is usually done.
a) Number and size of coaches needed
Normally your group size determines the number of coaches needed. You will want to consider your group size from the outset and put a limit on registrations as even one extra person might mean that you are obliged to hire a larger, or even a second coach, thus raising costs substantially. Similarly, if you are travelling with a smaller group you might be as comfortable in an economical minibus as in large coach.
Your destination and tour plans in Spain can also affect the size and number of coaches you need. Your group of 50 passengers might fit comfortably into one large coach but if that coach cannot drive through the narrow streets of an old city centre, you might need 5 minivans. Or, for another example, minivans are also needed to drive down to the small cala’s or beaches on the rocky coast of Menorca and Mallorca.
b) The route and distance for the mini-bus
Fuel charges for the trip are based on the distance to be travelled. Most coach hire companies in Spain calculate their distance charges (fuel included) at €0.80 to €1.20 per kilometre depending on the type of vehicle. Some companies do not charge for distance when the tour is short, for example tours of the centre city area.
Minibus from Autocares Carmona in Málaga
c) Driver time: driving the bus and waiting time
For point-to-point trips, thecost of having a coach with a private driver is usually calculated as the time the driver is actually at the wheel from the time the bus pulls away from the depot till it returns. But when a group is visiting a number of places with lots of stops, driver wait time is considered, as is driver overtime for early departures and late returns to your lodging. A third scenario is hiring a coach and driver for extended trips that span several days with the driver sleeping away from home.
The cost of a driver also reflects vehicle type, day of the week and time of day. Driving on Sundays and late in the night will raise the total cost. For longer trips, the driver will expect all meals and a good night's rest in a decent hotel room.
Spanish law regulates the driving and resting times for coach drivers. If your tour covers long distances or has programmes that start at 08:00 and end at midnight, you would need a second driver to comply with the law.
d) Extra costs like highway toll, parking and meals for the driver
If you are planning a simple day trip, there are few extra costs beyond parking to keep in mind. If, however, you are planning a multiple day and multiple destination trip the extra costs can add up to a large part of the transportation cost. Highway tolls, parking fees, driver meals, and driver lodging are added to the cost of the vehicle hire.
These are the factors that go into the bid preparation but not all of them will show up on the bid document. For example, the cost of the vehicle and the driver are often merged into a single amount. There is no fixed rule about this. Some companies might charge just for the distance and other companies for both distance and driver time.
Midibus from Transbuca in Barcelona
Two sample coach hire calculations for a day trip
Let's image you have a group of 25 persons going for a day trip. So you need to hire a coach in and around Barcelona, leaving at 10:00 and returning to the hotel at 19:00 hours, 250 kilometres.
Sample coach/minibus calculation 1
The price calculation based on hours only might look like this:
Driver time (includes coach hire) = 9 hours x €40 = €360.00
Parking fee for parking near restaurant = €20.00
Highway tolls for the day = € 65.00
Total price excluding VAT = €445.00
VAT at 10% = €44.50
Total including VAT is €489.50
In above calculation the coach hire company charged for the driver's time but not the distance travelled.
Sample coach/minibus calculation 2
The price calculation for the same trip based but including a travel distance charge might look as this:
Driver time (including coach hire) = 9 hours x €25 = € 225.00
KM’s driven = 250 x €0.90 = €225.00
Parking fee for parking near restaurant = €20.00
Highway tolls = €65.00
Total excluding VAT: €535.00
VAT at 10% = €53.50
Total including VAT = €588.50
What other criteria influence coach hire prices in Spain?
Minimum charge. Some bus rental companies, have a minimum amount to leave the garage. If the base calculation for your tour is low, say under €175, the minimum fee is charged instead.
The dates of travel: The coach and bus hire sector is highly seasonal with large differences in price between high and low seasons. The best prices are usually found in January, just after the Christmas Holiday season. You will certainly pay the most if you try to do a last minute booking in the weeks leading up to Easter. At that time year practically all coaches in Spain have been booked months in advance.
The level of luxury. There are understandable differences in cost between a basic coach with no toilet and no video and a coach with leather seats with extra legroom, free WiFI, and individual onboard entertainment systems.
Highways tolls. Most highways in Spain are toll roads and tolls can add up quickly. You can ask the coach hire company to suggest a different route which might involve a small detour but will save on highway tolls.
Parking related fees. Parking is free at some sites but near tourist attractions parking can be costly. If your group is staying in a hotel in the city centre, secure coach parking might be some distance away meaning that your driver must take a taxi to and from his lodgings.
Book in advance. To make the best deal, plan your trip well in advance and confirm your reservation with a cash bond. Your early reservation reassures the fleet owner that vehicles will be in use. If you try to reserve later, when the level of demand is known, the fleet owner is less likely to give a discounted rate. Last minute bookings might get lucky with an extra low price, but there is the risk of not getting the right vehicle type or getting no coach at all!
Repeat customers. As in any business, you are more likely to get a discount if you are a repeat customer. Travel agents and tour operator should try to use the same hire companies on a regular basis and ask for special prices for their bus rentals.
Large or small coach company. Sometimes small companies are less expensive than large companies. The coach hire sector in Spain is largely composed of small, family-run companies. It is very common for family members act as daytime drivers, tour guides, and sales people, and then work again as office staff in the evening hours when all vehicles are back in the garage. These small companies don’t have a department for every subtask or if they do they often don’t calculate double salaries for the extra roles they play. Their price is often based on a flat kilometre and chauffeur calculation. However, small companies may offer fewer services and might have a hard time organizing a replacement coach in case of a breakdown.
Specialisation of the coach operator. A coach hire company specialized in tours and transfers for tourism might be willing to give you a better deal in their local low season. We stress the word ‘local’ here because low season in the very hot months of July and August in Madrid is different from the low season for coach hire in Barcelona. Malaga is a start and end point for many Andalusian tours originating at its international airport. The combination of this hub function together with the mild climate and nearby beaches keeps Malaga coach companies busy year-round.
Empty segments and buses at rest: Sometimes a coach company drives a group on a one-way trip. When this happens, the empty return trip is calculated in the quote for the hire. If another trip request turns up that would fill the return trip, the company can sell a bus that has been already paid for. The price for this subsidized hire can be much more competitive.
Sometimes coaches are parked waiting a few days for a group to continue the trip. These resting buses offer an excellent cost-savings opportunity.
Actively matching empty trip segments and resting buses with new requests is one of the products that RentAutobus will soon offer our associated companies and clients.
Hiring a bit further away. If you plan a tour around Andalusia you might consider hiring a coach from an inland coach operator specialized in transporting school groups. The company might give you a special deal if you book during the school holiday "low" season.
Regional differences. Coach hire companies from one province or autonomous region in Spain can often compete on price with transport companies from other regions because local trade unions make different and separate deals on chauffeur pay rates.
To VAT or not to VAT. Transport contracts paid in cash and without any written invoice are still common in some regions of Spain. Not paying VAT saves the customer a 10% and the transport company some ‘off the record’ income. An entirely legal approach to dodge VAT is to hire your coach in the country next door because companies are not obliged to charge VAT for trips or tours driven outside their home country. You would probably be better off hiring a coach from Portugal than from France, though.
Calculation mistakes. Many Spanish coach hire companies are family businesses that have family members driving during the day. These drivers use their legally required periodic rest periods to send quotes from their Smartphones. These quotes often are calculated by hand and can reflect mistakes made when adding up the totals. This can sometimes work in your favour.
We hope that the information on this page and the sample calculations have given you some insights on how the prices for coaches and minibus hires in Spain are developed. Let us know if it was helpful by using the comments section.
For coach hire companies in Spain
If you own a coach hire company in Spain and you think we have forgotten any important points, contact us and we’ll be pleased add them to this page, or you can post them on the blog page on this website. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
Coach from Elegant Bus in Madrid
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