Category Archives: Minibus Hire

Worried about driving a minibus? Don’t be: they drive “like a luxury car” says one taxi firm boss

Cresta Cars Mercedes-Benz Vito taxi

One of Cresta Cars’ new Mercedes-Benz Vito 8-seater taxis

If you’re thinking about hiring a minibus but are worried about having to drive one, then the comments of Manchester taxi firm boss Julian Barnes, who runs 350-vehicle firm Cresta Taxis, suggest you needn’t be.

Mr Barnes recently added five new 8-seater Mercedes-Benz Vito minibuses to Cresta’s fleet, and says that they drive “more like a luxury car than a van”, with good handling and manoeuvrability.

Mr Barnes also commented that fuel economy was impressive for a large vehicle — Cresta’s Vitos are bigger than usual, as the firm chose the extra-long body option in order to allow for plenty of luggage room as well as flexible seating space.

Merc’s legendary brand image is also having an effect: according to Mr Barnes, the new Vitos have already generated new business and are “so smart they’re effectively acting as mobile advertisements for themselves”. I’ve commented on the power of the Mercedes brand before: the Stuttgart firm’s commercial vehicles inspire incredible loyalty in some operators.

What about larger minibuses?

New Fiat Ducato minibusOf course, an 8-seater is a relatively small minibus, as a minibus is defined as a vehicle with between 8 and 16 passenger seats. At the larger end of the scale, 12, 15 and 17-seater minibuses (including the driver in this seat count) are definitely more van-like, but are still far easier to drive than many hire customers expect.

This is because over the last few years, van and minibus manufacturers have gone to a lot of effort to make their vehicles more like cars: all current models have modern, dash-mounted gear sticks, smaller steering wheels with power steering, excellent mirrors and comfortable driving positions.

When driving, you’ll also notice that modern minibus brakes are very effective, while the current generation of diesel engines are very powerful and easy to drive, with plenty of power for any situation and reasonable fuel economy.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is the size — these are still fairly large vehicles, but to help you adjust to this we’ve produced a simple guide to driving a van for the first time that’s also completely relevant for minibuses.

Finally, if you do need to hire a minibus before Christmas, I’d recommend booking soon: the hectic Christmas and New Year party season can mean that availability becomes limited once we hit December. To get started, click here to compare self-drive minibus hire prices in your area.

Nissan Launches Facelifted NV200 London Taxi Conversion

Nissan NV200 London TaxiNissan’s plans to launch a London tax model based on its NV200 van (or ‘multi-purpose platform’, to use the company’s preferred description) are no secret. The company first showcased a working model back in August 2012, but things have changed a bit since then.

According to Nissan, it received feedback from the London Mayor’s office and Transport for London which sent the firm’s designers scurrying back to their drawing boards to change the way the taxi looks.

Designers at Nissan’s European design centre in Paddington have drawn on styling cues from the current TX1 cab in an effort to persuade passengers and cabbies that their vehicle belongs on London’s streets. Although the NV200 taxi is also destined for use in Barcelona, New York and Tokyo, the firm will produce a London-specific version in an effort to provide the required look.

Among the specific changes that have been made to the front of the NV200 taxi are:

  • Round headlamps and a re-modelled grille mirroring the traditional black cab ‘face’
  • LED lighting to improve visibility of the traditional taxi sign
  • Completely new front bumper panels

Design Excellence Manager at NDE, Darryl Scriven, said:

“Having already overcome the unique technical challenges presented by the development of a new Hackney Carriage for London ahead of our launch of the vehicle in August 2012, we turned our attention to making the vehicle look the part.

“The Mayor’s office and taxi drivers were very keen that we maintain the character of the Hackney Carriage, making it something that people in the city can be proud of.

“The main challenges were concerned with making sure customers can easily recognise it as a taxi. Being in London, we were able to go out and talk to cabbies about what was important to them as well as look at the vehicle from a customer’s viewpoint. It’s unusual for us to be able to work on something as bespoke as this, specifically for one location in the world and we are very proud to have been asked to do so.”

Nissan intends to put the NV200 Taxi for London on sale in the Capital in December 2014, followed by an all-electric version, the e-NV200, in 2015. From launch, the new taxi will be available with a 1.6-litre petrol engine equipped with an automatic gearbox. Compared to current diesel London taxis, this engine will be far cleaner, with lower levels of NOx and particulates.

Europcar Boosts 8-Seater Fleet To Avoid Driver CPC Requirement

Europcar logoOn 10th September 2013, new rules came into effect in the UK for drivers of vehicles with nine or more passenger seats. Drivers are now required to hold a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) if they are engaged in driving such vehicles for hire or reward or for other commercial purposes.

These new requirements affect the ability of charities and other organisations to use minibuses, as many of their drivers may be being paid (hence ‘hire and reward’) but may not hold a current CPC, which requires a minimum number of hours of professional development study each year and must be renewed every five years.

The CPC requirement does not apply to vehicles with eight or fewer passenger seats, and so Europcar has introduced a new vehicle group which is exempt from the CPC rules – comprising a range of vehicles that provide seating for a maximum of 8 passengers, including MPVs and small minibuses. Europcar does also offer a larger minibuses of up to 17 seats, for which a CPC is required, in a seperate vehicle group.

Ken McCall, Managing Director of Europcar UK Group, says that the firm’s objective is to help ensure its customers stay compliant with the CPC rules but are able to carry out their normal business without necessarily being dependent on CPC-qualified drivers:

“We know how important it is for public sector organisations and charities to be able to access vehicles to help people in their local communities”, explained Ken McCall, Managing Director, Europcar UK Group.  “We were very concerned that the new CPC regulations may limit these services if it wasn’t easy for our customers to select the right size vehicle, particularly where a driver may not have a CPC.

“Whilst we fully understand the objectives of the new CPC, there are a number of occasions when a smaller vehicle will suffice and will not, therefore, require the driver to comply with the new rules.”

Under the new rules, professional drivers including lorry and bus and coach drivers and minibus drivers, must hold a CPC, as well as their driving licence, which is renewable every 5 years. The CPC aims to improve the knowledge and skills of lorry, bus and coach drivers, to enhance road safety. For more information, visit the gov.uk Driver CPC website.

Minibus Hire Price Comparison from VanRental.co.uk

Did you know that vanrental.co.uk also offers price comparison for self-drive minibus and MPV hire all over the UK?

Although our roots are in van hire, we’ve expanded our reach over the years since our launch in 2007, and can now offer price comparison for minibus hire, too, covering 7-seater MPVs and 8, 9, 12, 15 and 17-seater minibuses.

You can find our minibus hire search engine on the minibus page, which is linked from the main website navigation (top left):

Minibus hire on vanrental.co.uk

Once you’re there, we’ve provided several useful guides to minibus hire — or if you know what you want, you can get straight down to action by entering your requirements into our search box (it’s exactly the same as our van hire search box):

Minibus hire search box on vanrental.co.uk

After that, just click the search button and you will be taken to your results page, where you can choose from a selection of MPV and minibus hire options, ranging from 7 – 17 seats.

Remember — we don’t add anything on to the prices provided by the hire companies, which are live, real-time quotes directly from their booking systems.

Minibus hire price comparison results on vanrental.co.uk

And that’s it! Once you’ve made your choice, click on the pink Go! button and you will be taken to the hire company’s website (we don’t take bookings) to finish your quote and make your bookings.

Any questions? Send us a tweet @vanrentaluk, leave a comment below, or drop us an email.

Is The Carisma Viano The World’s Most Luxurious Minibus?

Carisma Mercedes-Benz Viano conversion

The Carisma Mercedes-Benz Viano conversion

The Mercedes-Benz Viano is pretty well specified in its standard form, and offers car-like levels of comfort and sophistication for up to eight passengers.

However, that’ s not enough for some people, and the new Carisma Viano conversion will provide the UK’s minibus hire operators with a blue riband standard which should work well for Prime Ministers, pop stars and organised crime bosses in need of a mobile office…

Inside, there are no limits — although I imagine the costs are pretty high. Each vehicle is bespoke, as Carisma explains:

The Carisma Auto Design conversion of the Mercedes-Benz Viano provides unlimited scope for the client’s individual choice of exotic materials, audio and visual equipment and made to measure interior design and configuration limited only by their imagination.

Carisma Viano interior

An example of a possible Carisma Viano interior, featuring large screen — 42″ is possible.

Amongst the promises Carisma makes its customers are that the leather it uses will be sourced from barbed-wire free environments, to ensure it is free from imperfections.

Real wood veneers, hand-crafted joinery and Bang & Olufsen audio equipment are all standard, as Sales and Marketing Director, Carisma Auto Design, Clive Drake explains:

“The Mercedes-Benz Viano conversion is our flagship model, as it is the ultimate in discreet luxury travel.

Many of our clients are high-profile heads of states, celebrities or important business people, it is therefore not always possible for them to travel around in a conspicuous luxury limousine, however they still want the luxury and comfort that is provided by such a vehicle, this is where the Viano from Carisma comes in.

Amongst the features recently requested by Carisma’s clients have been solid crystal ash trays and champagne flutes, integrated premium pen sets with tailored housing, customised seat embroidery, 42” televisions and refrigeration units.

All these and much, much, more have all been tastefully hand crafted into vehicles over Colchester-based Carisma Auto Design’s 14 year history.

Carisma Mercedes Viano interior

Another example of the interior of a Carisma Viano conversion.

Carisma’s range isn’t limited to the Viano, either. It also offers bespoke conversions of Mercedes’ über-expensive 4×4, the G-Wagon, the Land Rover Defender, and the Volkswagen T5. For more information and some great pictures, visit www.carismaautodesign.com.

500 Volkswagen Caravelles Can’t Be Wrong!

Titan Travel 500th Volkswagen Caravelle

Titan Travel's 500th Volkswagen Caravelle

If you like something, then stick with it — that’s the approach taken by cruise holiday company Titan Travel, who have just taken delivery of their 500th Volkswagen Caravelle.

Titan’s current fleet of 140 Caravelles is used to take transport customers in comfort between their home and their cruise departure points.

The vehicles typically cover 50,000 miles a year each, making the total annual mileage of Titan’s fleet around seven million miles.  They are all silver and replaced every three years at around 150,000 miles, while this year Titan expects to increase its fleet to 200 Caravelles.

“We use the Caravelle exclusively because it provides our clients with the best possible levels of comfort and space, as well as being a stylish and reliable vehicle,” said Dan Whitehouse, Titan’s Marketing Director.

With twin sliding doors to ease entry and exit, the Caravelle is a no-compromise people carrier with space for up to six passengers.  The two middle seats can swivel to face the rear to create a sociable lounge environment in the rear compartment, while all rear seats slide on a runner system to offer the flexibility to increase space for passengers or luggage as required.

Alastair Hemmings, National Fleet Manager, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “The Titan fleet is a great testament to the image, durability and affordable quality of the Caravelle, and we have been delighted to work in partnership with such a loyal and happy customer for so long.”

Remember, you can compare prices for self-drive minibus hire throughout the UK using our unique comparison system — click here to get started.

A Minibus With Limousine Luxury? VW Thinks So

Volkswagen Caravelle BusinessThe Volkswagen Caravelle has been around for decades — and its predecessor, the Samba, is considerably older than I am.

It’s never been the last word in luxury, though — until now. Volkswagen has just launched a new version of its evergreen seven seater minibus, the Caravelle Business.

Seating has been cut down to four rear passengers plus one front passenger (ideal for your secretary…) and the driver, but luxury has been cranked up to full executive transport levels. According to VW, it’s “designed to be a mobile conference room with state of the art technology, including Wi-Fi internet connectivity and Bluetooth”.

The rear lounge configuration includes four individual seats and an adjustable table.  Like every Caravelle, the two middle seats swivel to face forwards or backwards, but the Business is upgraded with the full ‘wood and leather’ treatment. The upholstery is Nappa leather and the usual rear bench seat is replaced by an twin seat console which is multi-adjustable and heated with an integrated fridge between the seats.

Volkswagen Caravelle Business interiorThe interior of the Caravelle Business is enhanced with elegant burr wood inserts in the rear passenger compartment, plus the added safety of curtain airbags, while for the driver’s convenience there is cruise control, satellite navigation with 6.5 in colour screen and 30GBhard drive, a leather multi-function steering wheel, lane change assist to warn of vehicles in the driver’s blind spot, and a programmable heater to ensure the interior can always be ready at the desired temperature.

A second battery with cut-off relay ensures the rear seating area can be powered independently.

Externally, Volkswagen describes the Caravelle Business as “discreet yet stylish”. In other words, it has the pimped look that’s so popular these days: privacy glass, 17in alloy wheels, darkened rear light clusters, electrically folding door mirrors and a laminated windscreen for improved noise damping.

More practically, it also has front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera and Xenon headlights with automatic activation, LED daytime running lights, headlamp washer system and heated front washer jets, while electric sliding side doors provide easy access and exit for rear passengers.

Naturally, a vehicle like this needs a decent engine, and VW is not short of fast diesel engines. The Caravelle Business is powered by the company’s most powerful 2.0-litre 180PS bi-turbo TDI engine.  This Euro 5 engine delivers 400 Nm of torque from 1,500 rpm, has DSG (automated) transmission as standard and will manage 34.9 mpg on the combined cycle with Co2 emissions of 214 g/km.

The Caravelle Business is now on sale with retail prices starting from £53,856 (plus VAT), or £56,069 (plus VAT) with 4MOTION transmission.

Unlike a big people carrier, this vehicle can actually carry five people plus luggage in comfort — so it sounds tasty, especially if you operate at the top end of the private hire market and need to be able to transport four passengers in one vehicle at a time, with luggage space.

For more information, visit www.volkswagen-vans.co.uk.

UK Christmas Markets – Full Details Here

Christmas market stallsIf you fancy an affordable treat as Christmas approaches, why not visit one of the UK’s many Christmas markets?

Christmas markets are very popular all over Europe and provide a chance to enjoy the festive spirit early. They usually feature a wide range of continental food stalls, traditional Christmas crafts for sale and sometimes a good, old-fashioned fair, complete with Merry-Go-Rounds and other rides aimed at young children.

Christmas markets have really taken off over the last 20 years and there are a surprising number all over the UK. Many UK Christmas markets are German-style, allowing you to get your fill of  German beer, bockwurst and stollen (German Christmas cake), as well as buy hand-crafted traditional wooden German Christmas decorations.

We’ve put together a list of all the main Christmas markets in the UK – it’s a bit long but is in alphabetical order, so it should be easy to navigate.

Remember, if you are planning a group trip to a Christmas market, the cheapest and most efficient way to get there is to hire a minibus – that way, there is only one parking charge, one driver and everyone can travel together. It’s much cheaper than rail! Click here for a minibus hire quote.

Large public Christmas treeUK Christmas Markets 2011:

  • Bath Christmas Market: 24/11/2011 – 11/12/2011
  • Belfast Christmas Continental Market: 19/11/2011 – 18/12/2011
  • Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market: 17/11/2011 – 23/11/2011
  • Bournemouth Christmas Market: 17/11/2011 – 03/01/2012
  • Bradford Christmas Market: 19/11/2011 – 10/12/2011
  • Bristol Christmas Market: 10/11/2011 – 22/12/2011
  • Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre: 25/11/2011 – 27/11/2011
  • Canterbury Traditional Christmas Market: 18/11/2011 – 24/12/2011
  • Carlisle Christmas Market: 07/12/2011 – 11/12/2011
  • Caerphilly Medieval Christmas Market: 10/12/2011 – 11/12/2011
  • Chester Christmas Market: 24/11/2011 – 31/12/2011
  • Chichester Christmas Market: 08/12/2011 – 11/12/2011
  • Cirencester Christmas Market: 25/11/2011 – 11/12/2011
  • Derby Christmas Market: 01/12/2011 – 24/12/2011
  • Durham Christmas Market: 02/12/2011 – 04/12/2011
  • Edinburgh Christmas Market: 24/11/2011 – 24/12/2011
  • Glasgow Traditional Christmas Market: 20/11/2011 – 23/12/2011
  • Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market: 24/11/2011 – 27/11/2011
  • Jersey – La Fête dé Noué: 01/12/2011 – 11/12/2011
  • Kedleston Hall (Derby) Christmas Craft & Food Fair: 26/11/2011 – 27/11/2011
  • Leeds Christkindelmarkt Traditional German Christmas Market: 11/11/2011 – 18/12/2011
  • Leeds Caribbean Christmas Fair: 26/11/2011 – 27/11/2011
  • Lincoln Christmas Market: 01/12/2011 – 04/12/2011
  • Manchester Christmas Market: 17/11/2011 – 21/12/2011
  • Newcastle Continental Christmas Market: 21/11/2011 – 03/12/2011
  • Nottingham Christmas Market (Smithy Row): 23/11/2011 – 24/11/2011
  • Oxford Christmas Market: 02/12/2011 – 18/12/2011
  • Plymouth Christmas Market (Armada Way): 17/11/2011 – 24/12/2011
  • Portsmouth Victorian Festival of Christmas: 25/11/2011 – 27/11/2011
  • Ripley Castle Christmas Fair: 09/12/2011 – 11/12/2011
  • Ripon – Lightwater Shopping Village Dickensian Festival: 01/12/2011 – 04/12/2011
  • Rochester Castle Dickens Christmas Market: 30/11/2011 – 18/11/2011
  • Royal Leamington Spa Christmas Fair: 20/11/2011 – 18/12/2011
  • Skipton Yuletide Festival & Christmas Market: 04/12/2011 – 11/12/2011
  • Solihull Christmas Market: 25/11/2011 – 17/12/2011
  • Southbank Centre / London Eye Christmas Market: 18/11/2011 – 24/12/2011
  • Stamford Christmas Market: 11/12/2011
  • Swindon Christmas Market: 02/12/2011 – 24/12/2011
  • Tetbury Christmas Market: 05/12/2011 – 10/12/2011
  • Truro Victorian Christmas Market: 13/12/2011 – 18/12/2011
  • Warrington Festival Gift Fair: 30/11/2011 – 23/12/2011
  • Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market & Ice Rink: 24/11/2011 – 21/12/2011
  • Worcester Victorian Christmas Fayre: 01/12/2011 – 04/12/2011
  • Wrexham Erddig Christmas Market: 03/12/2011 – 18/12/2011
  • York – Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland: 26/11/2011 – 08/01/2012

Christmas decorations for sale at a Christmas marketRemember, if you are arranging a group trip to a Christmas market, minibus hire is often the most affordable way to get there and back.

Please note that all details and dates are correct to the best of my knowledge – but I cannot be held responsible for errors or cancellations. Please check before you make any transport arrangements.

Minibus Hire for Cairngorms National Park – Ski & Walk in Scotland

View from top of Cairn Gorm mountain

The view from the top of Cairn Gorm mountain in late June

Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park is a great place to get away from it all and do some walking (or skiing, in winter), but getting to them is pretty difficult if you do not have your own transport.

If you are not local, the Cairngorms are a fair way from most other places in the UK; visiting the area is likely to involve a fair drive for most people.

If you can all fit in one car, it’s not too bad, but if your group is large enough to necessitate two or more cars, it can become quite costly and inconvenient to travel around.

One way of transporting up to 17 people efficiently and cost-effectively is to hire a minibus. Minibuses come in a variety of sizes – usually, 8, 9, 12, 15 and 17 seats (including the driver). The most popular sizes are probably 9, 15 and 17 seats – with the latter being the largest size that can be driven without a bus driver’s licence.

If you are flying to Scotland to begin your walking holiday, then you will probably be landing in either Inverness or Aberdeen – both large cities with good minibus hire facilties. If you are driving from further afield, you will probably be able to find a minibus hire company near your departure point with our self-drive minibus hire search engine – just enter your location or postcode to see a list of possible companies in your area.

Last Night Of The Proms & Festival Minibus Hire

It’s summer – and that means that people all over the UK have a sudden urge to do things outdoors that they would normally do indoors, like cooking, drinking and listening to live music.

If live music outdoors is your thing, you may be planning a trip to one of the year’s major outdoor music events – we’ve already had Glastonbury, but the BBC’s Proms in the Park is still to come, as are a load of other outdoor music events:

  • Leeds Festival & Reading Festival (26th – 28th August)
  • V Festival (20th-21st Augus, near Birmingham & Chelmsford)
  • Creamfields (26th August)
  • Bestival (8th September)
  • …plus the unmissable Wakefield Rock n Wrestle Festival!

Check out the UK Festival Calendar website for loads more info and ideas!

While I’m talking about BBC Proms in the Park, it’s worth noting that it is not just taking place in London‘s Hyde Park this year – concerts are also being put on in Dundee, Caerphilly and Bangor (just east of Belfast, not the Welsh one!).

There’s also a new ‘Last Night of the Proms’ taking place this year – at Scarborough‘s Open Air Theatre, which only opened in 2010 but has already played host to Elton John, Jose Carreras and N-DUBZ, amongst others. This year’s Last Night of the Proms will be a classical event starring opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Why not treat yourself to a weekend by the seaside?

Getting There

If you are planning to travel in a group to any of these events, then what you will probably need is to hire a minibus. (Unless you are playing at any of them, in which case you may need to hire a splitter van).

Hiring a minibus makes a lot more sense than taking two or three cars. Not only are you doing your bit to reduce traffic congestion going to the event (and thus reduce your queueing time), you will also spend less on fuel and only need to make sure that you have one driver who is sober and correct when the time comes to drive home – leaving everyone else free to carry on partying a  little longer…

If you are driving the minibus, don’t forget that it will not go under car park height barriers and it will be wider, slower through corners and need longer to brake than you may be used to. Apart from that, you shouldn’t find any major differences – modern vans and minibuses are very easy and pleasant to drive.