Charge in advance: the true costs of starting your own sightseeing bus tours 🚍

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The tourist bus tourist industry is booming, according to recent reports. In fact, the industry is expected to grow at an annual rate of 5.2% from 2017 to 2023, with total worldwide revenue of .98 billion.

Everything about the hop-on hop-off bus travel industry is fascinating – the unique cities and stunning landmarks, the knowledgeable tour guides, and of course, the ability to explore the world in a fun and safe way.

Starting a tour bus tour company from your own company involves a significant amount of initial investment, as well as ongoing costs that need to be considered. In this blog post, we are going to take a look at all the necessary expenses you need to consider when opening a bus tour.


Start-up costs

Opening/starting/launching a sightseeing bus tour requires careful consideration of several expenses to ensure a successful and profitable operation of the business. Below is an overview of start-up costs associated with launching a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, with average costs presented in USD.

Costs Average cost
Bus fleet ,000–0,000
Operating license 0–,500
Assurance 0–,000
Website creation 0–,000
Promotional material 0–,500
Storage facility 0–,000
Staff salary ,000–,000
Ticketing management system 0–,500
Navigation and tracking system 0–,500
Total ,750–9,000

Bus fleet

The cost of a bus tour bus fleet is usually calculated based on the total number of vehicles and their age, size and fuel type. The average cost of a new bus—such as a mid-size four-stroke engine charter bus—can range from ,000 to 0,000 . Tour buses with premium features, such as large windows and a spacious cabin, may cost more. If a company starts with a fleet of 10 buses, the total cost can reach as high as .5 million .

In addition to the cost of the vehicles themselves, companies will also incur additional costs for fuel and maintenance. Gas-powered buses have traditionally been cheaper to buy and operate than alternative fuels, but recent developments in electric motor technology are making electric buses more cost competitive. Depending on the size of the fleet, the potentially reduced fuel costs could reduce the overall fleet cost by 10-15% over the life of the buses.

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Upkeep and upkeep are unavoidable, but with proper training and regular inspections, fleets can extend the life of their buses while minimizing the amount of costly repairs that need to be done. By regularly inspecting and maintaining their buses, sightseeing businesses can reduce the cost of maintaining their fleet while extending its life. Other costs such as personnel and insurance should also be considered.

Overall, the cost of a fleet of sightseeing buses can vary greatly depending on the size of the business, the age and type of bus and the fuel used.Companies should consider all of these factors when estimating the cost of their fleet to ensure that they are able to provide an enjoyable and efficient experience for tour goers.

Operating license

If you plan to start a sightseeing bus tour, you will need an operating license from the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This license is required by law and necessary to start a travel business. The requirements for a license, as well as the process for obtaining one, may vary by state. In some cases, the licensing process can take up to eight weeks, so plan accordingly.

Different states have certain requirements for obtaining an operating license. It is important to check with your local DMV for the latest requirements. Typically, an application is required, which should include information about the company, vehicles, insurance, and any other information related to operating a sightseeing tour. As mentioned, some states may also require additional things, such as security courses and background checks. Applicants may also be required to provide copies of valid driver’s licenses.

The cost to obtain a business license will vary by state. According to the latest statistics, the cost of a license has an average of 0 USD in most states. However, this cost largely depends on the type of license required, the number of vehicles operated, as well as any additional fees or state-specific taxes. You may also need to apply for additional licenses or permits where applicable.


When starting a bus tour business, it is necessary to purchase business insurance. Companies that offer bus tours are generally required to have general liability insurance and motor vehicle liability insurance. The insurance must be large enough to protect the company and its drivers in the event of an accident or natural disaster.

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The cost of commercial insurance for an owner of a sightseeing bus tour business can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars per year depending on the number of buses in the business and the location of the owner. Several factors contribute to the cost of commercial insurance for a sightseeing bus travel business, such as the size and nature of the business, the number of drivers, and the type of risks associated with the business. The business owner should also consider other types of insurance such as workers compensation insurance and property insurance.

The average cost of general liability insurance for a sight-seeing bus tour business ranges from 0 to ,000 per year , while the average cost of automobile liability insurance is approximately 0 to 0 per year. month per vehicle . It’s important to shop around and compare insurance quotes to make sure the business owner is getting the best coverage for the lowest premium.

In addition to the cost of insurance, companies must also consider other costs associated with the business, such as vehicle maintenance, license fees, and wages for drivers. All of these costs can add up quickly and should be considered when budgeting for a bus tour business.

Website creation

Creating a website can be an expensive undertaking, but it can also be relatively affordable if done correctly. Depending on the complexity of the website, the cost of creating the website can range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost of building websites will mostly depend on the features and technologies you intend to use.

Here are some of the typical components that come with building websites:

  • Website design and development – this is usually the most expensive part of the website creation process, depending on the complexity of the project. If you’re looking to create custom design and development, you can probably expect to pay ,000 to ,000 or more.
  • Domain name and hosting – A domain name is your website address, and your website hosting is where all your web files are kept. Both are necessary for building websites. The cost of a domain name and hosting vary, depending on the type of plan you choose and other factors. Generally, however, you can expect to pay -200/month.
  • Content Writing – A great website is essential to the success of your business. Content writers will help you craft the right message and tone for your website and can expect to be paid -/hour.
  • Software integrations – Integrating software applications, such as online payment processors, email marketing tools, and other applications that can enhance the functionality of your website, can also add to the cost of creation of the website. This cost can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
  • Maintenance and Updating – Last but not least, you will need to consider the cost of ongoing website maintenance and ensuring the website is kept up to date. This cost can range from to 0 per month or more, depending on the complexity of the site and the type of maintenance you need.
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Overall, when it comes to website building, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the level of customization and features you need. Before you start building your website, it’s important to have a clear idea of your budget and focus on finding the most cost-effective solutions to achieve the greatest return on investment.

Promotional material

When launching a sightseeing bus tour, it is important to consider the marketing materials that will be needed to promote the business. This could include both traditional materials such as paper flyers, signs and posters, as well as digital marketing materials. The cost of marketing materials will depend on the size and quantity, as well as the quality of the materials and the types of services used to produce them. On average, businesses spend anywhere from 0 to ,000 to create and launch their promotional materials, such as brochures, postcards, and more.

Also, an additional 0 to ,000 is usually required for printing, depending on the complexity and size of the materials. For example, a full color flyer typically costs 0 to 0 for 1,000 copies. Digital marketing materials typically include content such as videos or photographs that need to be taken and edited, as well as activities such as social media management or search engine optimization (SEO). These services can cost between 0 to ,000 per month, depending on the number of services and activities involved.

Storage facility

The cost associated with a storage facility depends on a few factors, such as size, location, and features. Opening or launching a storage facility is quite expensive and requires a substantial investment. Typically, the cost of building a new storage facility starts at around 0,000 for a small, basic storage facility and can go up to million for a large facility in a premium location.

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Here is a breakdown of the costs involved in opening a storage facility:

  • Building Construction: The building construction cost is the highest cost associated with opening a storage facility. Cost depends on scale of installation, materials used in construction, number of components (doors, gates, fences, security systems, etc.), location, etc. The cost can range from around 0 to ,500 per square foot .
  • Furniture and fixtures: Furniture and fixtures also add to the cost of starting a self-storage facility. This may include bookshelves, desks, chairs, computer systems and software, office supplies, etc. According to the Self Storage Association, the cost of furniture and fixtures typically ranges from to 0 per square foot .
  • Legal and Miscellaneous Expenses: Along with building construction and furniture/fittings, there may also be costs associated with permits, licenses, and legal advice. This may also include marketing costs for signage and brochures, advertising costs, etc. On average, these expenses can total ,000 to 0,000 .

It is important to note that the cost of opening a storage facility is only part of the equation. It is important to also consider the ongoing costs of maintaining and running a facility, which can include property taxes, insurance, utilities, and repairs/maintenance.

Staff salary

When starting a sightseeing bus tour business, it is important to consider the costs associated with staff salaries. Depending on the scope of the business, staff salaries can range from a few thousand dollars to much more. The cost of staff salaries will depend on the number of staff, the type of positions that need to be filled, and the prevailing rate for those positions in the area. For example, tour guides and bus drivers may need to be full-time employees and may receive different types of compensation, such as a higher hourly rate and passenger tips.

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According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics , the median annual salary for a tour guide in the US in 2020 is ,260 . The lowest 10% earned an average annual salary of ,770 while the highest 10% earned an annual salary of ,300. Bus drivers generally earn more than tour guides and the average annual salary in 2020 was ,610 . The lowest 10% earned an average annual salary of ,410 while the highest 10% earned an annual salary of ,840.

When paying employees, it’s important to consider whether or not you offer benefits such as health insurance, paid vacation, and sick leave. In the United States, employers must also adhere to the minimum wage set by the state or federal government. This rate varies by state, so it’s important to research the local rate for your area so that you provide fair and legal wages to your employees.

Ticketing management system

Opening a tourist bus tour business requires the right ticketing management system to ensure smooth operations and timely payments.

The price of ticketing systems varies widely depending on the features and add-ons needed. An all-inclusive ticketing management system can cost anywhere from 0 to 00 per year .

At the entry level, the ticketing management system features POS integration, credit card processing, PC and mobile device accessibility, and free technology support.

You can also opt for premium services, enabling self-service features, dynamic seat maps, integrated seat selection and real-time order processing.

Moving forward with ticketing systems will save time and money, as these systems are designed to minimize bureaucracy and maximize efficiency.

  • POS and credit card integration: A good ticketing management system will allow POS and credit card integration so customers can easily pay for tickets.
  • Customer Access: Your ticketing system should provide easy access to your customers, allowing them to book reservations, check the status of their tickets, and make changes as needed.
  • Dynamic Seat Selection: Many ticketing management systems offer dynamic seat selection, allowing customers to quickly and easily select the best available seat on your bus.
  • Real-time order processing: To ensure that transactions are processed quickly and securely, your ticketing management system should be equipped with real-time order processing.

Navigation and tracking system

Having a navigation and tracking system as part of your business model for a sightseeing bus tour is becoming increasingly important in an increasingly competitive market. In 2019, a published study found that nearly three-quarters of all visitors worldwide would rather take transistors and booked tours than travel independently with an average tour price of ÂŁ162. To ensure pricing remains competitive , a navigation and tracking system is essential.

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The good news is that advancements in technology have come a long way and navigation and tracking systems are becoming more affordable. A typical navigation and tracking system usually consists of GPS tracking, location analysis tools, and fleet management tools. Depending on the size and requirements of your business, installation costs for a navigation and tracking system can range from ,000 to ,000. In the long term, implementing a navigation and tracking system could yield significant savings in terms of energy efficiency, route optimization and increased customer satisfaction.

To ensure that you are always up to date with the most cost effective options, you can use online comparison tools and search the market for the most competitively priced systems. As with any technology, there may be additional costs incurred with installation, maintenance, customization and updating.

In conclusion, navigating and managing a fleet of tourist buses is becoming more and more budget-friendly and a worthwhile investment. The costs of purchasing and setting up a complete navigation and tracking system ranges between ,000 and ,000, and with careful research and planning, business owners can enjoy cost savings at important long term.


Starting a sightseeing bus tour business is hard work, but it can be an incredibly rewarding and profitable business, especially if you choose the right cities to visit and have an effective marketing plan.

As we have seen, the total cost to open a tourist bus travel company can range significantly, depending on the number of buses you buy and the region you are touring. Nevertheless, you must be prepared to invest at least 0,000 in initial expenses and ongoing costs if you want to successfully launch your business.

By understanding the costs associated with starting a sightseeing bus travel business and taking the necessary steps to get your business off the ground, you will be well on your way to a successful future in the industry.