Where do I even start?
The process of finding an appropriate rental vehicle is always a challenge for church groups. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. What I’ve found is that a 12 passenger van or smaller just does not provide the kind of space needed for a group to comfortably travel and get supplies to your ASP worksites. I have found that 15 passenger vans are less frequently available and expensive to rent though.
Your choices begin with a check of local rental offices. Here in Wisconsin we’ve been blessed with quite a few family owned rental companies that have kept up a small stock of vehicles and so they are always a good place to call before making more phone calls. This is for a couple of reasons.
#1 They are local, we’re spending dollars to support our own local economy.
#2 They are close, picking up and returning vehicles is a breeze, especially after a 9 or 10 trip makes up for a lot when you’re tired.
#3 Local companies are often willing to lock your vans in much earlier and are far more reliable than the national rental agencies.
When you don’t have a local rental agency, car dealers offer another possible avenue for your 15 passenger vans, but I find they tend to only be in the major markets. For us that is an hour drive one way. If you’re an urban church this may be a great option.
Finally, national rental car agencies. Enterprise has recently worked with ASP to come up with a deal for the renting vans to church groups heading to Appalachia. We have found the new agreed pricing to be very attractive, though I say this with hesitancy as we’ve had our problems with the national agencies at times; vehicles not available, vehicles late, reservations not being properly processed. Because of these savings, we have been using Enterprise the last 2 years and have been setting them through the national contact and have not had any issues since, but it’s always in the back of my mind. For us, Enterprise is local so again we have the ability to pick up and drop off right here in our city, which is a great perk.
Insuring the Rental Vans
In addition to being a long term staff Youth Minister I am also an insurance agent. So, I would like to remind anyone working with churches to be sure the vans you are using are insured. First, work with the companies to rent the vehicles in the name of your church, not personally. Check with your church’s insurance to be sure that you have liability protection for a rented 15 passenger van (or any vehicle you rent). You may need to add the team leaders as drivers to your policy as well. Also, check to see if your church insurance policy provides physical damage coverage for these vehicles. These rental vans are often worth $80,000+ each so you want to be careful to make sure your policy would provide adequate coverage.
Our congregation’s policy provides $250,000 (Total per loss). Many provide only $100,000 for any damage to a rented vehicle. Again a phone call to your church insurance agent or company would be warranted.
We often rent 4 or more vans so we will usually purchase something called a “physical damage waiver.” This is an agreement with the rental company that as long as you abide by their rules (stated in each companies contract) any damages to the rental van will not be your responsibility. This adds back on more cost, but this provides a lot of peace of mind as well since we often travel thousands of miles each year. Your local rental agencies often have these options as well.
Communicate early and often with those you’re renting from. If possible get signed contracts so you have a paper trail, get copies of drivers licenses from your team leaders, and make sure that your drivers are of the right age (to be able to drive a 15 passenger van – both with your rental agency and your church insurance policy) and have good driving records.
Renting vehicles can be intimidating, but if you start early and plan ahead, you have every opportunity to have a good rental experience.
By Thom Nicla , Youth Minister First United Lutheran Church, ELCA