While the internet age has made it easier for bands to get their music out to the masses, there’s nothing online that replaces the face-to-face energy of in-person concerts and domestic or international tours. You might be picturing private jets and fancy tour buses, but let’s be realistic here. When you’re just starting out, if you manage to put together a tour, it’s done on a shoestring budget. Here’s how to find the best vehicle to hit the road in.
You won’t find a new conversion van on most car lots, but you are probably looking for used vehicles anyway. These vans became quite popular in the ’80s and ’90s due to their size and because they were wired to support things like televisions and VCRs. The nice thing about conversion vans is that if you’re on a shoestring budget and your credit isn’t great, you can find a good preowned model.
It might not be in the greatest shape, and it will almost certainly smell like cigarette smoke, but it should get you from point A to point B. You’ll have enough cargo space for all your gear, and even enough room to sleep in the back if you’re trying to save money on hotels.
If a conversion van isn’t to your tastes — or you can’t find a used one in your price range — SUVs are another option. Modern SUVs pride themselves on their cargo space and can get some pretty decent mileage, which can help you save money on fuel costs.
Look for an SUV that can fit everyone comfortably, as well as your gear. If it’s got a roof rack, which many of them do, invest in a cargo carrier. It will reduce your gas mileage a little bit, but it will protect your gear if you get caught in a rainstorm while you’re en route to your next gig.
Cargo vans replaced conversion vans for work and band tour applications in recent years, and are a fantastic option. They offer a massive amount of storage space, as well as customizable shelving units to make the most out of a limited area.
These can be a better choice than conversion vans because while they can be more expensive, they’re newer. Therefore, even used models will have less mileage and will give you a better bang for your buck.
Fuel costs can cut deeply into your tour profits if you’re driving an ancient van or SUV across the country. Picking up a hybrid model can help keep those fuel costs low, especially if you’ve got long distances to travel.
On average, new hybrids can get around 50 miles to the gallon, so you can stretch your gas money as far as possible. Of course, this is better for solo travel when you can fit all your stuff into a small car.
Buying vs. Renting
As a new band just starting out, buying a van to get you to your next gig isn’t always an option. If you’re planning a weekend or week-long event, why not rent a van instead? You’ll save on purchase costs and insurance, although you’ll still be responsible for fuel.
In the short term, rentals can save you money. If you’re going to be doing a lot of traveling, though, buying your own vehicle is the best option — at least until you can afford a fancy tour bus or a private jet.
What Does Your Band Need?
When it comes down to it, the vehicle you choose will depend on what your band needs. Do you have eight people and an entire fleet of instruments, or are you a one-person band or DJ that just needs something to get you from point A to point B without breaking down? Talk to a dealership and see if they’ll let you try to load your gear into one of its vans before taking it for a test drive. It might give you a better idea of what you need in the long run.