Industry Research

Annual Operator Survey Compares East and West Coasts

LCT staff
Posted on March 1, 1988

The annual Limousine & Chauffeur Operator Survey was col­lected at the Limousine & Chauffeur Shows in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Predictably, the surveys from Las Vegas primarily reflect the characteristics of west coast liv­ery services, while Atlantic City responses illustrate the limousine in­dustry in the eastern United States.



The results of these two surveys are similar in many respects. The average rate for a stretch limousine, for example, varies by only $1.11 between the east and west this year.

At the same time, however, there are a few industry variations. In the east, for example, livery services tend to be older and more estab­lished.

East coast fleets average 10.1 ve­hicles, for example, compared with 5.74 per service in the west. The west coast figure is consistent with last year's average fleet size of 5.89.

The west coast surveys were com­pleted by sixty-one people attending the Limousine & Chauffeur Show in Las Vegas in November, 1987. Of these people, 92 percent own limou­sine services, three percent are managers of livery services, and four percent are chauffeurs.

In the eastern part of the country, sixty-three people completed the survey at the Limousine & Chauffeur Show in Atlantic City during January, 1988. Of these respondents, 83 percent own limousine services, seven percent are livery managers, and two percent are chauffeurs.

Do you bill customers for damages? 55% Yes91% yes
Do you bill customers for chauffer gratituities? 58% yes83% yes

West Coast

The west coast limousine industry is relatively youthful. Fifty-seven per­ cent of the operators in the recent survey have been in operation one to two years. Twenty-eight percent have been in business less than six years. This leaves only fifteen percent of the industry with six or more years of experience.

Accordingly, west coast vehicles are also youthful with 60 percent of them being one or two years old.

Another 28 percent of west coast ve­hicles are in the three to five year category. This leaves only 12 percent in the five-plus bracket; a category which includes vintage vehicles as well as other aging cars.

Half of all western operators indi­cate that they replace vehicles by the end of two years. An additional 36 percent replace vehicles by the end of the fourth year. Only 13 percent of operators retain vehicles longer than four years.

Of the 5.74 vehicles in the average west coast fleet, 3.16 are stretch limousines. Formal limousines are used at an average of .74 per fleet. Stretches thus outnumber formals at a rate of approximately four to one.

Sedans are used in approximate­ly the same quantity as formals. Vans and buses average 1.23 per service. This figure is influenced, however, by several large fleets that were represented in the survey.

The average stretch limousine in the west travels an average of 34,430 miles per year. Last year's average was a remarkably consistent 35,000 miles per year. Many operators run up as many as 50,000 miles per year and one reported an average of 100,000 miles.

Like stretches, sedans also ac­cumulate approximately 34,000 miles per year. Formal limousines averaged 27,000 miles per year.

One interesting indication in the survey was that, even though west coast fleets only average 5.74 vehicles, operators plan to purchase an average of 2.8 vehicles in the com­ing year. This figure represents 1.75 stretches, .44 sedans, .30 vans, and .31 buses per fleet.

The average west coast limousine service employs 3.34 full-time chauffeurs and 4.41 part-timers. The largest full-time staff in the survey was twenty-five.

A reported 25 percent of these chauffeurs are women. This is more than twice as many female chauf­feurs than were indicated last year.


78% are 1-2 years

19% are 3-5 years

3% are 5+ years

60% are 1-2 years

28% are 3-5 years

12% are 5+ years

Fifty-one percent of chauffeurs are required to wear a specific uniform while forty-one percent wear a three-piece suit. Fewer than one out of ten chauffeurs wears a tuxedo.

The average livery vehicle is used for 8.27 charters per week. West coast operators estimate that vehi­cles gross an average of $3716 per month. Thirty-four percent of this business is attributed to corporate clients.

At the low end of the income scale, one operator reports a monthly gross of only $400. On the other hand, several operators claim that their ve­hicles gross as much as $7000 per month.

Average hourly rates for a stretch limousine have dropped slightly to $47.37 from last year's $47.75. Hourly rates of $60 were not uncommon.

The average formal commands $38.87 per hour...almost the same as last year. Sedans average $36.64 in the western region.

A comparison of this year's survey with the one which appeared in the January/February '85 issue of Limousine & Chauffeur shows that computer usage has remained approximately the same in recent years. In '85, approximately 20 percent of the operators utilized computers in some way and, even though computer software has since been designed specifically for limousine services, usage is still approximately 20 percent.

Eighteen percent of operators use computers to log reservations. Twenty-three percent use computers to process receivables. Thirteen per­ cent have computer-prepared trip tickets. Twenty-one percent have computerized vehicle maintenance files, and 18 percent generate their payroll on a computer.

One form of technology that has in­ creased tremendously, however, is the use of cellular phones. In 1985, only one vehicle out of ten was projected to carry a cellular phone. West coast operators now report that 44 percent of their vehicles have cellular phones.

Like last year, approximately one out of every three western operators is a member of the National Limousine Association or a regional limousine association such as the Northern or Southern California Limousine Owners Association. Association membership in the east continues to run at approximately two out of every three operators.

Three out of every four services farm-out business to other companies on occasion. Last year, the farm-out ratio was two out of every four.

Is Yellow Page advertising cost- effective? Eighty-one percent of west coast operators say "Yes." In each of the past three years, the Yellow Pages have been chosen as the most effective form of advertising in the industry.

Two out of three livery services utilize some form of chauffeur training manual. Thirty-eight percent of operators always include chauffeur gratuities on customer invoices. An additional 45 percent of operators occasionally bill for gratuities.

One out of three operators bills clients for burns or other damages caused to vehicles. Fifty-five percent of operators charge for damages in some instances.

In a new survey area this year, operators rated brake repairs as their most costly maintenance factor. Engine repairs were mentioned as the second highest cost area. This was followed by exterior and transmission repairs. Electrical repairs were frequently mentioned as another cost area.

The annual Limousine & Chauffeur Operator Survey does not indicate whether the number of livery services in the country increased over the course of the past year. 1987 appeared to be a year of relative stability in the industry, however, and an estimate of five thousand livery services seems as plausible now as it did a year ago.

East Coast

Limousine companies on the east coast tend to be slightly older than those on the west coast. Still, 44 per­ cent of the respondents said their companies had been in business one to two years. Thirty-two percent have been in business three to five years, while only five percent have been operating between six and ten years. The number jumps back up to 19 percent of companies who have more than ten years of experience.

Conversely, limousines tend to be newer on the east coast. Seventy- eight percent of eastern limousines are between one and two years old. Nineteen percent are between three and five years, which means only three percent of the total number included in the survey are over five years old.

Forty-five percent of the operators surveyed indicated that they replace their cars every one to two years, while 51 percent replace vehicles every three or four years. Four percent of eastern vehicles are replaced by their sixth year in service, and no operator reported keeping a vehicle longer than that.

Eastern fleets tend to be significantly larger than western fleets. The average eastern company boasts ten cars. Approximately four of these ten cars are stretches, while only .88 are formals. In the east, sedans are used almost as often as stretches. In the west, sedans are on a par with formals. Vans and buses are a relative fleet rarity at only .59 per company.

Although annual mileage estimates for stretches varied from a low 8,000 to a whopping 240,000 for one east coast company, the average was 42,154 miles. Operators of formals also reported a wide variety of mileage estimates. Formals averaged 32,795 miles per car per year. Sedan yearly mileage was even higher than stretch mileage at 49,946 miles.

East coast operators indicate plans to greatly expand their fleets in the next year. They intend to purchase or lease an average of 4.97 limousines, 3.8 sedans, .44 vans, and .16 buses per service.

East coast operators hire more full time than part-time chauffeurs. The average company has 7.4 full-time, and only 6.5 part-time drivers. Many companies have only one chauffeur, and one company has 180 full-time chauffeurs. Less than eight percent of these chauffeurs are women, however.

Forty-one percent of east coast chauffeurs wear a specific uniform, while 54 percent wear suits. Only five percent wear tuxedos.

The average livery vehicle on the east coast books 7.3 charters per week and grosses an average of $3961 per month. Almost 40 percent of the business in the east coast market is supplied by corporate clients.

Rates for a stretch limousine vary from $32 to $150 per hour. The aver­ age is $48.48. Formals come in second, averaging $38 an hour, while sedans command an average of $32.48 per hour. These rates are based on a three hour minimum.

Computer usage is slightly lower on the east coast than it is out west. Eighteen percent of eastern respondents use computers for reservations. Twenty-eight percent have computer billing. Thirteen percent of eastern companies use computer trip tickets. Eighteen percent have their maintenance records on computer, while 11.5 percent use the computer for payroll.

By contrast, 73 percent of cars on the east coast have cellular phones, as opposed to 44 percent on the west coast.

Seventy percent of east coast operators find the Yellow Pages to be a cost effective form of advertising.

About two out of three operators routinely farm out business to other companies.

Chauffeur training manuals are apparently not as popular on the east coast as they are on the west. Forty percent of eastern livery services use some form of chauffeur training manual. Forty-five percent always add chauffeur gratuities on a customer's invoices, 40 percent occasionally add gratuities, and 15 percent never do. Twenty-six percent charge customers for all damages such as upholstery burns, while 55 percent charge for such damages sometimes, and 19 percent say they never charge customers for damage to the car.

Brakes are the most costly maintenance factor for east coast operators, followed closely by engines. Exterior repairs ranked third, while transmission trouble was a distant fourth.

Insurance deductibles ranged from $200 to $5,000, but averaged at $931.67 for eastern operators.

Each year, Limousine & Chauffeur attempts to improve the annual survey in order to compile information of use to operators, industry suppliers, and financial institutions. More industry statistics will be included in the Limousine & Chauffeur Fact Book this June.

Related Topics: industry trends, service pricing

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