Industry Research

Annual Operator Survey

Eric Lassiter
Posted on May 1, 2003

Gathering information on an industry as disseminated and rapidly changing as the limousine industry has never been an easy task.

Starting with the second year LCT was published - in 1984 it was still known as Limousine & Chauffeur - this magazine has been the only source that consistently conducts extensive surveys of the limousine industry and publishes its findings.

Through the years, we have questioned thousands of operators about many aspects of their businesses and worked to discern the trends that have shaped their fortunes.

1984

  • There were about 3,500 limousine operators in the United States and that they bought about 4,000 stretch limousines that year.
  • The average operator booked 5.2 trips per day and the average hourly rate was $31.79.
  • Operators rated driver morale and appearance as their top concern, followed by vehicle maintenance, limousine quality, competitive rates and the price of new limousines.

1985

  • Thirty-five percent of operators had been in business two years or less.
  • The average limousine rolled 36,388 miles a year, with the range going from an average of 3,000 miles in one pampered fleet to 150,000 miles in a particularly durable one.
  • Operators ranked the promptness, competence and professional appearance of chauffeurs as the most important factors in a successful limousine operation.

1986      

  • Nearly six out of 10 operators reported that they farmed out some of their business to other operators.
  • Women accounted for 8% of the nation’s Chauffeurs.
  • Nearly half of the operators surveyed required chauffeurs to wear uniforms, rather than business suits.

1987         

  • L&C estimated there were 5,000 operators in the United States.
  • Operators averaged 9.5 trips a week for each vehicle in their fleet.
  • The average hourly rate for a stretch limousine east of the Mississippi was $43.66, compared to $47.75 in the western states.

1988

  • The estimated number of limousine companies in the U.S. grew to 6,500, and the number of limousines exceeded 40,000.
  • The average hourly rate for stretch limousines hit $48.
  • It was estimated that operators would buy 7,000 stretch limousines that year.

1989

  • Seventy-nine percent of operators allowed clients to smoke in their cars.
  • The average company employed 5.4 full-time and 9.4 part-time chauffeurs.
  • The number of stretch limousines sold in the U.S. dropped to 5,800, its lowest level in five years.

1990   

  • Stretch limousine sales declined 21% from the prior year.
  • Three quarters of L&C readers had fewer than five vehicles in their fleet.
  • The average gross monthly income per car was $4,521.

1991               

  • The average hourly rate for stretch limousines inched downward from the previous year to $49.
  • The average monthly revenue per sedan ranged from $2,909 for operators with 10 cars or less to $6,967 for operators with 20 or more vehicles in their fleet.
  • The production of stretch limousines declined for the fifth straight year, with 2,400 new vehicles entering service.

1992

  • L&C estimated that $2.5 billion was spent on livery transportation and that the industry transported 128 million passengers.
  • The average hourly rate for stretch limousines was $48, its lowest point since 1988.
  • Operators working out of their homes comprised slightly more than half of the industry.

1993

  • Operators averaged 50,000 miles a year on each car in their fleets.
  • Operators with chauffeurs on the payroll enjoyed higher per-car revenues than those who used independent contractors.
  • The hourly rates of home-based operators tended to be somewhat lower than operators working out of an office.

1994

  • No survey was conducted                        

1995

  • The number of operators increased from previous years, with more than 8,900 reported that year, more than double the number reported in 1983.
  • Stretch limousines 85 inches or under averaged 32 trips per month. Superstretchcs averaged 15 trips per month and sedans averaged 4 5 trips a month.
  • The national average hourly rate paid to chauffeurs was $8.22.

1996

  • The number of U.S. operators rose to more than 9,000, an increase of more than 100 from 1995.
  • Two thirds of operators reported revenue increases for the year, with the average increase being 35%.
  • The percentage of operators allowing smoking in their cars declined to 44%.

1997

  • Seventy-five percent of operators experienced an increase in revenues for the year, with the average growth being 21%.
  • The average rate for a three-hour wedding in a six-passenger limousine was $197.
  • The bulk of operators’ revenues came from airport transfers, corporate clients or weddings. Each represented between 20% and 25% of the average operator’s business.

1998

  • Most limousine companies reported healthy revenue gains for the year. At the same time, the number of operators in the U.S. declined to 9,100, a drop of 500 operators from the previous year.
  • The number of limousines being produced grew to 3,400, a modest increase from the year before but still significantly below the 7,000 produced in 1987, a historical high.
  • LCT reported there were 145,600 livery vehicles in service. Sedans comprised 40% of that total, stretch limousines comprised 19%, and superstretchcs 16%. Buses and vans accounted for the remaining percentage.

1999           

  • The number of limousine operators in the United States surged to 10,200, a gain of more than 1,000 from the year before.
  • Twenty-nine percent of operators worked with a national network.
  • Sixty percent of operators with 20 or less vehicles spent less than $200 a month per car on maintenance,

2000       

  • SUVs started showing up in LCT’s annual surveys, representing 2% of vehicles. The average yearly revenue for an SUV was $65,500.
  • Nearly three quarters of operators had an annual gross revenue of less than $500,000 a year.
  • Business obtained through opera­ tor networks represented 47% of the average operator’s revenue.

2001

  • There were roughly 12,000 operators in the United States.
  • The average sedan was driven 50,723 miles, notably higher than the 31,000 to 35,000 miles put on various types of limousines.
  • Increased fuel costs, followed closely by rising insurance rates, were ranked by operators as the No. 1 and 2 most-important issues facing the industry.

2002

  • The number of limousines produced dropped to 2,550, the lowest since 1995.
  • Rising insurance costs topped the list of operators’ concerns, beating out fuel costs, vehicle safely, government regulations and chauffeur recruitment by wide margins.
  • About 60% of the nation’s chauffeurs were paid between $8 and $10 an hour. About 5% were earned $18 or more an hour.

Related Topics: chauffeur history, history of the limo industry, industry trends, salary surveys

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