A minibus is a vehicle designed for carrying a larger number of passengers than a car, but fewer than a full-sized bus or coach. It is commonly used for transporting medium-sized groups such as sports teams or residents of a care home. The legal and safety regulations affecting minibuses can vary significantly from those which cover cars.
In many places, the license restrictions for driving a minibus is different from those for a car. This is partly because most minibuses are considerably bigger than cars and require more advanced skills in handling vehicles. It is also because the consequences of a crash can be much more serious, both because there can be more passengers and because a minibus can do more damage to other vehicles. In some places, a driver with a standard motor vehicle license may only be allowed to drive smaller minibuses. In addition, the minimum age for driving a minibus may be higher than for driving a car.
In some jurisdictions, people who can legally drive a minibus can only do so if they do not accept payment in return for the ride. Such payment will classify the driving as a professional activity which has tighter regulation. However, a driver of a minibus may be allowed to accept a reasonable contribution towards the costs of the gasoline used on the trip without the money being classified as payment for the driving.
There are often different insurance requirements for a minibus than a car. For example, different policies may be needed to reflect the higher number of potential passengers and thus the greater possible liability attached to injuries. Insurance policies which include breakdown coverage may be more expensive than with the car equivalents because repairing minibuses can be more of a specialist task.
Given that minibuses have more seats, and that they are more likely to be used for a range of passengers than with a family car, it can be particularly important to look for models which are accessible for people in wheelchairs. Features which can improve accessibility include specially designed seats, extra room, handrails, space to attach a ramp, and specific lighting on steps. For vehicles which will regularly be used to carry disabled passengers, it may be worth investing in a purpose-built model rather than modifying a minibus. Such models will include features such as wheelchair lifts built in to the back of the bus. It’s important to note than in many locations, safety legislation will require specially built seatbelt restraints for passengers who travel in their wheelchairs rather than a fixed seat.