Castle minibus has been selling, leasing and renting minibuses for over 25 years. In that time we have developed a very good understanding of what schools are most concerned about and what questions they need answering to enable them to make the right decision when it comes to a vehicle – and all four are interlinked. So, we have updated the website with guides to these four decisions to help walk schools through the necessary information to deciding on 1. the right vehicle, 2. the right financing, 3. the right training and licences for drivers and 4. the right vehicle inspections and maintenance.

1. Vehicle type

You have lots of options when it comes to the type of minibus you’re going to get; size, specification and manufacturer. Size is dependent on seats, but weight is the factor that determines what licence and conditions are needed to drive the vehicle.

Vehicles with a GVW of 3.5 tonnes and over require a D1 entitlement. There is a weight allowance of 750kg for specialist equipment only – it cannot be apportioned to anything else. So, with D1 entitlement drivers can drive any weight minibus.  Without D1 entitlement drivers can drive a minibus with a GVW under 3.5 tonnes but conditions apply under a Section 19 Permit including being over 21 and not driving for reward or hire.

D1 entitlement can be achieved in two ways; 1. Inherited D1 (101) on standard car licences issued before 1st January 1997 and then the full D1 entitlement achieved with a theory and practical test.

You can see the entitlements on the back of any driving licence.

We recommend that you consider who is going to be driving your vehicles and what training your school is willing to provide for them. If you have drivers without D1 entitlement this will restrict your minibus options.

For drivers without D1 entitlement – a lot of schools are opting for 8 passenger seat vehicles, considered to be cars, such as the Ford Tourneo.

Ford also produce a 12 seat minibus that is under 3.5 tonnes and their pre-2014 14 seat minibus manufactured is also under 3.5 tonnes. These 14-seat minibuses can now only be purchased as used vehicles and are very popular.

For drivers with D1 entitlement -Ford has 14,15 and 17 seat options.

Details of these vehicle types, prices and added extras can be found here.

If you are intending on using drivers without D1 entitlement we recommend that you ensure your drivers meet all the conditions such as ‘they receive no payment or other consideration for driving other than out-of-pocket expenses’ found under section 9.1 Driving entitlement requirements in the government’s Section 19 Permit guidelines.

2. Financing

Deciding on financing can come before or after you have decided on what type of vehicle you want  – as the two can influence each other. For example, if you want a pre-2014 14 seat Ford minibus you will only be able to purchase a used vehicle or hire.

Your three finance options are

  1. Leasing – a 2-5 year full maintenance contract on a new vehicle enabling you to budget a set amount per month for that vehicle for the length of the contract. £395 pcm for a 17 seat Ford Trend +VAT (based on a 6+59 payment profile)
  2. Rental – A 12-month rental agreement, again with a set monthly fee. Prices start from £570 pcm +VAT (based on a 3 + 11 payment profile)
  3. Used vehicle purchase – Often an ex-lease vehicle, with one school owner, that is bought for a single one-off payment and includes the first 12 months of required 10-week safety inspections, 12-month RAC warranty and roadside assistance. Prices start from £12,995 + VAT

For more details on all that is included with each option, including free logo and livery, delivery and collection,  visit our minibus finance options page


3. Driver Proficiency

Safer drivers make for safe vehicles. Castle recommend that ALL drivers of 8+ passengers take the full D1 regardless of whether they have the inherited D1 entitlement, this is so that they have been trained to drive these larger vehicles and also so schools can be sure they are not falling foul of the Section 19 condition of receiving ‘no payment or other consideration for driving other than out-of-pocket expenses.

Practical training like D1 and MiDAS is vital for practical driver training but they are a one-off and infrequent respectively. MiDAS is recommended every 3-4 years and a lot can change with your drivers in that time.

As mentioned the level of training your drivers have (D1) will affect the vehicles that can be driven.

Online driving assessments

An online driving assessment with additional training is an inexpensive way for schools to risk assess, train and evidence the safety of their drivers. The safety assessment covers four different areas of driving; attitude, knowledge, hazard perception, concentration and observation.

At the end of the assessment, the driver can see their risk rating for each sector and four training modules are recommended for them to complete depending on their strengths and weaknesses.

Schools have a dashboard to invite, manage and see the results of all their drivers.

New drivers can be risked assessed while waiting for practical training and existing drivers skills can be monitored and refreshed annually.

Click here for more information on Castle’s online training options


4. Safety and Maintenance Services

Vehicles driven under a Section 19 Permit are required to have regular checks and inspections as well as regular servicing and MOTs, regardless of what size vehicle they are and who is driving them.

The two important types of checks, aside from services and MOTs, are Safety Inspections and Daily Vehicle Checks.

Safety Inspections, also known as 10-week safety inspections.

Under a Section 19 Permit minibuses must have safety inspections completed by a qualified engineer every 10 weeks, regardless of mileage (6 weeks for vehicles over 12 years). These inspections are in addition to regular services and MOTs.

Castle Minibus works with two national companies of mobile engineers that will come and complete your inspections at your school, so you do not have to move your vehicles.

These checks need to be budgeted for if not included in your leasing or rental contract, so they may have a bearing on whether you decide to lease, hire or buy.

Learn more about 10-week safety inspections

Daily Vehicle checks

These checks are required under a Section 19 Permit but we can’t stress enough how important they are. They allow for the identification of issues with the vehicle that need immediate attention, they ensure driver accountability, they protect the driver and passengers from defects that will affect their journeys and they protect schools with inspection reports on the condition of the vehicle should there be an incident.

Castle offers a free app that teachers/drivers can use daily to inspect the vehicles, the results of which are sent to a dashboard for the designated ‘transport manager’ to monitor.

The app includes training videos and is free for any school or organisation.

Get started here.

All vehicles need these daily checks – regardless of the size of the vehicle and who is driving them.

Castle Minibus are Champions of Minibus Safety. Choosing the right vehicle and having a well-trained driver is essential to a robust minibus safety system or policy. If you want to know more about the legal and compliance requirements for minibuses take the Online Minibus Compliance Course that will certify your school as knowing what is required under a Section 19 Permit.

If you have any questions about your options and how one decision might affect another please do give our friendly team a call on 01869 253744 or email and they will be happy to talk through your options.