Vehicle ? to Own or Not to Own

Vehicle – to own or not to own ? This is a dilemma that has confronted many an aspirant or newly registered Tourist Guide. Not least of all myself, way back in the day when the decision required slightly different considerations than those of today.

Assuming a basic Business Plan has been compiled before making the decision to become a Tourist Guide, then most of the variables for consideration regarding vehicle purchase should have been pretty much taken care of. Do I live in cloud cuckoo land or what ? Of course you haven’t 😏Do yourself a favour and click the link above before it costs you too much time, effort, and money.

Moving on. Let’s summarise the main variables for consideration first, and then expand on each one in more detail, accepting that nothing is cast in stone. In no particular order, they are:-

  • What method of Tourist Guiding do I prefer ?
  • How am I going to get work / Do I really need a vehicle ?
  • Can I afford a vehicle ?
  • Availability of vehicles from Tourism Vehicle suppliers
  • Bureaucracy personified
  • Summary

What method of Tourist Guiding do I prefer ?

This could be an Identity Crisis

By “method” I mean do you see yourself as a driver Guide, or a Tourist Guide who prefers to simply Guide only, and let someone else take care of the all important driving ? Maybe you see yourself falling somewhere in between, which applies to most of at one time or another, quite often at the start of our careers.

If you fall into the “simply Guide” category then not necessary to read any further. Rather browse something of more relevance to you on this Blog. Should the “driver” element rank somewhere on your list of priorities then please read on.

How am I going to get work ? / Do I really need a vehicle ?

To Own or Not to Own ?

Firstly, revert to the Marketing section of the Business Plan you haven’t done, and review it. There are various ways of putting yourself out there as a Tourist Guide, and whilst there’s no one size fits all, the following are relevant when considering the purchase of a vehicle.

Approaching Tour Operators with a well-presented CV is a route naturally chosen by newly registered Tourist Guides. Owning a vehicle can have the dubious advantage of increasing marketability, which could possibly lead to better opportunities for employment when seeking work from Tour Operators. However, this is completely negated when they supply the vehicle from their own fleet. If the job on offer is for a Coach group, your own vehicle will also stand idle.

An approach often overlooked for the benefits it can bring is that completely misused noun, networking. I don’t mean the stand around at cocktail functions, feeling awkward, and merely swapping business cards get-togethers. I mean the hard graft of developing relationships which takes effort and persistence.

Order ! Order !

Get yourself known in the Industry. Join Tourism organisations, interest groups, volunteer for Committees – yes you heard that correctly. It’s an approach that definitely helped my early development, AND was part of my Business Plan !

The marginally stronger case for owning a vehicle is if you have decided to try and attract your own clients.

Attempting to attract your own clients, specifically international, attracts a heavy investment in advertising, the detail of which is not the objective of this post. The twilight zone, loosely defined as “Guide with a vehicle” is more appropriate, particularly in the early days, which at face value could warrant owning a vehicle, but still requires serious analysis. The role of a Tour Operator is defined in slightly more detail in the post Tourist Guide or Tour Operator.

IF you are fortunate enough to land a permanent Tourist Guide position with a reputable Tour Company, you will join the ranks of that small percentage of Guides that are permanent employees. The dilemma, to own a vehicle or not to own a vehicle then becomes redundant. You won’t need one !

Can I afford a vehicle ?

Money IN or Money OUT ?!

Financial and Legal considerations are without question the high profile considerations.

Should there be a limitless supply of cash available, combined with a Law degree, Oh, and a contact with questionable ethics, at the local Road Transportation Board, then to own a vehicle or not to own a vehicle is not really an issue. Given that this Utopian combination of factors probably won’t exist then the financial and legal issues need a closer look.

It’s a relatively straight forward exercise to calculate the running costs of any particular vehicle by reference to the Tables produced by the Automobile Association, which will provide a starting point. It’s important to include ALL costs. Its definitely not realistic to just include fuel, licence, insurance. Estimated service / repair costs are just a couple of items that regularly get conveniently overlooked when attempting to determine total cost of owning a vehicle.

However, this post is not a lesson on how to achieve total vehicle costs there are many websites that can help achieve this objective, and this is just one of them. Its merely to point out that if this element is underestimated, without sufficient income to cover them, then the road to repossession beckons.

Availability of vehicles from Tourism vehicle suppliers

I will use my own example from the mid-1990’s when confronted with the question of vehicle ownership, against the changing landscape of a rapidly developing Tourism Industry.

As a planned personal objective to make a gradual transition from Tourist Guiding to business ownership of a Tour Operating company, I bought a vehicle very soon after registration. In those early days, if you thought you needed a vehicle for whatever reason, purchase was the only viable option.

Our Budget Tourer

However, as Tourism expanded, new and different opportunities were opening-up, which included businesses specialising in supplying legally permitted vehicles to the Industry. In addition, if you have played your cards right, developing relevant relationships can be another avenue of accessing hire vehicles.

Perhaps quite naturally there are two types of vehicle owning individuals, and I refer specifically to one person Tourist Guide owners.

Firstly, there are the possessive people who won’t let anyone else in the driving seat but themselves. They much prefer being in control of their own dents and scrapes. Definitely not an avenue for third party rental.

Secondly, there is the person, like myself, who views a vehicle for what it is, an income-earning asset. All the time it’s sitting in a garage with the wheels not turning it’s a liability. A healthy contribution to my own income-earning capacity were the welcome amounts credited under the heading “Vehicle Rental 3rd Parties”.

Bureaucracy personified

Finally, buying a vehicle is the easy bit. You now enter the over bureaucratised minefield that is obtaining the legal “privelege” of actually being permitted – literally – to earn some income from your shiny new purchase. Be prepared for a process that has reduced the sanest, and most patient of individuals to thoughts of running naked around the offices of the Road Transportation Board, before committing Hari Kari on the end of a red hot tyre lever in front of the Minister of Transport !!!!!!!!!!!!

Tragically, this process has never been addressed adequately, never mind logically and sensible in all the 23 years I have been part of the Tourism Industry. The sense of oh so boring dejavu regularly repeats itself, with repetitive meetings, discussion groups, representation to Government, that all end with the same result. If anything, the actual process of obtaining the Road Transportation Board permit has become increasingly autocratic, more onerous, with the word frustrating definitely not cutting it.


To own a vehicle or not to own a vehicle could be one of the most important decisions you might be taking in your early Tourist Guide days. It’s a subject that warrants sensible and balanced objectivity before committing to a purchase. Keep the following in mind at all times:-

  • Carefully analyse the cost implications
  • Don’t underestimate the horrendous bureaucracy involved
  • Be aware of the alternatives. Hiring in has definite advantages
  • Above all – DO YOU REALLY NEED ONE ?


I have been a South African registered Tourist Guide for some 24 years, and also developed my own Tour Operating Business in keeping with sound business principles. I can help you with all of this.

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