The tourist coach classes are defined by a star classification system (wherein 1 star is the lowest class and 4 stars mean the highest one). The rating implies assessment of the following characteristics:
- power-to-weight ratio;
- suspension type;
- aisle width;
- availability of ventilation and air-conditioning systems;
- luggage space per passenger;
- quality of seat upholstery;
- glass cover extension, etc.
All the details are specified in the IRU star classification for coaches (IRU stand for International Road Transport Union). It was issued on April 11, 1985 and updated on November 11, 1999. But automobile industry has advanced dramatically since that time. Today there are coaches that are rated far beyond the 4th class. Nevertheless, the introduction of a 5th star and its criteria is still under consideration.
The rating status of a coach influences the scale of its usage. Some events have strict requirements on this matter. Thus, searching for a tourist coach, one should keep in mind its class relevance to the intended use.
Coach manufacturers and their strong points
German companies take leading positions in this market segment. MAN AG holds the largest share of the sales. It owns MAN and NEOPLAN brands, which feature a self-supporting body with a space frame. Such lightweight structure ensures rational space management (for technical units and passenger needs) inside MAN and SETRA coaches. Moreover, other manufacturers produce their coaches on the basis of MAN AG assemblies.
MERCEDES BENZ is the next well-established market leader. It is slightly behind the previous auto group with regard to production volume of the coaches, however its units and assemblies are of greater demand among other brands. And both leaders make reliable and durable vehicles of the highest quality. The choice between MAN/NEOPLAN and MERCEDES BENZ depends on personal preferences and technical conditions of particular coaches (if they have been already operated).
The coaches made by Setra Omnibusse are renowned for being extremely comfortable. The company cooperates closely with MERCEDES BENZ, though it acts as an independent producer. The Setra vehicles can boast rigorous interior design and thought-out ergonomics for both a driver and passengers (including a tour guide).
Despite the fact that VOLVO and SCANIA produce and sell less than the German brands, still they have their own niche. This is the market of used machinery. The Scandinavian offers are traditionally valued for high levels of safety and build quality. On top of that, the body parts are stably resistant to corrosion, what contributes to long operation life of the vehicles.
The choice of a used coach
The most important part of the coach structure is a self-supporting body. Space frame is made of quite a thin metal that can be corroded because of improper operation. The coaches, badly damaged by corrosion, have short service life despite good condition of its units and assemblies. The reason is that welding repair isn’t effective in the case of thin sheets.
Similar to cars, the body of coaches is likely to be deformed in case of an accident. Thus, even if the exterior view is agreeable, it’s necessary to check coincidence of axes.
The condition of the interior can be seen at the photos. But as smell and the quality of upholstery are also important for coaches, you need maximum information from the seller about the previous operation of the coach (where it was used, who were its passengers, etc.).