For Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour, she used about 80 semi-trucks and flatbed trailers (give or take a few) to haul around everything she needed to put on a good show. That’s not even including the vehicles that carted around the people helping put everything together!
The chances are pretty good that even if you’re a superior musician with daily or weekly gigs, you probably don’t use that many vehicles to cart your stuff around. Whether you’re touring locally or planning to hit the road for a country-wide stint, finding the right car can mean all the difference between pocketing your earnings and shelling them out.
What are your needs?
Whether you’re a starving artist trying to make it big, or you’re already basking in the spotlight, your vehicle will say a lot about you. Before you buy, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I need to transport my equipment, or can I rent most of it when I get to my destination?
- If I do mostly studio work, do I need a large vehicle, or would a smaller hybrid work?
- Is leasing a good option for me? (Remember if you plan to write it off on your taxes, you need to keep records of when you used it for business and personal use.) Or if it’s a short tour, could I rent rather than buy?
- Does my vehicle need to travel long distances, or am I mostly local or regional?
- Do I need to transport both equipment and other band members?
- How important is my gas mileage?
- Will my vehicle need to be able to haul a trailer?
- Will I need to do any tune-ups to the appearance to make it fit my band’s branding?
- How much maintenance will this prospective car need, and do I have that kind of money in my budget?
How you answer those questions will determine what kind of vehicle you should purchase.
Your list of “wants” for your tour vehicle might be seven pages long, but there are really only five things that touring musicians need to have a successful tour:
- Security: Probably the most important thing that your tour vehicle needs is a way to stay secure. It’s true that if someone wants to get in badly enough, they will, but you should still make sure that your doors lock, unlock, and everything rolls up and closes securely. Your gear is your livelihood, so don’t let a sub-par vehicle make you an easy target.
- Four doors (at least): It is possible to load and unload with a coupe, but it’s so much easier on your body and gear to have a taller vehicle with four doors and a trunk.
- Good gas mileage: Gas mileage is something you need to consider before purchasing a tour vehicle. If you have an old van, or you’re pulling a heavy trailer, you can’t expect very good gas mileage, but sometimes you need to do what you need to do. Be sure to crunch the numbers on how much you expect to pay for gas before you throw down your money, because vehicles that are gas guzzlers may end up costing you more in the long run.
- Good condition: Sure, your friend’s former roommate’s best man’s ex-girlfriend might be offering you a touring van for a steal, but if it’s not in good condition, you’re better off without it. Your reputation depends on your making it to your gigs on time and with working equipment, so take your time and shop around. Once you think you’ve found a good prospect, take it to one of our Utah auto repair shops. Our certified technicians can inspect the car to make sure that you’re not getting a lemon.
- A lot of trunk space: You’ll need space for your gear, clothing, instruments, and, of course, road trip snacks, so trunk space is a must. Before you purchase any vehicle, look up the trunk dimensions to see if everything will fit. If you found the perfect vehicle, but it lacks trunk space, secure a roof container to the top to hold all of your extras. It’ll hurt your gas mileage in the end, but it beats pulling a trailer or having gear stuffed around your legs.
Types of Vehicles
You need something spacious and comfortable for long-term touring. That means that you probably need to look into a van, SUV, or a hybrid.
The van is the traveling band’s official vehicle, but there are many different kinds out there to meet different needs. Their trunks are lower to the ground and easily accessible, making them ideal for loading up gear.
- A mini-van isn’t the “coolest” vehicle out there, but it has a lot of space and can usually get decent gas mileage.
- A cargo van is even bigger, but they’re also generally expensive. That said, if you keep your eyes peeled, sometimes fleet companies will sell their used cargo vans at a great price.
- A splitter van is like a cargo van, but the back compartment is sectioned off specifically for music and other equipment. That configuration leaves the front area for personal space.
- Lastly, convertible vans were a big thing in the 1980s, and they’re starting to make a comeback. These vans have space for your equipment, and sometimes feature fold-out beds and a kitchenette – everything you’d need for a tour.
SUVs aren’t known for their great gas mileage, but that is changing with each passing year. They have ample seating and trunk space, and the large rear hatch makes it easy to load up bulky gear. SUVs are also powerful enough to haul a trailer if needed.
If you know that you don’t need to bring much for your gigs, a hybrid can be a great option. They’re sleek, green, and their popularity is making them more affordable every year. One thing to remember, though, is that sometimes the mechanical parts that make it a hybrid can cut into your trunk space, so if you have a lot of equipment, you may end up short on storage. They’re also probably a little more expensive to repair.
Whatever vehicle you choose, be sure to practice packing and unpacking the trunk so that you maximize space while minimizing packing time. And of course, bring it by one of our Sandy, Sugar House, or Bountiful tire shops to get everything inspected before you hit the road, Jack.