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Toyota LPG Coaster green public minibus in Hong Kong WP9187 New Territories 806A 03-03-2020.jpg
Toyota LPG Coaster green public minibus in Hong Kong
Citroen Jumper minibus in France Jumper Distribus (cropped).jpg
Citroen Jumper minibus in France
Cacciamali Urby (built on Iveco Daily chassis) operating in Zagreb, Croatia Minibus ZET Zagreb.jpg
Cacciamali Urby (built on Iveco Daily chassis) operating in Zagreb, Croatia

A minibus, microbus, minicoach, or commuter (in Zimbabwe) is a passenger-carrying motor vehicle that is designed to carry more people than a multi-purpose vehicle or minivan, but fewer people than a full-size bus. In the United Kingdom, the word "minibus" is used to describe any full-sized passenger-carrying van or panel truck. Minibuses have a seating capacity of between 8 and 30 seats. Larger minibuses may be called midibuses. Minibuses are typically front-engined step-entrance vehicles, although low floor minibuses do exist and are particularly common in Japan. Minibuses may range in price from £2000 to nearly £100,000.[ citation needed ]



It is unknown when the first minibus vehicle was released but it is possible that the first one was the 1935-1955 Chevrolet Suburban or the Volkswagen Transporter, even though the Suburban is thought by most to be an SUV, the first generation to the third generation could have theoretically by classified as minibusses today.

1938 Carryall Suburban, sometimes considered the first minibus to be ever produced. (rear) 1937 Chevrolet Carryall Suburban.jpg
1938 Carryall Suburban, sometimes considered the first minibus to be ever produced. (rear)


Minibuses are used for a variety of reasons. In a public transport role, they can be used as fixed route transit buses, airport buses, flexible demand responsive transport vehicles, share taxis or large taxicabs. Accessible minibuses can also be used for paratransit type services, by local authorities, transit operators, hospitals or charities. Private uses of minibuses can include corporate transport, charter buses, tour buses. Schools, sports clubs, community groups and charities may also use minibuses for private transport. Individual owners may use reduced seating minibuses as cheap recreational vehicles.


By size, microbuses are minibuses smaller than 8 metres (26  ft 3  in ) long. Midibuses are minibuses bigger than microbuses but smaller than full-size buses.

There are many different types and configurations of minibuses, due to historical and local differences, and usage. Minibus designs can be classified in three main groups, with a general increase in seating capacity with each type:

Van conversions

Ford Transit minibus in County Down, Northern Ireland Bloody Bridge car park, May 2010 (06).JPG
Ford Transit minibus in County Down, Northern Ireland
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter minibus in Germany Mercedes sprinter 1 v sst.jpg
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter minibus in Germany
Plaxton Beaver 2 bodied Mercedes-Benz Vario in Norwich, UK AO52 LJF (4).JPG
Plaxton Beaver 2 bodied Mercedes-Benz Vario in Norwich, UK

The most basic source of minibuses is the van conversion, where the minibus is derived by modifying the existing van design. Conversions may be produced completely by the van manufacturer, sold as part of their standard model line-up, or be produced by specialist conversion companies, who source a suitably prepared base model from the van manufacturer for final completion as a minibus.

Van conversions involve adding windows to the bodywork, and seating to the cargo area. Van conversion minibuses outwardly look the same shape as the parent van, and the driver and front passenger cabin remains unchanged, retaining the driver and passenger doors. Access to the former cargo area for passengers is through the standard van side sliding door, or the rear doors. These may be fitted with step equipment to make boarding easier. Optional extras to van converted minibuses can include the addition of a rollsign for transit work, and/or a full-height walk-in door, for passenger access to the former cargo area. For public transport use, this door may be an automatic concertina type. For other uses, this may be a simple plug style coach door. Depending on the relevant legislation, conversions may also involve wheelchair lifts and tachograph equipment. A van conversion with a passenger area in the front and a storage area in the back, behind a fixed bulkhead, is called a splitter bus.

Examples of vans used for these conversion minibuses are:

Body builds

North American School minibus based on a Chevrolet Express van chassis. Body is a Blue Bird Micro Bird MB-II by Girardin Blue Bird Micro Bird MB-II by Girardin.jpg
North American School minibus based on a Chevrolet Express van chassis. Body is a Blue Bird Micro Bird MB-II by Girardin

Another method of building a minibus is for a second stage manufacturer to build a specific body for fitting to a semi-completed van or light truck chassis. These allow a higher seating capacity than a simple van conversion. Often, the second stage manufacturer is a bus manufacturer.

In a body-on-chassis minibus, a cabin body is installed on a van or light truck chassis encompassing the drivers area. These designs may retain some outward signs of the original van, such as the hood and grill. Other designs are visually a complete bus design, and it is merely the chassis underneath that is from the van design.

The body-on-chassis approach gives the advantage of higher seating capacity, or more room for passenger comfort, through a larger cabin area. There is also the advantage of being able to have the drivers seat positioned in a small cubicle, next to the main passenger entrance, allowing the driver to collect fares in a transit bus role.

Examples of body built minibuses are:

Examples of vehicles used for this type of minibuses are:

Purpose built

Nissan Civilian purpose built minibus ChichitetsuKankoBus 201.JPG
Nissan Civilian purpose built minibus

A next generation approach to the van-derived or cutaway chassis approach, is for manufacturers to produce an integral design, where the whole vehicle is purposely designed and built for use as a minibus. This is usually done by an integral bus manufacturer, although large automotive groups also produce their own models. These designs are often available in long high capacity versions, and may attract different designations, such as midibus, or light bus.

Examples of purpose built minibuses are:

Low floor minibuses

Hino Poncho rear-engined low-floor minibus ADG-HX6JHAE-Kanachu-Chi110-Eboshi.jpg
Hino Poncho rear-engined low-floor minibus

Following the development of low-floor technology, some low-floor purpose built minibuses have been created. Some offer a low floor access through a centre door. Some short versions of low floor midibuses are sometimes also called minibuses.

Regional variants

There are many different form of public transportation services around the world that are provided by using vehicles that can be considered as minibus:

Driving licence

Some countries may require an additional class of driving licence over a normal private car licence, and some may require a full commercial driving licence. The need for such a licence may depend on:

In the UK the following information regarding Minibus driving licences is important: "The holder of an ordinary car driving licence which was obtained prior to January 1997, once aged 21 years minimum, may drive a Minibus with a capacity of 16 passengers. Where the "ordinary car driving licence" is obtained after December 1996, they will have to take a separate test to drive a vehicle with a capacity of more than 8 passengers. However, there is an exemption for certain volunteer drivers, where the vehicle does not exceed 3500 kg GVW (or 4250 kg GVW if the vehicle is designed to be wheelchair accessible). Driving licence source

A driving licence issued in Ontario, Canada, for an equivalent of a UK class B or class B-auto driving licence (in the case of Ontario, a class G licence), allows its holder to drive vehicles with:

Anyone wanting to drive a vehicle in Ontario, with the same MAM limits as for class G vehicles, with fewer than 25, but at least 10, passenger seats, must obtain a bus licence. This licence will allow, for example, its holder to drive 12- and 15-passenger vans that Transport Canada defines as large passenger vans.

See also

Related Research Articles

Bus Large road vehicle for transporting people

A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry many passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type is the single-deck rigid bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses while coaches are used for longer-distance services. Many types of buses, such as city transit buses and inter-city coaches, charge a fare. Other types, such as elementary or secondary school buses or shuttle buses within a post-secondary education campus do not charge a fare. In many jurisdictions, bus drivers require a special licence above and beyond a regular driving licence.

Minivan Type of van designed for personal use

Minivan is a North American car classification for vehicles designed to transport passengers in the rear seating row(s), with reconfigurable seats in two or three rows. The equivalent classification in Europe is the M-segment, more commonly known as an MPV or a people carrier / mover. Minivans often have a 'one-box' or 'two-box' body configuration, a higher roof, a flat floor, a sliding door for rear passengers, and high H-point seating.

Van Covered transportation vehicle

A van is a type of road vehicle used for transporting goods or people. Depending on the type of van, it can be bigger or smaller than a truck and SUV, and bigger than a common car. There is some varying in the scope of the word across the different English-speaking countries. The smallest vans, microvans, are used for transporting either goods or people in tiny quantities. Mini MPVs, compact MPVs, and MPVs are all small vans usually used for transporting people in small quantities. Larger vans with passenger seats are used for institutional purposes, such as transporting students. Larger vans with only front seats are often used for business purposes, to carry goods and equipment. Specially-equipped vans are used by television stations as mobile studios. Postal services and courier companies use large step vans to deliver packages.

School bus Bus operated by a school or school district for student transport

A school bus is a type of bus owned, leased, contracted to, or operated by a school or school district. It is regularly used to transport students to and from school or school-related activities, but not including a charter bus or transit bus. Various configurations of school buses are used worldwide; the most iconic examples are the yellow school buses of the United States and Canada which are also found in other parts of the world.

Jeepney Means of public transportation in the Philippines

Jeepneys, sometimes called simply jeeps, are buses and the most popular means of public transportation ubiquitous in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and kitsch decorations, which have become a widespread symbol of Philippine culture and art. A Sarao jeepney was exhibited at the Philippine pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair as a national image for the Filipinos.

Low-floor bus Bus with no steps between the ground and the interior

A low-floor bus is a bus or trolleybus that has no steps between the ground and the floor of the bus at one or more entrances, and low floor for part or all of the passenger cabin. A bus with a partial low floor may also be referred to as a low-entry bus or seldomly a flat-floor bus in some locations.

Transit bus Bus used on shorter-distance public transport services

A transit bus is a type of bus used on shorter-distance public transport bus services. Several configurations are used, including low-floor buses, high-floor buses, double-decker buses, articulated buses and midibuses.

Optare British bus manufacturer

Optare is an English bus manufacturer based in Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire. It is a subsidiary of Indian company Ashok Leyland.

Midibus Single decker buses (length 8-11 metres)

A midibus is a classification of single-decker minibuses which are generally larger than a traditional minibus but smaller than a full-size single decker and can be anywhere between 8 metres and 11 metres long. While used in many parts of the world, the midibus is perhaps most common in the United Kingdom, where operators have found them more economical, and to have a sufficient number of seats compared to full size single-decker buses.

Optare Solo Low floor minibus, built since 1998

The Optare Solo is a low-floor minibus/midibus with one or two doors manufactured by Optare in the United Kingdom since 1998. The Solo name is a play on its low-floor status, the manufacturer marketing its vehicle as having an entrance that is "so low" from the floor, namely 200 mm (8 in) with kneeling suspension. In January 2012 Optare announced the end of production for the original Solo design with a modified Solo SR taking over.

The Wayne Busette is a minibus that was assembled by Wayne Corporation from 1973 to 1990. During its production, many examples of the Busette were produced as school buses. One of the first examples produced with a cutaway van chassis, the Busette mated a purpose-built school bus body with a dual rear-wheel van chassis. In North America, this configuration is now preferred by manufacturers for many other types of minibuses in addition to school buses.

Cutaway van chassis

Cutaway van chassis are used by second stage manufacturers for a wide range of completed motor vehicles. Especially popular in the United States, they are usually based upon incomplete vans made by manufacturers such as Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors which are generally equipped with heavier duty components than most of their complete products. To these incomplete vehicles, a second stage manufacturer adds specific equipment and completes the vehicle. Common applications of this type of vehicle design and manufacturing includes small trucks, school buses, recreational vehicles, minibuses, and ambulances. The term "cutaway" can be somewhat of a misnomer in most of the vehicle's context since it refers to truck bodies for heavy-duty commercial-grade applications sharing a common truck chassis.

Wheelchair accessible van

A wheelchair-accessible van is a vehicle that has been modified by increasing the interior size of the vehicle and equipping it with a means of wheelchair entry, such as a wheelchair ramp or powered lift.

Optare Alero Motor vehicle

The Optare Alero is a low-floor GRP monocoque minibus that was built by Optare between 2001 and 2008. It was built as an alternative to van-derived buses such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Anadolu Isuzu is a joint venture company based in Istanbul, Turkey. It is the collaboration between Anadolu Group, Isuzu Motors Co., Ltd., Itochu Co. and HICOM. Its main fields of operation are the production and marketing of light duty trucks and midibuses. Since the establishment of the company in 1984, more than 80,000 commercial vehicles have been produced in accordance with the Isuzu Motors license agreement. Anadolu Isuzu is the first Turco-Japanese joint venture in the automotive sector.

Conversion van

A conversion van is a full-sized cargo van that is sent to third-party companies to be outfitted with various luxuries for road trips and camping. It can also mean a full-size passenger van in which the rear seating have been rearranged for taxis, school buses, shuttle buses, and limo purposes in place of a family van. Other conversions include bespoke fitting services to be undertaken to make the load area of light commercial vehicles suitable for industrial work. This includes various things such as racking systems for the storage of tools and goods so they can be kept safe and utilise the full storage capability of the vehicle.

Single-deck bus Bus with a single deck for passengers

A single-decker bus or single-decker is a bus that has a single deck for passengers. Normally the use of the term single-decker refers to a standard two-axled rigid bus, in direct contrast to the use of the term double-decker bus, which is essentially a bus with two passengers decks and a staircase. These types of single-deckers may feature one or more doors, and varying internal combustion engine positions.

Bus manufacturing Manufacture of buses and coaches

Bus manufacturing, a sector of the automotive industry, manufactures buses and coaches.

Public light bus Minibus used for public transport services in Hong Kong

The public light bus or minibus is a public transport service in Hong Kong. It uses minibuses to serve areas that standard Hong Kong bus lines cannot reach efficiently. The vehicles are colloquially known by the code-switch Van仔 literally "van-ette".

Mellor Coachcraft is a British bus manufacturer based in Bolton, Greater Manchester, with a factory in nearby Rochdale. Founded in the 1960s, Mellor have primarily produced bodywork for various different minibus chassis throughout its history.