From time to time we will feature an article here that contains travel tips from “professional travelers.” That is, some of our clients that travel several times a week on business or leisure. These clients know their stuff when it comes to hotels, airlines, and of course, finding a reputable limo service.
These clients know the difference between your average, ho-hum limo service and an elite limo service with style. One of our clients has logged thousands of miles in limo and air travel and was kind enough to write a quick limo guide from a client’s perspective.
We love the clientele we serve and thank him for his time and excellent guide that we hope many of our clients will find useful. Here is Robert’s take on finding the best limo service in Houston.
My Background In The Limo Industry
For about twenty years up until recently, I spent thousands of hours in limos all over the country. It sounds pretty swanky until you realize that’s because I worked as a limo upfitter. No, I wasn’t living the champagne wishes and caviar dreams of the rich and famous. I was the guy who toiled 10 hours a day to create custom interiors on hundreds of limos a year. That’s what upfitting is, taking a boring town car, suburban or sprinter van, and making it sizzle with luxury.
Now, keep in mind, this isn’t just a simple seat cover replacement or adding a sound system. We are talking custom fabricated seats, custom speaker molds, bars, and lighting systems. Granted, your budget limo may be less decked out than an elite limo—but we’ll get to that in a moment.
In my time working for my employer, I traveled around the country creating custom designs for many limo services. I’m not talking about your basic black Suburbans that hang out at IAH airport, I’m talking jaw-dropping limos. Custom embroidered and tufted seating, club quality lighting and sound systems, luxury carpet and anything else you can imagine. That’s what I specialized in—the ridiculously extravagant, enough to satisfy anyone’s inner diva.
What Is Different About An Elite Limo?
So, what we referred to as an “elite limo,” were the limo orders that went over the top on the luxury. Extra soft leather seating, deep plush carpets, ridiculous sound systems, neon lighting, and premium trims.
What makes them different from a regular limo? Well, in a basic limo you really aren’t getting much more than the factory interior with some minor additions. Sure, you may have a basic mini-bar installed, but aside from that, it’s just stock.
In an elite limo, we are gutting the inside, creating custom-molded seating that is fitted with luxury upholstery. We’re talking options like memory foam padding covered in buttery Italian leather. Suede headliners with constellation pattern led light display. I even upfitted a limo with a headliner that was a print of the Sistine chapel—ridiculous right?
I say all this to explain that there is a difference between an elite limo and an elite limo service. You see, you can book one of those luxury rides and the service can be horrible. So, the quality of the ride doesn’t always equal the quality of the service provider.
In fact, you are far better off in a basic limo with an elite limo service provider than in a luxury ride with an unreliable provider.
Elite service is what you want above all else. PERIOD.
But how do you go about finding that elite level of service? Well, there are a few things to look for when finding this level of limo service in Houston.
Signs Of An Elite Limo Service In Houston
I thought about my first time upfitting a fleet in Houston. I had seen a lot of crazy requests in the past but Texas really does do it bigger. The company I was contracted by wanted denim seats, with leather accents like boot materials. I thought, yep I am definitely in Texas now.
The limo company was to pick me up at IAH and was a no-show. This mind you, is after an hour of landing; still no limo, no phone call—nothing. If I was a customer I would have been furious but I was on the clock and getting paid.
This is what I am talking about when I say service is above the luxury. They finally showed up and were very apologetic and arrived in a luxury town car. It didn’t matter though, they failed at the service experience level.
There are three key service features to look for so you don’t pay for mediocrity. Because let’s face it, if you wanted mediocre, you’d book a rideshare right?
Reputation For Reliability
Sure, there are extraordinary circumstances that can happen to any limo service, but an elite provider accounts for that. They arrive at their pickups early just in case, they communicate their status and answer their phone.
In these modern times, that means subtle features like automatic texts when your driver is within minutes of your location. Some companies even riff off rideshare apps and use live tracking via their own app. Barring some ridiculous unforeseen situation, your car should be on-time, every time, that’s what contingency planning is for.
Basically, whatever it takes to keep the client in the loop, so they never wonder where the driver is. That is pro-active communication and it reinforces reliability and trust.
Image Isn’t Everything But It Is Something
I recommend you check out reviews of providers you are considering, and visit their website as well. Chances are if their website looks unorganized and with little info—that might be an indicator that they are the same. If they don’t have any reviews, yet have been in business for several years—that doesn’t add up. Sure, image isn’t everything, but it does account for something and often is a clear sign of how they do business.
If the service has been in business for several years and they’re clients are happy—they should have good reviews. Conversely, if they don’t even any at all—that should be a sign. Every business will have those clients that are just not satisfied no matter what you do. They are the first to write up a bad review on Yelp or Facebook. So if you see they claim to have been in business for ten years, but not a single review? They might be overstating their experience and trying to “fake it till they make it.” In any case, you don’t want to do business with a less than honest company.
Safety Is Priority For Elite Limo Companies
Texas law requires all limo companies to have sufficient commercial insurance. However, there are dishonest providers out there that will skirt that to cut on overhead. Usually, you can tell those companies because they offer ridiculously low rates. If it’s too good to be true…you know the rest.
Drivers must have a chauffeur’s license and it should be visible or easily presented upon request. Also, an elite limo company will have drivers complete mandatory safety classes on a continual basis. Of course, they also will randomly drug test all employees even the mechanics to ensure safety.
Your driver should obey all traffic laws, even if you ask them to speed to make an event on-time, they should respectfully decline. Safety is at all times the priority no matter what. That is how an elite provider operates because they know safe operation keeps them profitable.
What To Watch Out For
While there a lot of other positives to look for in an elite limo service, there are also things to watch out for. Things that let you know you’re not dealing with even an average provider—and should not be trusted.
- Requiring Full Pre-Payment: A deposit at the time of booking is always required but it should never be more than 50%. Anything over that sounds downright fishy—find another provider.
- Minibar Scams: Many shady providers will come with cheap champagne already in the bar in the back. That seems nice until you realize, it’s not cheap for you and certainly not included with your price. In fact, many will charge you later up to four times the price of that bottle. Ask the provider if the limo comes “iced,” which means there’s ice but you can BYOB. At the very least make sure alcohol prices are disclosed up front.
- Won’t Let You Check Out The Fleet: With a reputable company, they allow and encourage clients to check out the fleet before making a deposit. If a company refuses, that’s a bad sign. You want to make sure what’s advertised in photos is really the same in person, don’t get catfished on a limo.
When it’s all said and done, if you just do your due diligence, finding a reputable limo service in Houston shouldn’t be that hard. Just use your head and your instincts.
When I am in Houston, I do always recommend my friends at Excelsior Transportation. They are true professionals with impeccable style and punctuality. You can book them online 24 hours a day.
-Robert, Retired Limo Upfitter And Excelsior Client