Tourist destination cities like New York and Los Angeles and Las Vegas are awash in limousine services of every imaginable variety. And although there are a lot of customers, business can be pretty cutthroat and business margins pretty slim because of all the competition. That said, every city over a couple hundred thousand people needs a limousine service, and many cities that do not have big tourist draws may have just one or two limo services in town. Outside of Philadelphia, where regulation and costs are much higher and competition stiff, most mid-size to larger cities in Pennsylvania are good locations to start a limousine business.
Research the limousine business and the limo service market in the city where you are starting your business. Developing a working understanding of local business dynamics and some knowledge about the competition will give you an edge in designing your business model. This kind of knowledge will help you make business decisions like investing in a stretch Hummer, for example, because the other limo company in town only offers regular sedan-style limousines.
Write a comprehensive business plan for your limousine service. If you are experienced in running a business, you can write it yourself. Otherwise, consider working with a professional business plan writer. A business plan should include sections on business structure, financing, business model, analysis of the competition, permits and licenses required, number of employees and vehicles, and of course, a well thought-out marketing plan.
Contact the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to apply for a motor carrier/limousine license. Limousine companies are required to keep adequate insurance coverage on their vehicles and adhere to all of the PUC's vehicle safety regulations. Remit the fee, $350 at the time of publication, with the application.
Register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to pay sales taxes. Apply to the local city or county authorities to get a retail business operations permit if necessary.
Purchase vehicles as detailed in your business plan, locate and prepare your garage and office facilities including signage, hire employees, set up your website, and take any other steps necessary to get your limousine business ready to open.
Hold a grand opening for your new limousine service. Advertising is a big part of the limo business, so don't skimp on your marketing plan. Consider traditional print and radio/TV ads as well as a high-quality website and some online advertising. See what works best and allocate most of your marketing budget there.
Some cities have zoning or other restrictions on signs of certain sizes and types. Check with local authorities before investing significantly in signage.