A Mexican limousine company converted this 727 into a luxurious stretch limousine.

Photo Victor Serra, Getty Images

Limousine Facts and Figures

You might be surprised to find out that you may need a special license in order to operate a limousine or that manufacturers have to pay a "gas guzzler tax" --"intended to discourage the production and purchase of fuel-inefficient cars" [source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency].The facts and figures below can help sort out gas mileage, safety and costs associated with owning or renting a limo.

Licensing

There isn't a standardized licensing requirement for chauffeurs from one state to another. Some states require chauffeurs pass a specific test to become licensed, while others simply require the applicant to fill out a form. Many states don't require anything more than a standard license, though some might require that the chauffeur apply for a commercial license if the limousine is going to carry large numbers of passengers at one time.

Safety

Limousines have to meet the same safety standards as other vehicles. In theory, every conversion shop has to put every vehicle variation through a battery of tests, including crash tests, to ensure the safety of the driver and passengers. The government periodically inspects vehicles and requests proof from limousine companies that their vehicles have been tested.

Gas Mileage

In general, limousines get lousy gas mileage, though it varies from vehicle to vehicle (and even a Lincoln stretch limo from one company might get vastly different mileage from a different company's stretch Lincoln). Limousine companies have to pay a "gas guzzler tax" on each vehicle [source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]. Essentially, this is compensation to the government for all the pollution the limousine will create over its life of service.

Cost

In a similar vein, the cost of limousines range from bargain buys to extravagant purchases. A custom-built Arnage limousine might be more than $300,000, while a used stretch Lincoln might go for less than $30,000. Conversions can range almost as much depending upon the base vehicle, the length you want to stretch it, and the amenities you choose to include.

Services and Dealers

There are hundreds of limousine services in the United States that rent limos and provide drivers to the general public. There are also hundreds of private operators who either hire themselves out to anyone or become a personal driver for a wealthy person. Before you rent a limo -- or purchase one for yourself -- it pays to do some research on the limousine company. Make sure the company tests its vehicles and, if possible, find out what the certification process is for its drivers. Reputation in the limousine industry is very important, so try to pick a company with a good one. That way, when you're riding in the back with several of your friends, all you'll have to worry about is what everyone wants to drink.

To learn more about limousines and related subjects, check out the links on the next page.