Hiring A Dodgem For Your Event

Possibly the most popular ride at any event is the Dodgems, or Bumper Cars as they are quite often referred to. I think the public use the latter description based on their idea that they should be crashing headlong into each other, and the ride owners the former based on their desire to see their ride remain intact as long as possible.

When hiring this type of ride for your event there are a few things to keep in mind.

First off they are quite expensive, we receive a steady stream of enquiries along the lines of “A bouncy castle can be hired for twenty five quid, so I guess dodgems must be about a hundred?”, sorry, to travel any distance with a couple of vehicles averaging 6-7 M.P.G. the fuel bill alone can easily mount up to the hundreds, if you want dodgems budget at least £1700 up over.

Now there are some rides out there that are super cheap compared to the industry average, if you are pricing around and someone is offering to undercut everyone else by 30% then you need to start asking questions, begin with “How many actual cars will be on the ride”. One operator we know used to offer dodgems for £1000, when they turned up they came with 4 cars, when you complained,  it would be explained to you, that is the reason it was so cheap, and if you wanted extra cars the price would rise.

The same ride came with no lighting, music or even a top rain cover, they were all optional extras, time you specced up a standard dodgem to match the other quotes you had received you would find that the ride was more expensive than anyone else.

Another good sales pitch we have seen was dodgems starting at £129. When you read the small print, that was for a single car, and the minimum order was 16 cars, so the price was pretty much standard, but it did catch your eye.

There are two main types of dodgems you can hire, traditional and continental. They both give exactly the same experience, the main difference is in appearance, the traditional ride is more of a vintage look that you would remember from being a kid, the continental type is the new super decorated whizz bang lighting effects type of thing. Like I say, the rides the same, just one looks flashier than the other.

The traditional type does have one big advantage, it is supplied entirely dismantled, and can be carried into position, we have operated them on second floors of buildings, even in a raised marquee. The continental type are supplied on a trailer, probably 50ft long weighing perhaps 25 tonnes, and need to be driven into position, so this does limit where they can be used.

Always ask for an image of the actual ride, and ask about lighting, music, cars etc, and you should be able to compare quotes on an even basis.

Remember, “The sweetness of low price, fades long before the bitterness of poor service”

Image of a traditional dodgem track
A traditional English style dodgem track
Image of a modern dodgem ride
Modern Continental Type Dodgem Ride

Things To Look Out For When Hiring A Dodgems Ride

Over the last few years we have had numerous conversations like the following ;

Potential client “Hello, do you do doughnut cart hire?”

Us “Yes we do, for your area its x amount ”

Potential Client “We have been offered it for half that !”

Us “We suggest you book it then as we cant meet that price ”

Potential Client “We did book it but they let us down !”

We understand that everyone has a budget, but if you went shopping for a Porsche car and the one you wanted was £50,000 and suddenly someone offered you the exact same one for £10,000 you would rightly be suspicious, yet people price around for rides like the dodgems and book one at a price that wont actually cover the operators costs, and then are surprised when it either doesn’t turn up, or what turns up is a load of rubbish.

What To Ask For

There are a few basics items that you need to clarify when booking a dodgem ride.

  • How many cars does it come with
  • Does it have lights and music
  • How big is it
  • Do you have insurance, risk assessments and method statements, ADIPS and maintenance records

How Many Cars Does It Come With?

Most dodgems in the UK have 14-16 cars, this is a good number for a typical sized track, many more and you end up with a situation much like a busy day on the M25, nothing moves. You don’t however want many less, some operators give a stupidly cheap quote and then you end up with perhaps 6 cars.

Does it have lights and music?

Nearly all dodgem rides do, but again, some operators turn up without then attempt to negotiate the price up to add them.

How Big Is It?

Really important, don’t just book a ride and assume it will fit in your venue because they have had a dodgem in the past, sizes vary from 50 ft x 45 ft to around 100 ft x 60 ft so you could get a shock, we service a couple of venues that can only fit a handful of the dodgems available in this country.

Do you have insurance, risk assessments and method statements ADIPS and maintenance records?

Again don’t take it for granted that they do, if a particular job you ask for a price on has everyone quoting £1900 for dodgems, and someone can do it for £1000 then they need to save expenses somewhere, and insurance or maintenance could be the expense they are knocking off.

The name on the insurance certificate should match the name on the ADIPS certificate (ADIPS is a testing scheme for funfair rides, much like a cars annual MOT)

The insurance will quite often be in a different name to the company you have booked the ride from, usually this isn’t a problem, most reputable hire companies work as a giant cooperative and use each others equipment to keep fuel and travel costs low, any company that tells you they can hire you a complete funfair and they own all of the equipment will probably be less than truthful, if they do own all the equipment then all the insurance and ADIPS will be in their name, its an easy way to check, and if they are lying about this, what else are they not being honest about, just something to consider.


You are always welcome to Contact Us  for free no obligation advice, or visit www.funfairgames.net for more information.

picture of a modern dodgem track ride
Modern Continental Dodgem Track
Image of a traditional dodgem track
A traditional English style dodgem track

Helping You Plan An Event

Planning a successful event is a major challenge, and can involve dealing with multiple suppliers, council departments, the police, fire brigade, press and many other organisations. Even a small company funday can involve weeks of planning and for someone not used to it, prove incredibly stressful.

Our advice is wherever possible use a professional event planner, the money they cost may well be saved by the deals they can negotiate with suppliers, and just imagine your event opening its doors, only to find the Police waiting to close it down because you haven’t applied for the relevant licence!

However, its quite possible that your planning a smaller event and feel confident you can do it, or even relish the challenge, or perhaps your company director has decided to hold a funday for the staff and given you the job, what next.

No amount of tips will ever replace the experience that a professional will bring to the table, but a little bit of research and some methodical planning can give you a fighting chance at delivering a successful event and hopefully help you avoid some of the pitfalls along the way. There are a few pages explaining the basics, then a resource page at the end with information that can be downloaded and links to more in depth resources.

Getting Started

There are 6 basic questions you need answering before you can proceed with planning these are;

  • How many people is it for
  • What will the age groups be
  • What sort of entertainment is required
  • Will catering be required
  • Where will it be held
  • Who Needs To Be Informed

How Many People Is It For

This question is the most important as it will  dictate the answers to many of  the others. The number of guests is the first thing you need to find out. There is little point booking a local pub to try and house 500 members of staff. Similarly a major exhibition centre is overkill if you have 20 members of staff coming for a little party (although many exhibition centres will have a number of smaller rooms that can be hired for smaller events).

The guest numbers will also dictate how much entertainment you need (booking a funfair ride that will carry 4 people is little use if your event lasts 2 hours and you have 500 people there). Similarly you don’t want to order a hog roast for 100 guests and expect to spread it between 500, many guests will ask for seconds so really you should be ordering more than you need, we usually try to stock up for an additional 10% or so.

What will the age group be

Any entertainment, and to a lesser extent catering, will need tailoring to the age of the guests. Booking a selection of high speed thrill rides will be great for the bulk of people, but won’t impress a gang of 5 year olds, or their mothers!

Similarly a hot young contemporary comedian might go down a storm with the 30 somethings but upset the older generation, and if your company directors come into this bracket it might not be a good idea to upset them.

We would normally work the guests into catogeries;

  • Young Kids
  • Teenagers
  • Pensioners
  • Everybody else

What Sort Of Entertainment Is Required

You are lucky nowadays, with the advent of the Internet there is an unbelievable choice of entertainment for your event. From bands to team-building to funfair’s and much more besides.

With the information you have selected, you will be able to prepare a plan of what you are going to need. Make sure there is something for everybody, any group left out is going to complain. Obviously if there is only going to be 2 children there then you can’t really justify 4 or 5 children’s entertainers (unless they happen to be the owners kids), similarly if there are only a small number of older people in the mix you may well get away with booking a risque comedian, you could always explain that it is someone the majority of the people like and explain why they might find him offensive, you might be surprised, we’ve been to many events where the liveliest group are the older generation.

Some choices such as funfair games (hey we are a funfair company so we are going to tell you about our stuff), works equally well for all ages, kids love games such as the coconut shie, whilst the grown ups will be competitive and want to beat their mates (or impress their girlfriend/boyfriend/partner).

Your entertainment choice might be dictated by the choice of venue, if you are having an indoor event then there is no point thinking about something like a ferris wheel, there are few venues that it will fit inside. Equally a crooning singer might not like the idea of working outdoors. You need to draw up your entertainment list and then review it after you have sorted the venue out.

Is Catering Required

I can think of very few events we have attended where catering hasn’t been provided, people basically need to eat and drink, and the catering can easily make or break the event. A small number of guests at an intimate party might be better served by a sit down meal, though we regularly see 4-500 sit down guests being served a 3 course dinner, for that you will probably be better using the venues caterer as the logistics involved in laying out 500 places in a tent in the middle of a field are complex, and you would need to be sure an outside caterer was up to the task.

If you are having some outdoor entertainment, then hog roast, burger van, buffet type food is probably the way to go, the guests can mix and mingle, listen to the entertainment/use the attractions and feed when they feel like it. An ice cream cart or candy floss cart or other fun food will make a nice addition and usually keep going throughout the event.

Don’t forget to take into account any special dietary requirements, such as vegetarians or someone that can only eat Halal or Kosher.

Where Will It Be Held

Again this ties in with the number of guests you have and the type of event. If its a large family funday you are going to need enough space for the rides, games and catering attractions, and just as importantly suitable access, there is no point booking a 30 acre field for a full scale funfair, if the only access road is 6ft wide (believe me we have had this happen), any reputable supplier would arrange a site visit to check access fro large vehicles, though you may either have to pay for it, or be patient so they can arrange to carry it out when they are in the area.

Indoor venues are licensed for a set number of people, so they will be able to tell you exactly how many guests you can have. A popular range of venues are football stadiums, they tend to have enough seating indoors and catering expertise for a large sit down meal, and plenty of room outside if you want a large outdoor event to go with it, racecourses are pretty similar.

If its a small intimate function, then usually a local bar or bistro would tick all the boxes for you.

But don’t be afraid to use unusual venues, we provided catering for an event in what used to be the cells of Clarkenwell prison, spooky and damp but really fun nonetheless.

Who Needs To Be Informed

At a small gathering in a local bistro, its probably a good idea to inform your guests of the event, otherwise it could be a little quiet, but there aren’t usually any statutory bodies that you are required to talk to.

Larger events depend on what you are going to be doing, alcohol usually requires a temporary event notice if you are charging for it, if it is being given away then it doesn’t fall under the retail sale of alcohol regulations so you don’t need to apply for one, if you need one remember to do it in good time, applications that are late will be refused.

A peculiarity of the act (at least we think so) is that the T.E.N. act doesn’t just cover alcohol, the full list of activities are;

  • selling alcohol
  • serving alcohol to members of a private club
  • providing entertainment (eg music, dancing or indoor sporting events, but funfairs are exempt)
  • serving hot food or drink between 11pm and 5am

So be careful, if you are having a live band or a late night event you could come under the terms of this. Normally you have to apply for a license 21 days before the event, but this has now been relaxed and you are allowed to apply for 10 Late TENS a year, these need putting in 5 days before.

A major event will also require first aid cover, and its probably a good idea to inform both the police and fire service.