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Old 12-13-2016, 04:19 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 46
Advice? Almost able to take the dive.

Hey friends!

I'm rather tired of paying rent. It's not even that expensive here in Louisiana, but it is just so frustrating to be "throwing money away."

Most people when I express this grievance say, "ScapegoatWax, why don't you just buy a house?!" but they don't realize that I can't stand living in small town Louisiana and I'd really rather not live at all than sign a contract to be stuck here for 15+ years. So why not move somewhere I like it more? That's really expensive!

No matter how I look at it, moving into some sort of camper (conversion) seems like the best use of my funds given how much I don't want to stay where I am right now and also considering how much I'm not sure "where" I want to be. The amount of money I could spend traveling and looking for decent job somewhere else and signing leases on apartments could instead be put into a home that I can put just about wherever I want. Even if equity on a camper is significantly lower than most houses, it's a much smaller investment, it's a much smaller commitment, and it doesn't tie me down to any one location. It seems right for me!

Maybe I'm preaching to the choir here.

Anyways, my lease on the current house I'm renting (which I think is too big for me) is coming up soon. I don't expect the landlords to ask me to renew the lease, but I also don't expect them to kick me out since I've been a fine tenant and pay my rent on time (ahead of time) and whatnot. My plan was, come March, to bust a move. Either find a place to stay that was significantly cheaper (and I'm already paying $675 a month, which is pretty low), try to make a down payment on a house, or start working on moving into a vehicle and convert it into a camper.

My fascination with this sort of lifestyle got sparked something like a decade ago (26 now), when I got charmed by the idea of saving up a decent amount of money and then just being a homeless wanderer for a year or two. Younger me definitely romanticized that lifestyle a little too much, I've been camping and doing that every day for a year is a little too adventurous for me here-and-now. Probably a little more than a year ago now I stumbled upon van dwelling and a few blogs associated with it and felt a huge connection for it. This was after having spent a few stretches of camping in my current vehicle.

Long story short, I don't think a van is big enough for me. I was pretty committed to the idea of getting a box truck ("straight truck") and converting it into a mobile home but I have started giving buses more consideration after learning more about roof raises--they're not as scary or difficult as I had imagined. (Little to no fabrication experience here.)

I'm 6'0" and was originally intimidated by the idea of a roof raise, so I wrote buses off. After insulating the floor and the roof, there would be no way I could stand up straight in most buses, if I could stand up straight even before that stuff got put in! But knowing I can easily add 2' (or more?) height to most buses and still be under 13'6" breathes a whole new life and charm into skoolies!

The business I currently work for does a lot of business with school districts around here. My boss has connections and is happy to help me transition into something like this, based on our conversations. He has more contacts than I do, but said that he would try to find out about what happens to school buses around here when they're taken out of service... It's not especially likely I can get an insane deal, but it's highly likely I can at least learn about when and where districts auction off gear so I can hopefully cut out middle men.

I've been poking around on the net and on here for at least a year now and I'm still very enthusiastic and confident that this is the right direction to take my life. However, because I'm so enthusiastic (and close to making the call), I'm hoping to reach out to folks involved and look for advice and experience that will help me take a realistic look at this life choice.

Is there any help or advice you can offer? Anything you think might shake an ordinary person's resolve? Any skills I should sharpen before leaving houses for good?

Thanks!
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Old 12-13-2016, 04:36 PM   #2
Almost There
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Oklahoma
Posts: 85
Year: 1984
Coachwork: Ward/Amtram
Chassis: International 36ft
Engine: DT466 w/ Allison MT643
There are threads on this forum discussing what engines/transmissions to look for - read them, because you seem unlikely to be a person who wants to change that later.

Read the threads about the pro's and cons of front engine/rear engine/dognose

Watch out for rusty buses, like cockroaches the rust you see is only the beginning.

Dont raise the roof more than you need to - it adds drag, makes the bus less strong, and costs more.

Read up on air vs hydraulic brakes. You'll find buses with either one. If you foresee lots of mountain travel, go air, and try to get a bus from a mountainous area with a driveline retarder.

Read up on various toilet options.

Power - If you're boondocking you either need to minimize use of power to an extreme, or buy a ****load of solar panels - like the entire roof covered in them. Flat nose buses have more roof for them ;)

AC/heat: If you're in an area where the temp seldom drops below 45, and have electricity via tons and tons of solar or a plug in, a minisplit heat pump might be more efficient for heat. Either way, you need a propane/diesel/wood burning something for backup or when it's really cold.

If it gets below freezing, make sure your plumbing can handle it.

Insulate the CRAP out of it. What you pay in insulation you'll save on energy use later. This is handy when boondocking. Ditch the bus windows, they leak heat AND draft.

Repeat after me: I will never be able to sell the bus and recoup my expenses. I will never be able to sell the bus and recoup my expenses. It wont resell for what you got in it, period. You're building it for you, and the only way to recoup your expenses is to use it! And you're basically paying for a bunch of your rent up front here. It will take years to pay you back by living in it. You'll still have to park it places, provide it energy and water, etc. Boondocking may be free, but RV parks are not.
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Old 12-13-2016, 05:01 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 46
Thanks for the reply, Dalez

Quote:
Originally Posted by dalez View Post
Read up on air vs hydraulic brakes. You'll find buses with either one. If you foresee lots of mountain travel, go air, and try to get a bus from a mountainous area with a driveline retarder.
I don't live anywhere near the mountains, I'd have to shop out of state to get a bus from a mountainous area. I would like to be able to travel around the country or perhaps even into Canada... is it feasible that there would be a bus with a driveline retarder around here or should I be looking out of state?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dalez View Post
Repeat after me: I will never be able to sell the bus and recoup my expenses.
I will never be able to sell the bus and recoup my expenses!

Yeah, that's not necessarily part of the plan. If I ever finish with the thing, I'll take whatever it is I can get for it. (Kind of like how people selling buses prior to conversions look at it, huh?)
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Old 12-13-2016, 05:55 PM   #4
Almost There
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Oklahoma
Posts: 85
Year: 1984
Coachwork: Ward/Amtram
Chassis: International 36ft
Engine: DT466 w/ Allison MT643
Unlikely I think that you'd find a bus with a retarder outside of a mountainous region as they're a pricey item and schoold like to minimize expenses. If you dont think you'll be traveling the mountain passes frequently you can get by without it, especially with air brakes, but you'll need to descend SLOWLY and use proper braking techniques to avoid overheating your brakes.

Where are you located?
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Old 12-13-2016, 07:21 PM   #5
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Richmond Virginia
Posts: 932
Year: 1984
Engine: 366 Big block Chevy! :) w/ Stick shift
Amen brother, amen!

May the wind carry you to your joy
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Old 12-13-2016, 08:11 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 46
I'm in South Louisiana, practically along the gulf. Somehow we were unaffected by that really awful flooding earlier this year.

Thanks, Carrytowncat!
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Old 12-14-2016, 02:44 AM   #7
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
Posts: 2,119
It sounds like you have a pretty good plan for what you want to do.

A few suggestions:
  • Buses from the south tend to not have very heavy spe'c's. CA, OR, WA, and CO have about the heaviest minimum spe'c's of all the states with WA being about the heaviest (on average a minimum spe'c WA bus costs $15K more than buses for states like ID or MT).
  • Buses from LA, TX, MS, AL, FL etc. will be okay but they tend to be snapped up by companies that are shipping them south of the border or overseas. It tends to drive the cost of them up.
  • Driving across the country to get a bus may actually be cheaper than purchasing a bus from a local source.
  • If you ever plan to do any long distance traveling get the biggest engine, heaviest transmission, and air brakes. The bus will cost more up front but you will save a ton compared to what it would cost to update or upgrade a power package later.
  • Do NOT buy a bus with rust.
Only you can determine what will work the best for you.

If you find something and want an opinion on a particular bus, post it here. You may luck out and have someone from here that lives close enough to the bus to go and take a look at it for you.

Good luck and happy trails to you.
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Old 12-14-2016, 02:57 AM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 46
Thanks for the tips cowlitzcoach, I'll keep that stuff in mind.

What sorts of things change between the minimum specs? Does that apply even to things like service/maintenance? Dalez mentioned buses from mountain regions having a drivetrain retarder, I imagine that's one example... I'm not going to get a bus with a weaker chassis/frame down here, am I?

Are there any particular places I should be (or should not be) looking for a bus? I've found some random lists/dealers using google but nothing really struck me as especially trustworthy or sketchy.

I definitely need to do some more homework on the basics like engines and transmissions and gas vs diesel and flat front vs hooded front, but receiving this Christmas bonus (and being more responsible with my money in general) has made this goal seem a lot more tangible than it was even a few months ago.
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Old 12-14-2016, 07:05 AM   #9
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 17,717
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
A non running bus that had been on fire just sold for $2500 at my local FL auction. The runners were all ten grand and up.
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Old 12-14-2016, 08:41 AM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 25
KY buses get serviced every 20 days that they are in service. I believe this is more than any other state. So from a maintained standpoint I think they would be the best.


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