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Old 02-13-2007, 12:14 PM   #1
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Is a Skoolie a good option for touring band?

I play with a signed band that will start touring nationally in August, and we'd originally been looking at 15 pass Ford vans, but are now considering a Skoolie to be able to bring wives\babies with us on the road. Can anyone tell me if we would be making a wise choice in getting a skoolie Vs 15 pass Ford van?
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Old 02-13-2007, 12:47 PM   #2
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They will probably get about the same mileage and you will be much more comfortable with all of the room in a skoolie. My bus gets the same mpg as my Chevy Suburban (K2500 w/ 454ci).
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Old 02-13-2007, 12:50 PM   #3
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Thanks for the quick response. What kind of engine do you have? We're looking at one from Greg at Florida Church bus with a dt360 I believe. What about maintenance, should we expect to pay allot more to repair these than a Van?
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Old 02-13-2007, 01:01 PM   #4
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Mine is an International 345ci V8 gas engine. I think if you are going to do a lot of interstate driving an gas engine will be more fuel efficient but a diesel would certainly be nice if you are going to be parked a lot and want to use the engine for heat or power.
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Old 02-13-2007, 01:25 PM   #5
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I agree about gas fuel economy, but we're looking to convert diesel engine to vegoil as well. And for maintenance costs, are we crazy to think we'll spend around the same as a Ford van?
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:53 PM   #6
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The ford van with a diesel will have an IH supplied V8 diesel engine, my personal preference would be to have the inline 6 DT360 engine from a durability and ease of maintaince point. You will find that the skoolie chassis is going to be a heavier duty built chassis that will require less maintainence with the same use as the ford chassis, it,s engineered to handle more weight and have a longer service life from the get go.
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:55 PM   #7
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No contest. Get a school bus with a diesel engine.

My (former) gasoline bus got 5 MPG. My diesel gets 9,5.

Those 15 passenger vans are notorious for tipping over. I wouldn't own one on a dare.

The DT360 is a good engine.

Try to find a bus that has the MT643 transmission rather than the AT545.

Try to find a rust free bus.

Just my personal 2 cents worth, of course!
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:58 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone for the great advice, we've really been weighing the cost's of both vehicles and just wanted to check the integrity and durability of skoolies. When we clime under a bus to look for rust what exactly are we looking for, most buses will have rust underneath right?
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Old 02-13-2007, 03:42 PM   #9
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Regarding rust... boy, that is a tricky topic. On your side of the country, I suppose rust
is a fact of life. Here on the west coast, the underside of most 30-year-old vehicles
have a smooth pale-gray coating of dust over their shiny steel.

You are looking for structural rust. A red dusting of surface rust on steel that
was originally bare, is OK. On the body, you are looking for rust that makes bubbles
in the paint -- which is probably coming thru from the other side. And the frame needs
to be solid and sound, with only cosmetic rust.

If I understand it right, some used-vehicle dealers in the south east get their inventory
from the north east -- because prices are low up there, which is because they
have so much rust up there.

Perhaps it is not such a big deal. I may have rust-o-phobia.
I'm going to hush up now. Best of luck!
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Old 02-13-2007, 05:49 PM   #10
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What about equipment? If there's more than your instruments, there's no question to go w/ something other than a van, especially if you're touring nationally.
If budget is the deciding factor, skoolies are the best deal. Schools are required to adhere to strict state and federal safety standards, and are penalized if buses don't pass inspections. Most schools sell buses that are over 15 years old because of liability issues, and not because the bus is worn out. Some of them will have virtually brand new engines, etc.!
I would buy a skoolie ideally straight from a school district that's auctioning off their retired buses. Virtually every district gets a few new buses every year. If the old ones aren't auctioned (many are by sealed bid) they trade them in. If you offer their trade-in value or a few hundred $ more, sometimes they'll sell to you. They're also going to be straightforward as to the condition of the bus. Call the bus garages in your area. Usually they upgrade during the summer, so if you need one right away going w/ a dealership is your next best bet. Buying from an individual can be tricky because no matter how well the bus has been converted, buses don't like to sit around unused- batteries go dead, mufflers rust through, etc. By the way, rust is usually not as much of an issue with a skoolie than with an older tour bus.

The biggest disadvantage that I see for a band is most skoolies are geared for slower driving (60-65mph) and there's no storage underneath. However, some buses have storage and I've noticed that a lot of those buses will do 70mph or more. If speed is important, take it out for a drive. Sometimes identical buses will have a 10mph difference.

If your budget is 10k or more you may want to look at an MCI or Eagle (look out for rust on the Eagle!) In your area check with busforsale.com (in Hendersonville, TN) or talk to the guys at Eagles Nest in Nashville. They maintain tour buses and have been very helpful with me with advice and leads on good solid buses. Of course in that price range you're not gonna get a conversion, but you can get a good bus for that.

Anyway, I'm a newbie here so I'm sure some of the others have better advice. I've driven a bus for about 10 years and was even in a music group out of Nashville many moons ago, so I'm excited for you! Don't get a van, get a bus!! Did you say babies? Did I say get a bus? Babies? Van? They sure are sweet, but.... A van? With babies?
Rick
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Old 02-13-2007, 09:47 PM   #11
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I'm all about the ball peen test for rust. Put on some junk clothes, some safety goggles, and climb under there. Start smacking stuff with the hammer. Any noise other than a good rigid steel ring indicates some nasty rust.

As far as costs...it's a proportionate thing.

Oil change for the bus: $60
Oil change for the van: $30
Interval for the bus: 6000 miles
Interval for the van: 3000 miles

Same price for both....
The bus will need it less often, but is a bit more difficult (5 gallons of oil to drain!)
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:22 PM   #12
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Get a bus! That's what everybody here is going to say. Speed would be the only issue. My bus tops out at 65 mph and the RPM's are screaming at that speed. 55 or 60mph is better. But anything can be fixed to go faster! What kind of music do you guys play? Do you have a MySpace site or anything where we can hear some of your music? Post a link if you do!
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:07 PM   #13
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Having been in the 'band business' in years gone by, I think my personal suggestion would be to find a good road touring bus like an MCI, Eagle, or Prevost.... These things are bigger, have a smoother ride, nicer seating, and have those huge pass-thru cargo bays underneath for the equipment and stuff.

Be that as it may, if Skoolie is what you are interested in, it certainly would be better than a van. The bus should be able to handle all the equipment, you may have to remove a few of the rear seats for storage space. The church bus sounds good, but there may be better deals out there. Like those 26 Thomas transit style school buses that http://www.sonnymerryman.com/ is selling for $2000 each. You might even get lucky and find one with a storage compartment below.

My bus came from the same area as those that SonnyMerriman is selling, and mine has little to no rust on it...mine came from City of Harrisonburg Va....
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Old 02-15-2007, 09:14 AM   #14
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Thanks again everyone for the great responses. We'd love to have a Prevost, but would need our debut record to sell platinum before that would be financially possible We're a piano rock band from Northern KY, our myspace page is myspace.com/seabird and our official website is http://www.seabirdmusic.com Let me know what you think if you have a chance to listen.

Aaron M.
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Old 02-15-2007, 02:19 PM   #15
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I dig the music. It has a definite Coldplay-Jeff Buckley-Jack Johnson-The Fray quality to it. Ever thought about doing a show in say Minneapolis or better yet...Duluth, Minnesota? We can sit and talk bus after the show even.
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Old 02-15-2007, 03:05 PM   #16
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Thanks, Buckley and Coldplay are certainly compliments. We'd love to come to Deluth, if you want to set it up. How far is that from northern KY? Do you have pics of your bus on this forum?
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Old 02-15-2007, 04:02 PM   #17
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The Fray wasn't meant as an insult...only that the voice sounds similar. I have very few pictures of the conversion process, unfortunately. Most of what I have are of partying. There are a few if you want to look. The seats and the floor took about 3 weekends to finish and then the bus sat. For the two and a half weeks leading up to Country Fest last year we put in every hour we weren't at work or sleeping into the conversion. Needless to say we were too damn busy to take pictures (and I couldn't find my camera). I would be more than happy to answer any question about the conversion though. http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/the_ex...3006/my_photos

We're 800 miles apart so I'm not so sure I'm going to be seeing you until I make a trip down south or you get that Prevost. There are plenty of venues in town though capable of seating from tens to thousands though.
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Old 02-15-2007, 08:55 PM   #18
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I definately like the music! I have always liked most music with a piano. Is it you that play's the piano? I have absolutely zero musical talent. But I can angle grinder bus seats out with a fury!
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Old 02-16-2007, 08:06 AM   #19
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Thanks KC, yep that's me on the piano, took lessons for 6 years and HATED it, switched teachers and I was so bad at practicing he asked me "Have you ever considered playing the guitar" No lie. So I quit taking lessons and started writing what I liked to play. And as far as bus skills go, you have me beat there for sure! I've never even ridden on one, I was home schooled!
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