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Old 09-08-2019, 03:14 PM   #1
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Is this semi-converted short bus worth it?

Hi, everyone -

I'm new here so I'll give you a little background on me and how I got into a skoolie forum. 🙂 I'm also looking for advice on a possible bus purchase. This is very long so I'm apologizing in advance for that.

I grew up in a camping family that spent about five weeks every summer out on Cape Cod and on the Jersey shore. First we had a tent, then a pop up camper, and finally a trailer. I continued camping and traveling on my own until I married a "hotels only" kind of guy.

About 12 years ago, I was going through a divorce from Mr. Hotels Only and knew I was going to end up with nothing much to speak of so I started looking into tiny houses. Then I realized my rather nomad heart would probably need a big, expensive truck to move the house every few years. There was no way I would be able to afford a house, a temporary piece of land, and a big truck, so it was time to rethink the plan.

So ... I started researching van life. High top Sprinters, RAM Promasters, Ford Transits. I'm 5'8" so I wanted something I could stand up in. Well, a Sprinter is way out of my price range. If I got something old, the others weren't so bad but then I'd have to worry about maintenance.

The answer was a bus. A school bus. Good maintenance because ... kids. Sturdy. Different sizes, engines, transmissions, and other features. So ... more research. I had already joined a bunch of van life and bus life groups.

Well, I've been looking for something within my (meager) budget for several months now and I have a March 1st, 2020 deadline. That's when my car lease is up and I don't want to purchase it. After that, I'm on a two year plan to have my bus built out.

My ideal bus would have six windows. I wouldn't mind something bigger but I'll still be working and, well, gas/diesel mileage. 🙁

If you've read this far (thanks!), here's where I ask for your opinion. There's a 5-window bus for sale about 10 minutes from my house. I've looked at it, listened to it running, but didn't drive it. Also, in my excitement in finding something close by and already half built out, I never looked underneath for rust. So here's what I do know:

- 2003 GMC Savana retired school bus
- 125,000 miles
- 100W solar panel on roof
- on-demand water heater installed with water pump to be used for sink or shower (sink sprayer hangs out the window on a wooden hook for outdoor showers)
- range and griddle for cooking (propane)
- futon mattress (I'll replace it with memory foam)
- thermo-electric cooler for perishable food storage
- recently had the fuel tank replaced and the power steering fluid line replaced
- needs a new muffler (fell off during NY to Seattle, WA and back again bucket list trip)
- will need brakes soon
- Goal Zero Yeti 400 battery that can be used with the solar panel - willing to sell separately for $350 (orig. $450)

$4,000 or best offer

Well, according to a bus friend, a muffler and brakes will be about $2k. Also, there's a foot long crack in the windshield way over on the passenger side, but it will still pass inspection. Also, my bad for not taking a good look at the tires.

So now for opinions. If yes, what would I offer and why. If no, why not. General facts, ideas, opinions, etc. appreciated.

~Michelle
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Old 09-08-2019, 04:15 PM   #2
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Sounds like a decent price on what has been done to a stock van based bus.
However, it could be a good deal, or one you should pass on for several reasons.

It really needs to be rust free unless you have a healthy budget and somewhere to tear it apart to fix.
The drivetrain condition should also be turn key ready, meaning not needing an engine, transmission, or any other major mechanical work to put on the road dependably.

The key is not jumping on the first thing that comes up, unless you inspect it closely and fully. If you aren't able to give it an inspection, find someone who can do it for you.

This guy has put out many videos for those thinking about van dwelling or other types of vehicles as permanent housing. Worth checking out a few from him to give you some valuable knowledge into what you're looking to do:


Good luck...
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:03 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by peteg59 View Post
Sounds like a decent price on what has been done to a stock van based bus.
However, it could be a good deal, or one you should pass on for several reasons.

It really needs to be rust free unless you have a healthy budget and somewhere to tear it apart to fix.
The drivetrain condition should also be turn key ready, meaning not needing an engine, transmission, or any other major mechanical work to put on the road dependably.

The key is not jumping on the first thing that comes up, unless you inspect it closely and fully. If you aren't able to give it an inspection, find someone who can do it for you.

This guy has put out many videos for those thinking about van dwelling or other types of vehicles as permanent housing. Worth checking out a few from him to give you some valuable knowledge into what you're looking to do:


Good luck...
I love Bob.

I drove the van and checked everything out. Too much rust on the frame plus the four rear tires need to be replaced. Combined with new brakes and a muffler, it's a hard pass for me.

The hunt continues. I'm checking out another 5-window bus tomorrow.

Thanks for the response.
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Old 09-13-2019, 07:12 AM   #4
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$2k for a muffler and brakes?? Good lord...



Its a GMC van... rockauto.com... brakes for that thing are dirt cheap as is the muffler. Do some reading and do the work yourself. Keep in mind... it's not a "bus".. its a van. What most mean when they say "needs brakes soon" are just pads. I'd personally plan on pads, rotors, and the soft hoses that feed the calipers. At 125k, the rears are likely fine but check them anyways. Parts for these vans are cheap as they are everywhere.


Otherwise, if it isn't in bad shape... the price isn't out of line I'd say. Have any pics?
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Old 09-13-2019, 07:55 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michelle1956 View Post
I love Bob.

I drove the van and checked everything out. Too much rust on the frame plus the four rear tires need to be replaced. Combined with new brakes and a muffler, it's a hard pass for me.

The hunt continues. I'm checking out another 5-window bus tomorrow.

Thanks for the response.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr4btTahoe View Post
$2k for a muffler and brakes?? Good lord...



Its a GMC van... rockauto.com... brakes for that thing are dirt cheap as is the muffler. Do some reading and do the work yourself. Keep in mind... it's not a "bus".. its a van. What most mean when they say "needs brakes soon" are just pads. I'd personally plan on pads, rotors, and the soft hoses that feed the calipers. At 125k, the rears are likely fine but check them anyways. Parts for these vans are cheap as they are everywhere.


Otherwise, if it isn't in bad shape... the price isn't out of line I'd say. Have any pics?
The statement in bold in the first quote is enough to walk/run away and look for something better.

Even if she has the skills and desire to do the brakes and muffler herself, repairing/replacing a rusted frame is deeply in masochist territory.
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Old 09-13-2019, 07:58 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by alpine44 View Post
The statement in bold in the first quote is enough to walk/run away and look for something better.

Even if she has the skills and desire to do the brakes and muffler herself, repairing/replacing a rusted frame is deeply in masochist territory.



Didn't catch the last post that she'd driven it. I'd pass on heavy frame rust (depending on her definition of heavy rust). If it's just scale... that wouldn't be bad to fix... but if there is substantial material loss.. nope.
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Old 09-13-2019, 09:52 PM   #7
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Thanks for all of your comments.

The bus wasn't in very good shape at all. When I went back to drive it, I checked it out in more detail. One of the steps was "soft". There also were a lot of "rust bubbles" under the paint all over the outside of the bus. The back door latch (on the bottom) fell off when I opened it. I took a good look underneath and the rust was more than just surface. The floor was slightly raised and I suspect that's because they laid boards or plywood down first to cover more soft areas. There were just too many things going on.

My dad was a mechanic (amongst other things) and I used to love hanging out in his garage when I was young. I changed oil, gapped spark plugs, changed tires, and could double clutch and shift smoother than all the guys when I was in high school. LOL I'm a lot older now but I'm still pretty handy with tools.

I'd actually like a real bus with a few extra windows so I'll just keep on looking.

Thanks again.

~Michelle
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Old 09-13-2019, 10:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michelle1956 View Post
Thanks for all of your comments.

The bus wasn't in very good shape at all. When I went back to drive it, I checked it out in more detail. One of the steps was "soft". There also were a lot of "rust bubbles" under the paint all over the outside of the bus. The back door latch (on the bottom) fell off when I opened it. I took a good look underneath and the rust was more than just surface. The floor was slightly raised and I suspect that's because they laid boards or plywood down first to cover more soft areas. There were just too many things going on.

My dad was a mechanic (amongst other things) and I used to love hanging out in his garage when I was young. I changed oil, gapped spark plugs, changed tires, and could double clutch and shift smoother than all the guys when I was in high school. LOL I'm a lot older now but I'm still pretty handy with tools.

I'd actually like a real bus with a few extra windows so I'll just keep on looking.

Thanks again.

~Michelle
Good girl, patience is a virtue.
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
Good girl, patience is a virtue.
+1

Don't feel pressured to buy something that doesn't fit your needs.

I had specific wants and a modest budget. I spent 18 months shopping /bidding on buses before I was successful. I got the bus I wanted at a very reasonable price.
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Old 09-16-2019, 10:20 AM   #10
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+1

Don't feel pressured to buy something that doesn't fit your needs.

I had specific wants and a modest budget. I spent 18 months shopping /bidding on buses before I was successful. I got the bus I wanted at a very reasonable price.
Thanks, I did take a hard pass on it.

I really would prefer more windows and a real bus body.

~Michelle
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