I've done a little bit of research, and I have some pretty specific criteria for the bus I want to buy soon. This will be my first bus, and I want reliability over everything else, as I will be living in it full time with my wife as we slowly travel across the US.
Here's our wish list.
1) rear emergency exit (or at least rear side emergency exit) for our "garage" where we will keep the mountain bikes. This is a must (unless you have a better storage solution for mountain bikes in the rear of the bus. I'm all ears). I don't want to keep the bikes in the middle of the bus, they're too big and they'll just be in the way all the time. And I don't want to keep the bicycles outside as they're valuable and I don't want them being exposed to the elements all the time.
2) DT466 engine, I'm sold on this one after reading the reliability. I could possibly be talked into an equivalent 8L cummins, but only if the power/reliability is going to be similar.
3) Sturdy, OD trans. I want the best of both worlds (don't we all?): able to climb the steep passes in Colorado, but still cruise at 65-70 mph comfortably without overheating or destroying the motor. I don't need lightning fast speeds, just reliability as we travel the US. I'd even be ok with a manual trans, provided it's reliable, and my wife can drive it. She's great at driving stick in an econobox, but I imagine a bus is an entirely different beast.
4) I think we want something in the 30-35 foot range. 40 ft would be awesome for the room, but I fear it'd be too big to get into the campsites we want. I only want a single rear axle.
5) ground clearance would be ideal, since we plan on doing a fair amount of boondocking.
6) I'd love a jake or engine brake of some kind when descending. We plan on spending a lot of time in Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and the West Coast.
7) rust free is always ideal, but I can handle patching a few panels.
date of manufacture doesn't really matter to me, as long as it's reliable and fit for building our house in.
We're open to either a school bus or a touring bus, provided the above criteria are met.
Does anything like this exist, or did I just build a dream bus that I'll never find?
And a few other noob questions.
1) I think I want a mid-engine, but I could be talked out of this if a dognose would be better. Rear engine would be ideal, but I'd lose my rear garage area, which is a must have.
2) is a mid-engine any quieter to drive than a dognose? any disadvantages to a mid-engine? I imagine they'll have a better
3) I live in Utah, so something close by would be fantastic (I'm not asking you to search for me, but I wouldn't turn down someone dropping a line on something they found that meets my criteria)
4) Do I want air brakes or hydraulic?
5) I think I want a steel body, so i can weld it up if I need to. I can't tig weld, so aluminum bodies don't seem as repairable for me. Am I overthinking this?
Our plans: keep backpacking the US as we live and work full-time out of our bus. We'll be hauling a 4000lb 4x4 toad for in-town exploration and mountain bike/camping trips. We plan on staying in each town for a few weeks before moving to the next. We want to boondock but also be able to camp at RV camps as well. Any suggestions are greatly apprciated.