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Old 11-20-2014, 01:00 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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New - 1st time bus purchase questions

Good Day converters!
I have decided that I want to buy a bus, convert it to a tiny home and hit the road.
This idea has been rattling round for some time but - the time is near. I HATE making avoidable mistakes ... I research research research ... until I think my head will explode.
I have been reading this forum for a week or so. Great information and opportunities to learn from others successes and mistakes - Thank You all for sharing so freely here.
I could read for months and find most answers to every question, known and not yet known ... but ... I hope you all will be kind and forgiving and help me with my answers. If it helps I will put together a post to use as a sticky and then people like me will be able to find these answers easily.
All opinions, thoughts and experiences welcome and appreciated. All will lead to the right solution for me.
Because I have not yet purchased a bus ... and this the ultimate, don't screw this up decision, I have the following questions for the more experienced skoolies:
Is it better to try to buy direct from a school district or a re-seller??
Should I avoid a bus that has been sitting, out of service, for a year or more?
From posts here it seems that some school districts take better care of their buses than others. I am in north east Tennessee - are there school districts within a 300 mile radius to avoid - or ones to focus on? For instance there are several buses in NC that might work for me.
It seems that some of you advise to avoid the allison 545 transmission? I ask because I found a bus with the DT466 and an allison 545 - 36 passenger for a good price. This bus has been sitting for 2 years, has just less than 250,000 miles on it and will need batteries and possibly a starter immediately. (I Googled batteries and the starter so know about what those cost) There is another near me that has the cat 3126b and the allison 545. North Carolina seems to like those allison transmissions.
Is there an engine transmission combo that seems the best choice in a mid size bus? I like torque but would also like to cruise at 65 on the highway sometimes ... I do not need to race up mountains. Do any of the engine transmission combinations make this a possibility?
I will NOT be a repair my bus myself person, ease and expense of repairs to the engine and transmission will also be a consideration.
What are your thoughts on the buses where the engine access is inside the bus as opposed to under the hood? (pullers but with the snubbed nose) A few of these type of buses will be coming up in NC in early 2015.
Also - I read everything I could find on removing the wheel chair lifts. The person in charge at the NC bus department said it is pretty easy to get them out - 2 people - 1 under bus to hold the nut and another to unscrew in the bus. Is this manageable, really, for a person who is half "handy" and has a helper? My thoughts are to prepare myself and do the final dismantle at the scrap yard and dump it.
Thank you so much for reading and hopefully offering some insights and advise!
Nancy in NE TN
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Old 11-20-2014, 02:45 PM   #2
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Re: New - 1st time bus purchase questions

welcome

where in East TN?

Holston bus company had a few for sale (thats were I got mine) I have contact info if needed, also a few private dog noses in JC for sale
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Old 11-20-2014, 03:51 PM   #3
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Re: New - 1st time bus purchase questions

Thank you for the welcome and the reply!
I am in JC.
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Old 11-20-2014, 04:04 PM   #4
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Re: New - 1st time bus purchase questions

Welcome, I removed the WC lift by myself and I'm and old phart.

Check on insurance availability before purchase.
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Old 11-20-2014, 04:28 PM   #5
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Re: New - 1st time bus purchase questions

I am a bit of a phart myself! Glad to hear people are able to get those lifts out. I will watch my fingers for sure!

I called the insurance man today ... they will not insure it until the title has been changed to RV. The premium is less than $500 a year for full coverage. I was pretty happy about that!

The nice lady in NC (transport dept employee) that has the 2000 35 pass with the cat 3126b and allison 545 ($5000) will bring it to me so no worries on shipping that one. But that engine transmission combo makes me nervous after reading all the posts about them.

Thanks to all who are chiming in on this!
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Old 11-20-2014, 05:27 PM   #6
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Re: New - 1st time bus purchase questions

I work in Piney and live in mnt city

we need to get together and talk buses

Holston Bus company in Bristol on weaver pike have a few for sale, everything on opposite side of road, I will be in Bristol Sat. so I can look and see if there is anything or you can call Ron and tell him Doug the guy who bought one in mountain city told you mobile 423-340-1750
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Old 11-20-2014, 05:46 PM   #7
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Re: New - 1st time bus purchase questions

My ins. Lib Mut said, no problem for bus. Got it home and they suddenly changed their policies to NO buses of any persuasion

Sort of in ins limbo right now, but I did get the shower wall backing up today...bring on the FRP!!
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Old 11-20-2014, 06:58 PM   #8
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Re: New - 1st time bus purchase questions

Thanks Doug - would love to talk buses sometime. Piney is 10 min from me and mtncity is Beautiful! If you are going to be in Bristol on Sat maybe we could meet at the bus yard??
I tried to call Holston with the # available on the internet - no luck - I will try the cell.
I have been emailing with the man who owns this one: http://tricities.craigslist.org/rvs/4721848277.html
It's title is still for a bus - I think the price is high - too many windows covered (are they gone or just covered over?), don't want the wood stove or the composting toilet.

The more I learn the better as there seems to be a huge # of choices available.

Dond - abt the ins ... having worked in the industry it can be tricky and agents are often clueless. I use Farm Bureau and have liked them ... good rates and so far they have always been easy to work with. I have had them for years.
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Old 11-20-2014, 09:06 PM   #9
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Re: New - 1st time bus purchase questions

Welcome from another TN person! Good luck finding a bus! Here's my general suggestions in the TN area: intercepting a bus from a school district can save some money. But you have to be in the right place at the right time or make a bunch of calls to see when they're selling/trading in their old stuff. However, TN just changed their laws and the districts are going to be able to keep their buses a little while longer now (17 years). So, you probably won't find great bargains in TN. Indiana gets rid of theirs at 12 years so you can find good ones there. I think NC keeps theirs a long time. Whatever you do don't get a bus from a district that uses bus contractors. They drive their buses as long as they can.

Honestly, the best states (to find a bus) are probably the ones that lean Democratic. Their laws are usually stricter so they tend to get rid of buses quicker. The problem is they tend to be the rust belt states... In NY it's easy to find a late model bus cheap because it probably didn't pass inspection because of rust issues. If you don't mind getting rid of rust they're a great way to go. If you don't mind getting rid of rust....

I call a nice bus in the $2500 range a great bargain. Those are the ones straight from a school district usually. Around $5000 + is when you can find tons of buses and those are the ones from dealers. I personally would buy only from a dealership or district because they'll usually have buses that have only recently left service. A bus that's been sitting for 2 years is not a good thing. Also, 250k is high mileage for a bus. In TN a bus can't pass inspection if it has more than 200k miles on it. Typical miles are between 120 ~ 180k miles. Anything above 9000 hours or so is also pushing it.

Anyway, there's a lot of good info on here so keep researching away!
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Old 11-21-2014, 07:23 AM   #10
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Re: New - 1st time bus purchase questions

look for an Allison 643.
I just drove up to Ky from Fl, and drove back in a 1992 Ward Senator. Total cost including fuel and purchase was less than 2500. Todd County Kentucky is where I have sourced two buses from now. They have older buses in smaller districts usually, and I prefer older.
I would definitely buy from a school directly or through GovDeals or Public Surplus. The dealers and resellers are just going to do the same and charge you 50% more. Go International or Cummins for the engine.
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