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Old 09-15-2017, 05:32 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Conneaut, Ohio
Posts: 180
Year: 2004
Chassis: International CE 300
Engine: DT466E
Rated Cap: 71 passenger / 12 window
What are the best buses to look for, based upon these criteria?

I need some direction, y'all. I could check out every bus I find, in a willy-nilly fashion, but I'd rather be efficient about this.

I'd like you to tell me which buses to seek, such that I would have a very high (if not 100%) likelihood of finding that the bus has the following characteristics:

-High ceiling height (6'6" would be nice, 6'3" is too short)
-Reliable engine and transmission (they say CAT engines aren't good, I'd like to try a Cummins but I'd take anything that's known to be bulletproof)
-Underbody storage bins (some school buses appear to have them built in)

Let's just take that for now. There are other characteristics I'd like, such as a wheelchair lift, but those probably weren't stock with any specific bus. I'm looking for answers along the lines of "The [model year range] [make] [model] bus usually has high ceiling height, the [engine] and the [transmission], and underbody storage". That way when I look at ads, I'll know what to focus on. Last bus I checked out, the guy had to go out and measure the floor to ceiling height and it was too short. I don't want to waste people's time any more than is minimally necessary.
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Old 09-15-2017, 05:55 PM   #2
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 228
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
Rated Cap: 78
What are the best buses to look for, based upon these criteria?

I'm pretty new too, but here are some of the things I've picked up so far. Most important trick I learned is to look at the window line. If it's even with the top of the passenger door it's probably short roof, if it's above the door it's probably a high roof.

Beyond that, I don't think the pattern you are looking for really exists. As I understand all of these features could be ordered as options, so it's not as simple as certain models or years.

Conventional (with front hood) were often the standard utility grade buses, but they could be optioned up. Flat front I believe were more expensive new, and may be more likely to have other options, but not necessarily.

Brands seem to have supporters and detractors. I've generally heard more negatives about Carpenter. Bluebird, international and Thomas all seem to have their fans. Within a brand / type there may be more than one "grade." I.e. In bluebirds I think the tc2000 were a mid grade bus, while the All American was their top line. There are probably pluses and minuses to both, the tc2000 tend to be shorter (but not necessarily), may be more likely to have a wheelchair lift, probably less likely to get top end engine/transmission. But not necessarily.

In a big district they might bulk order a whole bunch of buses the same, but often it seems they were each configured for a particular purpose or route. "Activity buses" for field trips and taking teams to games seem more likely to get higher end options like under storage, highway gearing, bigger engines, etc. But again, not always.


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Old 09-15-2017, 06:01 PM   #3
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 228
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
Rated Cap: 78
On engines, all seem to have their fans. Cats are probably good engines, but you have to buy parts from the Cat dealer so they can be expensive to maintain / repair. International, particularly the dt466 are very common, generally felt to be very reliable and easy to find parts for. Cummins also seem reliable, maybe more complicated particularly in their later electronic control versions, but also pretty common and easy to find parts for.

Most transmissions seem to be Allison, which are considered very good. One of the more common transmissions, the AT545 is said by some to be less desirable due to less gears, no overdrive for highway, and no lockup for improved efficiency and engine braking. The MT645 and particularly MD3060 seem to be more desirable. It can be tricky to figure out which of these a given bus has.


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Old 09-15-2017, 06:08 PM   #4
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 1,414
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
I need some direction, y'all. I could check out every bus I find, in a willy-nilly fashion, but I'd rather be efficient about this.

I'd like you to tell me which buses to seek, such that I would have a very high (if not 100%) likelihood of finding that the bus has the following characteristics:

-High ceiling height (6'6" would be nice, 6'3" is too short)
-Reliable engine and transmission (they say CAT engines aren't good, I'd like to try a Cummins but I'd take anything that's known to be bulletproof)
-Underbody storage bins (some school buses appear to have them built in)

Let's just take that for now. There are other characteristics I'd like, such as a wheelchair lift, but those probably weren't stock with any specific bus. I'm looking for answers along the lines of "The [model year range] [make] [model] bus usually has high ceiling height, the [engine] and the [transmission], and underbody storage". That way when I look at ads, I'll know what to focus on. Last bus I checked out, the guy had to go out and measure the floor to ceiling height and it was too short. I don't want to waste people's time any more than is minimally necessary.
The problem arises when you consider that manufacturers offer only 1 or 2 models of "school bus" and virtually *EVERYTHING* above and beyond that is optional. From engine size/type (which usually varies based on who built the chassis), transmission, A/C, ceiling height, flooring (some have wood as "insulation", some just have rubber mats), and whatever else.

Buses with tall ceilings and belly storage are *USUALLY* set up for field trips and such, and will usually have larger engines, overdrive Transmissions, highway gearing, and sometimes A/C. Not many field trip buses will have wheelchair lifts, however, many wheelchair-lift buses have taller ceilings and A/C ("Special Needs" is what they are sometimes called).

If that's not complicated enough, let's add in the various state and local laws (Kentucky, for example, has a minimum requirement for at least 9 emergency exits, the highest of any state or federal law!) Some states require seat belts for *EVERY* passenger while others only require one for the driver.

If manufacturers tried to make separate models for each and every option package, there would be so many models that no one would even be able to keep up with them all. That said, there are clues we can look for in photographs to help on our search. Belly storage is reasonably visible in photos. Ceiling height - look at the following image:



See how the roof "drops" behind the driver? This indicates a 72" ceiling height. On some models the roof will raise instead for a 78" height. On some models the window height will be your clue:



Sorry that one's a little blurry, but see how the windows are "taller" than the driver's window? That's a clue it has a high ceiling. Also, look on the bottom of the bus, behind the rear tire. See that panel with louvers? This bus likely has A/C and that's the condenser for it. Driver's side placement for these is common (sometimes in front of the rear wheels, sometimes behind) and some buses have 2 A/C systems (there will be 2 condensers in most cases). Here's another example:



This photo is right behind the driver's seat. You can see the battery box door. This bus has front & rear A/C.

Hope this helps on your search!
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Old 09-15-2017, 08:01 PM   #5
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 11,359
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
Trans/AIR 301362 condensors on that green / white bus.. Trans / AIR systems in my opinion are built better than the carrier or ThermoKing systems that were common in school busses.
-Christopher
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