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Old 08-03-2015, 08:58 AM   #1
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Location: South MS
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Year: 1990
Chassis: Blue Bird TC2000
Engine: 5.9 Cummins 12 Valve VE pump
What bus to avoid?

We are new to this and are shopping around for buses. I am wondering if there is a specific year, model, etc we should avoid? We are leaning toward the school bus over the tour bus because we may go off paved roads at times.
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Old 08-03-2015, 11:28 AM   #2
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Year: 1988
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Originally Posted by Chiller View Post
I am wondering if there is a specific year, model, etc we should avoid?
Always avoid the bus that is coming at you and being driven by someone who is texting or otherwise distracted. (someone had to say it)
Welcome!! I tried to avoid anything from the Osceola School system. I talked to dealers that bought them at auction and said they paid too much and the buses were in bad shape. I also avoided curved front glass just because (I may be wrong) it could get hard to find and pricey over time.
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Old 08-03-2015, 12:14 PM   #3
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Location: EHT New Jersey
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Chassis: International 3000RE
Engine: T444E/AT545
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I've seen buses coming out of Virginia that I'd not touch with a 10m pole; even the GovDeals auction says "Does not run" on them. Coastal and northern buses may or may not be rusted out. I saw one FE transit out of Latham New York that was garage kept during the winter that, had it been an RE, I would have jumped on it.

I'd avoid Cat power. Their parts are proprietary, and expensive. Cummins and Navistar parts you can get anywhere. Gas is also to be avoided, unless you're made of greenbacks.

Go for either GovDeals or PublicSurplus auctions, or direct from the school districts. FleaBay and CL can have the odd gem, but most of the time they're overpriced. I got mine on ebay, and was *real* lucky.
Hey! That's not an RV, that's a school bus.
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Old 08-03-2015, 12:19 PM   #4
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What Scooter said.

I avoid buses from several states due to rust. Michigan, Ohio, the Carolinas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota.
Many here in my home state of Florida are under-maintained rust buckets operated by under-funded schools as well.
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Old 08-03-2015, 12:29 PM   #5
Join Date: Mar 2015
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Originally Posted by HolyBus View Post
Always avoid the bus that is coming at you and being driven by someone who is texting or otherwise distracted. (someone had to say it)
Welcome!! .
This forum is great!
Read what others suggest they would do differently or would work better, weigh these comments against your wants and needs.

Like you, we concidered big tour bus and even had a class A 40 ft motorhome equipped with everything including 450 horse and overdrive. We decided a school bus was correct for us.

Have fun! The hunt for a bus is fun.
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Old 08-03-2015, 12:39 PM   #6
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Year: 98
Chassis: TC 2000 RE
Engine: 8.3 cummins mechanical
Below is a post I posted for a similar question- I think it may help


I have been where you are , except we have had 1 stick staple pusher- fell apart, 1 rts ( former Police Swat bus, a truckcamper a 91 bb tc front engine and now the best of the best a tc 2000 with mechanical 8.3 with a world tranny. I don't know where you live but you need to look NW or South( I live in MI) When you look at a bus you have to do the following ( I was not mechanically inclined either) Please learn from my experiences
1. IF YOU READ NOTHING MORE OF MY POST READ THIS IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT BEFORE YOU BUY A BUS!!!!!- get old overalls and tarp- take them with you (- YOU HAVE TO GET UNDER THE BUS AND LOOK AT THE FRAME AND crossmembers for bad rust. take a small hammer if you ding it and rust falls- leavenow!! you cannot trust anyone on this our 1st rV we paid and inspection service 600 miles away- paid of r RV got there and realized the guy had painted rust proofing over flake rus- hit with hammer chunks fell off. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT- you can pay to fix engine or tranny- you cant fix cancer. We lost our shirts on our 1st RV due to Rust we did not investigate ourselves!!!
2. Unless you are gong to be a customizer and make a toy hauler out the back door then go with a Rear engine. We went from front engine to rear and the noise and heat difference is incredible. Yes you will pay more but if you look diligently you can find them.
3. I prefer cummins- we almost bought an Amtram ( with IH motor)( I loved the RE with air suspension) but almost everyone I talked to got 7-8 mpg and that was it. I honestly got 13.9 mpg on a 40 foot with 8.3 at 55mph on flat and 11in the mountains when I was babying it. But with the world tranny MD6030 it will fly. We were on a trip and one of my kids got really sick and I was airborn headed down the interstate to the ER and no one was passing me- luckly no troopers but my mpg dropped to 7, but it was acting like a mustang or a Camaro!!! I have hear many issues with CAT engines be careful. But cummins are known to be better on fuel and reliable and cold weather starting. I have a older john deere tractor that wont start without starting fluid below 40. But my combine and bus ( both 8.3) will start at 0 without struggling. lots of Cummins dealers

4 . Transmission
I don't care what you hear DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT BUY ANYTHING WITH A 545 TRANNY. It does not have downshift braking ( like your car). I literally almost killed my Wife and 3 kids on I 17 south out of Flagstaff to Phoenix) I had checked brakes thought ok no problem downshifted- NO RESISTANCE!!!!! IT WAS THE MOST SCARY DRIVE OF MY LIFE and I have driven ambulance for 40 years and also on a SWAT team and been involved in 3 active shootouts. That night was the most scary event in my life!!! Get either a 643, or the best is a md6030 world tranny. Make sure you check the rear end on the 643 if geared low you can clmb but 60-65is top. Don't worry about rear end on world so much ( I have a low rear end- mountains but the tranny has overdrive and it will FLY if you have an Emergency

5. in regards to conversion the only thing I can offer is that we used 4 sets of Greyhound seats in the front- Very comfortable and put seatbelts on them.

6, If you get a rear engine your engine components are exposed more ( we went thru Deep Snow, salty roads etc with our Front engine no problem. Well this winter we went through a lot with our rear engine- I should have powered sprayed when we got back but got busy- now am dealing with some issues. So make sure to keep it washed off inside after winter operations.

7.If you live in North automatic chains are cool. Our bus came from Dalles are in Oregon- they get snow but no RUST (NONE). But it had automatic chains- well there was deep snow and Ice areas that this baby just walked through with them deployed top speed 15mph ( see

8.I see many people take their heaters out- if you are going to be in cold that is a lot of heat to make up. I kept our bus heaters in and I can make it VERY TOASTY going down the road without using propane. We put reflectix over all of the windows and ceiling in winter operations

Finally I didn't know squat when I started - had never painted anything. After watching a 100 youtubevids-, I went to harbor freight and bought the 2 sprayer kit. I got the Rustoleum MARINE PAINT. you may see how some people used rollers and regular rustoleum. I started ( the back engine door in black) it did not look great. I switched to the Marine Rustoleum and sprayed it on and it looks like a shop did it. My wife 2 daughters and 1 8 year old son helped me. I never painted anything in my life except a bird house in shop class in high school which I flunked 9 (LOL)

Hope this helps- you can message me for more-but you name he mistake and I have done it - so I can help you not make the same ones!!!!! LOL
Bus dad of 3 and husband of 1 ( wife that is )
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Old 08-03-2015, 12:47 PM   #7
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Excellent advice above. This should be a "sticky" in a new thread titled "Bus Buying Basics".
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Old 08-03-2015, 12:55 PM   #8
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David I run my 545 up and down I17 often. I crest the hill, click it into 3rd and cruise on down applying brakes as needed. Mine will downshift at 50 or below. I come down Oak Creek Canyon too.

I come off a hwy, click down to 1st and as the speed bleeds off the trans downshifts all the way to 1st.

Best trans?, no but it works safely for me.
Don and Mary
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:06 PM   #9
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Location: Katy, TX
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Year: 1989
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Engine: 3208 CAT/MT643 tranny
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I got my first one here in San Antonio, Texas. The schools system gets some of their buses from the military as seconds, usually extremely LOW mileage buses. Then they auction them off cheap as well. Got my Ford, full of fuel and a fresh service for $500. The filled fuel tank had $300 of diesel in it at the time...

Our second bus came from the devastated California farm valley. She has a new-ish (30K miles) Cat engine. I've owned Cats before, so I know what I'm getting into. Cat is not for the faint-of-heart. If you know what you're doing it'll last forever. Most people use it like any other engine. That's a big mistake. I owned three 3206B 425 HP Cats back in the '90s and learned from them how to properly maintain a Cat engine. Never had to major any of them and two of those engines went over 1 MILLION miles before I told the bank to come get them. My personal semi had 1.3 MILLION miles on it before I made the call.

So, if you understand Cats, it's not a big gamble. If you don't, then, yes, stay away from them - I agree.

We bought our Thomas for $2K and I drove her home. All expenses included were under $3,500 by the time I got back home. I figure it was a good buy all things considered.

I steer clear of gassers, northern vehicles (rust issues - I used to live above the rust belt), and one-off unicorn type vehicles. Unicorns are those rare buses that parts are difficult to get. Thus I went with the bus we got.

Just my 2 cents....

Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence. — George Washington
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:55 PM   #10
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Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: michigan
Posts: 29
Year: 98
Chassis: TC 2000 RE
Engine: 8.3 cummins mechanical
Don if you truly have a 545 it has no lock up- at least mine did not I think they can be added maybe yours does have it. But my 545 had NO braking power
Bus dad of 3 and husband of 1 ( wife that is )
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