So I had a very eventful Saturday. I made a lot of mistakes in buying a new bus when I flew down to arizona to purchase from a dealer. Hopefully my experience will help those in a similar situation (buying first bus).
The bus was a 2001 International front engine flat nose. 34' long, with DT466 and Allison 643. Was very happy with this combination. Dealer started at $6900 but came down to 5900. That was still above our initial budget, but the length is perfect for us, and having done the previous research we definitely wanted the dt466 and Allison 643. I also felt more comfortable buying from a dealer because they would surely inspect it before sale... especially since this dealership also services.
After a short test drive and inspection, I made the buy and started the 13 hour drive home. The bus had a short wheel base so it was easier to drive. I clipped a couple curbs on right hand turns, but quickly got the hang of it.
Shortly after getting on the interstate to begin the 13 hour drive home, the bus fell from 55mph to 35mph at full throttle (over 2500rpm to maintain 35mph). I got the bus to limp off the interstate and parked it behind a Walgreens.
Frustrated, I called the dealer to ask what they thought was going on. No response. Bear in mind, I had only purchased the bus 90 minutes ago and already had issues...from a dealership-not some craigslist dice roll. After several texts and panicked VMs, still no response... I felt so defeated. 5900 for a bus that I couldn't even drive home, would have to tow ($200 then $5/mile), store until at least Monday, and then throw more money at to fix, and then eventually still have to get it to Colorado. A "perfect" $5900 had just turned into a $9k nightmare- or so I thought sitting on a bench in front of Walgreens.
Finally- I was able to get a hold of the dealer's roadside assistance. They were then able to get in contact with the saleswoman I was working with- turns out she didn't have her business cell phone with her and wasn't purposefully screening my calls.
The initial thought was to have a mobile mechanic come out and look at it, but one of the reasons I was ok with paying more for this bus was that it came from a dealer which, I imagined, would inspect the bus prior to sale- thus I would be buying a more reliable vehicle.
Clearly I was mistaken. I called the dealer and stated that I didn't have any confidence in driving the vehicle even if a mobile mechanic fixed it, and that I'd have to ask for my money back. To my surprise, she understood, sent a tow truck, and gave me my money back.
I was still out cab fair and flights, but I still count myself lucky.
So: In Bulleted form:
• Don't trust the bus to be completely mechanically sound- even if its from a dealership. If possible, have it inspected BEFORE driving home if its a long haul
• Test drive in as many situations as possible. Hills, city, highway, etc. Obviously some issues won't show themselves until the bus has been put in that situation. Just because the engine starts right up doesn't mean there aren't other issues.
• Being in Arizona in summer is like standing on the surface of the sun.
• Dog houses are LOUD, generate a LOT of heat and produce INTENSE vibration...
• Had to get commercial insurance to be legal. Not cheap, but wasn't too difficult either. Purchased from Progressive through a local dealer. Paid $178 for the first month. Purely liability. Of course will get diff. Ins. after conversion, but while its still titled as a school bus insurance can be tricky. Commercial seemed to be the way to go.
Learn from my mistakes!