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Old 09-16-2014, 12:11 PM   #1
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What questions to ask a dealer?

Being based in the UK I will have to buy a bus "sight unseen", so my question is what questions do I need to ask the seller (I will go with a dealer to reduce risk). Obvious ones are:-

- High resolution photos covering 100% of internal and external (inc. underside, tyres, engine, Tachometer etc.)
- Specifications (weight, dimensions)
- Service/Maintenance history (is that on paper on online in US?)
- Proof of ownership (what does that look like in USA? New York state)
- Video of it starting/running/stopping/turning
- Can you deliver to a freight forwarder at New York port (only Ro-Ro port option available to me)
- References (perhaps from School District?)
- Talk directly to seller to establish some level of trust/rapport
- How many keys does it have?
- Does it start reliably (Ro-Ro shipper needs to be able to drive it on/off ship)

What else should I ask? I don't mind paying slightly over the odds (by the time I have shipped and renovated it would be a small percentage of the total cost) if that reduces my risk of buying a dud!

How might I find an independent engineer in New York who could give an opinion?

For a bus in New York state (salt on roads in Winter...) is there a cut-off in terms of age that I should be wary of?
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Old 09-16-2014, 12:25 PM   #2
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

I'd definitely look at an independent mechanic to review the bus.

Be very careful of the rust in busses from NY. I'd look for a dealer out west.

What is it going to cost you to ship to the UK? I'm military trying to get back over there and I'd love to bring my bus!!!
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Old 09-16-2014, 02:49 PM   #3
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

A car is $878 at http://ro-ro.internationalshippingusa.com/Home.aspx I'm waiting on a quote for a 23'x10'x8' bus which I will post here (but I estimate around $1600). If you are bringing your bus to the UK then you can get insurance for a self converted motorhome from Adrian Flux brokers. If you are borrowing someone else's vehicle and only have a US driving license/address it is impossible to get temporary insurance (I was going to lend my car to a friend from Boston to drive round Europe and he ended up having to rent.)

In the UK your can get a vehicle inspection from http://www.theaa.com/vehicle-inspections/index.html for around $200

Is there any equivalent inspection service in the US?
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Old 09-17-2014, 07:59 AM   #4
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

A lot depends on what you are trying to buy. From your second post
Quote:
23'x10'x8' bus
That's not a very big bus, a full size van is about 21 feet long.
I would avoid, if you can anything from east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio rivers. Those are the worst "salt the road" states. Most salt free would be any
southern state not near the ocean.This is going to cost you a bundle, body rust isn't the only consideration, there are parts that rust badly and may be hard for you to
source in the UK. Many Americans are quite used to traveling long distances to do lots of things. It only takes 5 days Phoenix,AZ to NY,NY in a semi legally, don't rule out a
bus from one of the southwestern states.
Quote:
Service/Maintenance history (is that on paper on online in US?)
Good idea, never heard of it being on line, is that available in UK?
Quote:
Proof of ownership (what does that look like in USA? New York state)
In all states it is a title, each state looks different. You want a "clear" title
meaning it has no liens on it.In the US if you buy a vehicle in one state you have to apply for a new title in the state you live in.
Quote:
How many keys does it have?
Relatively minor, if it's a problem getting US vehicle keys in UK have seller have some made, cheap to do here.
Quote:
is there a cut-off in terms of age that I should be wary of?
Age isn't really a factor, I've seen vehicles only a few years old completely rusted out,
and ones that were much older with relatively little rust.

In general, I don't think you will get a school district that is going to want to deal with the "hassle" of what you want to do, even a dealer, unless he specializes in such things
isn't going to want to do it.You are going to have to find some kind of broker who is willing to do it, and he's going to get paid, quite a bit. Getting it to the port isn't going to be all that easy. I'm guessing the port is actually in New Jersey. I used to haul vehicles to the most of the US ports. I never took any to NY, but took a lot to NJ. Do you have an address, or port name? I believe the port in NJ is part of the New York port authority.

Why don't you find some buses on line, perhaps a local member of this board that is near it might be willing to at least go and take a look at it for the initial contact. There is a member of this board that has a full size skoolie that he imported from the us that lives in England, perhaps he could shed some light, don't remember his name he hasn't posted for a while. He does events using the bus as a base for lots of things.I'm not trying to rain on your parade, or discourage you, just trying to help in your decisions.

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Old 09-17-2014, 12:15 PM   #5
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Honestly what I'd do is fly over, find the bus you want, maybe drive around in it for awhile then drive it to the port and ship it home. The cost of a broker could prob pay for the trip. That way there is no surprises. Hell if you can swing it, find someone to do the mods to the bus you want, roof raise, rv windows/doors etc then ship it. When I was stationed in Suffolk the guys in the jeep club would ship their right hand drive jeeps to the states, have them modd'd and wheel them, then ship them home because it was cheaper then paying the shipping and duty on the parts they needed.
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Old 09-17-2014, 12:38 PM   #6
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponyracer
Honestly what I'd do is fly over, find the bus you want, maybe drive around in it for awhile then drive it to the port and ship it home. The cost of a broker could prob pay for the trip. That way there is no surprises. Hell if you can swing it, find someone to do the mods to the bus you want, roof raise, rv windows/doors etc then ship it. When I was stationed in Suffolk the guys in the jeep club would ship their right hand drive jeeps to the states, have them modd'd and wheel them, then ship them home because it was cheaper then paying the shipping and duty on the parts they needed.
Well I have found a $6500 bus and the dealer is prepared to a) take very detailed photos/videos and b) deliver it to the Port. I suspect I am probably going to get a better view of a bus by spending a couple of hours examining detailed photos than 15 minutes standing in the cold with a salesman looking over my shoulder.

I was going to get a friend from Boston to check it out, but Boston does not do Ro-Ro, only containers.

I'm not actually sure what seeing the bus in person would add - I have never been in a US School bus and wouldn't really know if it was a dud. I have to work out whether I trust the seller and ask the right questions / collect the right evidence up front.

The cost of flying out (excluding the value of the time involved) would be at least $1500 (flight, hotels, car hire etc) plus I would need to get insurance to drive a bus (plus the risk of it being illegal without a US driving permit, school bus still having original markings etc). From a betting POV the marginal extra assurance in personally visiting probably does not outweigh the cost. It would be better to pay a US mechanic to give me an impartial report.

Part of the reason for buying a bus is to do it up myself!
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Old 09-17-2014, 01:26 PM   #7
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Pictures of the bus I'm looking at is at http://1drv.ms/1qYUyff

How worried should I be about the rust on the underside?
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Old 09-17-2014, 02:12 PM   #8
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Rust on underside doesn't look too bad I don't see anything that would deter me, don't know your expertise in repair. Can you request pictures of specific areas? I would want to see the back and under side of the entry steps and behind that door, that rust goes pretty high in that area. Also up behind the rear mud flaps. The floor right in front of the rear wheel well, picture 14 shows that area near the frame,there would probably be more rust out by the body. The under side of the driver floor. The rear door looks to be completely rusted through at the bottom, can you get a picture looking up at the bottom of the door when open? The rust running down from the rear windows, especially the right one would concern me. Can you get an in focus close up of that area. It's probably from salt spray getting up under that seam, that stuff goes everywhere, and may not be all that serious.
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Old 09-17-2014, 06:41 PM   #9
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

1. Are you a lying scumbag?
2. Have you been convicted of any crimes against humanity?
3. Do you beat your wife?
4. Do you kick your dog?
5. Can you provide me with a state inspection from a non-affiliated facility?
6. Can you provide me with detailed pictures of every square inch of the vehicle?
7. How much rust does it have?
8. Are you a lying scumbag?
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Old 09-18-2014, 03:33 AM   #10
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by crazycal
1. Are you a lying scumbag?
2. Have you been convicted of any crimes against humanity?
3. Do you beat your wife?
4. Do you kick your dog?
5. Can you provide me with a state inspection from a non-affiliated facility?
6. Can you provide me with detailed pictures of every square inch of the vehicle?
7. How much rust does it have?
8. Are you a lying scumbag?
I take it US Bus Salesman are not held in the highest regard then

When I asked him about these points, he said he gets his wife to beat the dog for him because he is too lazy....

More seriously re point 5 where would I find such a "non-affiliated facility" - in the UK we have the Automobile Association and Royal Automobile Club who will do independent inspections. Does such an equivalent organisation exist in the USA?
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Old 09-18-2014, 07:17 AM   #11
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Cool little bus!

i've bought 2 vehicles over the internet, unseen prior to the purchase. one was my bus.

a video of it starting, running and moving is a big confidence builder. watch for smoke colors, listen for noises. its real easy to say no, when something sounds out of sorts or it is smoking white.

all the pics in the world don't help if you "want" the bus. that rust seems excessive to me, but im in a drier part of the country. if its a bus dealer, see if they can find a replacement entry steps from the manufacturer to send along on the trip.
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Old 09-18-2014, 08:10 AM   #12
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

The plate on the bus says GVWR 25500 (which I assume is the gross weight since there is a Front (8000) and Rear (17500) number that adds up to 25500. Looks like GVWR is the max laden weight including passengers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_vehi ... ght_rating

I assume that is in LBS (pounds) which is 11.6 tonnes. In the UK you can drive up to 7.5 tonnes (Curb weight) on an ordinary car license so I might need to pass a Heavy Goods Vehicle test.

The question is how to find out the "Curb weight" (i.e. without passengers/luggage)? Perhaps I need to get dealer to take it to a Weight Station.

UPDATE
I asked Blue Bird and they don't record Curb Weight. From other research an 11 GVWR might only actually weigh 7 (in which case I should just be OK) - but I'll have to get seller to get a Weigh Station receipt. Checked with UK authority and they only care about the actual weight from a driving license POV
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Old 09-18-2014, 09:34 AM   #13
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

That's a nice size and specs a very heavy duty(in my very humble opinion). It has air brakes and rust. Rust never sleeps. Rust doesn't bother some people but I hate it. The inspection I was talking about was a safety inspection that NY and many east coast states require because of corrosion. An inspection from a mechanic would probably be better.

If the wife does the beating, he can probably be trusted...maybe.
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Old 09-18-2014, 10:56 AM   #14
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by crazycal
That's a nice size and specs a very heavy duty(in my very humble opinion). It has air brakes and rust. Rust never sleeps. Rust doesn't bother some people but I hate it. The inspection I was talking about was a safety inspection that NY and many east coast states require because of corrosion. An inspection from a mechanic would probably be better.

If the wife does the beating, he can probably be trusted...maybe.
I'm not too bothered about rust I can fix (bottom of doors). Obviously I am bothered about structural damage.

I found a company called lemonsquad who do RV (and would do a bus) inspections for $300 http://lemonsquad.com/services.php#rvin

Worth doing?
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Old 09-18-2014, 12:02 PM   #15
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

since there are no RV systems in place yet..... the closest willing mechanic is your best inspection option. its just a truck at this point, that has regularly been maintained and driven hard.
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Old 09-18-2014, 12:15 PM   #16
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Unless I missed it, you haven't given the details about the bus. What engine, transmission, etc. $6500 sounds high to me. Maybe you can knock the price down a bit. Is this dealer in NY?
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Old 09-18-2014, 12:36 PM   #17
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhereinusa
Rust on underside doesn't look too bad I don't see anything that would deter me, don't know your expertise in repair. Can you request pictures of specific areas? I would want to see the back and under side of the entry steps and behind that door, that rust goes pretty high in that area. Also up behind the rear mud flaps. The floor right in front of the rear wheel well, picture 14 shows that area near the frame,there would probably be more rust out by the body. The under side of the driver floor. The rear door looks to be completely rusted through at the bottom, can you get a picture looking up at the bottom of the door when open? The rust running down from the rear windows, especially the right one would concern me. Can you get an in focus close up of that area. It's probably from salt spray getting up under that seam, that stuff goes everywhere, and may not be all that serious.
Thanks somewhereinusa I have loaded more detailed pictures at http://1drv.ms/1qYUyff Numbers 19 to 54

Would appreciate your opinion!
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Old 09-18-2014, 12:46 PM   #18
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by crazycal
Unless I missed it, you haven't given the details about the bus. What engine, transmission, etc. $6500 sounds high to me. Maybe you can knock the price down a bit. Is this dealer in NY?
29 seat Diesel Bluebird, DT 466E engine, Automatic. Yes in NY

I'm sure $6500 is high but I will negotiate on spare parts, reducing the paper invoice price so I pay less duty, delivery to a port (perhaps partial payment on handover to freight forwarder) etc. I prefer to do any haggling at the last minute when I have all the facts!

The reason I am pursuing this one is that 1) I want a short bus 2) I like the look of it 3) it is under 6 tonnes, so I can convert it and stay under my 7.5 tonne license limit 4) I don't mind fixing cosmetic rust 5) It is close to an exit port so I don't have to worry about getting it to a freight forwarder.
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Old 09-18-2014, 01:28 PM   #19
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

That's an awesome setup. Big engine, heavy specs, small bus. Hopefully you don't have an AT545 transmission. That bus will have the power to idle down the freeway. Does it have rear air suspension? Is the dealer Don Brown?
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Old 09-18-2014, 02:51 PM   #20
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Re: What questions to ask a dealer?

Somewhere is usually right but since I am a rust snob, I would continue looking. I expect that all of the nuts and bolts would be very hard to remove without either breaking or stretching. I also wouldn't want to bet on the structural soundness of the under carriage. Another question you might want to ask the dealer is why the bus was put up for sale; specifically, did it fail its last safety inspection--and why? Jack
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