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Old 05-14-2018, 12:02 PM   #1
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Where to start for our specific needs?

Hello all! Very happy to join.

We are wanting to convert a school bus to travel around with our two horses - this means pulling about 6-7,000 lbs behind in bumper pull (trailer +two animals + some hay and water and tack). Where do I start? Does a short bus do the trick or a long one? We do not pull for profit nor do we make money with horses, it is just a hobby. I say this because my next question is the need for CDL? Does it matter if the bus is short or long and pulling 6-7,000lbs of weight? From what I understand one need not have a CDL up until a certain weight or if they do things for profit?

Are there any "condensed" tutorials out there/on here? As in - what are the steps, in succession, that take me from an old bus to a converted, ready to go RV? As in everything else, I would like to learn on someone else's mistakes as much as possible (haha) but also just trying to get a full picture of what to expect - details will come later on each step.

How much should I expect to spend on the bus itself? What engines to avoid or better yet, which ones to look for and in what age range? What is the sweet spot for miles? I know nothing of school buses....

We travel across the country when we do. Live in Virginia but would go to Florida and SW Texas and New Mexico, possibly South Dakota, that's it.

Go ahead, bust up my dreams with your reality! It would be nice to hear it all.

Thanks!
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Old 05-14-2018, 01:05 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by krekre View Post
Hello all! Very happy to join.

We are wanting to convert a school bus to travel around with our two horses - this means pulling about 6-7,000 lbs behind in bumper pull (trailer +two animals + some hay and water and tack). Where do I start? Does a short bus do the trick or a long one? We do not pull for profit nor do we make money with horses, it is just a hobby. I say this because my next question is the need for CDL? Does it matter if the bus is short or long and pulling 6-7,000lbs of weight? From what I understand one need not have a CDL up until a certain weight or if they do things for profit?

Are there any "condensed" tutorials out there/on here? As in - what are the steps, in succession, that take me from an old bus to a converted, ready to go RV? As in everything else, I would like to learn on someone else's mistakes as much as possible (haha) but also just trying to get a full picture of what to expect - details will come later on each step.

How much should I expect to spend on the bus itself? What engines to avoid or better yet, which ones to look for and in what age range? What is the sweet spot for miles? I know nothing of school buses....

We travel across the country when we do. Live in Virginia but would go to Florida and SW Texas and New Mexico, possibly South Dakota, that's it.

Go ahead, bust up my dreams with your reality! It would be nice to hear it all.

Thanks!
Welcome! Lets see what I can help answer...to start, click on User CP and update some of your info like location, because licensing can vary by state.

With pulling the extra weight, you will definitely be looking for a bus that isn't your standard route bus. The majority of buses you'll find will have an Allison AT545 transmission because it's the most common used trans, but you will need a better trans to pull that trailer. Probably an Allison 2-3000 which have overdrive, or MD3060 would be best. Others can chime in with more specifics as I don't know if short / long bus would make a difference. I wold think shorter bus with good power would be fine.

As far as the CDL goes, If it's not for a business or profit, you shouldn't need a CDL. Most states, however, will more than likely require a Non Commercial Class A or B license due to the weight and overall length with trailer. You can look up your states requirements or search on here depending on where you're located.

As far as tutorials go, this has been asked before and I have seen people make numbered lists of order of steps from start to finish which you can try searching for, unless someone sees this and adds a link. I don't remember off hand where I saw it, but it's on this forum somewhere. Thats about as condensed as you'll get I think. If you want to really learn from others and learn from peoples mistakes, what you will want to do is go through peoples builds threads to see their progress. You can go picture to picture, but you need to read to get all the details and find mistakes people made that they would different.

Expect 3-8k on your bus purchase. This is going to vary on where you buy your bus and what options it is equipped with. To get the best deals on a bus, I'd reccomend going for online auctions. I picked up my bus for $2047 out the door on auction. Their are also dealers like midwest transit and some others whose deals aren't too bad.

Age range of bus - most people prefer prior to 2004, due to Emmisions issues being costly to repair and mainted on models after 2004. Also most prefer mechanical versus electric. Newer buses are known for more electrical issues from what I have read. Others can add more info on this as I don't know a ton.

Your going to want a nice beefy motor since your going to pulling those horses. DT466 is a big favorite, as well as Cummins 8.3. Those are going to be the ones you want.


Okay, that's some info to help you out. I don't know everything or all the details, but there are many more knowledgeable people on here that can go into more specifics. Hope this helps!
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Old 05-14-2018, 02:59 PM   #3
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familiarize yourself with this site, the more you read the more you will learn what your needs are. Above post pointed out some good info. Welcome
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Old 05-14-2018, 05:07 PM   #4
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With a license from Virginia there are no extra requirements to drive a large RV, regardless of weight. There are none for a private bus either so you are okay to drive home from the site of purchase. You will need insurance.

Some states require their residents to obtain a Non-Commercial Class B on their license, and Class A if the trailer goes over 10000 lbs.

Virginia is not one of them.
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Old 05-15-2018, 06:08 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Twigg View Post
With a license from Virginia there are no extra requirements to drive a large RV, regardless of weight. There are none for a private bus either so you are okay to drive home from the site of purchase. You will need insurance.

Some states require their residents to obtain a Non-Commercial Class B on their license, and Class A if the trailer goes over 10000 lbs.

Virginia is not one of them.
Thanks! Great news - it has become more and more difficult with all the regulations with trucks, horse trailers etc. and a lot of confusion too.
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Old 05-15-2018, 06:09 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by jjhwick119 View Post
Welcome! Lets see what I can help answer...to start, click on User CP and update some of your info like location, because licensing can vary by state.

With pulling the extra weight, you will definitely be looking for a bus that isn't your standard route bus. The majority of buses you'll find will have an Allison AT545 transmission because it's the most common used trans, but you will need a better trans to pull that trailer. Probably an Allison 2-3000 which have overdrive, or MD3060 would be best. Others can chime in with more specifics as I don't know if short / long bus would make a difference. I wold think shorter bus with good power would be fine.

As far as the CDL goes, If it's not for a business or profit, you shouldn't need a CDL. Most states, however, will more than likely require a Non Commercial Class A or B license due to the weight and overall length with trailer. You can look up your states requirements or search on here depending on where you're located.

As far as tutorials go, this has been asked before and I have seen people make numbered lists of order of steps from start to finish which you can try searching for, unless someone sees this and adds a link. I don't remember off hand where I saw it, but it's on this forum somewhere. Thats about as condensed as you'll get I think. If you want to really learn from others and learn from peoples mistakes, what you will want to do is go through peoples builds threads to see their progress. You can go picture to picture, but you need to read to get all the details and find mistakes people made that they would different.

Expect 3-8k on your bus purchase. This is going to vary on where you buy your bus and what options it is equipped with. To get the best deals on a bus, I'd reccomend going for online auctions. I picked up my bus for $2047 out the door on auction. Their are also dealers like midwest transit and some others whose deals aren't too bad.

Age range of bus - most people prefer prior to 2004, due to Emmisions issues being costly to repair and mainted on models after 2004. Also most prefer mechanical versus electric. Newer buses are known for more electrical issues from what I have read. Others can add more info on this as I don't know a ton.

Your going to want a nice beefy motor since your going to pulling those horses. DT466 is a big favorite, as well as Cummins 8.3. Those are going to be the ones you want.


Okay, that's some info to help you out. I don't know everything or all the details, but there are many more knowledgeable people on here that can go into more specifics. Hope this helps!
Thank you very much for your reply - I suppose there is no quick and easy way to figure this out, I am going to have to be patient... sigh...
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Old 05-15-2018, 10:01 AM   #7
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A hobbyist pulling a horse trailer with a GVWR of more than 10,000 lbs does not need a CDL in most cases. A farmer or breeder towing the same trailer with the same truck would need a USDOT number and a CDL.

If in fact you are not making any $$$ with your horses you most likely will not need a CDL in most states.

Regardless of the size of the bus you won't need a CDL as long as the bus has been re-titled as an RV/housecar/motorhome.

As far as buses are concerned, as was mentioned above, you are going to want big HP and the heavier duty transmissions. The more HP the better as far as you are concerned.

The vast majority of school buses are spe'c'ed to pick up and drop off kids on their way to and from school. As a consequence the engine and transmission are not spe'c'ed to move the fully loaded school bus at highway speed up and down every hill.

In order to not be stuck in the slow lane with your 4-way flashers on every steep hill you are going to need to find a bus with a minimum of 250 HP, 285 HP would be better, and 300+ HP would be ideal.

When a bus was spe'c'ed with the big HP engine option a mandatory option with that engine was the heavier duty transmission.

As far as type of bus is concerned, a Type 'D' RE bus is more likely to have the big HP option.

If however you expect to take your horse trailer to trail heads a ways off from the end of the pavement you may want to consider a shorter Type 'C' conventional bus to make maneuvering at the end of the road easier.
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Old 05-15-2018, 11:32 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
A hobbyist pulling a horse trailer with a GVWR of more than 10,000 lbs does not need a CDL in most cases. A farmer or breeder towing the same trailer with the same truck would need a USDOT number and a CDL.

If in fact you are not making any $$$ with your horses you most likely will not need a CDL in most states.

Regardless of the size of the bus you won't need a CDL as long as the bus has been re-titled as an RV/housecar/motorhome.

As far as buses are concerned, as was mentioned above, you are going to want big HP and the heavier duty transmissions. The more HP the better as far as you are concerned.

The vast majority of school buses are spe'c'ed to pick up and drop off kids on their way to and from school. As a consequence the engine and transmission are not spe'c'ed to move the fully loaded school bus at highway speed up and down every hill.

In order to not be stuck in the slow lane with your 4-way flashers on every steep hill you are going to need to find a bus with a minimum of 250 HP, 285 HP would be better, and 300+ HP would be ideal.

When a bus was spe'c'ed with the big HP engine option a mandatory option with that engine was the heavier duty transmission.

As far as type of bus is concerned, a Type 'D' RE bus is more likely to have the big HP option.

If however you expect to take your horse trailer to trail heads a ways off from the end of the pavement you may want to consider a shorter Type 'C' conventional bus to make maneuvering at the end of the road easier.
Thanks! Got it, big HP and probably type C since yes, we would want to get to isolated trail heads. I am pulling now a 31ft 3 horse trailer with 8ft living quarters in it and I do it with a diesel Ford. I don't think I want anything longer in total length. In fact, I was hoping to have a shorter bus.
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