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Old 08-16-2017, 09:06 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 32
Question Looking for a bus that runs well

I'm just beginning my first skoolie project: a rolling massage studio. I'm a licensed massage therapist and for reasons too weird and long to explain, I'm hoping to base my practice out of a bus fitted out to be a massage studio inside, and drive to my clients instead of making them come to where I am.

I'm deeply afraid of getting something which isn't going to run very well or for very long, after I've put the work and money into rehabbing it, so I'm hoping for the best mechanical condition I can afford, though I'm still starting out and not sure how good that'll be. I'm completely okay with external dings; this is all about the way it functions, not the way it looks. (I can make it look good enough, if necessary, in the renovation process.) I'm also looking for something which I can legally take into Canada if possible.

Anyone trying to sell a bus that might work for me? Anyone run across one they're not buying themselves, but which I might find a good fit for this project? Anyone able to help me understand what I can do to make sure I find out about any mechanical problems that exist before I spend thousands of dollars on a bus that'll fall apart under me?

I'm a wee bit nervous about this whole thing... but the bus idea is too good a fit for what I'm trying to accomplish, to let it go without making the attempt.

[EDIT: Okay, I was stupid and left out some of the basics. I'm in western Washington state. Email via this site is probably the easiest way to reach me. And I absolutely need automatic transmission in my bus... I've never learned how to drive a manual ANYTHING. Thank you!]
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Old 08-16-2017, 09:22 PM   #2
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Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Kansas
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Year: 1995
Coachwork: Thomas
Engine: 8.3 Cummins, 643
What Length

How big of a bus are you looking for? Do you just need enough room for your business or do you want to have "living quarters"
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Old 08-16-2017, 09:23 PM   #3
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
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Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird
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Engine: T444E
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Since you'll be using this for business use, you'll want to be mindful about GVWR and air brakes. You won't get the same RV exceptions most of us here do. Over 26,000 GVWR and you'll need a Class B license. You'll also need an air-brake endorsement if your bus has air brakes. Canada will be very strict on that (even with an RV, or so I am told). You'll also probably want some decent headroom, more than some school buses have. Would a shuttle-style bus fit your needs?
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Old 08-16-2017, 09:30 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 32
Just need it to be big enough for the business; I don't plan to live in it. Might camp in it sometimes if I'm going somewhere further than a quick drive, but that's about it.

Ideally, the interior space will be about 25-30' (I don't know how much the engine and shell add to the length, so I can't give dimensions in terms of actual bus length with any precision). I need about 15' just as space for the table and room around it for me to maneuver and do my work, plus room for a small restroom and a tiny "office" area where I can sit down and talk to the client, as well as storing files. Call it 3-5' for the rest room, and another 5' or so to put a futon chair (where the client can sit and, if necessary, which I can fold out to sleep on when I need to camp in the thing once in a while), and a fold-down desk from the wall for me to write chart notes at. So it ends up with a minimum of 23' interior. I wouldn't mind a little more than that just for wiggle room, but I don't absolutely *need* more.
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Old 08-16-2017, 09:34 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
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How is a shuttle-style bus different? I know what a school bus looks like, of course; but I'm less sure what a shuttle-style bus looks like by comparison, or what advantages and disadvantages they each have.

I hadn't thought about headroom. People here seem to raise the roof on their school buses; is that something I might be able to do? I'll need my clients to be able to stand up comfortably inside, though not necessarily to have a lot of room beyond that. I'm only 5'5, so I'm not all that much of a problem in terms of ceiling height; but some of them might be.
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Old 08-16-2017, 09:58 PM   #6
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Kansas
Posts: 128
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Thomas
Engine: 8.3 Cummins, 643
You should be able to get that much space without going over 26k. As far as mechanical condition try to find a low mile bus with good maintenance records. Have enough money to repair problems as they come up and do maintenance! like a car but more expensive to fix. Older buses will be less expensive to maintain without emissions equipment.... in theory. A rolling massage sounds great I'd be down for one!

You may run into more headache if it is a business vehicle but it can't be a whole lot different than a food truck. Not sure if you would have to claim it as DOT since your not hauling people or goods but im sure your DMV could explain everything before you make a purchase.
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Old 08-16-2017, 10:09 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 32
Emissions equipment question

Jacob, thanks for giving me some of the basic starter info that I need. You mentioned that an older bus without emissions equipment would be theoretically easier to maintain. Would that make it impossible to take certain places, though? I know some states (mine included) have pretty strict emissions standards, though sometimes older vehicles are grandfathered in; and I have heard that Canada has even stricter than that, without the exception. We might be moving to Canada several years down the road, so I'd want to make sure I could take my studio with me (even though they also have stricter standards for massage licensing too, so I'd need to retrain to some extent if we do that).

I'll definitely talk to the DMV about this whole thing so I know what's allowed -- thanks for the suggestion!
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Old 08-16-2017, 10:17 PM   #8
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Kansas
Posts: 128
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Thomas
Engine: 8.3 Cummins, 643
You could take it anywhere as long as you could get it registered. Now registering it in different states may be a different story. As far as I know most states allow vehicles to be grandfathered in but I am from Kansas so emission laws aren't something I worry about. And as far as Canada goes I am definitely clueless. Most states have there emission laws online Canada's could probably be found as well. I was considering moving and looked up Oregon and California but my truck couldn't be registered in either state And I'm not ready to part with it. ��
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Old 08-16-2017, 11:32 PM   #9
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 813
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 14
I'm sure you've seen thousands of shuttle buses. Very common, some have wheelchair lifts. If you *really* need 20-something feet of interior space, you'd be looking at the upper limit for a shuttle bus. I have a full length Carpenter/IH school bus and it was right around 30' behind the driver's seat (I forget the exact length).

Emissions in most places is virtually non-existent. California and NY State are the only 2 exceptions I am aware of, and if you are using an older bus, it may exempt emissions (especially if you are registered in another state).

A roof raise isn't so much hard, as it is time consuming. It will require welding skills, or the willingness to hire a welder. It will require additional metal in the form of wall supports and the additional side panels (plus any windows you may wish to delete). It will require power tools, muscle-grease, "colorful metaphors" and may even demand a sacrifice of blood (how many of you have lost blood, one way or another, while doing a roof raise?) Don't forget to account for the surface area inside, whether it's sheet metal or some other interior surface. Be aware that some buses have slightly sloped sides which will make a roof raise that much more challenging.
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Old 08-16-2017, 11:39 PM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 32
Thanks, Brad. I really need over 20 feet; anything over 23' is a luxury that would be nice but isn't essential. So yes, it sounds as if I'd be looking at the long end of the shuttle range.

I'm seeing some listed school buses which claim 7.5' internal height. I don't know if they've already had their roofs raised, or if they were just made like that, but that would be plenty for my purposes. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about what I should be asking in order not to walk into something stupid with them, before I go investigate!

Any pointers about what information I should be seeking, other than the obvious about title and maintenance history/mechanical issues that I'd ask in buying any other used vehicle?
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