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Old 06-17-2018, 07:58 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
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some advice please

Hello, we're Mike and Amy. We"re looking for a bus to convert. I've been reading posts here for over a year and although I've learned a lot I realize I still know very little.
I'm willing to travel but obviously a bus closer to home is appealing. I live in Fort Myers, FL. I'm hoping i can post a couple of the buses I'm considering and some of you experts (at least in my mind) can give me your educated opinions. I'd really like something about 25 feet but will consider up to 30. Thanks in advance
Just a little info: I'm very handy and the conversion does not concern me. I've never worked much on vehicles though. I'm hoping for something very mechanically sound. Hopefully that way I'll have learned more before the problems start.
Any knowledge, advice, fair prices I could offer... are greatly appreciated. Even if they're all lemons hearing why will help me.

Here are the contenders so far

https://spacecoast.craigslist.org/rv...570855841.html
(in state, low miles)

https://atlanta.craigslist.org/atl/c...612667257.html
(love the look, to expensive, hoping he'll sell without oven at reasonable price, 12hrs away)

https://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/c...611698853.html
(a bit large? 12hrs away)

https://fortmyers.craigslist.org/col...596733369.html
(close to home, Shuttle style)
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Old 06-19-2018, 04:13 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
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No one?
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Old 06-19-2018, 05:05 PM   #3
Bus Nut
 
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Location: topeka kansas
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Coachwork: wayne
Chassis: old f500- new 2005 f-450
Engine: cummins 12 valve
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The middle two

Keep in mind I don't know weak points of these kind of buses. Other people here know lots more than me.

The last one on your list -- weak point-- the body looks to be fiberglass. Appears to have damage already. I think this is not going to stand the test of time.

The bottom on your list has an engine, shows to be the benz four cylinder, that will not be well suited for highways.

The middle two on the list have that school/bus truck kind of chassis body. I think they are more durable.

Second on your list, what engine is in that thing?

Third on your list, the short wheel base means you are going to have to get used the overhang front and rear, but will turn in smaller spaces. Less crash protection for the driver, because of no front to take an impact. The 5.9 is a couple of liters short of engine displacement and you give away 100hp and 200 ft/lbs of torque right there. The upside to the cummins 24 valve 5.9 is that this is an engine found in dodge trucks and is pretty easy to get more power out of it, The pistons, connecting rods, crankshaft- what is called the long block is pretty strong. doubling the power out put is pretty easy with bolt on parts. The exception is at some point you should replace the head bolts with head studs. There are reams of information about this engine on the internet.

My vote is for number three. Longer but will drive like shorter bus, ample room, parts support for the engine and full size chassis/body, tough to kill. Negative, lack of crush zone on front of cab.


I bet you go with fire place wagon. Why? Because you decided already that you like it best.

Peace, be well, eat more ice cream, enjoy.

william
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Old 06-19-2018, 05:25 PM   #4
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Location: St Petersburg, FL
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Hi!

One thing you didn't mention is how much you want to be able to do yourself. That changes things a lot! If you're the type of person who would be goig to a dealer whenever something breaks, that changes the recommendations vs soeone who wants to be able to fix at least the common stuff themselves.

Most of us are in group #2, so I'll reply as if you are as well.

Bus #1: 2005 Thomas Short Bus, M Benz Motor, 44,700 Miles - $8500
MB engine means expensive parts from the dealer. Mostly only big rig shops will touch it. It's post-emissions and the first iterations of engines from these regulations (arguably everything since then too) are various forms of broken, ranging from grenade to boat anchor to just one more expensive part to replace every oil change or two. Price is way too high even if both ACs work it should be about half that much. This is not a desirable bus to begin with and having eaten one transmission already on top of everything else I wouldn't personally consider it at any price.

Bus #2: PARTY BUS - $12900 (Atlanta)
It's a Vista. My short bus is a Vista, so I know a lot about them. That wood stove is absurd! Looks like like a mobile blacksmith than a camper. All the new stuff sounds good, tires alone would set you back another $1500. The ad claims it has 1.2 million iles which I assume is a typo, if it's actually 120k then that's really nice. Didn't specify the drivetrain but it's probably a T444E and an AT545 like mine, which in that bus is great for around town but not ideal for the highway. They don't mention how much or what type of solar it hast, and I would bet that roof top AC needs to be plugged in to AC power to use. You can park a short Vista at Starbucks without a lot of drama. Of course, that price is crazy crazy! I wish the market for buses were so good that I could ask that much for mine!

Bus #3: 2001 Blue Bird Bus. 28 Passenger - $8500 (Woodstock)
These short transit style buses are as close as you get to being a chick magnet. They're pretty desirable buses largely because of how they look. THe short wheelbase works against you at speed but is really nice around town. Again, no mention of the transmission type but Id bet it's another AT545. Dual AC is great, the 24v 5.9 is a good motor but the 12v was fully mechanical (no computers required to make it run). For sure check the block stamping and make sure it's not a 53 stamp engine. ( Cummins 53 Block Casting Information ) gain, the price is too high. A friend just bought a similar model for about 1/3 that price.

Bus #4: 2001 Freightliner 31 Passenger Bus - $6500 (naples)
Strikes against it for the CAT engine, for having 360k miles, and for being painted black. Only someone who already has brain damage from heat stroke would paint a bus black in Florida! If you like the shuttle style vs a school bus, there are a LOT of them based on GM and Ford chassis that will be far less of a headache, and they aren't highly valued so you can get them cheap.

Out of the list you presented, I'd write them all off because of asking price.


I've written two articles I would suggest you read:

https://wanderlounge.net/are-you-con...us-conversion/

and

https://wanderlounge.net/how-much-sh...ould-i-buy-it/
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Old 06-19-2018, 05:41 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
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This is exactly the kind of info I was hoping for thank you both so much.
I'm definitely in the #2 group but as I've mentioned my mechanical skills are beginner. I'm confident I will catch on as I remodel homes for a living do tools are not a stranger to me. I certainly have some learning to do though.
If it's ok I'll post other contenders as they arise and certainly read the suggested articles.
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Old 06-19-2018, 09:26 PM   #6
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Take your time picking out a bus. Read a lot of "what bus to buy" threads and stuff and then start looking at buses.
The best buses are out west.
I'm up in Eustis FL and I don't buy FL buses. There are just much better states out there and most of ours are low spec stuff that gets beat on hard.
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Old 06-20-2018, 01:36 AM   #7
Bus Crazy
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikenAmy View Post
Here are the contenders so far

https://spacecoast.craigslist.org/rv...570855841.html
(in state, low miles)

https://atlanta.craigslist.org/atl/c...612667257.html
(love the look, to expensive, hoping he'll sell without oven at reasonable price, 12hrs away)

https://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/c...611698853.html
(a bit large? 12hrs away)

https://fortmyers.craigslist.org/col...596733369.html
(close to home, Shuttle style)

1: 4 cyl, Mercedes engine, '05 model. *NO* Under-powered for highway use, parts only available at Mercedes dealers, and the numerous emissions systems will ensure many costly visits for parts and service.


2: As noted previously, it most likely has the T444 engine (excellent reputation and parts availability), under-powered in a full size bus but acceptable in a shorty. Trans is likely a AT545 (not highly desirable for much long distance cruising, but will do the job.) Price is a lot high.



3 : Listing says 8 cylinders; the 24V Cummins engine is a 6 cylinder. Pretty good reputation for the engine, trans is likely an AT545. The short wheelbase will be great for maneuvering in town, but a bit of a "bobber" on the highways.


4: The Cat engine is alright until it racks up some mileage; another Skoolie member bought one around Atlanta and it suffered a "loss of power" rather suddenly during the drive home. It was determined to be a fairly-common-with-this-engine injector problem and it is a dealer fix, for no small amount of money. Parts for Cat engines are *ONLY* available at Cat dealers, and they don't paint 'em "gold" for nothing. Good luck if you break down late on a Friday night ....


The black paint will be murder on temps any time the sun is shining. If you buy this one, I want some of the seats from it!
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Old 06-20-2018, 08:49 AM   #8
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Why aren't you on public surplus like the rest of us were? it's the end of the school year and a lot is out there
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Old 06-27-2018, 09:39 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by warewolff View Post
Why aren't you on public surplus like the rest of us were? it's the end of the school year and a lot is out there
Daunting perhaps?

I'm in the same situation as the OP. I'm looking for a good sturdy base to build a home in.
Please correct me if i'm wrong - Public surplus auctions seem to be something of a gamble to me to be honest. It's a bid on a bus online that you can't see (other than limited pictures) and if you're lucky you got a keeper. On the other hand you may also end up with a scraper.
Another thing i'm completely in the dark about is the registration. How do you pick up and drive off with a bus that is registered as a bus and not an RV? Would it require special insurance? CDL? other?
I can understand the opportunity here since the price is less than half, but how do you know what you're gonna get? If you are into it as a business I'm sure you can pick up a number of buses and on average you'll do okay. But as a one-time-buyer looking to find a sound bus to build our home in, gambling doesn't feel like the way to go.

Sorry for the ramble, but i've been trying to figure out how to approach this project and I feel that i'm getting lost in all the data. Just like a tag i've seen used by one of the users here "The more I learn, the less I know"

Thanks all, and happy hunting.
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Old 06-27-2018, 12:44 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gingimen View Post
Daunting perhaps?

I'm in the same situation as the OP. I'm looking for a good sturdy base to build a home in.
Please correct me if i'm wrong - Public surplus auctions seem to be something of a gamble to me to be honest. It's a bid on a bus online that you can't see (other than limited pictures) and if you're lucky you got a keeper. On the other hand you may also end up with a scraper.
Another thing i'm completely in the dark about is the registration. How do you pick up and drive off with a bus that is registered as a bus and not an RV? Would it require special insurance? CDL? other?
I can understand the opportunity here since the price is less than half, but how do you know what you're gonna get? If you are into it as a business I'm sure you can pick up a number of buses and on average you'll do okay. But as a one-time-buyer looking to find a sound bus to build our home in, gambling doesn't feel like the way to go.

Sorry for the ramble, but i've been trying to figure out how to approach this project and I feel that i'm getting lost in all the data. Just like a tag i've seen used by one of the users here "The more I learn, the less I know"

Thanks all, and happy hunting.
As a one time buyer how do you know that you're not getting hosed no matter where you buy from, be it auction, CL, or other private sale. Keep in mind the auctions are usually selling buses that were just taken out of service from a regular maintenance routine. It is prudent to personally inspect whatever vehicle you are interested in to determine true condition. There are services available to do this if you're not confident on what to look for. Once you own it as a private owned vehicle you won't need a CDL. Licensing, registration and titling of a new purchase is discussed heavily here, do a search.
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