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Old 03-07-2017, 02:23 AM   #1
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Expected initial cost.

Hey all new member and mentioned in the new members forum. Just getting into the planning phases of my next chapter in the book of my life.

I'm looking at converting either a full size school bus or short bus. I've been looking at government auction sites and seeing the prices for busses ranging from between 500(usually not running) and 4500(newer full size busses)

What I'm trying to figure out and pic the brains of you guys about. Is what the average cost I'm looking at for the initial bus purchase and also what to look for when I'm choosing.

Also wondering if it's more cost efficient to buy a nonew running one and getting it back up and running. Whether it be rebuilding an engine or replacing major things like a tranny. Or if it's better to just avoid buying a fixer upper all together?

Thanks for reading my wall of text and looking forward to being a member of the forums!

Also I apologize if this is in the wrong section. Didn't know where to put it or what the question as a whole would be categorized as.
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Old 03-07-2017, 05:22 AM   #2
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Unless you own a diesel shop, you probably wanna get one that's running and road worthy.
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Old 03-07-2017, 05:48 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Unless you own a diesel shop, you probably wanna get one that's running and road worthy.
if it don't run good, run. to many great buses out there. look it over real good, bad rust and bad tires are a deal breaker.
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Old 03-07-2017, 09:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moeron1785 View Post
Hey all new member and mentioned in the new members forum. Just getting into the planning phases of my next chapter in the book of my life.

I'm looking at converting either a full size school bus or short bus. I've been looking at government auction sites and seeing the prices for busses ranging from between 500(usually not running) and 4500(newer full size busses)

What I'm trying to figure out and pic the brains of you guys about. Is what the average cost I'm looking at for the initial bus purchase and also what to look for when I'm choosing.

Also wondering if it's more cost efficient to buy a nonew running one and getting it back up and running. Whether it be rebuilding an engine or replacing major things like a tranny. Or if it's better to just avoid buying a fixer upper all together?

Thanks for reading my wall of text and looking forward to being a member of the forums!

Also I apologize if this is in the wrong section. Didn't know where to put it or what the question as a whole would be categorized as.
A new set of tires for a full sized bus can range from 200 a tire (for recaps that can only go on the rear) to 500 for good name brand steer (front) tires.
An engine rebuild can run upwards of 6k or more.

So a good running bus with good tires at 4-5k or a non runner with bad rubber for 500... The non runner will cost you 9k to get on the road not counting the very costly tow to where you will have it repaired.
Find a runner! Lol




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Old 03-07-2017, 09:58 AM   #5
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The price between a small bus and one of the largest is usually not that much. And many times the small bus will cost more than the large bus.

If you budget $5K you should be good to go for finding a good running bus.

It is important to purchase the best running bus you can find. The costs of fixing the mechanicals can escalate very quickly. I had a Thomas West-Coast-Er that had the transmission go out on me. By the time it was all said and done the cost to R&R the transmission was over $7K. I would have been better off paying $10K for a newer running bus than trying to save some $$$$ with the older bus.
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Old 03-07-2017, 10:01 AM   #6
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and devil's advocate here.. dont go too new.. like after 2007 you end up with all kinds of government mandated emissions Junk.. that stuff can ruin a perfectly good engine, or result in huge repair bills to fix and maintain..

-Christopher
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Old 03-08-2017, 12:41 AM   #7
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So I'm sensing the general consensus is to avoid anything that needs major maintenance. So my follow up questions would be. What are some things acceptable that may not be working. I plan to gut the entire inside done to the bare floor. Such as ignition switches, wiring, fans, etc.

Also while considering initial purchase. What is the general extra amount I should anticipate on paying for title fees, and thone aspect?

Thanks a ton guys!
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Old 03-08-2017, 01:38 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by moeron1785 View Post
So I'm sensing the general consensus is to avoid anything that needs major maintenance. So my follow up questions would be. What are some things acceptable that may not be working. I plan to gut the entire inside done to the bare floor. Such as ignition switches, wiring, fans, etc.

Also while considering initial purchase. What is the general extra amount I should anticipate on paying for title fees, and thone aspect?

Thanks a ton guys!
The important things that need to be working and working well are the expensive bits and pieces. Engine, transmission, cooling system, head/tail/clearance/brake/turn signal lights, brakes, and tires are all items that need to be up to snuff and legal. Anything bad in these systems can break the bank--$7K-$12K for an engine, $3K-$7K for a transmission, $1K-$5K for a new radiator, etc.

Anything that is school bus related (stop arm, crossover lights, crossing arm, multiple heaters) that doesn't work is not a problem since you will be removing most of it anyway.

As far as title and licensing fees and sales tax that all depends a lot on where you live. I know that anyone with a half a lick of sense in WA state will do the title process in Clark or Cowlitz or any of the other border counties because the sales tax is quite a bit lower than in King or Pierce or any of the other Puget Sound counties. 3% difference may not sound like a lot but it can add up to some serious $$$$ very quickly.
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Old 03-08-2017, 01:48 AM   #9
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I personally bought my bus from the county school board. I prefer this over sales-by-owner because the government doesn't want to pay a lot of money in repairs, so they pretty much only use the good stuff. They also keep all their maintenance records and are very transparent about the bus's condition. Buying this way is generally done through an online auction, many of which have an auto-bid feature for ease of use. A bus purchased this way will probably only run you max $4000, after auction fees. Buying it from an actual second hand bus dealer could run you twice that for the same thing.

Definitely avoid anything that requires major maintenance, especially if you're unfamiliar with diesel engines. These things are huge, parts are heavy, and big repairs can be expensive. If you're concerned about a bad transmission, go manual. They're harder to drive initially, but less likely to fail than automatics.
Also, if the bus can't move under its own power, you are probably going to be responsible for towing it, which I'm sure you don't want to do.

Things that (I think) can be less than perfect but not diminish the bus too much:
-Anything that can be replaced cheaply with an exact or similar part (like the governor on the air compressor on my bus)
-DC electrical that's relatively easily accessed (lights, radio, PA, fans, etc)
-Normal vehicle problems that even a novice could fix (dead battery, leaking hoses, worn out windshield wiper blades, etc)
-Heater (most skoolie people remove it)
-Mild body damage, like small dents or scratches
-Some level of rust

Look at the buses available before purchasing if you can. If you go the public surplus route like I did, there is often a designated day not long before a scheduled auction to look at the vehicles being sold.

This is more my personal experience, but watch out if rust is ALL OVER the bus, even if it just looks like bubbling paint. It can be a bad batch of steel. I almost bought that bus but after seeing it in person it wasn't worth it. I guess you could fix it, but it's extra work and the skin of a bus is so thin that it shouldn't be ground on too much.

As another poster said, don't go too new. In addition to greater expense and stricter emissions standards, there's also computerization of the engine functions just like in cars. Computer stuff is harder and more expensive to fix than purely mechanical stuff, and more likely to fail. (One time my standard computerized 2013 car shut off while I was turning because of an "anomaly in the engine computer" which could've ended very badly on the interstate.)

If you do experience any bus problems, I have frequent access to a few guys in my father's diesel shop that work on white migrant buses all the time. I'll be more than glad to get input from them if need be.
They think that the DT466 is one of the best bus engines, with the DT360 not far behind, but that the DT444 isn't good. That's what they told me when I was looking at buses. I ended up with the DT360 and it runs great after 24 years.
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