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Old 08-10-2017, 01:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by chev49 View Post
what you are asking of course is the same question we use for our aircraft. with your estimated mileage, fuel and filter costs are fixed and easily calculated. you can do that.... that leaves about 1250 /. month mileage.
Since we do not know the condition of the vehicle, I would suggest putting back $1 per mile until something like $5000 or so is saved for reserve as this will fix tranny usually and lots of engine work.
It is the best idea of course to already have that amount before one goes anywhere... especially if one has a coach bus.
this is a great rule of thumb. $5000 is a great recommendation for a bus repair fund.

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Originally Posted by Phatman View Post
I think it is great that you are trying to put pen to paper. Always a good idea. But what you are asking is like asking how much is it going to cost to live in a house. There will be so many things that creep up on you and you mostly have to take them as they come. It's called LIFE. What the hell, if it is what you want to do, GO FOR IT. I always like to try to count the cost. Almost never works. It's like trying to figure out how much it is going to cost to restore a classic vehicle. Just give it your best shot......just my 2 cents worth. Hell, what do I know, I'm converting a SCHOOL BUS !!!
To be clear, I'm asking about the yearly cost range for just the school bus maintenance with drivetrain upkeep, with 15,000 miles of travel on the drivetrain. I know a bus can cost as little as $0.00/year just sitting, and that some people like to claim their bus costs $500 a year to maintain (it costs less than $500 a year because its only driven between Flagstaff and Quartzsite twice a year, the drivetrain isn't a lemon, and maintenance is DIY or not at all).

Registration, insurance, fuel, full-timing lifestyle & bus conversion costs have been extensively documented in detail.
Yes there will be things that creep up on you that can't be predicted, but we can have rules of thumb using math and numbers. Everyone's bus will cost differently, but it all averages out.

Phatman, can you share your big picture raw bus costs, or a yearly average?

There's are rules of thumb for how much to set aside each year to maintain a house, and I imagine there are rules of thumb with the cost to restore a classic car.
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Originally Posted by turf View Post
if you know the cost up front, you probably won't do it.

the cheapest things to buy tend to be the most expensive things to own.

i've owned a bus since 2011, and it easily costs $5k a year as that's all i can afford to put into it. the conversion took 4 years, then maintenance kicked in.

i've replaced the exhaust manifold, turbo, all the belts, alternator, water pump, air dryer, air compressor, it just cost that much to have. things break, nothing for trucks are cheap.

at the end, financing a new finished rig is probably cheaper.
I've desired a unique and unconventional mobile dwelling for the last 5 years, since I was 19, so maintenance cost is not a deal breaker. I need a good idea of running costs before the time comes to choose tracks. As they say, it's not what you can build it's what you can maintain. I detest sticks and staples like many conventional homebuyers detest cheap manufactured homes. Thanks for mentioning financing a new finished rig can be cheaper for newbs.

If I knew the costs I would know if it's within my means for my next rig or not. I don't want to jump in, discover the bus is going to cost more than 2-3 months wages per year, working more time than I can enjoy it for the next 3 years because I didn't receive realistic maintenance cost estimates.

Yes, the cheapest things to buy tend to me the most expensive things you own. And nothing for trucks are cheap. What condition was your bus when you got it, sounds like it was in poor shape when you got it?

I would like this to become the reference thread for school bus running costs, helping out newcomers and hopefuls.

Every bus is different, but cost ranges can be distilled based on major factors like scope of DIY maintenance, type of bus, maintenance standards (barely running to mechanically new), thriftiness.

Can Skoolie veterans fill in the upkeep number ranges for a typical skoolie big bus, including 5000 miles of wear and tear per year?

Shoestring - does everything but rebuilding the engine and transmission:
?-?k average per year

Frugal - does all basic and some intermediate maintenance, pays an honest mechanic to do everything else:
?-?k average per year

Modest/middle class - all maintenance is at the shop by school bus pros:
?-??k average per year

Loaded - bus drivetrain is show-ready, looks & drives like it's brand new:
??-??k average per year
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Old 08-10-2017, 05:51 PM   #12
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Have you asked a school district's garage how much they typically do per year per bus? They are on the sharp end of the business - they should know! That's assuming they have buses similar to what you want to buy. If they give you a list of likely service parts and the number of manhours labor, then you'll know what's involved. Just bear in mind that they would be doing 45-day inspections which you won't need to do for private use.

Don't ask churches what they spend on their buses! Most of them do little or no PM and only fix what's broken, hardly a recipe for long-term mechanical reliability. Having friends in high places doesn't always help . . .

John
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Old 08-10-2017, 09:31 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Iceni John View Post
Have you asked a school district's garage how much they typically do per year per bus? They are on the sharp end of the business - they should know! That's assuming they have buses similar to what you want to buy. If they give you a list of likely service parts and the number of manhours labor, then you'll know what's involved. Just bear in mind that they would be doing 45-day inspections which you won't need to do for private use.

Don't ask churches what they spend on their buses! Most of them do little or no PM and only fix what's broken, hardly a recipe for long-term mechanical reliability. Having friends in high places doesn't always help . . .

John
I feel the skoolie community is hiding the truth, because they want uninquisitive people to go for it, discover the maintenance is unaffordable, then have to sell the bus at a huge loss, which ends up registered to a bus veteran who has money or skill to keep it on the road.

I asked a reasonable question in a reasonable tone of voice, and clarified it over and over to eliminate all confusion.

Assuming the bus is acquired in good to great mechanical condition, like when it's retired from the school district. Can Skoolie veterans fill in the estimated price ranges (the question marks) for expected vehicle drivetrain maintenance for a big skoolie, including 5000 miles of wear and tear per year (like a car, wear and tear adds to the maintenance cost) for realistic numbers.

The four tiers of skoolie owner (and basically all of society):
Shoestring - does everything but rebuilding the engine and transmission:
?-?k budget per year

Frugal - does all basic and some intermediate maintenance, pays an honest mechanic to do everything else:
?-?k budget per year

Modest/middle class - all maintenance is at the shop by school bus pros:
?-??k budget per year

Loaded - bus drivetrain is show-ready, looks & drives like it's brand new:
??-??k budget per year.

Perhaps better cost figures can be had by estimating (or sharing your numbers) maintenance cost to a bus to keep it on the road for ten years, to factor in big overhauls. If cost figures can't be made, we can invent a rule of thumb or two if there are not good ones already.

If I don't get a comprehensive answer here. I'll go to Oak Grove School districts bus yard and try to ask their mechanics the maintenance costs, and maybe get onto their bus retirement contact list (if they have one).

I won't ask churches, But will scrutinize their buses for sale if or when I'm bus hunting.

I actually looked at a 30' Bluebird school bus in person, and the engine under the hood looked like a engine found in a semi tractor.

I'm too wise to speculate on things, and can't afford to go in without knowing what I can expect to pay for maintenance on things. I'm 23 going on 24 this November and I can't afford to lose any more of my young years to toil and hardship. I need to get into a rig for the decades to come, and live life exploring North America as soon as next year. I rather pay for quality upfront than pay the cost of cheap repeatedly.

Right now, the plan is to convert a 28' cargo trailer and pull it with an 80s work truck for the versatility and relatively low maintenance costs to the length of the rig. I estimate the truck will cost $1-3,000 a year to maintain and the trailer less than $500 per year to maintain its axles & wheels. If a skoolie costs a couple thousand more than this annually Im going for my original desire.
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Old 08-11-2017, 04:45 AM   #14
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Try School Bus FLeet forum.
And 40' is all you'll find... AFAIK no 45 foot CE's out there.
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:31 AM   #15
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those tiers of service aren't seen in the skoolie world.

every year you'll need an oil change (8000mile)
thats $1000

any year you replace 2 tires - $1000

any repair from a mechanic - $1000+

any repair you do yourself - $1000

every tank of fuel - $100+

like i said before, all your income goes to the bus. a bus doesnt come with anything in it, aswell. so if you are making your home out of it, throw in another $20k for your fridge,tv, furnace, ac, 120v wiring, beds, blankets, curtains, curtain rods...... houses are not cheap.

i think i got an outstanding bus! but i have abused it, towed with it, driven hard and put away wet.

it gets to be a hobby. i didn't need new gauges, but i put some. i didnt need a second tv in there, but i put one in.....your wallet is your guide. i didnt need a new transmission, i wanted one.

plan on buying one for $5k, then plan on $5k a year to maintain. you'll be fine. if that is too much, then like you said....it may not be for you.

a solar system with inverter is going to set you back $10k - thats low on my on my list of things to do, but i'll get there.

the cost really never end, as long as you want something......its going to cost $$$.

i think if you surveyed the nice finished buses, cost are comparable to buying a new rig. at $5k a year, thats just under a $500 monthly payment. i've been an owner since 2011, finished the conversion in 2015, and i'm still paying.

this weekend i should finish getting my new transmission in!
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:06 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by debit.servus View Post
I feel the skoolie community is hiding the truth, because they want uninquisitive people to go for it, discover the maintenance is unaffordable, then have to sell the bus at a huge loss, which ends up registered to a bus veteran who has money or skill to keep it on the road.

I asked a reasonable question in a reasonable tone of voice, and clarified it over and over to eliminate all confusion.
Paranoid, much? If you have to keep asking AND you drive a big rig for a living (should have an idea of costs?), maybe find a less-expensive hobby.

I have a friend who enjoys scrapbooking and she says it is very relaxing.
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:09 AM   #17
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Please share the numbers, including your Skoolie maintence costs?
I understand the question and it is good to see you doing your due diligence. However; none of us can answer the question - there are too many variables and not enough data.

Even an oil change varies. I believe all oil companies recommend a one year change regardless of the type/grade of oil. If I were to put in the most expensive oil - good for something like 30k miles, I am still supposed to change it every 12 months. So, why put in that expensive oil? Some do, some don't. Are you doing the change yourself? Are you supplying the filters or paying retail price at the shop?

Mine is not a school bus (tour bus) but I can tell you a mid-range oil change at a shop with me supplying the filters is something around $200 (plus $75 worth of filters). They also group the labor in with other things so the exact number is unknown. I have no interest in dealing with six GALLONS of new or used oil so I am happy to let the shop do it.

Fuel filters should probably be changed every year. Mine are $25 on Amazon. Also happy to let a shop deal with this mess.

Tires should be changed every seven years, regardless of miles. Tire prices vary. Mine are about $650/each, out the door. Times eight tires and divided by seven years equals $750/year.

Air filter change, which I do myself and try to do once per year is $75.00.

Air dryer service, coolant filter change, coolant change, transmission fluid change, etc... should probably all be on the list but are not all 'every 12 month' items.

Depending on the age/mileage of your bus, how you plan to use it, and what your expectations are; you should probably plan for a variety of 'wear items' to need replaced - king pins, bushings, axle seals, etc... In our typical use, these items will never need replaced again but a commercial operator may have worn them out with a few hundred thousand miles - or a million on a coach.
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:19 AM   #18
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a solar system with inverter is going to set you back $10k - thats low on my on my list of things to do, but i'll get there.
I definitely get your point Turf!

However; being a solar nut and a generator noise nazi - I try to encourage EVERYONE to go solar!

Off topic....

My 1720 watt system with 60 amp MPPT charge controller cost about $2,500 - details here.

The 3000 watt true sine wave inverter cost about $1,000.

Of course, 1.7kW is WAY overkill/excessive for most folks. This system provides for ALL my electrical needs - silently - including a residential refrigerator.

Silence is golden! Now I need to develop an EMP gun to use on my neighbors generator!
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:49 AM   #19
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Rated Cap: 37,400 lbs GVWR
OK, you want hard numbers. My engine takes 29 quarts of straight 40-weight CF-2 oil at almost $20 a gallon, so there's about $140 there. I have about 25 gallons of coolant, so however much half of that concentrate and half distilled water costs. The transmission and its cooler and heat exchanger take about 8 gallons of Dexron fluid, and the PS and fan motor's circuits take another 5 or 6 gallons of it - at $19 a gallon that's about $260. I have a total of seven filters, plus a big ECO-BC air filter that cost me $260 when Racor made it for me a few years ago. Last year I completely rebuilt my entire cooling system to solve some overheating issues: new radiator core $1800, new hydraulic fan motor $800, new radiator fan $450, new hydraulic/PS pump only $140 but are normally over $1000, new transmission remote cooler $600, and another thousand or two just for all new hoses/clamps/thermostats/valves/odds&sods/etc, so there's several thousands just to keep my engine from overheating. 12R22.5 Michelin XE tires are $700 each (or more), so at least $4200 there. (My friend's HEMTT tires are $1500 each, and it has ten of them - I guess I can't complain!)

If you buy what is essentially a commercial vehicle you'll be swimming with the big fish, and it doesn't come cheap to join that club. I bought a school bus partially because it was less expensive to purchase and maintain than an OTR coach like a Prevost or MCI, but it's still never going to be cheap. As has been often reiterated on the BCM forum, if you have a bus you'd better also have either a chunk of money available for unplanned emergencies, or a credit card with a high limit. Crap can happen at any time, and when it does it won't be cheap. An inframe for my engine is at least $12K, maybe more, and a complete rebuild is a lot more than that. My bus's underpinnings are essentially the same as a Class 8 truck's, so I'm paying the same as what it would cost to run a truck like that.

I've installed a fairly large solar system on my bus, and it cost me about the same as the bus's original purchase price. Eight 255W Sharp panels, two Morningstar TS-MPPT-60 charge controllers and remote meters, Magnum MS-2000 inverter/charger and remote meter, umpteen Blue Sea switches, lots of 4/0 cable at $4 a foot (and that's cheap for 4/0), and there will be eight golfcart batteries at $125 each. That's about $5000 just there.

Over the years that I've been working on my bus I calculated that I've spent well over $1000 just on miscellaneous bolts/nuts/washers/hardware/etc at my local industrial supplier, and their prices are much less than at HD or Ace. Four tanks rotomolded by Ronco Plastics were $1000, a bargain for 400 total gallons.

There, that's the reality of owning and converting a bus. Sorry if that's not what you wanted to hear, but that's how it is. It's still less expensive than having a boat or an airplane!

John.
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:55 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by JDOnTheGo View Post
I definitely get your point Turf!

However; being a solar nut and a generator noise nazi - I try to encourage EVERYONE to go solar!

Off topic....

My 1720 watt system with 60 amp MPPT charge controller cost about $2,500 - details here.

The 3000 watt true sine wave inverter cost about $1,000.

Of course, 1.7kW is WAY overkill/excessive for most folks. This system provides for ALL my electrical needs - silently - including a residential refrigerator.

Silence is golden! Now I need to develop an EMP gun to use on my neighbors generator!


Yep! $10K solar system
$3500 system and 400AH lithium ion battery probably tips over that.

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