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Old 01-02-2019, 01:33 AM   #1
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1996 Thomas 5.9 Cummins for $4500 - Worth It?

I'm trying to figure out if this is a good deal (and the model, but going to check it out tomorrow hopefully). AC unit knocks off $500, so $4000 for the bus itself. Considering the work already done, I'm leaning towards getting this one. Good deal, or should I pass?

I've come to terms with accepting a Cummins 5.9L. I know it's no DT466 but it's also no MBE/CAT.


https://charlotte.craigslist.org/rvs...761507938.html


1996 Thomas
fuel: diesel
odometer: 212000
title status: clean
transmission: automatic
International chassis, 5.9L inline 6 Cummins diesel engine. Allison transmission. Well maintained through its life with the school district. Has good tires, fresh batteries, everything works as it should.

The seats have been removed, the floor has been welded to cover the bolt holes. A proper marine-grade sealant has been applied front to back of what will be the living quarters. A subframe has been built, and that's where it ends.


Also included is a brand new roof mounted A/C unit.

P.S. - I hope this is the right subforum. It's not a 40', I assume that means it's considered a short bus. Sorry if that's wrong.
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:34 AM   #2
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If the cummins is fully mechanical and has been well maintained, from my experience with them, that's just under it's half life span before any major work would have to be done to it. I own a 28 foot step van with the 3.9 in it and absolutely love it. My worry would be the transmission. 545 or 643?? If it's a 545 then it's probably getting tired. With that said, I would look at doing a swap for the 643. It's not as hard as some make it out to be. Unfortunately transmission shops shy away from doing swaps. So unless you have a friend that works at one, you're pretty much doing it yourself. Plenty of help and info here if you plan on it. Based on the miles, the fact that it has the split rims, and IF it does have a 545 trans, depending on how long it's been posted, show up with 3000.00 cash. That is if you think it's the bus you really want.
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Old 01-02-2019, 07:00 AM   #3
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Don't knock Cat. Up to 2004 they're just as good as any school bus engine. Better than many.
Price seems high to me. Especially for having a 545 transmission and low headroom. Overall that's a low spec bus.
For that kind of money you could do a little better. The old Fords are pretty crude machines. I owned one. The ride is atrocious.
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Old 01-02-2019, 10:14 PM   #4
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You're absolutely right. Wasn't knocking cat at all. If it was a cat in that bus, I would have said pretty much what you said. After 2004, from what I've seen and read, all of them are not as good as the older ones. Mostly due to all the emission restrictions and how they've computerized every little thing. I don't know who's worse, the engineers or the EPA telling them how to make a good motor.
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Old 01-02-2019, 10:29 PM   #5
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You're absolutely right. Wasn't knocking cat at all. If it was a cat in that bus, I would have said pretty much what you said. After 2004, from what I've seen and read, all of them are not as good as the older ones. Mostly due to all the emission restrictions and how they've computerized every little thing. I don't know who's worse, the engineers or the EPA telling them how to make a good motor.
Best engine I've had in a bus was my mechanical DT466. Man that thing was solid and dependable.
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Old 01-02-2019, 11:15 PM   #6
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Best engine I've had in a bus was my mechanical DT466. Man that thing was solid and dependable.
Just got done with a trip in my bus with mechanical DT466. Had it loaded down pretty heavy with all my tools and a lot of household stuff. It purred right along the whole way at 65 mph. Only time it slowed down was on long 8% pulls. I would just drop a gear and it would pull those passes at 45 to 50 mph.
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Old 01-02-2019, 11:50 PM   #7
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I've passed on this one, overall it's just not worth it. I have a deep craving for the DT466, and even though it's not a CAT/MBE it's also not a Detroit.

Right now I'm planning on heading up to Virginia tomorrow to look at a TC2000 DT466 that I saw on ebay that's been listed several times at $3990 but nobody bought it. Nice engine and exactly what I'm looking for, but likely the dealer's going to quote higher than his low ebay price.

My destination is busesforsale.com on Friday, which used to be Bargain Bus News apparently. I've seen their owners ad on here that wasn't all too well received, but I finally called the place and the guy seemed to have all the info I needed. Looking at the $3900 deals for the Thomas 3800's with DT466's. I'm okay with a 545 which is in all of the ones on the lot (I think).

He also said the buses ran at 60-65 max highway, and the limiting factor was the governor, not rear end gearing. I'm perfectly fine with 60 (or 55, any maybe 50).

He did call me back and let me know the $3900 are the "bargain" buses, and that they have a few others in a similar price range. Not sure if that was a sales tactic, but they also have a TC2000 that I'm eying anyways (although it's "estimated" at 200k miles, so yeah....).

Assuming the general dealer markup and that I can find one that's suitably rust free (or at least to a tolerable level), is $3900 a decent price for a DT466 3800 in the 2001-2006 range?

If so, any specific years I should look for or avoid, or anything else on the 3800's I should pay attention to?
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Old 01-03-2019, 06:33 AM   #8
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Good luck on that. All I can say is that you'll know your bus when you see it. I'm watching on on CL that I know the history on and know that the guy has had it posted multiple times with no luck of selling. The thing about a vin # and google, you can find out ALL you need to know. https://houston.craigslist.org/cto/d...9.html.....The fact that I know what he paid for it, and how long he's had it sitting will definitely be in my favor.
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Old 01-03-2019, 07:23 AM   #9
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the 545 is fine unless you are goingto climb mountains.. a DT466E in front of a 545 will be the lowest spec 466E that was made... (175 HP low torque model)its easy to crank up the power on the 466E to 215 HP plus however the 545 wont take it...



I would think long and hard about a 466E / AT545 combo for 4 grand, unless you are planning to mainly flatland, or if its a shorty then I think youd be happy, otherwise its going to be a slow moving rig on any hills..



be sure to install good fluid, and a nice external cooler on the 545 and it will probably last you a good while.. and make sure the electronic modulator works, bad modulators were a source of failures in these trans on electronic engines.. I roasted one this way.


if you can talk them down to 3 grand on a rust free 466E / AT545 with decent tires then I think you drive one home...



remember tires arent trivial.. bus tires cost real money..



-Christopher
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Old 01-03-2019, 07:35 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by geminusprime View Post
I've passed on this one, overall it's just not worth it. I have a deep craving for the DT466, and even though it's not a CAT/MBE it's also not a Detroit.

Right now I'm planning on heading up to Virginia tomorrow to look at a TC2000 DT466 that I saw on ebay that's been listed several times at $3990 but nobody bought it. Nice engine and exactly what I'm looking for, but likely the dealer's going to quote higher than his low ebay price.

My destination is busesforsale.com on Friday, which used to be Bargain Bus News apparently. I've seen their owners ad on here that wasn't all too well received, but I finally called the place and the guy seemed to have all the info I needed. Looking at the $3900 deals for the Thomas 3800's with DT466's. I'm okay with a 545 which is in all of the ones on the lot (I think).

He also said the buses ran at 60-65 max highway, and the limiting factor was the governor, not rear end gearing. I'm perfectly fine with 60 (or 55, any maybe 50).

He did call me back and let me know the $3900 are the "bargain" buses, and that they have a few others in a similar price range. Not sure if that was a sales tactic, but they also have a TC2000 that I'm eying anyways (although it's "estimated" at 200k miles, so yeah....).

Assuming the general dealer markup and that I can find one that's suitably rust free (or at least to a tolerable level), is $3900 a decent price for a DT466 3800 in the 2001-2006 range?

If so, any specific years I should look for or avoid, or anything else on the 3800's I should pay attention to?
Most expensive folks to buy a used school bus from.
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Old 01-03-2019, 07:55 AM   #11
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Most expensive folks to buy a used school bus from.

BGA still has them beat for most $$
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Old 01-03-2019, 08:02 AM   #12
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BGA still has them beat for most $$
Ah, haven't had my coffee. I thought we were talking about one of BGA's three websites.
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Old 01-03-2019, 08:04 AM   #13
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Assuming the general dealer markup and that I can find one that's suitably rust free (or at least to a tolerable level), is $3900 a decent price for a DT466 3800 in the 2001-2006 range?

If so, any specific years I should look for or avoid, or anything else on the 3800's I should pay attention to?
Based on feedback when we were looking for our bus, I would go no newer than 2003 for the DT466E. Apparently the emissions and computers get more complicated ($$) after that.
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Old 01-03-2019, 08:05 AM   #14
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this is a different place... they have some decent deals but also some crazy wierd deals... i was told they consign sell busses for some clients spo they cant control the price as much on those.. these guys have changed names a couple times from what I remember..



a lot of the "$3900" deals are O-K if you can talk them off the price 500 or more.. some of those busses are junk.. its definitely a place I would go crawl around the busses and not buy online from.. I think there are deals to be had there but not the busses on the front page of the website for sure..

-Christopher
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Old 01-03-2019, 10:57 AM   #15
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Good luck on that. All I can say is that you'll know your bus when you see it. I'm watching on on CL that I know the history on and know that the guy has had it posted multiple times with no luck of selling. The thing about a vin # and google, you can find out ALL you need to know. https://houston.craigslist.org/cto/d...9.html.....The fact that I know what he paid for it, and how long he's had it sitting will definitely be in my favor.
Jim have you looked at Renebates.com ? Is would suggest it for the OP but they are mainly in Texas and occasionally Florida. That is where I bought my bus.
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Old 01-03-2019, 11:13 AM   #16
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Jim have you looked at Renebates.com ? Is would suggest it for the OP but they are mainly in Texas and occasionally Florida. That is where I bought my bus.
I feel left out. Also Texas isn't too far of a drive, heck of a lot better than a northern drive.

Florida is closer, but it's also Florida.
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Old 01-03-2019, 12:17 PM   #17
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I wouldn’t get a bus from Florida, I know EastCoastCB has strongly advised against it in the past.

There are some on Renebates right now. The small ones are either too old or too new in my opinion.
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Old 01-03-2019, 03:55 PM   #18
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I wouldnít get a bus from Florida, I know EastCoastCB has strongly advised against it in the past.

There are some on Renebates right now. The small ones are either too old or too new in my opinion.
I can't afford a FL bus. Good thing since the buses in other states are nicer.
I know someone that paid nearly 9 grand for a FL bus at auction. My $1625 bus from GA is WAY better.
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Old 01-03-2019, 04:30 PM   #19
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Oh yeah, I saw the BGA websites and their prices are outrageous. Out of curiosity, was the busesforsale website I listed part of the BGA group? I know the Floridachurchbus and wesellschoolbuses website are, but I couldn't find anything linking the one in New Jersey to the expensive Florida guys.

Definitely not going to even consider anything in Florida. I don't think I've seen a single one on auction under 200k, and the majority have 350k+ on them. Plus it's LITERALLY going to be surrounded by saltwater air pretty much anywhere in the state. Couldn't pay me to drive a bus off a Florida lot, I've learned that much from you.
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Old 01-03-2019, 04:38 PM   #20
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Oh yeah, I saw the BGA websites and their prices are outrageous. Out of curiosity, was the busesforsale website I listed part of the BGA group? I know the Floridachurchbus and wesellschoolbuses website are, but I couldn't find anything linking the one in New Jersey to the expensive Florida guys.

Definitely not going to even consider anything in Florida. I don't think I've seen a single one on auction under 200k, and the majority have 350k+ on them. Plus it's LITERALLY going to be surrounded by saltwater air pretty much anywhere in the state. Couldn't pay me to drive a bus off a Florida lot, I've learned that much from you.
Only consider FL if its a bus I'm selling!

Nah I don't think that other site is BGA.
Just watch the Public Surplus auctions. They're usually the best deals.
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