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Old 12-10-2016, 07:51 AM   #1
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Long time lurker finally joining in the fun :)

Been reading this forum and everyone's blogs about this for many years now... My wife and I are finally looking at busses seriously and I thought it a good time to join and say hello and thank you for all being a part of making this resource the amazing vault of info that it's been for us so far.

I could probably write a pretty long and winded post about what all we want to do and why but I'll just summarize it that we want to set up our bus to be well suited for spending time in nature away from hookups and trying to see this beautiful country while learning to live a simpler life.

Currently I am looking a 1995 International chassis bus with a T444e and an AT545... clean rust free FL bus just under 300k miles (290-something), going to have a mechanic friend take a better look soon. The guy selling it wants $3500 and he will remove the seats as needed at no extra charge.

Any opinions on this bus and it's potential for conversion would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 12-10-2016, 08:17 AM   #2
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That's an awful lot of miles for the price he wants..... if you look further afield you can find buses for that price with HALF the miles on them. Don't just jump on that one because it's close.... do your homework and really look. If you see one that you like but it's too far away to look at yourself, I'm sure someone on here who is closer could be persuaded to inspect it for you....
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Old 12-10-2016, 08:35 AM   #3
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Appreciate the fast response!

Florida seems to be a less than ideal place to find busses with all the exporting going on down here but I figured I'd start looking with something I can see myself in person and go from there.

I haven't really known where to start regarding things like out-of-state listings and auctions, having people check them out before I buy and fly out, and legal registration/insurance for the drive back to FL.

edit: I have been watching public surplus and govdeals for awhile now... just never actually did anything with it.
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Old 12-10-2016, 08:57 AM   #4
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Florida is bad, exactly because the exporters buy up all the good units and leave the lesser ones behind.... which is also why the sellers are charging such high prices for them, because they know someone will pay it.

I've also heard that you want to avoid Georgia because they run their buses so hard and so long that they're barely worth scrap value by the time they turn loose of them. Keep in mind that this is strictly hearsay, I'm sure others will be more knowledgeable about that than I.

Just keep looking, maybe set your search radius on the auction sites to whatever you can comfortably make a day trip out of, that way you can still go see buses in neighboring states.

If you have a bus dealer in your area, maybe set up something with them just to go look at buses, to kind of get an idea of what you want and what you should be looking for in terms of condition.

Lower miles and hours is always better of course but those buses are gonna command higher prices so it's a matter of how much of a tradeoff you're willing to make. If you find one where the mileage and the asking price don't seem to match up you better ask yourself what else is wrong that they're willing to settle for $X for a bus with Y miles and Z hours.

Insurance can definitely be a challenge, but is another area where perseverance pays off. There are other threads here which go into more detail about that, as well as giving a few contacts where some of us have had success obtaining insurance.

Now, as far as driving an out of state purchase home and getting it registered.... I believe most auto policies will insure a new purchase for 3 or 5 days to allow you to get it home, if you can't obtain insurance beforehand, should you opt to drive it yourself... if not you have a couple of other options: Hire a delivery company to trailer it to you, or find a CDL driver with appropriate endorsements to drive it home. Auto Driveaway offers both options I believe, or you can find another company (there are others out there), or just freelance a driver (or if you have a friend with CDL and endorsements, throw him/her a bone and see if they will do it).

Registration.... different states have different requirements. Best option there is to reach out to your state DMV and see what their requirements are. But there are other options, for instance Vermont allows anyone, anywhere, to register a vehicle in their state without being a resident. There is a thread about that on here, I don't have it right at hand but it's worth a read (and make sure to read the ENTIRE thread before deciding if you want to go that route). A few other states offer something similar... South Dakota comes to mind, all you have to have there I think is a mailing address (UPS store or mail forwarding service works for this), and stay once a year in a hotel or campground within the state and you are a "resident" of SD.

If you plan to fulltime in your bus then you have options... best thing I can say is do your research, find out which state would be most advantageous for your particular situation, and do everything there.

I know I've been rambling on.... I'm sure I've probably left a few things out, others I'm sure will chime in.
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Old 12-10-2016, 08:59 AM   #5
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Nice engine...less than desirable tranny...too many miles. I'd pass and keep looking.
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Old 12-10-2016, 09:08 AM   #6
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both of you!

I had read that while common it was not the best choice of transmission for that engine and our uses so I did have some reservations there.

From what I've read I shouldn't have too many issues getting registration + insurance handled in FL, mostly just the out of state purchase/drive home situation I still have to work out the details of. Will look into some of the costs involved in shipping if it came down to that, but on our budget I'd rather drive it myself if I can.
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Old 12-10-2016, 09:18 AM   #7
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The venerable AT545 was a good trans in its' day but has not been made for years. Four speeds...no OD...no lockup...and rapidly diminishing serviceability today make it pretty much a dinosaur. There are a gazillion of them still on the road, but they are rapidly becoming difficult to find parts for. I tried giving a working one away for free and could find no takers.
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Old 12-10-2016, 02:50 PM   #8
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I will echo the feelings of the others: way too much money for too many miles. And if that AT545 is the original unit, RUN away. These are basically 150k mile transmissions... maybe 200k with lots and lots of love.

There are some good busses to be had in Texas (but stay 100 miles away from border zones) and in Colorado. Calif has some deals too.

I wouldnt even consider a Florida bus. Sorry... Just the way I'm wired.

Your best bet is a bus from a school district in a relatively affluent and growing area, fresh out of service, and with service records. Ignore things like cracked glass, condition of seats, heaters, etc. Concentrate on engine, trans, and mileage. Lots of good, solid busses around the 165k mile mark, DT466e, and an AT545 or MT653 trans for about $3500. These are the workhorse busses from yesteryear that are being auctioned not because they are worn-out, but because the district has a policy set by their lawyers and beancounters, and there are federal programs to allow new purchases of "cleaner, safer" busses.

For the record, a DT466 with 150k miles is just getting broken-in. Yep, you will replace the occasional injectors, alternators, maybe an injection pump, the fan clutch, water pump, etc, but the guts are likely still within factory new spec: piston rings, bearings, valve guides.... all the expensive stuff is still totally bueno. Basically this is a late-teens or early 20's human. But by 350k, you are looking at a 50+ year old, and things are going to be a bit warn. It will leak a bit (or a lot), use oil, and likely need to hit the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Now compare this with the T444 you are considering. That motor runs hotter, turns faster, and is of a totally different design mindset. While the 444 is certainly no slouch, it also is designed to be a "throwaway" motor toma certain degree. So as a W.A.G I'd say its firmly "middle-aged" by the time it hits 200k (assuming good preventative care).

So like the others, I suggest you let the current bus go to someone else. There are better bargains out there.

I'll post a bit more after I change my Depends. Brb... Hehehe
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Old 12-10-2016, 05:17 PM   #9
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Welcome, glad you are here

I agree with the others that is too many miles for that motor.
There are no shortage of busses out there, surely a better one awaits you.


Good luck!
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Old 12-10-2016, 10:24 PM   #10
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Appreciate all the feedback and definitely will continue looking...

I've seen some better looking things in other states for sure just never really felt comfortable jumping on anything without being able to see it/have a mechanic look at it for me. Looks like that'll be my best bet though so I'll have to make some mechanically inclined friends out of state
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