Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 06-07-2017, 11:16 PM   #1
New Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 6
Single Mom ready to find a shortie!

Hi! I'm a long time lurker, finally taking the plunge and looking for a shortie to house my little family (myself, my 2 year old, and 2 old dogs) and I'm getting confused by all of the conflicting opinions on motors/transmissions. I'd like a 6-8 window bus with the highest interior I can find (don't want to do a roof raise), and I have a very limited budget, so I'll probably be going with an older model.

What are the biggest red flags to look out for? Are low miles on an older bus a bad thing (meaning, how often should it have been run ... I'm not well versed on diesel engines yet). How much rust is a deal breaker? Any other tips you wish you knew about before you started?

I'm very excited and nervous to get started. Thanks in advance for any advice!
Caroline is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-07-2017, 11:27 PM   #2
Bus Nut
 
oricha1984's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 894
Chassis: GMC or Chevrolet, I hope
Engine: gasser probably
Welcome,
I've been active on the site for some time now but I'm still a noob.
Are you looking to make a tiny house out of it, going on a trip, or just a weekend camper?
You mentioned that you have a limited budget, so I would suggest that you run through your possible build and take into consideration all expenses before any purchase.
Take the time to read and ask questions.
Others will give better input.
Good luck,
Raul


Sent from my BLU LIFE ONE X using Tapatalk
__________________
the more i learn, the less I know what to buy . . .
oricha1984 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-07-2017, 11:57 PM   #3
New Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 6
I'll be making a tiny house out of it. We're currently in a travel trailer with a small slide out, but I'd like to be more mobile. Originally I was thinking about going with a full sized bus, but the more I thought about it, with the improved gas mileage, maneuverability, and cost (not just for the bus, but for the whole conversion), a shorter bus makes way more sense. I'll be working on it as I make money for it. I have very tentative plans for how to go about the actual build; at this point I'm mostly worried about the engine since I'll have to sell or trade my car to afford it, and will be building it up in stages. One of my favorite builds is Fern the Bus (they have a great Instagram account). Eventually I would like to have solar, but it'll take a while for me to be able to afford it.
Caroline is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-08-2017, 12:09 AM   #4
Traveling
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Midwest
Posts: 2,573
Year: 2003
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC2000
Engine: 5.9L Cummins
Rated Cap: '00
Welcome !

Fern does look like a great size for your crew.

Tell us what part of the country you are in, what your budget is (Lol), what your timeframe is and what your skillsets are. Will you be very mobile, in the mountains, or parked a lot in the plains?

Don't worry about an engine you don't own yet ! Read and ask about any particular configuration bus you are looking at and you will get opinions.
Rusty is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-08-2017, 12:37 AM   #5
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
Posts: 2,127
The biggest red flags are rust. It is called cancer for a reason. Surface rust that can be brushed off is okay. Rust that is scaling, pitting, or bubbling is NOT okay.

Most school buses over the life of the bus will travel about 10K miles per year. When newer they go further every year (most schools like to rack up as many miles as possible while still under warranty). As they get older they get put on routes that are not as long. So it all averages out. A fifteen year old bus with 150K miles give or take 20K miles is going to be about average. If it is substantially lower in miles check the hour meter to see if perhaps the odometer was changed at some point. If it is substantially more, check the hour meter again. A high mileage bus with relatively low hours is probably a better choice than a lower mileage bus with 2x the hours on the engine.

Most school buses if you divide the miles into the engine hours you will discover most traveled over the life of the bus at less than 20 MPH. Which really means it spent a lot of time at idle. Which is normal up to a point.

As you look at buses try to find one that has the 12" windows rather than the 9" windows. The larger windows mean it has the higher ceilings. 3" is a lot of space for insulation in either the floor or ceiling or both.

Since you sound as if you are not all that mechanically inclined you want to spend your $$$ up front for the best bus mechanically you can find. Repairs, even on the smaller buses, can become expensive very quickly. $3K for a transmission is a bargain.

You can save a LOT of $$$ if you learn some of the basics so you can do the work yourself. Your local community college most likely has evening classes for people like you who want to learn to how to DIY for all sorts of things like diesel mechanics, body and paint work, welding, plumbing, and carpentry.

In regards to engines and transmissions, newer buses with the Allison 1000/2000/3000 series of transmissions are more desirable because they all have lock up torque convertors and OD in the top gear(s).

Most older buses that are smaller will most likely have the smaller engines and transmissions. Specifically the 6.9/7.3L/T444(E) engine or the Cummins 5.9L/ISB in HP ratings of 160-210 HP hooked to an Allison AT540 series transmission. As a package in a smaller bus those engines and transmissions are extremely economical and trouble free. Most of the issues with the AT540 transmission come into play when you max out the weight in a full size bus with a low HP engine. Which if you are getting a 6-8 window bus you will not come close to the weight a full size bus would be if it were a 14-row bus.

Don't fall in love with any one particular bus. Trust me when I say that if that "perfect" bus slips through your fingers a better bus at a more attractive price will pop up fairly quickly.

Good luck and happy trails to you.
cowlitzcoach is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-08-2017, 12:57 AM   #6
New Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 6
Right now I'm in Austin, but when I find a bus I will probably be headed towards Richmond for a while to be closer to my mom while I complete the build. After that, I have family all over the east coast, and LOVE the mountains out west, so I plan to be very mobile. I used to live in Wyoming and Colorado, and miss it terribly. I've discovered I'm the opposite of most people, in that winter is my favorite season, and as much as I try, I really don't like the heat. I can handle negative windchill just fine, but as soon as the mercury creeps above 80 degrees I feel like a vampire getting murdered by sunlight

I don't have a timeline simply because I don't have the money to. However, I'll probably be moving in as soon as I get the bare minimum done. I'm very handy, good with power tools, flooring, and plumbing, and decent with older gas engines. Diesel is new to me and I've read so many horror stories about every variety of engine and transmission out there that I have no idea which direction to go. The run-down on the differences was extremely helpful, thanks for that!!

I'm also pretty nervous about hooking up propane and electricity, but I'm taking it one step at a time. I'll be doing the work myself, with help from a few friends, mostly when welding is involved (paid in beer). I have a teeny tiny bit saved, but I'm trying to limit the budget for the actual bus to what my car is worth, either by selling it or trading it. Probably around 3k. I'd almost prefer a straight trade so I don't have to worry about the short period of being car-less, but I realize that's unlikely.
Caroline is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-08-2017, 06:41 AM   #7
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Cuyahoga Falls Ohio
Posts: 522
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Startrans
Chassis: Ford e-350 single wheel
Engine: 5.4 litre
Rated Cap: 12
If you know older gas engines, maybe you should stick with what you know rather than learning about diesels. I personally do not like diesels or the expensive repairs involved with them. Probably going to get flamed alittle for that statement... lol
leadsled01 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-08-2017, 10:51 AM   #8
Bus Geek
 
Robin97396's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 6,409
Coachwork: 97 Bluebird TC1000 5.9
Hey, we don't flame anybody for their choices. We do like to try to get inside your head to understand why you make certain choices.

For those of us that have worked as diesel mechanics, obviously diesel engines are the way to go. Honestly diesel engines are easier to maintain than gas engines most of the time. There's a certain element of bus buying that resembles buying a used car. You can get a bad bus, but everyone here will try not to let that happen. Even with minor mechanical skills you can learn to work on diesel engines easily. They're simpler than gas engines, or they used to be anyway.

If you're looking for a mid to late '90s bus, it's likely going to be diesel. There are modern van/bus vehicles that run on gas. Choices, choices. Get what you're comfortable with working on, but consider how you'll use your bus in the future.
__________________
Robin
Nobody's Business
Robin97396 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-08-2017, 12:23 PM   #9
Bus Nut
 
oricha1984's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 894
Chassis: GMC or Chevrolet, I hope
Engine: gasser probably
Just throwing it out there.
I've seen older buses with gas engines go for $500.
If you don't plan to drive much and know about gas engines, you can find a bus for very cheap.


Sent from my BLU LIFE ONE X using Tapatalk
__________________
the more i learn, the less I know what to buy . . .
oricha1984 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-08-2017, 12:58 PM   #10
Bus Geek
 
Robin97396's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 6,409
Coachwork: 97 Bluebird TC1000 5.9
Yeah, and I can also find a $300 car but I'd expect to have to work on it a lot and I still wouldn't want to drive it very far.
Actually I started out buying shorties for sometimes $400, and they ran. There are very good shortie gassers out there, and if someone is tired of seeing that bus sitting in their yard they are often cheap and sometimes free.
Personally I didn't want to be working on this bus while I'm on a trip. I've spent the majority of my time fixing up the living conditions of this bus, and because of the late '90s year of this bus it is in decent mechanical condition which doesn't require a lot of attention.
I think it is much better to buy a bus from the bus barn that has recently been decomissioned. The maintenance has been kept up and they're used to being driven, unlike the back yard buses that have sat for a few years and have things growing in them.
It's all about choices. Do choose what you're comfortable with. Don't buy the cheapest bus you can find. If you're going to do a lot of work to make a bus livable start with a solid platform, regardless if it's gas or diesel. The bus barns are selling good buses for $2,500 to $3,500, and sometimes lower. You'd pay that much for a used car in order to get a dependable vehicle so expect to pay at least that much for a bus that originally cost near $100,000.
__________________
Robin
Nobody's Business
Robin97396 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:39 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.