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Old 02-25-2015, 12:55 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 12
Buying / Pricing tips for a first timer?

(Apologies if I'm in the wrong sub or if this has been asked before, I wasn't able to find anything)

So I'm in the market for my first skoolie and have been doing my homework, calling up school districts and bus dealers in the neighboring states, getting inventory lists and the like, but I don't really know what to look for or whether or not something is priced fairly.

I'll be bringing a bus mechanic with me when I go to inspect and he'll hopefully let me know if a specific bus is worth the price, but in a more general sense, what should I be looking for when I read inventory lists? I'm learning up on the mechanical stuff on the side, but I don't know it well enough to know what kinds of engines tend to price higher or how important mileage is for different types of transmissions, etc.

I've got inventory lists from dealers in five different states. Any help figuring out who's worth the field trip would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 02-25-2015, 01:15 PM   #2
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Location: Eustis FLORIDA
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Year: 1992
Coachwork: Ward/AmTran
Chassis: International
Engine: dt466
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If going the dealer route, try cowlitzcoach here on the forums. He is a dealer.
What are you doing to use the bus for? What length are you looking for?
If I had the money to be choosy, and were buying from a dealer, I guess I'd go for something with a Cummins 8.3 but I don't know very much about you or your goals. I really don't think spending a ton of money on the pre-conversion purchase of a bus is necessary. Just get a non-rusty good runner with good tires. I prefer older to newer.
Maybe introduce yourself in the new members area.
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Old 02-25-2015, 01:49 PM   #3
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Southern Maine
Posts: 337
I hope this is not taken the wrong way, I am blunt person but not mean.

If you haven't taken the time to read at least a couple of the build threads most of the way through and you don't know what make/model/size/type/engine/trans you are looking for then you are not ready to buy anything.

You are asking a bunch of people you don't know anything about for a consensus on options in a vehicle that, more often than not, is custom ordered for a particular school district's needs.

Please take a moment to answer the who/what/when/where/why about both yourself and the vehicle you are looking for. This can often lead to information that you didn't even know that you needed.

I say these things not being rude or short, but I can honestly say that my wants/needs for a bus are unlikely to match with EastCoastCB, Nat, Browncrown, or Holybus. (just to name a few) This is due to many factors including location and use. As such it may be that you have needs that align with 1 of them or myself. So please spend some time doing some research and when you do have questions, by all means ask. But please ask a question that has the potential to be answered in a helpful manner.
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Old 02-25-2015, 02:06 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
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@EastCoast — Good idea re: introduction. It totally skipped my mind.

As far as my use, I'll be converting it into an RV that will remain parked for most of the year but be used for occasional road trips. I'm looking for a short bus, but the longest of those I can find, ideally.

@Malkieri — No offense taken, I get where you're coming from. Though just to clarify, I've been researching obsessively for months now. Here, reddit, blogs, guides, articles, you name it. But at the same time it's a lot to take in. So while I can tell you I'm looking for a 30-passenger diesel no-WAC school bus I couldn't tell you whether an E450 Ford is more or less problematic than a Blue Bird. Or what transmission is cheaper to maintain than what. I'm learning, but again — it's a lot of information to process.

In any event I'll begin at the beginning by posting an intro thread and see where that takes me. Thanks.
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Old 02-25-2015, 09:14 PM   #5
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Location: Houston, Tx.
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Year: 1999
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Engine: DT466E
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FocalMatter I feel your pain. I'm in the same situation as you and all the different combinations of choices seem mind boggling.

Malkieri made an excellent point that I myself am going to do by checking out some of the build threads to hopefully better educate myself, at least so I know the right questions to ask. Best of luck on your shopping endeavor.
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Old 02-26-2015, 10:32 AM   #6
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Stony Plain Alberta Canada
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Year: 1992
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC2000 FE
Engine: 190hp 5.9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 72
I would take a short full size bluebird chassis (TC2000) over any one ton ford short bus.

Big 22.5 tires, real brakes, massive load capacity, Cummins engine, ect.

Much much stronger bus.

Nat
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Old 02-26-2015, 10:38 AM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Cool. I was leaning toward the Bluebird but I wasn't sure if that was just because they're the more popular name. Good to have a second opinion. Thanks.
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Old 02-26-2015, 12:29 PM   #8
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School buses come in four different types with variations within each type.

Type 'A' come in single rear wheel and dual rear wheel. They are the small buses and are usually built on a cut-away chassis. Most come from the factory with a lot more bus that there is truck underneath. If you choose to go this route make sure you weigh your gutted bus and then weight everything you put in so you don't go over weight.

Type 'B' buses are known as bread box buses because they are pretty boxy and a long time ago they were built on IHC Metro or GM Step Van platforms. The buses have a hood and the service door is behind the front axle and usually behind the driver. These buses are also usually a lot more bus than truck underneath.

Type 'C' buses are also known as conventionals. They are the most common bus on the road. The service door is behind the front axle and beside the driver. Common usually also means least expensive on the used market. They come in lengths any where from as few as four rows up to thirteen rows of seats.

Type 'D' buses are also known as transits. The service door is in front of the front axle and beside the driver. They come with the engine in the front (FE), rear (RE), and there are a few with mid-mount engines (Crown and Gillig). They come as short as six rows and as long as sixteen rows. Some of the really long ones come with a third axle.

There is no one bus that is perfect for every application which is why there are so many different types available.

For your purposes you need to decide which type of bus you prefer. The advantage of the Type 'D' bus is the whole length of the bus can be made into living space. The real disadvantage of the Type 'D' bus is since the engine is somewhere "inside" the bus body you have to deal with noise and heat from the bus while going down the road. The real advantage of the Type 'C' is they are built on a conventional medium duty truck chassis. Parts and pieces are available for them at just about any parts house in the country. The real disadvantage is you have 4'-8' of the bus sticking out in front of the windshield. The real advantage of the Type 'A' buses is their size which is also their biggest disadvantage. I am currently driving a brand new Type 'A' bus that I am taking out to show to customers. It is a white MFSAB so it doesn't have any of the yellow bus equipment on it. Even still, it can only carry an additional 4K lbs. Most Type 'C' buses have a carrying capacity that is well in excess of 6K lbs., some as high as 12K lbs. The higher carrying capacity translates into transmissions, brakes, axles, and tires that are much larger which results in fewer repairs.

If you really want a shorter bus you are more apt to find a Type 'C' of the size you want than any other size.

I personally do not recommend anybody try to convert a Type 'A' or 'B' bus because there is so little truck under the bus. Besides, you can usually find a Type 'C' bus for less $$$.

If I was going to convert a bus this bus would be high on my list of buses to consider. 1990 International BB 1HVBB27N1LH288586 - TheBusDealer.com - Auburn, Washington 98001

Not only does it have great rubber (no recaps in the rear and at least 80% in all positions) but it has highway gearing and a 5-speed automatic with a deep low gear to get you going on a really steep grade. It is also a 10-row bus so it isn't full length.

If I was looking to purchase a Type 'D' that wasn't that long I would seriously consider this bus. 1998 BLUEBIRD RE RE 1BAGGB7A4WF083842 - TheBusDealer.com - Auburn, Washington 98001

It has the Cummins 8.3L so it will have lots of go when out on the highway. It has two service doors with a lift in the rear door. Which will allow you to decide if you want a front door or a door in the middle of the bus or two doors.

We have some really nice 8-row buses coming in on trade in the next few weeks. They will be priced below $6K. They will have less than 150K miles.

Again, before you purchase you need to decide what type of bus it is you really want. Once you determine type then you have to decide which power package you can live with and which ones you need to avoid.

Good luck and happy trails.
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Old 02-26-2015, 12:53 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
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Thanks for the info, cowlitzcoach! I'm definitely looking for a Conventional, as I want repairs / overhauls / tune-ups to be as painless as possible.

As far as size goes, I'm really looking for something with 4–6 rows. Something closer to this, for example. Or this, though it's well outside of my price range. I wanna keep the bus as small as possible while still being large enough to accommodate my plans, and that seems to be the Goldilocks size for me.
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Old 02-26-2015, 02:17 PM   #10
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Year: 1992
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Engine: dt466
Rated Cap: 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by nat_ster View Post
I would take a short full size bluebird chassis (TC2000) over any one ton ford short bus.

Big 22.5 tires, real brakes, massive load capacity, Cummins engine, ect.

Much much stronger bus.

Nat
Yep, me too.
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