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Old 07-07-2015, 06:38 PM   #1
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How do you choose your bus?

Hi Everyone,
I've been lurking on the forum for the past month gathering information, and i want to say hi and ask some questions. My name's Dave, and i'm looking to get into the Skoolie world. I love the outdoors and camping, and my vision is basically to get a bus that could take me to out of the way places, have enough space inside to be comfortable in the face of weather or bugs, and also to haul around the toys i'd like to play with.

I'm lucky enough to have a girlfriend who studies woodworking and is also training in metal-working, and we have a pretty complete woodshop in our garage. We have a bunch of ideas for what we'd like to do to the bus once we've purchased it, but those challenges will obviously come after purchase.

I haven't found a great resource yet that really compares the different manufacturers, models, years, and sizes in a way that points out strengths and weaknesses. I'd love to know things like common engines in different models, approximate fuel mileage, lines that are considered particularly well built, lines that are lemons or should be avoided, and certainly i'd love to find write-ups of how other people decided what bus to buy.

The bus of our dreams would probably be a class B in that we want something that is substantial, can carry weight, and will have decent entry and exit angles, but we'd like it to be short enough to fit in out of the way campsites. Maybe something in the 25-30' range.

I see stories on here of people getting buses for just a few thousand dollars, but others seem to spend more like 15 or 20k. I'd love to get a good deal, but i'm willing to pay a bit more if i can get better reliability, better fuel mileage, or a more usable platform to build from. What do people think is the price point to look for? Any tips on how to assess whether a bus is worth the cost?

I live in the northeast but am planning a move to the west coast. Obviously avoiding rust would be really nice, so i'm thinking about getting something in the west or southwest, using it to help me move, and then doing the conversion. Has anyone else tried getting one registered and insured before the full conversion and then finishing it off later? It'd certainly be nice to not have to rent a UHaul...

Anyway, that's a long first post. Thanks for sticking with me, and i appreciate any and all information, opinions, criticisms, or ideas. Have a good one!
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Old 07-07-2015, 07:30 PM   #2
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Just read what we're doing. Feel free to ask questions. That's what we're here for! Good luck in finding the one you're looking for!
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Old 07-07-2015, 09:11 PM   #3
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Biggest difference between 3k bus and $20 bus is normally one is a school bus and one is OTR(over the road) like greyhound, mci, eagle etc

A converted bus is worth what someone will pay for it, maybe 6k or 12k

Good luck in your search, I prefer diesel and airbrakes...
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Old 07-07-2015, 11:10 PM   #4
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Insurance... State Farm here in Colorado will insure a school bus before conversion (you must remove the seats immediately) as a commercial vehicle due to the weight, but for private use. A comprehensive policy on a 1992 Blue Bird transit style bus (36,200 GVW) that I found on an auction site was quoted out at $130-ish a month. That was a $250 deductible, with zero-deductible glass coverage. Liability only was about $90. Post conversion RV policy was about the same.

Note that this isn't my bus or insurance. I just grabbed a VIN so I could get a quote from the agent. Make sure you have a policy ready to go before you buy something!
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Old 07-08-2015, 05:24 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by bansil View Post
I prefer diesel and airbrakes...
Same here, and non-CAT for the power plant (unless you're made of money). and are probably the best choices for bus auctions.
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Old 07-08-2015, 05:09 PM   #6
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Thanks so much everyone!

I'll keep an eye out on those sources. I'm still not sure how best to target my search though. Do you know if there's any spreadsheet or compilation of the different bus makes and models? Maybe there's a really sweet 26 foot diesel on a big frame that was only popular in one part of the country, and i'll never know i should have been looking for it...
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Old 07-09-2015, 06:23 AM   #7
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mine is a really sweet 26' diesel on a big frame. it started its life in iowa. it may have been popular elsewhere though.
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Old 07-09-2015, 01:41 PM   #8
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There's a school district in Maryland that sells a bunch of late 90s-early 2000s Thomas Safe T Liner MVPs every year. They're usually in good shape and are an ideal platform for a skoolie conversion. A couple people on here have bought them from previous auctions.

Here's one.

2001 Thomas Saf-T-Liner MVP ER -
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Old 07-13-2015, 07:19 PM   #9
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Here in Wyoming, we were considering a variety of school district sources for our next bus. Most schools are required by law to retire their fleet of buses based on a certain mileage "milestone" or after a certain number of years. After having a very bad experience with a bus we purchased from a rafting company, we went with a just retired school bus that was maintained with the stringent regularity required by state law. Most states or local governments are strict with their school bus maintenance schedules. For $4500, we got a 2008 bluebird all-american with 130K on it, and it came with a binder full of complete service records. Everything (except the radio, and the tires are almost worn out) checked out in good working order. My advice is check around your local school districts to see if there's any being retired and to what retailer do they sell them to. Better yet if you can buy one directly from the school district.

Larry D.
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Old 07-13-2015, 10:14 PM   #10
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