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Old 07-24-2015, 12:11 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Transit, Coach or School?

So I've been researching for awhile and I'm having trouble figuring out what platform to start with. I'm looking to do a conversion to live in full-time starting in a couple years.

Looking at school buses my issues are:
  • Ceiling Height(I'm 5'11", even a 78" ceiling after adding insulation will be cramped)
  • Length, I don't need a full length bus but there aren't many mid size buses. (20-25ft behind the seat)
  • Looks, I really don't like dog-nose buses, I would highly prefer a flat front.
  • Trouble finding places to park and stay since a Skoolie "doesnt fit in" to normal RV parks.

So I've looked at coach buses and the issue there is price. I also have concerns about maintenance and repairs being more expensive. I just recently started looking at transits and have found some that had great room, height and length but I've read most transit buses come out of service in bad shape and repair costs are crazy.

For me, a roof raise is out of the question, I don't have the facilities or metal working skills/tools for it. Though after looking at Coach prices I have pondered about buying a school bus and seeing what it would cost to have a metal shop do the roof raise.

How necessary is insulation? I don't know the climate I will end up in yet but it's looking like I will be in the south. If I can forgo insulation on the ceiling and find a bus with a 78" ceiling then I will be satisfied. But from what I've read insulation is a necessity, especially since the bus will be my primary residence. Money-wise I am expecting to spend 10k-15k on the conversion, this includes a solar setup.
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Old 07-24-2015, 12:27 PM   #2
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If you're willing to bring your bus to my place, I can raise the roof for you, and won't charge near what any shop would.
You CAN do it, it just takes lots of hard work and determination.
I'm the same height as you, and there's really no way around it if you wanna go fulltime in a bus.
Insulation is a must no matter where you end up.
Coaches are great, but you have got to have very deep pockets and they aren't as capable on crappy roads and if clearance is an issue.
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Old 07-24-2015, 12:42 PM   #3
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Yea, it isn't even the work portion of the roof raise, it's the fact that I don't have a shop or garage to do it in. As of right now I'll be renting a spot in a lot somewhere or parking it at a relatives place to do the work since I live in the city and neither of my parents have an area big enough for me to do the work.

Outside of the initial costs of a coach, do they tend to cost more maintenance or repairs wise? I imagine the suspension setups on them are beefier. I'd prefer to have something I could drive down a crappy dirt road but it isn't a necessity.
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Old 07-24-2015, 12:49 PM   #4
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Coaches are built on heavier duty components for sure.
They usually go a million miles easy.
Maintenance is a bit more, but not prohibitively so.
If engine work is needed, it can really get pricey quickly. Especially if its a Detroit 2 stroke which MANY are.
They usually have two more tires, too.
For interstate cruising, a coach cannot be beat.
At 63mph in my bus, the coaches just float by like they're floating on really fast clouds! I did/do feel a bit of envy when this happens.

fwiw a roof raise doesn't require any more room than storing a bus.
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Old 07-24-2015, 01:53 PM   #5
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The ride quality of a coach is another factor that makes them attractive, I'll only be doing 2-3 trips a year but theres a good chance that at least one of those trips will be 1000-2000 miles round trip. Outside of that the bus will be parked.

I've done a lot of looking into the engines for school buses but not coaches, it would be nice to stick to a Cummins or a Ford Powerstroke just for parts availability and all of the DIY knowledge available from all of the Diesel Truck tuner guys out there.

Theres also the factor that coaches tend to blend in better than skoolies once they are converted.
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Old 07-24-2015, 01:55 PM   #6
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I may be referring to coach buses incorrectly, I don't mean a full size motorcoach. I'm more considering something like a large shuttle bus.
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Old 07-24-2015, 02:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryank327 View Post
I may be referring to coach buses incorrectly, I don't mean a full size motorcoach. I'm more considering something like a large shuttle bus.
I have a small shuttle bus and have never been turned away from any RV park. Real easy to get parts for since its a van chassis. But it will be a lot smaller than any skoolie. I tow a car trailer with a side by side and 2 atv's sometimes 3 atv's and I'm very pleased with my little gas 5.4 L engine.
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Old 07-24-2015, 06:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryank327 View Post
Looking at school buses my issues are:[LIST][*]Ceiling Height(I'm 5'11", even a 78" ceiling after adding insulation will be cramped)
I'm 6', and my Amtran has 78" ceilings. I plan on two inches to the floor, and don't feel any more cramped than without.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryank327 View Post
How necessary is insulation? I don't know the climate I will end up in yet but it's looking like I will be in the south. If I can forgo insulation on the ceiling and find a bus with a 78" ceiling then I will be satisfied. But from what I've read insulation is a necessity, especially since the bus will be my primary residence. Money-wise I am expecting to spend 10k-15k on the conversion, this includes a solar setup.
Think of insulation in the bus like insulation in a house. The right amount makes it comfortable, without requiring the HVAC system to run continuously. For what it's worth, when you do get your bus, gut it top to bottom and left to right. Pull the ceiling and interior wall panels and replace the crappy fiberglass with either rigid or spray foam. Whatever setup for air and heating you need will thank you for it, as will your lungs because you'll be getting rid of a major mold farm.

Gutting it will also allow you to get to any leaks to seal, take care of any possible rust on the structure, and allow you to wire it how you want it. Plus, you'll have the added advantage of knowing how to fix something if it goes wrong.

As for coach v skoolie? I've driven buses up to Fort Drum, and an air ride drivers seat made it a helluva lot more comfortable than the rigid pedestal of the other bus I drove up (and mine coming back from Maine). Yes, coaches are tuned to get you from Point A to Point B faster than most school buses, but at a cost- the amount of fuel used.

Don't count out Navistar engines. They've got parts availability just as good as Cummins and Fords; and the T444E was part of a joint Ford-Navistar production line.
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Old 07-24-2015, 07:25 PM   #9
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^ Definitely

I prefer the Navistars...
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Old 07-24-2015, 08:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryank327 View Post
For me, a roof raise is out of the question, I don't have the facilities or metal working skills/tools for it. Though after looking at Coach prices I have pondered about buying a school bus and seeing what it would cost to have a metal shop do the roof raise..
If you plan to live in it, raise the roof! You will never regret the headroom, and it will open up all sorts of storage space and design options.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryank327 View Post
How necessary is insulation? I don't know the climate I will end up in yet but it's looking like I will be in the south. If I can forgo insulation on the ceiling and find a bus with a 78" ceiling then I will be satisfied. But from what I've read insulation is a necessity, especially since the bus will be my primary residence. Money-wise I am expecting to spend 10k-15k on the conversion, this includes a solar setup.
Good insulation will save a lot of money on heating and cooling, obviously. Without a firsthand comparison, it's difficult to understand just how much difference good insulation will make in your comfort. (If I'm going to live in a small space, it's gonna be a dang comfortable space!)

Bottom line: it doesn't matter where you end up living, the better you insulate the happier you'll be living in that bus.

For my money, closed cell spray foam is the only way to go. It not only gives the best insulation values per inch, but at 2" or better depth, it is a total air and vapor barrier, meaning no air infiltration and no condensation on the interior metal skin. That means no rust, and since foam isn't food for mold, no mold either. Closed cell foam also adds a tremendous amount of structural strength. On top of that, closed cell spray foam gives substantial reduction in low frequency noise transmission, meaning much more pleasant road travel and much better sleep when you stop at a truck stop (or an RV park with your neighbor's generator running till 2 AM) for the night.

Steel has high thermal conductivity, so both heat and cold will be transferred very efficiently into your bus. If you don't insulate properly, you'll be hot when you want to be cool and cold when you want to be warm. Raising the roof will allow you to spray 3-4 inches in the roof, 2-3 inches on the floor, and still have plenty of headroom/cabinet space left over. I'd do 3" in the walls as well. This will not be cheap, but it will have far greater impact on your comfort and satisfaction than anything else you could do, at any price.
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