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Old 05-30-2016, 11:47 AM   #1
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Won a pretty nice bus at auction, but then I realized it had a CAT3126

Thomas bus with nice belly storage, 84 passenger, rear engine...ticked all the boxes I wanted. I recalled seeing it had a DT466, but must've mixed up some listings. Low and behold, I win the auction and realize it's a CAT3126.

Now I wonder, should I purchase, convert and possibly sell, or take the chance with this bus, OR pass on the auction? 126k miles on it, says it was in regular service up until mid last year. 3500.00

I've felt like most reading says to avoid the CAT like the plague.

Need some advice.
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Old 05-30-2016, 12:03 PM   #2
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Nothing wrong with a 3126. Lots and lots of vehicles run them with no issues.

Check how many hours it has on it. Dont judge by mileage.
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Old 05-30-2016, 12:10 PM   #3
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Check how many hours it has on it. Don't judge by mileage.
What sort of miles would make one want to consider another bus?

What sort of hours would make one want to consider another bus?
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Old 05-30-2016, 12:15 PM   #4
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Well, if it were me, I'd double check the auction listing. Did it specify the bus had a DT466? If so, I'd likely be backing out of the sale due to "incorrect info in listing". Bidding on an auction is supposed to be a binding contract, but they are obligated to hold up their end of the contract too, by having "what you bid on", "as described", etc.

If the auction did indeed correctly specify the Cat engine and you bid anyway, you're down to three options. First would be the dishonorable way out by skipping out on the auction (strongly discouraged). This leaves making good on your bid, owning your mistake and picking up the bus. I said three options, didn't I? Well, at this point you can either keep the bus, or turn around and resell it. The Cat engines aren't terrible, they are just a little harder (and pricier) to get parts for than, say, an IH or Cummins engine.
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Old 05-30-2016, 12:51 PM   #5
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I would have no problems taking a cat 3126 powered pusher, I did take it over 3116 any day. Probably the only reason you have gotten a poor impression of cat on this forum is because when it comes to repairs their parts are proprietary.
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Old 05-30-2016, 12:57 PM   #6
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Well, if it were me, I'd double check the auction listing. Did it specify the bus had a DT466? If so, I'd likely be backing out of the sale due to "incorrect info in listing". Bidding on an auction is supposed to be a binding contract, but they are obligated to hold up their end of the contract too, by having "what you bid on", "as described", etc.

If the auction did indeed correctly specify the Cat engine and you bid anyway, you're down to three options. First would be the dishonorable way out by skipping out on the auction (strongly discouraged). This leaves making good on your bid, owning your mistake and picking up the bus. I said three options, didn't I? Well, at this point you can either keep the bus, or turn around and resell it. The Cat engines aren't terrible, they are just a little harder (and pricier) to get parts for than, say, an IH or Cummins engine.
Auction says 3126, I just bid and was recalling in my mind that it was a dt, because thats generally wht I was looking for.

Here is the bus

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Old 05-30-2016, 01:09 PM   #7
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At least you got something for which parts can be had!

Mine is a Carpenter (which is long out of business), with the IH 9 Liter engine (long out of production). Fortunately, from what I'm told, these engines were pretty solid as long as they weren't abused.

I'd say go for it. I've driven a couple Cat engines over the years. They're about as good as any other.
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Old 05-30-2016, 01:33 PM   #8
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That's exactly correct. The general impulse on this forum is that Cats are adequate, but expensive by design. Proprietorial parts management seems to make most people upset, especially if you're the one paying for the parts.

That is a nice looking bus, and I've gotten the info mixed up on auctions previously myself. You don't need auction advise after the fact, but if there's a next time just be more discriminating until you are only watching two or three vehicles. Pasting the information into a spreadsheet helps solidly narrow it down.
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Old 05-30-2016, 01:49 PM   #9
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with the IH 9 Liter engine (long out of production). Fortunately, from what I'm told, these engines were pretty solid as long as they weren't abused.
Boy, we run a fleet of those things hard. I liked that engine....for what it was. Never had an issue with them.
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Old 05-30-2016, 02:25 PM   #10
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I have the ability to a mutual withdraw, and I am only bound contractually if the bus is exactly as described. Therefore, payment is only due upon post inspection. I have the ability to withdraw if it comes down to it.

I'm inclined to move forward though. The bus appears clean, and received maintenance up until last year. If I could get a few good years out of it, and 75k miles that'd be fantastically worth it.

In the end though, you have to have the mental clarity to see that investing 50k dollars in a school bus conversion is a fools game though, as return on investment is going to be difficult. I intend to invest 12,500.00 total and not a dime more. At that number, I need at least 1.5 yrs of living in it to realize full ROI at my current housing cost rate. The extra benefit being I have weekend mobility to leave my area and realize a higher quality of life.

With any bus though, I realize it's a dice roll. Some people buy them and they run forever, some blow up on the way home. It's a gamble either way. Seeing what kind of blow by and maintenance and hours it has will be the first step I suppose, more than anything. We'll see.
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Old 05-30-2016, 02:45 PM   #11
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heres my thing...

1. the 3126 may be somewhat expensive to repair.. however it IS a good solid engine.. if the bus has been maintained, that cat is just getting started!.

2. Life is about enjoyment not about some ROI over a period of a certain number of years... sure you hope to not have to put money into it.. but you may.. Live and enjoy.. if you make the supposed "ROI" great.. but dont be distraught if you dont..

or

3. if this project is HIGHLY dependent on said ROI it may not be the right thing for you.. these busses are as much vehicle restoration and maintenance as they are a conversion... underneath all of the pretty wall coverings, floors, cabinets and appliances Is a COMMERICAL medium duty TRUCK... its a fact, they cost money... tires, oil changes (4 gallomns of oil).. hoses.. belts, etc...


I recall recently talking to someone who lost a DT466 with a main bearing failure that went catastrophic and ruined the block.. (they arent on here)...

ENJOY Life.. and Enjoy what looks to be a great bus you got your hands on!!!

-Christopher
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Old 05-30-2016, 02:54 PM   #12
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Everything in life is about the numbers and risk management, at least in my world. I've owned several businesses in various markets, and to me life goes according to the numbers. Numbers take emotion out of the scenario, and allows you to make proper choices that are in the best interest of the future. Everything I do has a risk/reward profile, and risk in one asset is offset by gains from another. The more gains and increase of bank roll, the more relative risk I can take while limiting my exposure.

Due to my locale, availability of build space/tooling/skillset, as well as some flexible investment, the bus conversion is a reasonable risk/reward. Investing those gains in a platform that has a reasonable likelihood of survival, could yield big returns in the next year to three years...so, it's a go for me at this time. I just want to be sure there isn't a general opinion that the CAT engines are an "avoid at all costs" platform.
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Old 05-30-2016, 03:01 PM   #13
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I totally understand where you are coming from and I come from the same background but if you approach this conversion with that mentality you are never going to be satisfied plain and simple. The fact is no RV or boat or any type of hobby is going to have an ROI.
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Old 05-30-2016, 03:45 PM   #14
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I love that bus, man! Congrats!
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Old 05-30-2016, 03:50 PM   #15
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Guys, let's stick to the point of the thread here, not dissect my approach to life and investment. No offense...

CAT or no CAT....pros and cons...that's the expertise/opinion I am seeking.

Jake, that all depends on how you structure your balance sheet of life. If you full time, or monetize the boat, the rv, the living space, then the risk assessment changes. I could offset the monthly cost of an RV financing package, but I've had RV's and I don't like their construction, nor do I like their depreciation factor. That said, I've never lost money on any I've ever owned, simply because I managed the investment and cut it loose when appropriate. I've made much of my money in life from vehicles, brokering, reselling, etc. Before you invest in anything, you have to see the trend lines, the market demand, the necessary investment, the potential resale, etc. Within that mentality you can create a picture of what you should invest, what return is possible, and what resale/exit strategy you have. This has never steered me wrong...in profitable blackjack, in restaurant ownership, in building cars for SEMA.

Like I said though, to each his own, I'm good on the why build or not build conversation, I just need some words on this CAT, as I've never dealt with one.
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Old 05-30-2016, 04:02 PM   #16
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If you get it you could [and should] pull an oil sample. That will give you some sort of reference to how things inside are.
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Old 05-30-2016, 04:25 PM   #17
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It still sounds like a really good bus. You're experiencing buyer's remorse. We all kick ourselves for a short while after purchase. It generally turns out ok. Congratulations, you're a Cat mechanic.

Return on investment in buses isn't likely to be very different compared to return on investment in real estate. Often returns are 20 cents on the dollar or lower. Values rarely match or exceed the initial investment cost.
Improvements are specifically to suite the tastes of the current owner, and the value of that is in the enjoyment of that improvement and is not necessarily reflected in the resale value. Everyone knows the next buyer of a house will tear out perfectly good carpeting and remodel to their own tastes. It's the same with a bus. Real estate values are not based on the cost of improvements however they are influenced by them. Most people are going to remodel to some extent so previous owner's improvements aren't valued based on cost.

I'm not trying to be insulting to any sellers or buyers, of buses or real estate. I'm not a vehicle appraiser and don't know if that exists. These are household type improvements that most people are doing to their buses. It would reason that the values are similar to real estate improvement values because these are basically the same materials. We aren't building with RV parts, mostly.

Can I get an amen if there's any other real estate appraisers out there?
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Old 05-30-2016, 04:40 PM   #18
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If your bus is sitting, it doesn't matter what motor is in it. And it will spend FAR more time sitting.
Do you plan on putting on 100k a year-for the next 5 years? Probably not. How about 10k a year? (I've asked this question many times never heard of anyone even putting that much on) Still pretty low miles for a motor designed to have many years of serious service.
Truth is a bus has it pretty easy once when we get ahold of them. I'm betting you'll be fine.
The guy with a small block Corvette wishes he had a big block Vette.
The guy with the big block Vette wish he had a L88 Vette.
Does that mean small block Vettes aren't worth having?
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Old 05-30-2016, 04:42 PM   #19
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Does that mean small block Vettes aren't worth having?
Yes, why yes indeed it does. Do you have one you want to part with?
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Old 05-30-2016, 05:18 PM   #20
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If your bus is sitting, it doesn't matter what motor is in it. And it will spend FAR more time sitting.
Do you plan on putting on 100k a year-for the next 5 years? Probably not. How about 10k a year? (I've asked this question many times never heard of anyone even putting that much on) Still pretty low miles for a motor designed to have many years of serious service.
Truth is a bus has it pretty easy once when we get ahold of them. I'm betting you'll be fine.
The guy with a small block Corvette wishes he had a big block Vette.
The guy with the big block Vette wish he had a L88 Vette.
Does that mean small block Vettes aren't worth having?
I think you're definitely correct in your way of thinking. I believe reasonably speaking the bus will see 5-7k miles (mostly highway to and from) in it's first year, and approx 10k+ in the 2nd and 3rd year. My needs for a mobile platform are very specific, as I need a mobile living space in one locale in year 1, then a fully mobile platform in various locales in yr 2 and 3.

I also base this on my previous motorhome usage and mileage. Just one trip that I take to a convention each year will put 2800 on the odometer, and that's a cross continent effort. The bus does need some degree of reliability so that's the issue.

Good call above on the oil sample, as with iron planet on the gov vehicles. Blackstone labs I've sent oil samples to before, so that'll definitely be a route.

No buyers remorse here. No such thing as a contract that can't be gotten out of...that's all I'll say.
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