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Old 04-07-2024, 02:57 PM   #1
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Best Bus for my Use Case?

Hey guys,
Needing advice on what bus to buy. I'd like to buy one this summer, but am not sure on what will suite my needs the best. I'm not looking to travel in it, more of a park it somewhere and live in it; but I want it to be a desirable setup for resale value. I'm thinking I need to go with a 35' to 40' bus, since I'm thinking I'll live in it for the next 10 years, and I want to have enough space for family growth. Are cab over busses more or less desirable than conventional busses? In similar length cases, which has more usable space?
At this point, I think I'd like to go with a 5.9 or 8.3 cummins and a 5 or 6 speed alison transmission, but I'm not dead set on that. Any bus brands to avoid?
Looking for any and all advice.
Thanks in advance!
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Old 04-08-2024, 12:57 PM   #2
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If you're just going to park it, then the drivetrain is of much less of a concern, as after sitting for a decade, any drivetrain should probably be rebuilt anyhow. That's just the natural entropy affecting everything. So I wouldn't focus on the drivetrain so much as whether or not it works, and then you just need to figure out how to baby it while it's actually in motion so that you don't blow anything up.



There really isn't much of a "used skoolie market", so resale value does not apply--as does trying to think about it. If you're building it primarily as a home, then I would think about that, and focus more on your floorplan and how you're going to lay things out, and what kind of devices you're going to use to make it habitable. Build it out like a Prevost conversion, and you'll be able to have some kind of resale value; build it out using pallet wood and scraps, and it will only be attractive to the Walter White types.

Going with a cabover should give you more internal room, which is probably going to be more attractive for your purpose. Going with a Rear-Engine 'pusher-style' chassis will be more attractive to potential buyers down the line, as well as make doing the inevitable rebuild easier IMHO. But honestly, for your purposes, my top priority would be:
1. Internal room
2. quality of the steel on the body and structural integrity together with a complete lack of rust
3. That whatever drivetrain it has functions well enough to get it to where you're going to park it and/or where you're going to build it out.

Even the best drivetrain ever made will barely start and have problems after being parked for 10 years. Rust will creep in (in most places on earth), rubber will dry-rot and wear out, brakes will seize and fluids will decompose. Air-tight systems will develop leaks and systems that are supposed to breathe will plug up. And that's just nature; mice, rats, squirrels, and insects will cause a whole bag of other problems that will make your head spin. So whenever it comes time to sell your rig, just plan on either dropping $~2K on tires and another $5K-10K on getting the motor/tranny functioning again, or better yet, just take that off the price tag and let the new owner(s) figure out what they want to do with it.
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Old 04-08-2024, 06:59 PM   #3
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I absolutely agree with everything that Albatross wrote.



Based on your intended use, I'd suggest purchasing the largest RE bus you can find and spend no more than ($2000) scrap value.

We found a rust-free 42'2" bus at an auction, 16 miles from our farm and paid only $2000, which was less than we paid for either of our 40' High-Cubes. It has a very undesirable engine, so there were few bidders and twenty busses up for bid, some of the non-runners sold as low as $650.




As Albatross described above, any bus will accumulate a great deal of depreciation & mechanical deterioration over 10 years of rest. For this reason, I suggest you pay no more than it may be worth in April of 2035. Pay scrap prices today & resale value will be maintained.

You OUGHT to focus on the land, the place you intend to park, FIRST. Secure a Fence, Electricity, Well or water, Septic or Sewage, Shipping container or Shed and finally a Parking Pad or Covered Space. THEN purchase a bus or horse or airplane to park on your land. (Don't buy a horse, bus or airplane yet). We chose the DIY route & converted the existing barn into our legal residence. Afterwhich, we added a second driveway, a second well and second meter socket. Bus came last.

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Old 04-08-2024, 07:22 PM   #4
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Honestly, though; if you're just looking for a long brick to park someplace for a decade...

It might honestly just be more worthwhile to you to look into buying a used single-wide trailer home. It would save you all of the conversion time and costs, give you more room to work with, and if you can find one near you, the costs to transport it will be about the same as buying a decent skoolie at auction. If you've already got the place to put it, it would honestly probably work out better in the long run, since they are built to live in, and have a tendency to last longer than either skoolies or other RVs.

No, it's not as "cool" as doing it yourself, but it is honestly a better living experience--coming from someone that's lived in an RV full-time for three years.

The only reason to buy something with an incorporated motor and drivetrain is to move it. If you're not going to move it, then there are much better options. You could even buy a shipping container for about the price of a skoolie at auction, and have far less of a PITA to deal with so far as paperwork and inspectors.

It sounds like a shipping container might be a better bet if you're looking for something cheap to convert to a living space, and if you've got the capital to go for it, so would a used single-wide trailer home.
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Old 04-11-2024, 10:32 PM   #5
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Thanks so much for your responses! I've been down with the flu, plus trying to juggle work, so I had forgotten about even posting.
I think I may have described my use case wrong, so I'll give it another shot. I currently live with my parents, and could park a school bus at there place while I convert it. I'm thinking that converting it will be more of a time than money constraint, which would give me the opportunity to continue saving up for my own property, while converting it. Once it's converted, it will probably still get driven 100 miles each year. Otherwise, I totally would go with a shipping container. I think one converted nicely could be pretty cool. That's interesting about the used schoolie mmarket. What do you mean by an RE bus? Thanks again!
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Old 04-12-2024, 12:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Courage View Post
Thanks so much for your responses! I've been down with the flu, plus trying to juggle work, so I had forgotten about even posting.
I think I may have described my use case wrong, so I'll give it another shot. I currently live with my parents, and could park a school bus at there place while I convert it. I'm thinking that converting it will be more of a time than money constraint, which would give me the opportunity to continue saving up for my own property, while converting it. Once it's converted, it will probably still get driven 100 miles each year. Otherwise, I totally would go with a shipping container. I think one converted nicely could be pretty cool. That's interesting about the used schoolie mmarket. What do you mean by an RE bus? Thanks again!
Courage
---------------

RE = Rear Engine




We have a large yard where our skoolie has its own campsite. I like your plan to use your parents land and then your own when it's time to move on.

If you don't intend to travel alot or park in constained, tight campsites, then choose the length that works for you. For room to expand, I suggest 40ft. The REs have a bit more space, particularly the 36" door, 5' by 5' open entry⤵ and the rear wheel humps are located much farther away from the front⤴ (Yeah, I'm biased)




I stand by my first post. You don't have to buy the bus first, either. Start today.
While you're bus shopping, you ought to set up a long-term parking spot, in the shade if available. Your family will know you're serious & persistent, if you follow these steps:
  • Lay limerock or hardpan onto the intended parking space. Buses sink in over time.
  • Trench from the house to the parking space to bury two runs of pvc, gray for electric and white for water. (Can be permitted & inspected inexpensively)
  • Add a picnic table, use it for working on bus projects & taking breaks.
  • Build a composting toilet. You & any female helpers will appreciate the convince, while you demo & convert. (Try it out at home first)



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Old 04-12-2024, 08:41 AM   #7
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I agree with all of the above.

If this will only be driven a 100 miles or less. Most buses sold would be suitable. I'd preference something old and non-electric, as any electrical components complicates what doesn't need to be. And mechanics like myself are expensive, you can spend a small fortune tracking down electrical issues that someone with a mechanical engine wouldn't even know about. Even a gasoline bus wouldn't be a bad option for you, with as little as you'll be driving.

I'd also suggest going with something that doesn't have premium options, like air ride, big engines, or OD transmissions. Those items will all cause a bus to cost more, and spending an hour or two on the road per year you won't need those items.

Yes there's more "usable" space in an RE vs FE vs Conventional bus. But being 1 person, how much space do you really need. There's people living out of transit and sprinter vans, you can make any 40 footer into the taj mahal compared to what they have.

I like DeMac's suggestion, in that you should also budget in building the campsite you'll be parked at. Mud and grass isn't it.
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Old 04-13-2024, 03:55 PM   #8
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Agree with everything said so far. We went with a RE300 40' and have a ton of space to work with. Make sure it is on gravel or asphalt when not in use. Bigger the bus the more weight you have to move and the more it costs to move it if going out on the road. I wanted 27', wife wanted 40', I lost!
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Old 04-13-2024, 09:22 PM   #9
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Unless you want to do a roof raise consider the interior height. Buses with 72/73' max are more common and others are 77/78" as an upgrade. The Thomas buses I am familiar with make a roof raise more of a challenge.
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Old 04-14-2024, 07:37 AM   #10
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I still have to question, why a bus? im part fo a group that rescues, saves, and restores busses (with seats).. and the amount of work required to get a bus that has sat close to 10 years back to life and reliable is a *LOT*.. much more than any resale gains give you.. any bus sitting 10 years will need 6 new tires... (thats several grand at minimum).. the air system will likely develop a lot of leaks from sitting.. you can cage the brakes so they dont seize, but ive seen the springs ruined by sitting caged for al ong time. the engine will take the most "damage".. and just starting it a few minutes a month is the worst thing you can do to it..



the only reason we deal with busses that have sat that long is they are usually irreplaceable classics thus we put the effort , $$$, and time into making them driveable.. or at least able to be rolled onto a Landoll for transport..



why not convert a shipping container or build a tiny home that could be transported later if needbe..



or convert a bus but plan on a 30 minute drive once a month (or at least every 2 months).. an oil change once a year along with a chassis lube, and covers over the tires while parked and you stand a chance of something roadworthy at the end of your 10 year stint..
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Old 04-14-2024, 11:57 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Courage View Post
Once it's converted, it will probably still get driven 100 miles each year.

The comments here are absolutely the best and I agree with all of them.


The one thing I would add is if you're going to drive it 100 miles a year, then it honestly might as well be sitting. Seriously, the kinds of platforms buses are built on are designed to move, to move heavy, and to basically keep trucking without stopping. Skoolies specifically are built to handle the worst kinds of roads in the nation, since they're designed to pick up kids from places where no other reasonable commercial driver would be going without a specialty-made vehicle. Granted, most of them only have to deal with asphalt and potholes, but nevertheless, they still basically put on easily 100 miles every day for a light-duty usage. The only kinds of vehicles I've seen tolerate being driven 100 miles a year are the "historical" vehicles--the Boomers that own something like a '48 Ford or a '57 Chevy or a Model T/A where they sit in a garage nicer than most 20 y/o kids can afford for their homes while being babied every month, and they really only get taken out a couple times a year to go to a local car show or something like that.


Anything else that gets driven so rarely and for so little will still have problems unless it's one of the best vehicles ever made--and I can assure you that skoolies are not.


I still say that you would be better off figuring out how to build an alternative structure, and then buy a large SUV or pickup truck for the handful of times you think you might actually take it out someplace. First, you'd get more towing capacity with a normal pickup unless you strip the interior of the bus and build it back with all IKEA/particle-/card-board interiors.


I you build out a tiny-home on a trailer or a flatbed trailer, then you'd still be able to move it down the line, either by yourself or with a "hotshot" trucker.


If you're not going to regularly take it out and give it a little bit of stress, it's just going to decrepidate while sitting.
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Old 04-14-2024, 12:36 PM   #12
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re : moving it 100 miles/160km annually
.
If I was me, I would find a retired semi-trailer.
Our latest conversion is a 40'/12m.
Our first modification was lowering the roof by 18"/.5m for less rocking during storms.
.
After the roof, I removed the rear barn-doors, then built a steel wall and steel door.
With the thick aluminum walls, I think interior framing is unnecessary to support my windows.
.
For windows, I installed 3010 (three feet wide by a foot tall) dual-pane sliders designed for a stand-still house.
We installed these at our eye-level standing inside.
.
To move it, I have buddies with semi-trucks.
.
Unless you are married to the idea of moving your entire home, I would just rent a factory RecreateVehicle.
Simple, easy.
.
.
Our introduction with plenty of portraits, plus our reasons for our decisions:
https://vanlivingforum.com/threads/e...8/#post-576110
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Old 04-15-2024, 06:47 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LargeMargeInBaja View Post
re : moving it 100 miles/160km annually
.
If I was me, I would find a retired semi-trailer.
Our latest conversion is a 40'/12m.
Our first modification was lowering the roof by 18"/.5m for less rocking during storms.
.
After the roof, I removed the rear barn-doors, then built a steel wall and steel door.
With the thick aluminum walls, I think interior framing is unnecessary to support my windows.
.
For windows, I installed 3010 (three feet wide by a foot tall) dual-pane sliders designed for a stand-still house.
We installed these at our eye-level standing inside.
.
To move it, I have buddies with semi-trucks.
.
Unless you are married to the idea of moving your entire home, I would just rent a factory RecreateVehicle.
Simple, easy.
.
.
Our introduction with plenty of portraits, plus our reasons for our decisions:
https://vanlivingforum.com/threads/e...8/#post-576110

cool idea on a Semi trailer.. I knew of a guy who started with a Reefer trailer that believe it or not wasnt moldy... so he had a nice insulated box to start with. in the beginning he used the reefer unit for A/C.. although they really are a terrible A/C unit for living space but it worked to get going till he got his minisplits installed. selling a working reefer brought in some $$ back on his investment.. he had a Freightliner FL80 to tow it with which did fine even with the extra weight of the insulated trailer.. havent heard from him in a while so no idea what he is doing or how his project turned out.. he and I connected to mainly talk about trying to use the Reefer unit as his HVAC..
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Old 04-15-2024, 09:07 AM   #14
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That's actually a pretty good idea.



When we bought our new shop a few years ago, we also acquired a Chevy Class 6 truck along with it and a pair of 52' Dry Van trailers that we let go for something like $200 each. But to say that they were a little rough is a bit of an understatement... One of them had a sapling growing through the brake lines somehow, and the brakes had to be caged just to even move the thing.


For as little as you'd be moving, I like this idea. There's a lot less to go wrong or need maintenance, and you would still get more room.
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Old 04-15-2024, 09:44 AM   #15
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Agreed on the semi trailer idea. Most that are cheap are pretty rough, but you're redoing the inside anyways. They'd also be taller then a bus, so no need for a roof raise like everyone wants. I'd remove the running gear and landing gear and then set it on a gravel pad, then you'd have minimal rocking or anything and wouldn't need stairs to get in it.

Used to be able to get conex containers cheap at one time. Those have gone up since, and I imagine you could find a used trailer for cheaper.
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Old 04-15-2024, 11:04 AM   #16
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containers are going way up in price as the new "trendy" thing.. in fact im here in tampa and there is a whole shopping area created out of re-purposed shipping containers.. interestingly named 'KRATE'..
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Old 04-15-2024, 12:15 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
containers are going way up in price as the new "trendy" thing.. in fact im here in tampa and there is a whole shopping area created out of re-purposed shipping containers.. interestingly named 'KRATE'..

God; why do hipsters and their intellectual progeny have to ruin everything?
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Old 04-15-2024, 03:43 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
containers are going way up in price as the new "trendy" thing.. in fact im here in tampa and there is a whole shopping area created out of re-purposed shipping containers.. interestingly named 'KRATE'..
------------------
True that, Chris!

We paid $1500 (+$500 delivery & sales tax) for our blue 40' high cube in Jan 2020. In April of 2022 we paid $2800 (+delivery & tax). Same Jacksonville dealer, but the red 40' high cube is in better condition.







We lined them with shelving on both sides, then filled the blue one with our Ag supplies & livestock feed. The newer red one has been used by equestrian guests & produces a small rental income. I wont hesitate to buy another one, when the market dips again.


------------------

One of my neighbors built their home from a semi-trailer. I captured the photographs below in Jan 2020. Today the home is still there, though a section of corrugated roofing has been added to one end.





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Old 04-19-2024, 03:36 PM   #19
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Old 05-12-2024, 08:47 PM   #20
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Thanks so much for all of your advice and the time you took to share it! I really appreciate it! Y'all have given me a lot to think about. I'm really questioning whether a bus is the most sensible thing for me. I love the idea of it (grew up watching early YT Schoolie conversion videos instead of movies), but don't want to get into a project I end up regretting. The semi trailer is a cool idea, but I like the idea of being able to move it myself, although I guess that's really not necessary. I definitely am glad though that I came here and got some expert advice before plunking down some cash. I've run across quite a few gutted busses on FB Marketplace that are ready to start insulating and building. How much more would you say one that's gutted is worth?
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