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Old 11-18-2019, 02:26 PM   #1
Bus Nut
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Join Date: Jul 2019
Location: California, Bay Area
Posts: 892
People say... [the cutaway/van style buses are more costly to maintain]

I'm Skeptical. So many people around here make that statement. Is it verifiably true or just 'conventional' wisdom being repeated over and over by people who bought conventional buses?

Here's how I see it.

The labor hours it takes to do some repairs on van style buses will undoubtedly be higher for certain repairs, especially involved engine or transmission work. The conventional/dognose design is definitely better from the standpoint of ease of access to the engine.


The ford E-series was one of the most popular commercial vehicles of all time. Parts are plentiful and easy to find cheap or used, most mechanics in most towns can work on an Econoline. And there are millions of youtube videos and resources online to help DIY'ers learn how to do the work themselves.

Cost/complexity of an engine rebuild might be higher, but more mundane and routine expenses like replacing tires is 100's to 1000's of dollars cheaper. I would imagine (but am not sure) that suspension components, brakes, etc, would also be cheaper than their conventional bus equivalents. These sorts or repairs/upgrades are much more common than involved engine work in most cases.

And of the cost, is it true it is more costly to work on a van chassis? I concede it would take more labor hours for many things. But people always talk about how you have to take buses to specialized commercial shops. I have a suspicion the cost of labor might be higher at these shops than a conventional mechanic shop. Can anyone chime in with real numbers?

I owned a van (not cutaway bus) just regular old gas van for a few years. It was sometimes a bitch to work on (I hated having to pull the doghouse off to access the engine), but I never felt it was more costly to repair or take to shops than my old cheap toyota pickup was, and it feels a lot cheaper to maintain than my TDI VW Jetta.

Lastly cutaways are only really an option for short buses. That means comparing apples to apples means comparing to short conventional buses. True conventional short buses (I define this as sub 22ft--i.e. maximum legal street parking length in many major cities--but define it how you will) are fairly hard to find used, they often sell for a lot more than their longer brethren. Initial cost of purchase should definitely be a consideration when it comes to overall cost of ownership

A lot of what I'm saying here are just my musings and observations, and aren't very scientific and well researched. What is your opinion on the matter? What am I missing?

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Old 11-18-2019, 03:01 PM   #2
Bus Crazy
Join Date: Sep 2018
Posts: 2,449
Year: 2007
Coachwork: Thomas Built
Chassis: Minotour
Engine: Chevy Express 3500 6.6l
I think that what you are saying is pretty spot on. I dread the day I need to pull the turbo on my Duramax cutaway.

I still think I’d trade some more expensive parts for being able to pull the motor in a day.
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Old 11-19-2019, 12:46 PM   #3
Bus Geek
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Eastern WA
Posts: 6,400
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: All American RE (A3RE)
Engine: Cummins ISC (8.3)
Rated Cap: 72
After I bought the E450 Thomas cutaway I took it down to the gent who maintained the fleet vehicles for our local power company. They had a bunch E450's and was quite familiar with them. He told me that for a number of repairs they pulled the body off of the chassis for access.

Then I tried to work on it myself.

Then I sold it and am looking for a 5-6 window CE. No more cutaways for me.
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Old 11-19-2019, 01:36 PM   #4
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Year: 1993
Chassis: IH 3800
Engine: DT360
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If you have to pay for labor... I'd say yes. Vans are much more time consuming to work on.

If you aren't paying for labor... they are typically much cheaper parts wise and parts can be had anywhere as E series and Chevy vans are EVERYWHERE and very plentiful. Parts are dirt cheap and any parts store will have what you need unlike a medium duty which will likely mean a trip to the dealership or heavy truck salvage yard (if you are lucky enough to have one near by).

The medium duty platforms will last longer 99% of the time.

I own both and I do all my own mechanical work. The big bus is easier to get to things on.. however everything is much heavier and typically harder to find parts for. The little bus (E350 based) is a PITA to work on but I can get parts anywhere and they are cheap.

Trade offs. I'd rather have the big bus personally.
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Old 11-19-2019, 01:41 PM   #5
Bus Geek
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Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Weeki Wachee, FL
Posts: 3,028
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC2000 FE
Engine: Cummins 5.9
Rated Cap: 72
A few things to consider with cutaways:

. They use hydraulic brakes, which while fine in operation don't have the safety features of air brakes or the other added benefits of having an air system on board.
. The engines they used (at least the diesels) are often based on engines you find in medium duty truck based buses, but are delivered in a different tune that moves the needle towards more power in exchange for lower longevity. As an example, the redline rpm on a Powerstroke 7.3 is 600rpm higher than on a T444E.
. Cutaways will have van transmissions, made for consumer workloads. As much as we all hate the AT545 its durability doesn't compare poorly to a Ford E4OD.
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Old 11-19-2019, 02:03 PM   #6
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Location: Eustis FLORIDA
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Year: 1999
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I'll take a 545 over a for AOD any day! lol
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