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Old 12-20-2017, 03:10 PM   #1
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Schoolbus vs Transit/City Bus?

Hey!

I came really close to buying a "fixer-upper" house, and just can't seem to justify signing my life over to banks and a loan and whatnot, and so my conviction to live in some sort of camper conversion has been renewed!

So, I've been putting thought into what I want out of a vehicle. Busses and box trucks seem the most appealing, I like that box trucks are ubiquitous and it's pretty safe to assume you can find someone to work on it if you need it. I like that busses are basically "camper skeletons" and that the "driver section" is part of the bus' cabin rather than separate like most box trucks. There's something more comfortable about busses that's drawing me in, so I'm trying to figure out whether I should be shopping for School busses or for Transit/City busses.

The main draw to city-style busses is their low floor. I'm a lot more comfortable with the idea of such a large vehicle being lower to the ground, and as a 6'0" person who is romanticizing the idea of a loft sleeping area... the lower the floor of the vehicle is, the more likely I can utilize space under the sleeping loft. That said, I have a lot of learning to do about understanding how "city" busses are geared!

I am imagining that most of my bus driving will be done on highways/interstates. The idea in my head is that my bus will get me to a location where I'll hang out for a while and that I'll do short range commutes using something like a motorcycle. So, being able to get to highway speeds of ~70+MPH is definitely ideal.

So, do you have any thoughts on the different kinds of bus? I found this discussion from like seven years ago and people mostly seemed to like transit busses.

Are there any extra or different things I should be doing homework on if I'm going to go for a transit rather than a skoolie?
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Old 12-20-2017, 04:08 PM   #2
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I went with a high-floor city bus because I'm going to be carting around 6 people (and more for short-term excursions). The high-floor gives me major under-floor (i.e. "basement") storage for tanks, batteries, grills, hydraulics, etc., that you won't find in a skoolie. I'm looking for longer-term boondocking.

However, the skoolies are smaller and more agile. You can get them into more places than a 45' coach bus will go. In my opinion, skoolies are easier to mod (roof raise being the prime example) than a coach.

As for a low-floor city bus, they are better on headroom than the other types, but much worse on storage (at least in my opinion). Some people who are going to stay in a colder climate like them because tankage and whatnot are inside the insulation envelope. The longest low-floor bus I've seen is 40'.
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Old 12-20-2017, 04:16 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by MarkyDee View Post
I went with a high-floor city bus because I'm going to be carting around 6 people (and more for short-term excursions). The high-floor gives me major under-floor (i.e. "basement") storage for tanks, batteries, grills, hydraulics, etc., that you won't find in a skoolie. I'm looking for longer-term boondocking.
Hmmm.

My School bus has 10' of pass-through storage bays, or thereabouts.
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Old 12-20-2017, 04:29 PM   #4
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I can appreciate the utility of the under-floor storage. I know I've seen folks use it for things like batteries and tanks but I forgot to consider that! In my head, I was imagining putting them in out-of-the-way parts of the innards of the bus, but it's definitely worth thinking about having the room to put them under and outside.

"Agility" isn't too much of a concern to me, I'm sure at some point I'd appreciate being able to climb and crawl into an interesting spot, but I really don't mind leaving the bus in more accessible places. Like I said, I currently intend to have a secondary vehicle to do most of my "daily" driving with.

That's all good food for thought, though, thanks!

What makes you say coaches are harder to mod than skoolies?
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Old 12-20-2017, 04:38 PM   #5
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Hmmm.

My School bus has 10' of pass-through storage bays, or thereabouts.
I don't want to turn this into a "well mine is bigger!"

But, if you want to go there....

I have 4 bays that are 4.75' long x 8' wide x 50" tall each. I have the wheelchair lift in 1/2 of one of the bays (most of it will be coming out, though - I'll be repurposing the hydraulics for "landing gear").

I've not seen a skoolie yet that has that kind of basement storage.... But a skoolie can maneuver into places I won't be able to - that was the trade-off....
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Old 12-20-2017, 04:53 PM   #6
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What makes you say coaches are harder to mod than skoolies?
A lot of skoolies' walls go straight up. A straight-wall roof-raise can be done "through the windows" (cutting through the frame at the window-level).

My coach bus' walls slant in (as does all of the coaches I've seen). Doing a roof-raise on a slant-wall must be done down where the slant starts (usually at the chair rail or a little lower). If you try to do it anywhere else it'll look, well, stupid (slant, straight, slant), so you'll end up lifting a whole lot more weight.

Also, my coach has a roof-mounted HVAC unit, so if I want to do a roof-raise (which I do), I've got additional weight to lift, as well as potential extra complexity surrounding the HVAC lines.

I'm not saying it can't be done, just that its going to be more complex to execute.

In my case my wife isn't liking the extra complexity and is trying to get me to not do it (she'll probably win this point in the end). Her priority here is a quicker finish than more headroom (even if its only an extra 2-3 inches, which is really all we need - I want 4", though).
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Old 12-20-2017, 04:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkyDee View Post
I don't want to turn this into a "well mine is bigger!"

But, if you want to go there....

I have 4 bays that are 4.75' long x 8' wide x 50" tall each. I have the wheelchair lift in 1/2 of one of the bays (most of it will be coming out, though - I'll be repurposing the hydraulics for "landing gear").

I've not seen a skoolie yet that has that kind of basement storage.... But a skoolie can maneuver into places I won't be able to - that was the trade-off....
Oh yes ... coaches have more bays and they are bigger. Some School buses have storage bays that are not too shabby is all I was saying.
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Old 12-20-2017, 05:04 PM   #8
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Mr Undecided Myself here
I have gone from converted ambulance, to enclosed trailer, now looking for a unicorn of a shuttle bus while considering "real" schoolie bus type as well. Wait for it...........Nope, still havent decided/ found my ideal yet
Some of us take 8+ months to FINALLY decide through all the pros and cons of each
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Old 12-20-2017, 05:09 PM   #9
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Oh yes ... coaches have more bays and they are bigger. Some School buses have storage bays that are not too shabby is all I was saying.
I wholeheartedly agree - they aren't shabby. I really wasn't meaning that. (I hope you took most of my post as lighthearted as I wrote it....) And this is where our different design choices come into play....

(Getting a little serious now....)

I was looking for a possible long-term boondocking bus for 6 people, so I wanted the max space I could get. For what I was wanting to accomplish, the skoolie that topped out at 38'-40' long and 1/2 the basement space I could get in a coach wasn't going to do the job that the coach could.

If my priorities were even a little different than they are, then the coach would have been knocked out of contention pretty fast due to its overall size. I really would like to get into some of those campgrounds out West that I won't be able to in a 45' behemoth. (JDFinley, however, is giving me hope that we'll find even more amazing places to visit!)
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Old 12-20-2017, 05:19 PM   #10
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Mr Undecided Myself here
I have gone from converted ambulance, to enclosed trailer, now looking for a unicorn of a shuttle bus while considering "real" schoolie bus type as well. Wait for it...........Nope, still havent decided/ found my ideal yet
Some of us take 8+ months to FINALLY decide through all the pros and cons of each
Doug
TAKE YOUR TIME! This is a big commitment (as I'm slowing finding out how big...)!

If you factor in all the time I spent looking at "tiny homes" and stuff like that, I probably have about 4 years in this before I "pulled the trigger" on the bus I have. I created the list of priorities and desires I wanted fulfilled during the time I was researching "tiny homes".
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Old 12-20-2017, 07:35 PM   #11
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I'll parrot the "take your time" advice! I've been considering homesteading, van dwelling, 'conventional' homes and all sorts of things for a while now. Probably at least two years, I wouldn't be surprised if it's more like four or more on-and-off. About a year ago I was close to being able to buy just a bus, then I made a pretty irresponsible move that ended up having me eat through most of my savings. But now with the lower rent and a pretty nice increase in pay and more responsible spending... well, a bus and a conversion are both a lot more attainable!

One other bit of advice is, just because you're saving up for one thing doesn't mean you need to go through on buying it! I was pretty set on getting that house (in a city I really, really love), but dealing with a bank today just completely broke that spirit and a conversation with a friend reminded me just how passionate I am about camper conversions! (Skoolie or otherwise!)

MarkyDee! That's a great point about coaches not having 'straight' walls, I might not have noticed that until it was too late! The method of roof-raising you referred to, cutting at the windows, is probably the only method I think I have the skill to tackle so losing that would be a huge hit to the conversion project. I wonder if there are any low busses that have straight walls like most skoolies do?
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Old 12-20-2017, 11:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
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MarkyDee! That's a great point about coaches not having 'straight' walls, I might not have noticed that until it was too late! The method of roof-raising you referred to, cutting at the windows, is probably the only method I think I have the skill to tackle so losing that would be a huge hit to the conversion project. I wonder if there are any low busses that have straight walls like most skoolies do?
Many low-floor city transit style buses have straight walls. Some school buses have slant walls. I've seen some high-floor buses with straight walls. Double-deckers I think are all straight walls.

Just think through what you want to do with the bus when you are inspecting it before purchase. "If I want to raise the roof, what structural changes do I need to make to make this work?" - type questions have always helped me "see" how things can go together. If I can "see" the changes and that they "seem" to fit together, then I know I've got a possible "winner". If not, then I skipped and went to the next. The slant walls were a detail I "got" pretty quick. I'm one that likes to be standing there "taking it all in." Pics don't quite "do it" for me unless there are lots from different angles.
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Old 12-21-2017, 08:53 AM   #13
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Many low-floor city transit style buses have straight walls. Some school buses have slant walls. I've seen some high-floor buses with straight walls. Double-deckers I think are all straight walls.
I actually gave double deckers some thought for a long time. They seemed like too much of a project, though. From what I found--at 6'0"--I'd probably need to raise the ceiling/floor between the stories, AND raise the roof. If I remember correctly, a lot of them are just over 6'0" in terms of clearance, but that doesn't really account for adding insulation and finishing your floors and whatnot.

Is there any one keyword I should be using to help look around for "low-floor city transit stylebusses?" Most of my searching has been for school busses, and usually just searching for "busses" tends to lead me to skoolies.
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Old 12-21-2017, 09:16 AM   #14
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I actually gave double deckers some thought for a long time. They seemed like too much of a project, though. From what I found--at 6'0"--I'd probably need to raise the ceiling/floor between the stories, AND raise the roof. If I remember correctly, a lot of them are just over 6'0" in terms of clearance, but that doesn't really account for adding insulation and finishing your floors and whatnot.

Is there any one keyword I should be using to help look around for "low-floor city transit stylebusses?" Most of my searching has been for school busses, and usually just searching for "busses" tends to lead me to skoolies.
Just "low-floor bus" I would think would do the trick.

One of the places I went to start getting ideas about the different styles of buses "out there" was eBay. There's a whole category of "buses". Just try not to buy one from there, just use it as kind of a "virtual showroom" (even though I did get mine that way - it was a very good deal, but those only come along about once a quarter or so).

Also, check out the motorhomes on eBay - some of the pics are absolutely astounding. But those end up being WAY too rich for my blood....
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Old 12-21-2017, 09:43 AM   #15
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One of the places I went to start getting ideas about the different styles of buses "out there" was eBay.
Hey, this looks like it would check a lot of my boxes:

2004 Bluebird Transit Bus

It appears to have straight walls, though figuring out whether the roof raise should span the front/back and acommodating that seems like a hurdle. I'm also kind of confused by the "curb" towards the back, I don't see anything from the exterior (like storage) that would suggest it's necessary.



Definitely not in love with that ~10" bump in the middle of my living space, though it could make for a more noticeable partition between spaces.
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Old 12-21-2017, 10:39 AM   #16
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First, you may not need a roof raise. Generally Lo-Floor buses have great headroom.

Except ... the bump in the floor. You can lay a "raised floor" over the "low" area and have the space underneath for storage, batteries, tanks, etc. However, doing that may then bring the roof raise back into the picture....
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Old 12-21-2017, 10:44 AM   #17
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Also, the HVAC on that bus is roof-mounted, so if you move forward with that bus you will end up with some of the same issues that I'm trying to deal with in terms of a roof raise.

To remove the HVAC or not (generally you shouldn't because its very useful when going down the road)....

To raise the roof or not - extra weight, higher center-of-gravity (makes the bus a little more unstable AND takes up precious roof space if you want to do solar), plus the refrigerant lines may not be long enough or flexible enough for the raise. (My refrigerant lines are over an inch in diameter and rigid with flex tubing at the ends for the final connections to the compressor / coils / fans / etc.)
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Old 12-21-2017, 11:50 AM   #18
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Huh, that sub-floor idea is good food for thought! I wonder how much headroom would get lost in the process of doing that.

I overlooked that HVAC, hmm... I have mixed feelings about them and would need to learn more about ones (or whichever particular one) included with busses. Is moving a HVAC usually "that much more complicated" than splicing some extra tubing if need be?

I'm interested in DIY solutions or finding 'optimal' and efficient ones rather than going with one that was up to a manufacturer's standards. Surely, a HVAC chosen for a passenger transit bus wasn't hand-picked to meet my personal criteria of efficiency and as quiet as possible, and it wasn't made with Solar and propane as options for energy sources. Y'know?
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Old 12-21-2017, 11:57 AM   #19
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to me one of the advantages to a coach bus is the ride quality and acoustics... the main advantage to a school bus is that they can be had cheap, are simple in their builds so tearing apart and gutting isa pretty easy to build on.. but they dont have near the ride quality as a coach.. coach parts tend to be a little tougher to get and more expensive from what ive seen.. not that school bus parts are always cheap.. but it seems in general school busses have simpler systems and depending on your drivetrain choices (ie cummins 5.9 or T-444E) you may even find parts at autozone.. those 2 engines were used in consumer pickup-trucks in one form or another..

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Old 12-21-2017, 12:18 PM   #20
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Just too big for me. Im between a "schoolie" shorty or a shuttle bus. Just me and the dog.
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