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Old 05-19-2020, 07:25 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Question Should I buy ex-corrections bus? 30k miles. Doesn't start.

Should I buy this bus?

https://imgur.com/a/e2azl7M

(The photo of the engine is OLD and from the ad, parts have since been removed, see below.)

Looking at a 2001 flat nose International with a dt466e and Allison. It was a corrections department bus, so no stop and go and I would assume decent maintenance. It has 30,000 miles on it! The body is in pretty good condition with minor scrapes, the chassis has minor rust. The tires are all from '07 but they're in fantastic condition and I would feel confident driving on them unless there's strong opinion that I shouldn't. (Someone even wants to buy them for $2k, they're Michelin.)

The perks for me are the absolutely massive headroom (6ft 6in) because I'm quite tall and the length, 35 feet.

Cons are that I was hoping to find a rear engine as I'm a mountain lover, bothered by loud noise, the dog house is kind of annoying to work around, and would have preferred a side emergency exit door.

The big caveat to this absolute gem is that it doesn't start. The belt tensioner snapped off in January and it's been sitting since then.

I'm actually purchasing it from a diesel mechanic whose client abandoned it at his shop when it broke down 100 miles after buying it at auction. It was driven into the yard, overheating, and started and ran until they disabled it. The guy seemed really honest and decent, and is willing to give me a used front cover along with the purchase.

Everything is disassembled at the moment. The outer side of the front cover needs to be purchased and replaced. (Found some used ones for $350.) The radiator, air cooler, front cover in both parts, front cal, and bumper need to be put back on.

He recommended I have the radiator cleaned as well, and told me all this with the oil change would cost $2,800 'on a good day' and $3,300 'on a bad day'.

The asking price of the bus is $2,250, but he told me he'd be willing to take $2,000. It's taking up a ton of space, he's busy with more lucrative projects, and never wanted it to be his problem. I'd have to get it towed 2 hours off of his property to where I can store it, which as I understand it will be a hundred bucks an hour. (Please tell me if that's accurate.)

My budget is $4k with an absolute cap of $4.5k. I know I will never find headroom this good or mileage this low again. Do you think it's worth spending $5k? It would be most of my savings. As I understand it, an engine with this little wear will last an extremely long time.

Other issues with the bus include the emergency exit door not closing due to the handle being seized. Some of the seal on the windshield looks questionable. The battery compartment is rusted to the point it'd need reinforcing at the least, but the batteries have been replaced. There's some scrapes on the body which you can see in the photos. Some of the windows appear not to shut fully, I think the slides just need to be lubricated. Of course I can't test drive it, but what I could see of the engine looked decent, no leaks, mostly minimal rust.

I'm fairly confident I can flush the radiator myself, and like I mentioned I found some used front timing covers for ~350 bucks. Will it really cost $2.5-3k much just to have everything put back together (with the oil and filter change) if I have the parts? I have family I can ask for help. Is this something an amateur car mechanic unfamiliar with diesel could do? Is there any aspect of reconstruction you'd recommend only a professional handle? With some DIY, how much do you think I could get the cost down?

I understand this is a risky purchase. I'm willing to risk something for that low, low mileage and amazing headroom, but not everything.

Is there anything else that seems questionable here or advice you could give me? Should I buy this bus? I have to decide and get it towed before Monday, other wise the guy is gonna rip the engine out, sell the tires, and scrap the rest.
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Old 05-19-2020, 07:40 PM   #2
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I wouldn’t do it. It’s at a mechanics shop and they haven’t fixed it and they are eager to move it by dropping the price? AND it’s being canalized? No way. They probably cooked the engine on the way in.
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Old 05-19-2020, 07:44 PM   #3
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> I know I will never find headroom this good or mileage this low again.

The mileage is almost certainly fictional - dashboards in buses are frequently replaced and the odometers with them, and that is not the underside of a vehicle that has been driven 30,000 miles. Buses with 6'6" ceilings can be found, they're not that rare.

I'd say this bus is a catastrophe-in-waiting, except the catastrophe has already happened to it. If you buy this bus, your savings will be gone and you will still have a bus that isn't running. FYI my bus has a 6'6" ceiling and a DT466e with 30K miles on it after a rebuild, and it was still a catastrophe thanks to rust (which your bus here probably has a lot of) despite the fact that it has been running beautifully since Day 1.

This should really be the #1 skoolie rule: start with a bus that is still drivable when you buy it. ****'s hard enough as it is.
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Old 05-19-2020, 07:54 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danjo View Post
I wouldnít do it. Itís at a mechanics shop and they havenít fixed it and they are eager to move it by dropping the price? AND itís being canalized? No way. They probably cooked the engine on the way in.
The title was given to the mechanic because the client owed him money, he said he never wanted it. He said he's building new trucks and just doesn't have time. It's been sitting all this time with no interest, no one will take the risk because it doesn't start.

He said he could get $5k for it if he spent the time repairing it. If the estimate he gave me is correct, it seems reasonable to me that it's a waste of time for him. No profit to be made.

And not to mention it was REALLY in the way in just his little lot, definitely making it harder for him to do business.

Idk. I read people well, he told me way more than he needed to about what was wrong with it. I trusted him well enough.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:02 PM   #5
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I seem to recall someone posting a while back that they bought a bus and the engine blew during the maiden voyage... Limped or towed into a shop where the repairs were more than his/her entire budget so they abandoned it and cut their losses. Perhaps this is that bus!

I am seeing nothing exceptional about this bus which justifies the asking price or the prospective cost just to get it back on the road. If it's not even what you're really looking for in the first place then don't be seduced by the immediate availability. You don't need someone else's shipwreck draining your project funds.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:06 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
I seem to recall someone posting a while back that they bought a bus and the engine blew during the maiden voyage... Limped or towed into a shop where the repairs were more than his/her entire budget so they abandoned it and cut their losses. Perhaps this is that bus!

I am seeing nothing exceptional about this bus which justifies the asking price or the prospective cost just to get it back on the road. If it's not even what you're really looking for in the first place then don't be seduced by the immediate availability. You don't need someone else's shipwreck draining your project funds.
If they ran a carnival and were planning a conversion to sleep in, maybe so!

This is sound advice, thank you.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:10 PM   #7
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Too risky unless you are or want to be a mechanic yourself And even then it’s risky without having enough for a rebuilt motor. I’d take your 4500 and look for a good running bus.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:13 PM   #8
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OMG! You should RUN, not walk away from this "deal..."

As said -- there's no way this bus only has 30k on it unless it also has 20,000hrs on it while inmates picked up trash on the side of the road while the guards rotated in and out of the constantly running bus to keep an air conditioned space for the guards to rest...

Do you LIKE tinkering with mechanical stuff you're not familiar with?

Do you get a GUARANTEE the engine wasn't overheated to the point of expensive damage? Rhetorical question 'cause NO, you do not...

The tires are actually of no value depending on where you go -- most shops won't mount a 10 year old or older tire regardless of it's appearance...

The VERY FACT that the mechanic in possession of it is gonna sell the aged out tires and scrap the rest should tell you that the aged out tires might be the very best thing about this bus...

When my FREE bus was given to me I agreed to take the non-running bus when the owner agreed to pay the towcharge to make it go away. I only had it towed 10.5 miles and it took less than one hour and the bill was $430!!!

But I LOVE making ol' broke sh!t work again! If I count up the random work days it took me two or more weeks to get it running, fix the brakes, wiring issues, and power steering res.
But I'm also a military aircraft mechanic so I've got a pretty good grip on how things come apart and go together...

Wait, are you still here? You should already be 100 miles away or more!

Have you forgotten that this isn't even the rear engine bus you're looking for?

Alright, I've had my fun, but seriously (and everything I say is serious) this isn't even the bus you're looking for...
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
I am seeing nothing exceptional about this bus which justifies the asking price or the prospective cost just to get it back on the road. If it's not even what you're really looking for in the first place then don't be seduced by the immediate availability. You don't need someone else's shipwreck draining your project funds.
Agreed. It seems like a hassle before you even get to the point where you can do the demo work, which can be a hassle itself. There are other high headroom buses out there, ones that haven't been overheated. Ours was fresh off the fleet and well maintained for about your upper budget and came from a mountain school district in Colorado. It's high headrom, luggage boxes, 35 feet and has a side emergency exit. Not a RE though. All this to say: look at some auctions or classifieds out in the Rocky Mtn. West or in the Southwest. Less rust to deal with and possibly made for mountain travel (auto chains, engine brake, etc) or highway travel instead of in-town driving.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray View Post
The title was given to the mechanic because the client owed him money, he said he never wanted it. He said he's building new trucks and just doesn't have time. It's been sitting all this time with no interest, no one will take the risk because it doesn't start.

He said he could get $5k for it if he spent the time repairing it. If the estimate he gave me is correct, it seems reasonable to me that it's a waste of time for him. No profit to be made.

And not to mention it was REALLY in the way in just his little lot, definitely making it harder for him to do business.

Idk. I read people well, he told me way more than he needed to about what was wrong with it. I trusted him well enough.
Then he has no time or money into it and he should be selling it for $300 to get it off his lot...
Without being able to test drive it YOU HAVE NO IDEA what else is wrong with it...

Oh, and my FREE bus is a 2002 with 178k miles on it. It wasn't dragged out of the swamp or anything weird...

BUT, you have done well to ask the collective brain trust here what they think and after the sting is over there's a lot of good info for you to take forward looking at the next bus...
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Old 05-19-2020, 09:57 PM   #11
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I'm listening to y'all and rethinking, but there's something I want to understand in more detail.

What should a 20 year old vehicle with 30k miles look like if it's been stored outside in NY/NJ winters? If it's been sitting for a long time? Doesn't rust accumulate more from sitting? How do you know it's gone further than that, what are you guys basing this determination on?

I know 30k miles is extremely unreasonable for other kinds of buses, but I don't know much about what corrections buses are used for. If they just transported prisoners to highways a short distance away once a month or so, it doesn't seem impossible to me that the mileage is correct. The seats were in amazing, practically mint condition and the rest of the interior was fantastic which suggests little use. Wish I'd taken a closer look at the dash to see if it looked newer.

Quote:
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Then he has no time or money into it and he should be selling it for $300 to get it off his lot...
He clearly did put a bit of time into it disassembling the engine, removing a used front cover from another engine, and the title was payment for money owed. The used DT466 parts alone would be worth more than $300 and half of them are already loose. I don't think it looks that bad that he's trying to get rid of something which has been making his life difficult for the past 6 months and get some return from it in the process.
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Old 05-19-2020, 10:25 PM   #12
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Don't buy a DT with timing cover issues. Its a ten thousand dollar job.
This bus sounds like a horrible buy with some red flags.
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Old 05-19-2020, 10:40 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray View Post
I'm listening to y'all and rethinking, but there's something I want to understand in more detail.

What should a 20 year old vehicle with 30k miles look like if it's been stored outside in NY/NJ winters? If it's been sitting for a long time? Doesn't rust accumulate more from sitting? How do you know it's gone further than that, what are you guys basing this determination on?

I know 30k miles is extremely unreasonable for other kinds of buses, but I don't know much about what corrections buses are used for. If they just transported prisoners to highways a short distance away once a month or so, it doesn't seem impossible to me that the mileage is correct. The seats were in amazing, practically mint condition and the rest of the interior was fantastic which suggests little use. Wish I'd taken a closer look at the dash to see if it looked newer.



He clearly did put a bit of time into it disassembling the engine, removing a used front cover from another engine, and the title was payment for money owed. The used DT466 parts alone would be worth more than $300 and half of them are already loose. I don't think it looks that bad that he's trying to get rid of something which has been making his life difficult for the past 6 months and get some return from it in the process.
I agree with those that say that itís not a 30K bus. Government vehicles get used.

Besides, itís a moot point since the person that bought it from auction roasted it on the way home and thatís how it ended up with this mechanic.

Unless that mechanic puts the time
Into it to get it running to prove itís not toast, then itís worth nothing, plus the cost of towing.
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Old 05-19-2020, 10:53 PM   #14
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Hard pass. Nobody abandons a low mileage bus almost immediately after buying it at auction because it needs minor repairs. RUN, FORREST! RUN!

Check out my previous thread "Caterpillar 3208 Questions", read it carefully and in its entirety. It spells out exactly why this bus is a mountain of red flags.
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Old 05-20-2020, 12:18 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray View Post
I'm listening to y'all and rethinking, but there's something I want to understand in more detail.

What should a 20 year old vehicle with 30k miles look like if it's been stored outside in NY/NJ winters? If it's been sitting for a long time? Doesn't rust accumulate more from sitting? How do you know it's gone further than that, what are you guys basing this determination on?

I know 30k miles is extremely unreasonable for other kinds of buses, but I don't know much about what corrections buses are used for. If they just transported prisoners to highways a short distance away once a month or so, it doesn't seem impossible to me that the mileage is correct. The seats were in amazing, practically mint condition and the rest of the interior was fantastic which suggests little use. Wish I'd taken a closer look at the dash to see if it looked newer.



He clearly did put a bit of time into it disassembling the engine, removing a used front cover from another engine, and the title was payment for money owed. The used DT466 parts alone would be worth more than $300 and half of them are already loose. I don't think it looks that bad that he's trying to get rid of something which has been making his life difficult for the past 6 months and get some return from it in the process.
You are spending way too much time here trying to convince yourself that this is a good deal even though all information and opinion says otherwise. Put your rose coloured sunglasses away, listen to what these people with a great deal of bus knowledge are telling you and start shopping some where else. This is a money pit on a monumental scale. Sorry if that seems too direct but you asked a question and you don't like the answer.
Good luck
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Old 05-20-2020, 05:53 AM   #16
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Mechanics special, hope you have skills. The overheating concerns me, that could be a real problem with lots of hidden damage.

If you put this one back together it has overheated, so now you have spent time and money to put it together just to see what you have? Bad o rings on the liners? Rings that might have lost tension for the heat? So now after putting it together take it all back apart like you found it and then pull the engine and take it apart to fix it.

Rear engine buses are nice, if that is what you want hold out for it.
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Old 05-20-2020, 05:59 AM   #17
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Forget the timing cover and everything else, if it was overheated to the point of being disabled, it needs an engine, nothing less.
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Old 05-20-2020, 07:04 AM   #18
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Buy it, then post about it here. Include pictures. I'll enjoy reading the ongoing disaster.
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Old 05-20-2020, 07:14 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray View Post
What should a 20 year old vehicle with 30k miles look like if it's been stored outside in NY/NJ winters? If it's been sitting for a long time? Doesn't rust accumulate more from sitting?
Rust accumulation is a function of how much time the metal spends in direct contact with water. If you take a bus fresh from the factory and leave it in a parking lot for a couple of decades, the underside will never get wet and it won't rust (there would be a tiny amount of corrosion from moisture in the air, but not enough to make a serious dent in the galvanized coating). Bus undersides rust because the buses drive around in the rain and snow and get a regular soaking - in NY/NJ it's a salt bath, too. If the bus is not kept clean, the bolt holes and nooks and crannies of the underside accumulate dirt and mud which holds water against the chassis and accelerates the rusting. Or also (as in the case of my bus) if the body above it leaks and rusts through and allows water to regularly soak the chassis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray View Post
He clearly did put a bit of time into it disassembling the engine, removing a used front cover from another engine, and the title was payment for money owed. The used DT466 parts alone would be worth more than $300 and half of them are already loose. I don't think it looks that bad that he's trying to get rid of something which has been making his life difficult for the past 6 months and get some return from it in the process.
Whether this guy is honest or not is irrelevant - the bus is literally a candidate for the Worst Bus Ever award for skoolies. The thing is, though, that any mechanic would know this is a rolling disaster for somebody with no mechanical experience, and an ethical mechanic would not try to get two grand out of that somebody for it. I'll bet he's sitting somewhere right now with his fingers crossed saying "oh please oh please oh please let this guy bite".
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Old 05-20-2020, 07:29 AM   #20
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Max value of the bus? Scrap cost minus towing...
Your bus probably weighs has around 25000 lbs of mostly metal and shredded steel sells for about $85 per ton right now. Scrap value is about $1000.

I can't find recent estimates on towing, but it'll be somewhere in the ballpark of $200 hookup fee plus $5 per mile.

So, if the scrap yard is less than about 160 miles, afair price is above zero.


Pleeeeeeeease buy it? Also, rants about the unexpected problems are a must.
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