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Old 06-02-2020, 12:21 AM   #1
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Smile Thoughts on buying from auction

Hey everyone my girlfriend and I are purchasing our first bus within the next week or two. I was wondering what everyone's thoughts are on buying a bus from auction without seeing it first at its almost 1000 miles away.
Thanks in advance for any advice and tips!
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Old 06-02-2020, 02:29 AM   #2
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My thoughts? Don't do it, not sight unseen, not without at least finding a reputable diesel mechanic local to the area the bus is in, to give it a once over. Also, if possible, get engine oil, transmission fluid, and coolant samples to have a fluid analysis done. In my experience, you can't trust the selling agency to represent the vehicle truthfully, nor can you trust that someone didn't get the wrong information to list it at auction.

In 2016, I bought an 11-year-old police car through a government auction on PublicSurplus. I trusted the selling agency at their word in listing the vehicle as "Runs good - was turned in for newer vehicle" and did not go to inspect the car in person (it was 3 hours away). I won the final bid at $1180 and arrived to pick up my new purchase, which had a shot engine with 90% of a connecting rod bearing laying in the oil pan. I took the car home, but told their contact that the vehicle had been misrepresented and that I would be in touch.

The engine did run, but with an obvious knock and needed replacing. The selling agency tried to hide behind 'all auction sales are final', and the only satisfaction I was able to get was to drive the car another three hours back for a refund.

After reviewing the service records, I determined the transmission, power steering system, and air conditioning had all had major work or replacement recently, so I opted to replace the engine, which cost me another $1850. I wound up with a good car, but I could have paid that same $3030 at a used car lot and avoided the hassle of waiting 2-3 weeks before I could drive it. And mind you, at least it drove home and drove to the shop thereafter. Any serious problems with a bus will leave you at the mercy of a heavy-duty wrecker operator -- at $100 hookup and $10 a mile, BEFORE you repair any problems.

So, I caution you, don't buy anything sight unseen without at least having an independent party check it over for you, especially a government vehicle, and that goes double when the vehicle can be classified commercial and heavy equipment in the same breath. I would spend the money to have an independent local diesel mechanic check it over for you, and I would get engine oil, transmission fluid and coolant samples for analysis if possible -- I can't stress this enough. Cooling system problems can show up in the form of contaminated engine oil and transmission fluid.

There are just too many zeros involved with major repairs on a bus, so take your time, do your homework, and remember... While spending a hundred here, thirty there, a hundred there and forty here, may seem like nickel-and-diming yourself away from having your full budget to work with, but trust me, it may save you thousands in unforeseen repairs and towing costs, not to mention the headache.

Especially with the diesel emission systems headaches of late. Any diesel newer than '07 can potentially be a headache due to DPF and DEF systems. Navistar Maxxforce engines are to be avoided, as are 6.0-liter diesel Fords, they have a Navistar engine that is failure-prone (Navistar's name for this in their own products is VT365, also to be avoided). There are a number of things to avoid at all costs, and there are still more things to know to look for.

Here's an incentive -- if you think it's expensive to have an independent diesel mechanic vet the potential purchase and have the fluids analyzed for signs of mechanical trouble, think of how expensive it will be to have it towed home if it turns out to be in serious trouble.

Wrecker hookups for such vehicles are EXPENSIVE, and not likely to be covered by roadside assistance offered by your insurer. I'm not trying to scare you or make you think that every government auction is a rip-off, because it's not.

Many people, even site members here, have gotten great deals on buses at auctions. But most had them checked out first, and this site is also full of tales of woe from members who bought sight unseen and had problems. And there is always the chance of a freak problem that can bite you anyway, even if it's not obvious that it's about to happen.

Just recently someone posted about possibly buying a bus from a mechanic shop. It came to light that the bus had been driven in, auction fresh and seriously overheated, and now would not run. The owners had abandoned it. Who abandons something they just bought after it broke down if it's a simple repair? Common sense, my friend. I think most seasoned members here will say this is sound advice. It pays far more dividends to know what you're buying, down to the engine and transmission (they aren't all the same necessarily), as well as to sound it out as to its health and condition before purchase.

Take your time and have someone check this thing out for you first. Trust me, you'll thank me later. If you like, I've put together a little primer of things you should know before buying a bus, I can PM or email it to you if you like, it's rather long.
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Old 06-02-2020, 05:09 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Gambler936 View Post
Hey everyone my girlfriend and I are purchasing our first bus within the next week or two. I was wondering what everyone's thoughts are on buying a bus from auction without seeing it first at its almost 1000 miles away.
Thanks in advance for any advice and tips!
Thats how I buy em. Call the seller and ask about the bus. Usually they have the info at the school.
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Old 06-02-2020, 05:31 AM   #4
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I bought my bus sight unseen on eBay and didn't have it pre-inspected. I recommend not doing what I did - pictures can be easily selected to hide severe rust damage, and the mechanicals could be in any condition at all.

That being said, it's not a death sentence if you're already committed to doing this. You might luck into a perfectly healthy bus.
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Old 06-02-2020, 10:40 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Gambler936 View Post
Hey everyone my girlfriend and I are purchasing our first bus within the next week or two. I was wondering what everyone's thoughts are on buying a bus from auction without seeing it first at its almost 1000 miles away.
Thanks in advance for any advice and tips!
Post more details like where you are and where the bus is and maybe someone close might be in a position to help a bit. Make sure it's what your looking for first before asking people to run around looking at things, weed out the bad one.
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Old 06-02-2020, 11:52 AM   #6
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Its always a gamble no matter where you buy from. I'd take my chances with a school district over an individual any day.
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Old 06-02-2020, 12:38 PM   #7
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Thanks for the big write up, ill def keep it in mind. I would love if you could dm me the guide you have for buying your first bus
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Old 06-02-2020, 01:49 PM   #8
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Its always a gamble no matter where you buy from. I'd take my chances with a school district over an individual any day.
Agree with ECCB.
The school district has zero reason to mislead you on the condition. they are just getting rid of them and if it doesn't sell it goes to the scrap yard.
A dealer or private seller has a financial loss to consider. Who you gonna trust?
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Old 06-02-2020, 01:52 PM   #9
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true I didn't think about that, so should I just call my local school?
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Old 06-02-2020, 01:59 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Gambler936 View Post
true I didn't think about that, so should I just call my local school?
You can call all the school districts you think are close enough to view, some may or may not talk with you. or any that are posting auction buses will have details to talk with them. I was invited to test drive before bidding and was shown the shop and all service records. Fantastic to deal with school board.
Good luck
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Old 06-02-2020, 02:05 PM   #11
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You can call all the school districts you think are close enough to view, some may or may not talk with you. or any that are posting auction buses will have details to talk with them. I was invited to test drive before bidding and was shown the shop and all service records. Fantastic to deal with school board.
Good luck
https://www.facebook.com/marketplace...56216855317975
so I found this listing and I really like the bus, it has the motor and transmission I want. the only thing worrying me is that the seller said it overheated once but it hasn't since that one time. what do you guys think? I'm having trouble finding the motor and transmission I want.
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Old 06-02-2020, 05:35 PM   #12
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https://www.facebook.com/marketplace...56216855317975
so I found this listing and I really like the bus, it has the motor and transmission I want. the only thing worrying me is that the seller said it overheated once but it hasn't since that one time. what do you guys think? I'm having trouble finding the motor and transmission I want.
My question would be why hasn't it overheated since that one time, because it was never driven again? If it's close enough to take for a test drive, I would drive it for an hour and put it through as many different situations as possible. Especially a good hard pull up a long steep hill. If it's going to overheat, that is where you will see it happen.
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Old 06-02-2020, 06:33 PM   #13
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Low headroom, possible overheat. I'd probably just pass right there.
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Old 06-02-2020, 07:13 PM   #14
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I was very luck to have a friend from this site who generously went and checked out a couple of buses that were at a school site about an hour from his house. Based on detailed info, I was able to buy a really awesome bus for less that $4K total... It's still a work in progress, but I couldn't be happier.
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Old 06-13-2020, 04:25 PM   #15
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I buy a lot of things at auction, usually sight unseen. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. I bought my bus sight unseen, but I spoke with the superintendent about the bus beforehand and he was honest and knowledgeable about the bus. Fortunately, I got a good one.

If I we're going to buy one totally sight unseen and had no knowledge of the history of the bus, bid low. If you get a good bus for $1500, great deal. But if you get a clunker, well you're only out $1500. I buy a couple of used cars at auction every year and the biggest mistake I see people making is that they over pay. Vehicles are at auction for a reason. Most of the time there is something wrong with them.

If you're thinking about bidding several thousand dollars for the bus, spend the few extra bucks and go out there and see it. Could save you a lot of dough in the long run. Good Luck
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Old 06-13-2020, 08:52 PM   #16
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Its always a gamble no matter where you buy from. I'd take my chances with a school district over an individual any day.
Good, sensible advice. Got our current bus on public Surplus auction from the Gilbert school district in Phoenix. Spent a lot of time on the phone with the bus garage. We are very happy with the results.
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Old 06-14-2020, 10:58 AM   #17
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That is where I bought mine. Good, honest and helpful people there. Busses are in good shape too.
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Old 06-14-2020, 12:05 PM   #18
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Bought my 1991 BB Fe from Ren'ey Bates. Texas school district of Glen Rose. At the time of being posted on the auction, the bus was still in service. Spoke with their bus garage super, asked what questions I needed and got straight honest answers. Paid 1900 for it. Came with the entire maintenance history from the day they bought it. 4 /12 hour drive home and it performed flawlessly. Geared perfect for highway(65-70 MPH with no strain at all), even with it having a 545 tranny. A quick review of the maintenance records, tranny complete overhaul 23-25 thousand miles ago. ALL with sight unseen.
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