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Old 11-23-2021, 12:57 AM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2021
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Question 2003 Ford E-450 7.3L - should we buy?

Hi everyone,

My spouse and I have been lurking on this forum for a while now, doing research in preparation to buying a short bus for our conversion. We found one bus that looks very appealing, but costs a bit more than we're prepared to spend. Now, we would be totally willing to go outside of our price range for a bus that's perfect in all other aspects, so we're hoping to get some opinions here.

The bus is a 25' long 2003 Ford E-450 with 7.3L diesel engine, original transmission, disk breaks. Last inspection and maintenance was a year ago, last oil change also a year ago. The battery was replaced in 2019, pretty new. It was a shuttle bus in up in Humboldt CA, so it was part of a lot and got maintained regularly. The owner says that there's no rust, we have yet to check it out in person.

All of this is exactly what we were looking for, but there's a few caveats.
  1. High mileage - 238K. We're not even looking at any buses with over 300K, but ideally hoping to find a bus with 150K miles or less. We know that 7.3L is a very reliable and durable engine; still, would it be smart a bus with 238K miles on it? We're planning to travel full-time for at least a year, probably longer. We want this bus to last for a long time.
  2. The bus needs new back tires (front are new), and an alignment. My understanding is that this is a considerable expense right out of the gate.
  3. High-ish price, we negotiated down to $7.5K. But with the cost of these new tires + a higher mileage makes us doubt whether this bus is worth the money. Is it?

Here's the listing, it has some photos of the bus.

Are our concerns warranted, or should we consider this a good price? If this bus is a good find in terms of mechanical specs, and is generally worth the price, we'll drive out there with a mechanic and take a look before making the final decision.

Thanks everyone, we appreciate any help or advice!

wheres_my_tardis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-06-2021, 10:08 PM   #2
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Join Date: Nov 2021
Location: Georgia
Posts: 7
I wouldn’t be to worried about the mileage, as long as it has been serviced properly, 238 is nothing on a 7.3. My daily is a 98 e350 7.3 with 330k, solid as a rock. The longblock itself should give you no trouble, but everything else is still almost 20 years old and will require maintenance. You will deal with the same issues all 7.3 owners deal with. Fuel system repairs, injectors, sensors and modules are part of life when you own one. If you interested in learning some minor maintenance and troubleshooting, or have the money to pay shop rate for every minor hiccup, then you should be alright.
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Old 12-07-2021, 11:48 AM   #3
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: So Cal
Posts: 3,141
Year: 1935
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: Chevy
Engine: 317 ci/tid / Isuzu
I'd keep looking for a couple of reasons. First, it looks in the pics like the rear plywood floor and part of the side wall are wet which will lead to ply separation in the side walls. Second, that it needs an alignment probably means the front end is worn out hence the new front tires. That repair could run into several thousand dollars. Third, its being an old heavy duty (E450) diesel you may find registering it in Ca not possible because of CARB regs. If it is presently registered as a MH you should be OK--better check. Fourth, the price is way too high in my opinion. That is a $4000 unit.

I'd be looking for a steel bodied short bus.
Jack
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Old 12-08-2021, 10:24 AM   #4
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Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Northern California (Sacramento)
Posts: 624
Year: 1999
Coachwork: El Dorado Fiberglass
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: V10 Gas
This bus is only about an hour from my house (Sacramento). How far are you from it?

I know there is a premium these days for shuttle buses, but that number is still too high given the overall condition.

Agreed on the floor/wall leaks. Buses of this vintage (mine is the same thing just a few years older) need the windows removed and regasketed, and there's usually core damage to the cardboard inner (relatively easy fix with 1" rigid foam).

Mechanically I can't say. Mine is gas, similarly maintained. I'm expecting periodic need to replace the bolt-ons (alternator, starter, etc) but at over 200K those things could make you miserable on the road.

If you are looking for advice I would recommend spending no more than eight grand on a mechanically sound rig, so figure out the cost of tires, alignment, and anything else in the drive train that looks questionable, and subtract that from the asking price.

Remember you will be spending the better part of a year or two just on the interior. I'm just about done with my build and frankly a little burnt out, even though I'm having fun. Better to start with something you don't have to fix, unless you have time to burn.
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Old 12-12-2021, 07:07 AM   #5
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That's a very fair deal. Tires are regular maintenance anyway. 238k miles is nothing on a 7.3. It will definitely last a year as long as there are no major issues (like it got into a crash or was very poorly taken care of )
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Old 12-12-2021, 10:44 AM   #6
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Join Date: Oct 2021
Location: Peru. IN
Posts: 39
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: NB18FD Oshkosh
Engine: 5.9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 18,500
For that price I would walk away.

#1. Like stated there are some water leaks around the rear of the bus.
#2. I don't think there was much maintenance was done unless it was broken.
#3. Price too high for the pictures provided.

Now what I have seen in the pictures to steer me away.

Look at the picture of the rear of the bus. Look at the upper marker lights. When dirt is being moved around by rain. It leaves a uniform layer. There is a line of dirt going across those upper marker lights to almost the upper left corner. That line would be caused by a crack in the gell coat or a crack in the fiberglass.

Rear bumper is bent. To any mechanic that is a easy fix. Pull it off and 10 minutes in a hyd press = done. Reinstall= the bus looks good for the company image.

This bus is for sale at top dollar + a little extra. Why was it not washed and at least a minor detail done? From what I am seeing this bus was a spare that spent time setting a lot. Someone decided to throw a pile of S**** at the wall to see what sticks. Don't be the person with a scraper removing their pile.
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