Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 02-01-2016, 06:44 PM   #1
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Virginia
Posts: 547
Question Which brand is best overall for conversion?

Was looking at the different brands of coaches available. Wanted to see if anyone has feedback on if one brand is better than others for converting to an rv and lower overall maintenance and operating costs. Thanks.
Prevost, MCI, VanHool, Dina, Setra, Mercedes, Bluebird, Eagle, GMC
dgorila1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-01-2016, 07:09 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 66
I wish there was an easy answer to that question. That's the same dangerous question as to which is better, Ford Chevy or Dodge.....

I have a Gmc
But A LOT of it depends on what your abilities and what you want to do with it. They all have pro's and con's. Some people convert and live in cargo vans, some are very nice! We have 6 out of our 8 kids going with us so no way a cargo van will work for us.
FWIW

Eric
daddyoften is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-01-2016, 07:16 PM   #3
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Virginia
Posts: 547
Thanks. Are the different brands made of different outer materials (fiberglass vs. steel/aluminum) or or all of them metal on the sides and other main panels?
dgorila1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-01-2016, 07:22 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 66
There are different materials that make up the different brands. I don't know specifics other than gmc. Most coaches are either stainless steel or aluminum skinned like gmc's. Gmc's are also aluminum "frame". Not like a real frame on a school bus, they rely on the skin for their structural integrity and don't have a truck frame. The aluminum frame work is just to help the structural skin keep its shape.
Most school buses are steel and have a real truck frame under them with a separate body.
Eric
daddyoften is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-01-2016, 08:13 PM   #5
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Virginia
Posts: 547
Quote:
Originally Posted by daddyoften View Post
There are different materials that make up the different brands. I don't know specifics other than gmc. Most coaches are either stainless steel or aluminum skinned like gmc's. Gmc's are also aluminum "frame". Not like a real frame on a school bus, they rely on the skin for their structural integrity and don't have a truck frame. The aluminum frame work is just to help the structural skin keep its shape.
Most school buses are steel and have a real truck frame under them with a separate body.
Eric
Thanks. I've been looking at school buses for some time now and know how they are built on a truck chassis. This is what makes them so safe in a crash and somewhat reasonable in cost to repair. I briefly investigated coaches in the past but was deterred after reading some posts saying the repair costs tend to be much higher on them. I am reconsidering them now as I find out more info. I don't plan on any slideouts so either style will work for me, but I like the headroom and road comfort/speed the coaches tend to have. The enclosed underbody bays are also a big plus.
dgorila1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-02-2016, 08:20 AM   #6
Bus Crazy
 
M1031A1's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Dowdy Lakes, Colorado
Posts: 1,437
Year: 1989
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf-T-Liner ER
Engine: 3208 CAT/MT643 tranny
Rated Cap: 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by dgorila1 View Post
Thanks. I've been looking at school buses for some time now and know how they are built on a truck chassis. This is what makes them so safe in a crash and somewhat reasonable in cost to repair. I briefly investigated coaches in the past but was deterred after reading some posts saying the repair costs tend to be much higher on them. I am reconsidering them now as I find out more info. I don't plan on any slideouts so either style will work for me, but I like the headroom and road comfort/speed the coaches tend to have. The enclosed underbody bays are also a big plus.
This is true. However, to re-man an engine on a coach bus is anywhere from $15K to $30K depending upon model and parts availability. Transmissions can be worse. Keep that in mind. These pieces of equipment are intended for 1M miles of use. Most Skoolies I know are not looking to rack up that many miles on their vehicle. I'm intending to run maybe 200K miles on my buses and have my buses outlast me. The smaller Cat, Cummins, and DD engines are cheaper to maintain and overhaul/replace than the bigger brother coach versions, same for the transmissions.

As far as headroom is concerned, roof raising is always an option. Many people do it here. Personally I lack the facility and equipment to do one safely and properly.

Just sayin'

M1031
__________________
Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American peopleís liberty teeth and keystone under independence. ó George Washington
M1031A1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-20-2016, 08:48 AM   #7
Almost There
 
morefire's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 90
Year: 2009
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: Express 40'
Engine: Cummins ISX 650HP
It's more about the condition of the coach than the brand IMO
I chose my Bluebird because it was brand new, and when I looked into it, it was full of high end parts from the drive train, to brakes, suspension and priced like a good used coach.
But If I were looking for a good used coach, my choice would be Prevost. For build quality and TONS of used parts available.

Eagles have major rust issues and parts are very hard to find now.
morefire is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-20-2016, 10:10 AM   #8
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Virginia
Posts: 547
Quote:
Originally Posted by morefire View Post
It's more about the condition of the coach than the brand IMO
I chose my Bluebird because it was brand new, and when I looked into it, it was full of high end parts from the drive train, to brakes, suspension and priced like a good used coach.
But If I were looking for a good used coach, my choice would be Prevost. For build quality and TONS of used parts available.

Eagles have major rust issues and parts are very hard to find now.
Thanks for the feedback on the coaches Morefire. I'm not impressed by Eagles. Prevost and MCI seem to be the industry standard for high end coach conversions, but I love the looks of the Van Hool...they have a modern look even with the late 90's models. From what I've read the later models also have disc brakes in front, which I think would be a plus.
My only concern in buying a used coach is they will already have 500,000 miles or more on them when bought used, so unless you find one where you can verify all the major components have been recently replaced/serviced (i.e brakes, air bags, tranny/engine, axles, etc), it's a potential pricey gamble with the purchase. Would hate to buy one and then have major repairs several months later which would cost tens of thousands of dollars. I do prefer coaches though due to more interior room and all the space underneath for installing the various systems, plus they ride so much smoother and faster on the highway than a skoolie.
dgorila1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-20-2016, 01:16 PM   #9
Bus Geek
 
EastCoastCB's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 22,269
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
Eagles are amazing machines. Until the torsion bars have reached their limit, or corrosion sets in.
EastCoastCB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-20-2016, 02:32 PM   #10
Bus Geek
 
Tango's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 8,462
Year: 1946
Coachwork: Chevrolet/Wayne
Chassis: 1- 1/2 ton
Engine: Cummins 4BT
Rated Cap: 15
I was much impressed years ago the first time I saw an all stainless MCI. Awesome bus. No knowledge/recollection of the drive-train though.
Tango is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-20-2016, 05:40 PM   #11
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
Posts: 2,211
In the coach world most older buses used high end stainless steel for the lower panels and suspension parts. It was highly resistant to rust and would hold up over a long period of time.

Greyhound would rarely let go of a coach that had less than 5 million miles. The engine and transmission may have been swapped out six or eight or more times. As a consequence the engine compartments were designed and built to swap out a power package in less than eight hours.

These days many coaches are available used with a lot less miles. This is being driven by air quality rules that basically prohibit the commercial use of 2-cycle diesel engines and pre-2007 engines in most urban area. The whole state of CA is off limits to the commercial use of 2-cycle diesel engines and pre-2007 engines. It is also being driven by the fact insurance companies do not want to insure for commercial purposes buses much more than 15-years old. Which works out to most buses are leaving commercial service with less than 1.5 million miles.

Since buses do not have to be built to last 30-years and 3 million miles or more the components used are not nearly as heavy duty. Which is why some 20-year old buses are nothing but junk but there are a bunch of 40- and 50+ year old buses still out there doing a great job.

Most newer coaches use a lot of plastic of one kind or another. It saves on weight and the cost of manufacturing. But it doesn't lend itself to longevity. Van Hoole pioneered a lot of those design features which is why so very few older Van Hoole coaches are still on the road--water got in between the plastic and steel framing that has caused a lot of VH's to die of rust cancer.

The European designed coaches also use European designed electrical systems. They may use US designed engines and transmissions that use 12-vdc to run but the rest of the coach uses a 24-vdc system most US technicians find to be an odd way of doing things. Believe me when I say you do not want to have an electrical gremlin in a European designed 24-vdc electrical system. Even if you understand the system it can bankrupt you very quickly and never find the real underlying problem. The MCI, Prevost, and Flxible/Dina 24-vdc systems can be challenging enough.

Another real problem with any of the coaches is getting any sort of parts or service for them. MCI is not too bad with Prevost a close second. But parts availability for any of the others is difficult at best. And even though most use Detroit, Cat, or Cummins engines with Allison or ZF transmissions they rarely can be serviced in truck shops even if they are certified Detroit, Cat, Cummins, Allison, or ZF qualified shops. VH is especially bad about writing additional lines of code into the operating systems that can not be read by standard shop computer interfaces.

Any bus conversion can be a money pit. If you want a really large money pit add a third axle and European design.

At the end of the day a lot of what will drive your choice on which bus to purchase is how you intend to use your bus. There is not a road in this country a school bus doesn't travel to and fro at least twice a day. There are a lot of roads in this country that have height, weight, or length restrictions that will restrict the travel of a coach. But if your goal is to spend a lot of time traveling on interstate highways a school bus, even a school bus set up to do trips at highway speed, may not be your best choice.

Good luck and happy trails!
cowlitzcoach is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-20-2016, 06:31 PM   #12
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
Posts: 2,211
In regards to disc brakes, disc brakes do a great job of breaking and can usually do the job better than drum brakes.

The disc system that IHC uses on their hydraulically braked chassis is far superior in every respect compared to the drum brakes they used next to forever in the past.

But the air disc brakes used on trucks and buses have had a lot of teething problems with not all of the problems worked out yet. Most of the 45' motorcoaches use disc brakes on at least the steer and tag axle. Some use discs on all three axles. Some Type 'D' school buses use air operated disc brakes as well. Unfortunately they have had a history of not releasing completely or properly causing the brake lining to get hot enough to catch on fire resulting in the bus burning down to the axles. This happened not to long ago in the Portland, OR area to a bus that was transporting a school band--everyone got out without any injury but the bus was a total loss including all of the instruments that were in the luggage bays.

Probably the biggest problem for the owner of a bus with disc brakes is the cost of repair on them. For the price of installing two drums and two sets of bushings, bearings, seals, springs, and slack adjusters you might be able to purchase one caliper and one disc (not including installation). The price is coming down as more companies spe'c disc brakes. But until the price is approximately the same as what drum brakes cost now I think I will stay away from air operated disc brakes.
cowlitzcoach is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-22-2016, 02:57 PM   #13
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Virginia
Posts: 547
Thanks Cowlitz, all good info. I agree that skoolies are designed to fit normal roads easier, and I have been looking at them for several years now with the idea of raising the roof to fit my needs. I was thinking that possibly regearing the rear axle if necessary might make interstate travel easier on the engine and myself. I do intend to do some long cross country trips but still want to get into those out of the way places that a skoolie is designed to fit. My ideal choice is a Class 8 truck conversion (i.e. Showhauler and similar types), but these are usually very pricey. So many choices..........
dgorila1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-22-2016, 10:15 PM   #14
Bus Crazy
 
opus's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Montana
Posts: 1,618
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All-American R/E
Engine: 8.3 Cummins
Rated Cap: 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post

Greyhound would rarely let go of a coach that had less than 5 million miles. The engine and transmission may have been swapped out six or eight or more times. As a consequence the engine compartments were designed and built to swap out a power package in less than eight hours.
Cowlitzcoach,

Wanna '89 Eagle 15? It ready for its 3rd engine.
opus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-28-2016, 12:39 AM   #15
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Eastern WA
Posts: 6,340
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: All American RE (A3RE)
Engine: Cummins ISC (8.3)
Rated Cap: 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Eagles are amazing machines. Until the torsion bars have reached their limit, or corrosion sets in.
Amen Brother!!!!!!!

I would take a good Eagle over any other coach out there.

Unfortunately the torsionelastics are getting hard to find and expensive.
PNW_Steve is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-30-2016, 11:08 AM   #16
Skoolie
 
prof.fate's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Location: South Western PA
Posts: 164
That was my thoughts - a coach is a good starting point for the design..but the mileage and costs of parts is way up there. Scary.

I think of skoolies as cheap hippie rides..my age is showing LOL. But now that I drive one I have a different opinion - some things are still pricey (we have one at work with a bad radiator..$3,000 for a new one).

As for hiway...depends on the bus. Spent 4 hours on the PA turnpike with a 2013 international, 260hp cummins and no issues with speed or comfort at all.

As for brands..thomas are the cheap ones, bluebirds are good but my boss has issues with where they rust (harder to fix) and he prefers internationals.

How much of that pertains to what we'll use them for, I can't say. How they get spec'd out when bought is the issue - he orders his Internationals the way he wants, about $90k each. They come with air suspesion, air brakes, on-spot chains, the most powerful engines and many other details. ALL our buses are garaged.

A competitor buys off the lot 'last year' model thomas' for around $70k new. So no chains, no air horns, no perf ceiling (noise control w/ kids on board), backup cameras (so very dark interior mirrors). None of the buses are garaged and is common they are parked with the door open..critters DO get in. The paint gets more weather worn.

Here transits (door in front of wheel) are rare, 30 miles away another company looks to have nothing but transits.

And out of 15 buses we have only 2 over 100k miles. PA pretty much limits a buses age to 14 years so some never get a ton of miles on them. HOWever, compared to over the road coaches they are hard miles - all stop n go, kids on board.

Research I've done in the past says a lot of the coaches/city buses have stainless in them- lasts but you can't (realistically) modify/weld it. Limits what you can do or raises the costs as you have to pay someone to do it.

Drum vs disk..on a passenger vehicle yes, the front does the stopping..but on a big truck (aka bus) the rear does much of it. So disk's don't have the benefits that they do on cars.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dgorila1 View Post
Thanks for the feedback on the coaches Morefire. I'm not impressed by Eagles. Prevost and MCI seem to be the industry standard for high end coach conversions, but I love the looks of the Van Hool...they have a modern look even with the late 90's models. From what I've read the later models also have disc brakes in front, which I think would be a plus.
My only concern in buying a used coach is they will already have 500,000 miles or more on them when bought used, so unless you find one where you can verify all the major components have been recently replaced/serviced (i.e brakes, air bags, tranny/engine, axles, etc), it's a potential pricey gamble with the purchase. Would hate to buy one and then have major repairs several months later which would cost tens of thousands of dollars. I do prefer coaches though due to more interior room and all the space underneath for installing the various systems, plus they ride so much smoother and faster on the highway than a skoolie.
prof.fate is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2019, 12:19 AM   #17
Bus Nut
 
PatrickBaptist's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2019
Location: Johnson City TN
Posts: 421
Year: 2004
Coachwork: IC/AMTRANS RE
Engine: T444E 7.3 w/ MD3060
Rated Cap: 36000lbs / 78pass / 39'
The thing that turned me off to coaches other than the price was they are lower to the ground and getting into some RV parks I've been in would mean bottoming out. Not to mention some roads could present this problem too.
Not to mention getting under one to work on it would be worse than most motor homes.
Then lastly they don't have as good a structure should an accident occur.
I almost went for a already gutted grey hound bus that had a rebuilt detroit another in it but really I don't like the old 2 stroke DDs they run too hot and burn up fuel way too fast given they have 2 times the firing event than a 4stroke making the same or more power... And lastly a old DD can be a ticking time bomb with a stuck fuel rack leading to a run-away. I also haven't seen one with an engine bay that was nearly as easy to work on as a skoolie (excluding flat nosed FE buses).
__________________
If you would like to check out my website that has all sort of information especially for the T444E/7.3PSD engines check out www.PatrickTheSalvageGuy.com I've got helpful downloads and articles as well as a link to my YT for other how to videos mainly on the F series trucks.
PatrickBaptist is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2019, 04:36 AM   #18
Bus Geek
 
EastCoastCB's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 22,269
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by PatrickBaptist View Post
The thing that turned me off to coaches other than the price was they are lower to the ground and getting into some RV parks I've been in would mean bottoming out. Not to mention some roads could present this problem too.
Not to mention getting under one to work on it would be worse than most motor homes.
Then lastly they don't have as good a structure should an accident occur.
I almost went for a already gutted grey hound bus that had a rebuilt detroit another in it but really I don't like the old 2 stroke DDs they run too hot and burn up fuel way too fast given they have 2 times the firing event than a 4stroke making the same or more power... And lastly a old DD can be a ticking time bomb with a stuck fuel rack leading to a run-away. I also haven't seen one with an engine bay that was nearly as easy to work on as a skoolie (excluding flat nosed FE buses).
All the rv parks in my county have coaches parked at em.
__________________
.
Roll Your Own Build Thread
EastCoastCB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2019, 09:16 AM   #19
Bus Nut
 
PatrickBaptist's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2019
Location: Johnson City TN
Posts: 421
Year: 2004
Coachwork: IC/AMTRANS RE
Engine: T444E 7.3 w/ MD3060
Rated Cap: 36000lbs / 78pass / 39'
Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
All the rv parks in my county have coaches parked at em.
Wonderful, that doesn't mean all in this country CAN accommodate them, just depends where you are going obviously.
But hey I'm not going to argue with a pro like yourself, sure you know far better than I ever will buddy, take care and have an outstanding upcoming weekend.
__________________
If you would like to check out my website that has all sort of information especially for the T444E/7.3PSD engines check out www.PatrickTheSalvageGuy.com I've got helpful downloads and articles as well as a link to my YT for other how to videos mainly on the F series trucks.
PatrickBaptist is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2019, 12:57 PM   #20
Bus Geek
 
EastCoastCB's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 22,269
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by PatrickBaptist View Post
Wonderful, that doesn't mean all in this country CAN accommodate them, just depends where you are going obviously.
But hey I'm not going to argue with a pro like yourself, sure you know far better than I ever will buddy, take care and have an outstanding upcoming weekend.
Its not an ego battle and I'm no pro at ANYTHING.
Just stated an observation since I live in the retirement/rv capital of the country.
You have a nice weekend, too.
__________________
.
Roll Your Own Build Thread
EastCoastCB is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:12 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
×