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Old 09-30-2020, 05:48 PM   #1
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mini bus or shuttle?

what is really the difference in a minibus and a shuttle. i need something small and i dont really know the difference. how do they match up with fuel economy, reliability and just generally overall?
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Old 09-30-2020, 06:14 PM   #2
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Location: Colorado
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From my research, the main pros/cons:

It's easier to build in a shuttle bus since the ceiling isn't curved, but you lose out on the increased ground clearance that could affect the size of your water/waste tanks. Otherwise, it comes down to mechanics and how much all that matters to you. Both the E450 7.3 power stroke diesel shuttles and the International T444E have essentially the same engine, but it's much easier to work on in a full size bus. There's less room for cooling and turbo in the E450, but it's also a quieter and likely more comfortable ride overall.
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Old 09-30-2020, 10:21 PM   #3
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Location: Northern California (Sacramento)
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Year: 1999
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Originally Posted by Victoreagrace23 View Post
what is really the difference in a minibus and a shuttle. i need something small and i dont really know the difference. how do they match up with fuel economy, reliability and just generally overall?
Fair questions.

There are many, many options, starting with Vans. Vans have the best fuel economy but most people can't stand up in them and they don't have walking-around space. Google 'van life' and you'll see thousands of examples.

Here's my unscientific explanation of terms for these vehicles. I'm not an expert; this is just what I've learned over the last year or so.

Shuttle Bus is a heavy-duty Ford or Chevy van chassis (cab and rails) on which a metal or fiberglass shell is installed for seats. They are also called 'cutaways' because only the front of the cab is original and there's no passenger seat. Third party manufacturers like El Dorado, Thor, and Krystal Koach do the bus shell on the back end. Inside, some are quite short on headroom (less than six feet of clearance), others can be almost seven feet high inside. All of these are called Type A buses. They can vary in length from less than 14 feet clear behind the driver all the way up to ....

When people say 'Short Bus' or 'Mini Bus' or 'Mini Skoolie' they could be referring to any one of the types above. 'Shuttle Conversion' indicates it started life as a Shuttle Bus; 'Skoolie Conversion' generally means it was one of the bus types above that started life painted School Bus Yellow (that's literally the name of the color) and had lots of gum plastered under the seats.

Another way people express their bus size is by the number of seats it has. This is misleading since buses can have multiple seat configurations and they don't necessarily correlate to a bus length.

Yet another way to express bus size is by the number of windows. You may see '5 window' or '6 window' shuttle buses. That's slightly more descriptive of the interior space. Very approximately, a five window shuttlebus will have about 14 feet clear behind the driver and a six window shuttlebus will have about 16 feet behind the driver. Until you have a specific preference, use 7 by 14 foot as a starting point, and diligently search this forum for floor plans and ideas. Get a notebook and start to fill it up.

Very generally, all gas shuttle buses get about the same mileage. It's not much. All diesel shuttle buses get about the same mileage. It's better than gas, but not by much. Others may argue, but I recommend not worrying about it and just plan on filling the tank and throwing away the receipt, because, well, that's the nature of these rigs.

Reliability is inversely proportional to the number of hours on the bus engine. On shuttle buses, mileage is a very good indicator of engine hours (I think on bigger busses engine idle time is greater so they prefer looking at engine hours).

Another factor is environment. Snow climate vehicles are less reliable the older they get because of the thermal cycling (cold-hot-cold). They are also more likely to have rust issues.

Another factor is prior maintenance. Perfect maintenance records mean the bus has the greatest chance of not breaking down before an equivalent bus with a poor maintenance record. This factor is very difficult to quantify but significantly impacts reliability.

Remember that busses are sold for cheap after the district/municipality determines they have reached the end of their useful life, so you're already on borrowed time that glorious day when you drive it home.
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Old 10-01-2020, 10:51 AM   #4
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Join Date: May 2017
Location: Windham NH
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One aspect that greatly impacts any conversion process is floor height.

The floor of a shuttle cabin is typically much lower to the ground than a skoolie. Skoolies, the floor is well above the height of the axle. Shuttles, the floor can be at or below the height of the axle. This matters for a few reasons:
  • Climbing up and down stairs will happen lots more in a skoolie- may be a problem for older occupants.
  • Skoolies OTOH have much "better" ground clearances for the same size, so usually they can go more places.
  • Since the floor of a shuttle begins closer to the ground, at the same roof height they have taller ceilings.
  • Low floor height means wheel wells will intrude well into the cabin, forcing you to build around them.
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Old 10-01-2020, 12:56 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by kazetsukai View Post
One aspect that greatly impacts any conversion process is floor height.

The floor of a shuttle cabin is typically much lower to the ground than a skoolie. Skoolies, the floor is well above the height of the axle. Shuttles, the floor can be at or below the height of the axle. This matters for a few reasons:
  • Climbing up and down stairs will happen lots more in a skoolie- may be a problem for older occupants.
  • Skoolies OTOH have much "better" ground clearances for the same size, so usually they can go more places.
  • Since the floor of a shuttle begins closer to the ground, at the same roof height they have taller ceilings.
  • Low floor height means wheel wells will intrude well into the cabin, forcing you to build around them.
Excellent and important considerations!

Also, you remind me how envious I am of school bus build threads where people are putting in all kinds of storage under the floor. My shuttle bus has very limited underfloor space and I worry a bit about where I'm going to stow all that campsite gear I expect to carry-folding chairs and tables, umbrella, screen tent, fire pit.
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