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Old 06-23-2024, 01:50 PM   #1
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Advice on full sized buses

Hello, my name is Kristin. I'm currently searching out a potential bus for a schoolie conversion. I really appreciate any feedback you might have and your time. All buses are currently on auction and recently removed from the public school service this past May. No rust and they are local in the south near my home. The tires and batteries are at the end of their life but all start easy or with a boost.

These are the three buses I've narrowed it down to. These were purchased as a used school bus fleet by a used car lot and placed on an auction:

2009 Blue Bird Vision school bus: I'm thinking about bidding up to $7,000 on one of these.
Has 4 underbelly storage compartments to fit my triplet stroller!
Miles: 128,00 on odometer and 100,000 on the 2nd bus.
Engine
Cummins ISB 220
Serial: 46828343
Displacement: 6.7L
Cylinders: 6
Fuel type: Diesel
HP: 220
Transmission
Automatic
Chassis
Axles: Single
Suspension: Spring
Brakes: Hydraulic
GVWR: 31,000 lbs
Interior
Heat
Heated mirrors
Passengers: 71

There were two of these 2009 model buses. The 1st one had some minor rear side body damage along the back corner (metal bent about 4 inches along a seem above tail light) and some chunks out of a couple of tires. The interior rubber walk isle was slightly wavy and uneven. I'm not sure what could have caused this since the guy showing us said he didn't know. I'm not sure if it would even be an issue since we will completely remove all the flooring before we get started with our renovation.


The second Blue bird same model had no body or interior damage and walk isle looked normal and not wavy.

2014 Freightliner B2 school bus. I was planning on bidding up to $15,000 on this one since its newer and might last longer. I've read that models newer than 2010 might not be better so I would appreciate feedback. This one has AC but my husband is tall and would rather do his own mini split AC to avoid the standard factory AC taking up his headspace. There is no underbelly storage so I'm not exactly sure where my big stroller would go. I could figure our somewhere inside the bus but a little inconvenient.
Miles: 85,000 on odometer

Engine
Cummins
Displacement: 6.7 L
Cylinders: 6
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission

Automatic
Chassis

Axles: Single
Suspension: Spring
Brakes: Hydraulic
GVWR: 31,000 lbs
Interior:

AC, Heat
Heated mirrors
Cruise control
Passengers: 71


This is how we plan on using our bus; We will install solar panels and a mini split system AC since we live with 95 degree average summertime temperatures and will need AC while we are driving. It will be used approximately 8,000 miles per year. We are planning to take this bus on our twice yearly vacations during the spring and fall to the beaches of Florida or mountains Colorado/Wyoming/Montana and hopefully Yellowstone Campgrounds. The schoolie will serve as a replacement for our family 15 passenger van since we've outgrown it. I'm planning to use it about once or twice per week for going to church, trips to Costco or visits to the doctor or dentist as needed for our children. I've already worked out parking for our dental/Dr visits and our church has overflow bus parking.

I know it might sound excentric to use a full sized bus for a family and vacation vehicle but I'm looking forward to having a bathroom and small kitchen available for my young children for around town trips. I've test driven full sized buses and practiced parking so I'm comfortable at this point to drive alongside my husband while I get everything down. It feels like driving a louder larger vehicle than my 15 passenger van but easier than towing our old RV with the van.

Our total budget for the bus to schoolie conversion is $40,000. We will keep the interior simple and durable for our young children. We will buy things used when possble to finish the interior. I will need to add four child seats for our children under age 5. I will look for these used and pulled from a transit or activity bus. Any seat with a seat belt to strap in a car seat would work.

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Old 06-23-2024, 07:08 PM   #2
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If it was my choice, I would first talk with Chuck Cassady on YouTube as he seems to be one of the best bus conversion experts around. Just do a search on YouTube for him and look through the info for his contact email. He may give away some advice, but has set up a Patreon for his work now and does hourly consulting at a price. He is very busy most of the time but really knows his business, has several years’ experience, and will tell you the truth. He also works with a lady who has built a few buses of her own in her business, known as WolfDog Buses, and is on YouTube. She can give you some advice, too. I hope they are helpful. One last point: If you are doing your own build-out, why not pick up a bus at AAA Buses out in Arizona? (Check Google on their location.) They are recommended by more than one bus enthusiast. They have lots of used buses available for less cost and if you tell Tony what you want, he can tell you if they have it on their lot. My understanding is that they are mostly dry-climate buses and have less rust. Good luck with your bus adventure! Keep us updated.
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Old 06-24-2024, 10:57 AM   #3
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Here is my issue..
Quote:
These are the three buses I've narrowed it down to. These were purchased as a used school bus fleet by a used car lot and placed on an auction:
your shopping thoughts and concerns are on track but ask your self this, why pay a used car dealer a profit for "Flipping" some buses when you yourself can purchase direct at an auction.

The used car dealer will sell them as is/where is just like the auction house will and any "flipping" profits will stay in your pocket so you can go buy some tires and batteries.

I will tell you this, my Firestone (virgin) tires on my bus cost almost $500 bucks a piece so budgeting is a main aspect of bus shopping.

also, pay attention to what tranny they come with.
just saying "ALLISON" is not enough. They all are Allison's.

I would suggest getting an allison 3000 tranny. easy to spot, just look for a pushpad on the dash that selects the trans gears.

Oh and do yourself a BIG favor, get a bus with a/c!
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Old 06-24-2024, 02:27 PM   #4
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all of those are emission troublesome buses.
look for something before 2005 for less money.
new tires for my big bus average 1800-2000$ for all 6.
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Old 06-24-2024, 08:38 PM   #5
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My opinion and mine only, no ISB engines, no hydraulic brakes, no 545 trannys, no emission junk which eliminates anything newer than 2005.... best engine choices.... International, Cummins, Cat, my opinions only.
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Old 06-25-2024, 09:52 AM   #6
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Welcome to the forum.

Firstly, make sure that whatever bus you buy has excellent A/C. You'll need that for driving around town and on trips as the mini-splits do not provide the same cooling power and cannot be used while traveling without a massive battery bank.

It is very common for folks to buy a bus, strip out the A/C, then come to regret that decision when they start to use the bus.

Avoid vehicles with body damage, even if they are cheaper. It's not because there's anything wrong with the bus, but unless you plan on fixing the body damage it may limit your camping options (further, I should add; some/many campgrounds turn down skoolies due to the inherent risk of DIY conversions). If they ask to see pictures of your bus before allowing the reservation, it may detract.

Big family! And what great memories this will create!
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Old 06-29-2024, 04:29 PM   #7
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Engine: 2006 DT466 HT, 260 HP
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Be patient on your purchase

Take your time and look around and if necessary look a little further away from home. Decommission buses are worth pretty much nothing to the bus company so they go to auction or scrape. 2004 / 2005 buses or older are the most sought after because they don't come with all the electronic emission crap. If an International engine definitely a DT466 built in 2006 or before and any engine you get you want it coupled to a Allision 3000 series transmission and with an already unlocked 6th gear (not a deal breaker on the 6th gear). We test drove Internationals with DT466 engines, Freightliner with Thomas Body and Cummins engines along with various lengths and in flat and dog nose configurations. The International buses were by far a better build quality IMO with the Thomas bus bodies sounding like they wanted to shake themselves apart. One other thing we really came to appreciate when we gutted the bus was the use of screws within the bus and not rivets. Lastly was the interior height from floor to ceiling and what our final build height would be after insulation etc.

As mentioned by others why pay a fee when you can buy from the auction directly or buy directly from the bus company itself. Reach out to some of the bigger bus lines in your area and see what they are decommissioning. The underbelly storage is nice but reduces your ground clearance. You can add storage yourself also.

We purchased our bus directly from the bus company and had the owner of the bus company involved in our transaction. We also got all the maintenance records, the build sheet for the bus and all the manuals for the bus. All this documentation comes in handy later in the build. I live in South Eastern Ontario, Canada and purchased the bus from a company in Southern PA. Even through the bus came from a colder winter climate we also made sure the bus was oiled every two years to protect the frame and other components of the body.

Tires come at many price points. We looked at retreads starting at around $235 each for the rears. Steer tires have to be new and we chose Continental HSR3 which are considered an all position tire so can also be used as drive tires.

There are a lot of very knowledgeable people in this forum who are very willing to provide advice and assistance. I have also found that my final decision in my search and build was based on general concensus and a lot of reading.
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Old 06-29-2024, 05:10 PM   #8
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Just wanted to add that you should be sure to follow the advice offered by More2See, when he said to always put new tires up front. If you buy any retreads, they should NEVER go on the front. One of the more experienced bus builders, Chuck Cassady, gave an account of a very dangerous incident where he had retreads on the front of his bus when one blew out at highway speeds. He hasn’t made that mistake again, of course. Re: bus auctions: There are government websites which do online auctions of buses and you can save quite a bit of money up front on the purchase, BUT these are older buses which probably will require some work to bring them up to good dependable condition. New tires might be the least of your expense, unless you do your own mechanics and the interior build. Even then, some materials will need to be new, like plumbing lines, electrical, and things you can’t find in an old bus in the local junk yards. Keep us posted on how all this adventure goes!
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Old 06-29-2024, 05:13 PM   #9
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Where did you buy your tires? That price sounds pretty good.
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Old 06-29-2024, 08:54 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sportyrick View Post
My opinion and mine only, no ISB engines, no hydraulic brakes, no 545 trannys, no emission junk which eliminates anything newer than 2005.... best engine choices.... International, Cummins, Cat, my opinions only.
Sound like good list to me.
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Old 06-29-2024, 09:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sportyrick View Post
My opinion and mine only, no ISB engines, no hydraulic brakes, no 545 trannys, no emission junk which eliminates anything newer than 2005.... best engine choices.... International, Cummins, Cat, my opinions only.
I don't understand, no ISB engines but then say best engine choices include Cummins. If I'm not mistaken ISB is Cummins. My 2007 Thomas is equipped with an ISB215 Cummins 5.9, it has no emissions crap on it at all. It wasn't until Cummins upped the displacement to the 6.7 that they add the EGR and DPF and that happened in mid/late 2007. So I always tell people to find a bus with a 5.9 Cummins and don't worry about the year because a lot of times buses are titled a year or two after they are actually built but anything with a 5.9 is emissions free.
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Old 06-30-2024, 07:13 AM   #12
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Thanks for all the helpful advice tguy1241,
sportyrick, Rucker, Jolly Roger bus 223 and More2See for your time responding to my thread! I really appreciated everyone's advice and wisdom. It really helped in my bus purchase. It's been a busy week carting all the kids around in the heat looking at buses. We picked up our 2010 Freightliner with 68,000 miles at a rural school district a couple days ago no rust and looks like it's in excellent condition.
My husband is a computer engineer and will be getting a program to run the diagnostics as needed so I was ok getting a newer bus with all the electronics. The school transportation manager also happened to be the driver of the bus I purchased. They had all the maintenance records, tires only had 6,000 miles and there was no DEF fluid or emissions system to deal with on this bus. It appears to be in great shape but I might find some surprises when we gut this bus. The bus driver told me they routinely washed out the inside with a water hose. I guess this is common. My husband is taking out seats this weekend and hopefully that rubber isle flooring. We have been watching lots of Chuck Cassady videos to get our inspiration for the schoolie project. I'll definitely post some pictures as the project comes along.
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Old 06-30-2024, 07:15 AM   #13
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ewo1, thanks for your suggestion! I took your advice!
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Old 06-30-2024, 07:35 AM   #14
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as far as these busses.. definitely 2003 or older is your best bet.. 2004 began emissions on many.. and 2007/2008 was where these things got all kinds of expensive emissions additions..



as for A/C.. your minisplits wont do a darn thing to cool your interior driving into the sun on a mid 90s humid summer day.. they will work wonderful when parked.. so if you enjoy sweating in traffic with the windows open because you hit an unexpected accident scene or construction zone then get a bus without factory A/C..



just yesterday I had gone on a vintage bus ride / Look-see for a car purchase im making.. took my little red bus.. got just east of Louisville and bam! google maps had tossed me into a traffic quagmire for some reason.. an hour in the 96 degree (with 75 dewpoint) heat.. moving a few inches every minute.. I definitely was enjoying the factory A/C keeping me nice N chill.. with the engine heat from the other vehicles and the pavement, my windshield and driver window were actually hot to the touch...
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Old 07-03-2024, 08:20 AM   #15
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Could you tell us where you bought your tires??
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Old 07-03-2024, 01:43 PM   #16
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Cassidy is one of......

We have been watching lots of Chuck Cassady videos to get our inspiration for the schoolie project. I'll definitely post some pictures as the project comes along.

I would watch Brianna from Wolf Dog Buses and wish she did more frequent postings for people to get inspiration.
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Old 07-04-2024, 05:59 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Family Schoolie View Post
.
Fill in some of your details so we at least know where you're located. We don't need your exact address, and don't want you to post that either. Keep yourself safe, but least give us a region. If you live in the suburbs of a big city, then just put the big city. I live just outside OKC, OK, so I say OKC, OK but I'm not afraid to say I'm actally in Moore, OK. Home of the highest wind speed every recorded on earth. Most people never get to see an F5 tornado, but I've got close and personal with 2, May 3rd 99 and May 20th, 2013. Getting about time for another one huh???

At any rate, a general location. It helps a lot to give advice, someone may have a bus in your area, or know where to go in your area etc.

I see a lot has been said and I didn't read it all, but I did see a lot about tires and retreads and prices...

2 things, you don't have to spend $500 a tire and get a famour name brand like Firestone, GoodYear, Michilin etc. And I see someone said retreads for about $230. I would NOT buy retreads and of course if you do, you know NEVER retreads on the front steer tires OK. Just NOOOOOOO, NEVER !!! You'll never ever where the tread out on a retread, they'll come apart long before you get to wear them out.

I will NEVER spend $500 on high quality bus tires. Reason being, they are 95% of the time, going to age out before you wear them out. Meaning, they'll hit that 8 year mark and still look great but you SHOULD replace them at that point. So if you shop around there are some off brand tires in the 10R and 11R sizes in the $250-$275 range that are REAL TIRES, not retreads. Ironman for example is not a bad budget brand tire and they're good for 40,000 miles or so. We use them on our medium duty Freightliner and Kenworth rollbacks. Occasionally we'll get one that has bad road noise or causes a wobble. We notice it fairly quick and take it back to be swapped out within a couple hundred miles and have it exchanged. Of all the tires we buy, that's happend 2 x and not a bad ratio for a budget tire. They don't blow out easily like some cheap tires do but we've been real happy with that Ironman brand, and another brand I can't think of exactly, I think it's Sampson, or Simpson, something like that. Also good and we normally pay right about $300 a tire, tax and mounted. In fact, I beleive we recently did a steer tire for a truck that was in an accident and needed 1 tire, it was just under $325 and we those equal balance beads put in it like we normally do with our steer tires only. Point being, there are decent tires to be had in the $250 range that will last you the 8 years unless you're just racing back and forth across the country. As said, most of us age out on tires before driving the mileage out of them. So don't spend $500 on a 100,000 mile tire when you can get a 40,000 mile tire for half that. Other good news about that is, if you hit a curb and destroy the tire, it's only a $250 boo boo not a $500 boo boo.

On my bus, my plan is to buy 2 new tires every year. Buy 2 front steers. Next year, I'll buy 2 more new Steers and rotate the year old tires to the Right Rear, Next year, 2 more new Steers and rotate the year old tires to the Left Rear. Now, I always keep the newest best tires on the front this way, and I don't have to worry about, hopefully, getting hit with a big bill buying 6 new tires at a time. If I'm lucky, I'll get to skip a few years not having to buy tires again until my Right Rears are 8 years old if I didn't wear them out, and again, I'll buy 2 new Steers and rotate to the Right Rear, Next year, same rotate to the Left Read. See whutta mean there??? And ALWAYS ALWAYS do a thorough brake inspection everytime those front steers come off, and also inspect the rear brakes when those come off. This way you're getting a good visual on the pads/shoes rather than just a peak during a pre trip.
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Old 07-04-2024, 06:09 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by More2See View Post
We have been watching lots of Chuck Cassady videos to get our inspiration for the schoolie project. I'll definitely post some pictures as the project comes along.

I would watch Brianna from Wolf Dog Buses and wish she did more frequent postings for people to get inspiration.
Totally agree. I like Chuck, a bit arrogant but he's earned it soooo.... and I agree with 95% of what he says. Couple things we differ on but that's OK, it's not major differeces, he's good at what he does and he's learned from trial and error so he knows what works and what doesn't and really has done the research on the products he suggests using. I too wish Bri would do more videos. Cute as hell makes her easy to watch, but she also knows what she's talking about too. Her collabs with Chuck are fantastic videos. They'd make a great team, or ARE making a great team.
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