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Old 09-17-2016, 04:09 PM   #1
New Member
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 9
Durham, NC checking in with a lot of questions...

Hi all,

So my bf and I have decided that we'd really like to convert a bus into a tiny home for us and our pets to live in until we find the place we want to build/live in a house (and then keep the bus for travel). However, I'm a law student and he's an anthropology student, so neither of us are the most mechanically inclined, which brings me to my questions:

1) Gas or diesel? We live in NC currently, but we're looking to move either west (Colorado, Oregon, Utah, etc.) or North (Vermont, Maine, etc.) after we finish our degrees. Since diesel doesn't do as well in cold, should we stick with gas? from my reading it seems diesel may still be better...

2) Is there a good step by step list of what to do posted somewhere? I looked through the tutorials but I didn't see any. It seems that most people tend to tear up the floors, as well as take out the roof and wall panels to replace the insulation. Is this necessary? What type of insulation is it being replaced with that the old insulation wasn't sufficient?

3) What starting steps do you recommend? For the most part, we'd really like to do the work ourselves. The main thing I see us needing to get outside help would be for plumbing and electricity, as we will need to have water and power since we're living there full time.

4) are there advantages to the bus styles. We tend to prefer the conventional style bus, but if the flat faced ones serve some purpose we're missing, then function is more important for the structure.

5) just any general advice or things I may have missed. I look forward to becoming more involved in this community!

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Old 09-17-2016, 04:23 PM   #2
Bus Nut
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Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 936
Chassis: GMC or Chevrolet, I hope
Engine: gasser probably
Welcome. I'm new here too and learning as I go.

It sounds like you guys want the bus for long term, so I'm guessing a diesel would be better, but I'm in Florida so no experience with cold.

I looked at , , and


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Old 09-19-2016, 11:48 PM   #3
Bus Nut
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Utah
Posts: 266
Year: 1990
Coachwork: BB
Chassis: TC2000
Engine: Cummins
Rated Cap: 25.999K

I love NC. You have lots of questions, this site has all your answers! IMO; To answers some of yours, Diesel--- More power, less maintenance, (higher cost though). Style of bus?-- What do YOU want? Why do people start tearing out floors and walls? I have no Idea, but I've notice a lot of folks on here do, and it seems they put in loads of work LONG before they are even sure they have a solid platform to build from; so maybe they are just excited and ready to do SOMETHING... Come west young folks, Utah is nice this time of year!!
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Old 09-19-2016, 11:56 PM   #4
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Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Colchester, VT
Posts: 23
Year: 1994
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Vista Shortie
Engine: 7.3 IDI
Rated Cap: A Man and His Dog
I am living in Vermont (formerly in Durham NC) and I am converting a diesel microbus. I see zero downside to diesel on the mechanical side- yes, it may take more work to get it running smoothly in the cold weather, but they will run for a long time with minimal maintenance.

I absolutely plan on beefing up the insulation on the bus because winters can be brutal- especially where I will hold water. More importantly, I'll need to seal everything from moisture and wind, while ensuring adequate ventilation.

I can't wait to see the progress pics, and if you do decide to come up to Vermont, let me know!

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Old 09-20-2016, 03:27 AM   #5
Bus Nut
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Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: Danglebury, Tejas
Posts: 310
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH 3800
Engine: Navistar DT466E
Rated Cap: 72 passenger
Diesel all the way.

More torque, long lifespan, but perhaps most importantly in a tiny house you can turn the key after 6 months of benign neglect and it'll start. Diesel keeps. Gas goes stale very quickly. And a diesel at 150k miles is just barely getting out of the crib whereas a gasser is starting to get membership offers from the AARP.

In the end its all about what YOU want, but if you want this to be a long-term thing, self-sustainable, with something like resale value at the end, here is what I'd do:

International 3800 conventional, 67 passenger or higher, 1995-2000 model year
DT466 or DT466e diesel
MT643 trans preferred (AT545 ok too, but not quite as good)

What you have there is a cheap, bulletproof platform for a tiny house that any diesel mechanic can fix. Parts are everywhere. 500k miles on that engine is routine if cared-for properly. Get one fresh out if service from a school district (not one that has been sitting). Talk to the mechanics who cared for her before you bid. Ask for the service records (they will have them!) and tell them what you want to do with it. Should run you about 3-4k at auction. Gut the seats, insulate it, plywood the floors and walls and use it as the resultijg structure as the canvas for your dreams.
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Old 09-20-2016, 04:41 AM   #6
Bus Crazy
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Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: EHT New Jersey
Posts: 1,134
Year: 2003
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International 3000RE
Engine: T444E/AT545
Rated Cap: 75
If you want maximum floor space, go with a transit-style bus. FE's are perfect for that, RE's lose about 5' in back, but has better access to the engine and places for basement storage. I'm biased, but I'd go with an International 3000RE, either a T444E (its a Ford 7.3 Powerstroke) or DT-466 series, and anything better than an AT545. The 3000RE has a full size radiator, and plenty of fresh air cooling for the powerplant.
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