Hey everybody, I'm from Mass and finally gotten to a point in life where I'm seriously considering a bus conversion. It's been a dream of mine for many years, my girlfriend as well. She's probably more excited than I am hehe
Our idea/goal is to build a bus, travel the US and Canada, look at the sights, just kinda be for a bit, find a nice place we like and maybe settle for a little while. We're mid 30s I've seen most of Europe and been cross the US a few times (mostly the southern half), she hasn't traveled much.
I have a pretty good general knowledge of all the mechanical and engineering aspects. I've single handedly built old pickups frame up etc...
I'm resourceful and capable of doing pretty much anything myself including upholstery, plumbing and electrical. My personal plan for the bus would be to create something fun/cool but on a budget and earth friendly, I like the challenge of re purposing as much as I can but not having that hipster/gypsy feel.
I've done a lot of research already and will be reading my way through here some more before I start asking a bunch of repeat questions. I've also talked to my local school bus maintenance company guy about which engines are good and which not. Being unfamiliar to school buses I'm curious about what experiences people have had with different things so I can make a good educated decision on what to get/build or if this is not something that makes sense for me to do right now.
Here's what I've gathered so far (correct me if I'm wrong):
How many of you have CDLs for your skoolies? I want the biggest bus that doesn't require a CDL, preferably not a flat nose, can anyone give me an idea which models/lengths/window count that might be? Also having a hard time finding the different sizes and their GVWR.
Preferred shopping place? I scan craigslist, ebay, gov auctions, local tranist companies that resell retired buses. I've seen some bad stuff and good stuff (but require CDL), prices from 2k to 50k, been told to stay away from salvage yards. But have seen buses at gov auction sites that all appear to be junk and a bus at a salvage yard to be pretty nice but no title.
Powertrain? I've been told to stay away from cats because of emissions, 545 trannys are junk and cummins cost a fortune to update the computers also very slow. I gather the 466 are preferred and the alison 2000 4th gen are solid. But the 444 I've heard 50/50 good/junk.
Air brakes vs hydraulic, pros cons? Called the state police in MA and was told under 26k lbs air brakes doesn't require CDL.
Registration and insurance?
I gather the easiest way to title it Motor Home is the VT route, especially because anything RMV related in MA is a huge PITA! I talked to my insurance today (progressive) they said if I installed these things it would be private motor home insurance: cooking (not microwave), toilet, fridge, A/C and heat (separate from engine), water supply, separate electrical system. Also they would need exact values and prices of all the modifications and add ons. The guy kept recommending I just buy an RV, he also kept saying a conversion would probably cost 60k and take way too long, I told him not to worry about it and answer my questions eesh
Dimensions are obviously a big factor, a couple of the bigger things I've considered were raising the roof in some manner either all or just a section as I'm 6'2"
Also would like to make some kind of larger side opening if possible for those warm summer lake view sunsets but not fixed on that. Would def like to add a deck onto the back and with ladder to deck on the roof maybe even the entire length of roof that will hold solar, storage, maybe a lounge are and I've been considering a small green house.
I'm still on the idea phase here so any input is useful.
Sorry for such a long post, I'm very excited and have lots of questions and ideas, I'd love for this dream to come true for us but I'm also a very rational person, I know I still have lots of things to research and I will be reading around here a lot more, just thought I'd take a break and say Hi at least.