First off, hello!
I've been very inspired by Skoolies and I love the idea of traveling. My first son was born this August and I really want the ability to travel around as he grows older. We will not be staying in the Skoolie full-time, but using it for extended vacations.
I'm pretty handy (I'm good with carpentry, plumbing, basic electrical, basic vehicle maintenance), but my knowledge of auto mechanics is fairly limited. I've done some limited research and here's what I'm looking at so far... Please feel free to comment on any of these points with your thoughts/tips.
1. Purchase from auction to save money. Look for good tire tread. Watch national auctions, local auctions, and adjacent state auctions. Also watch for deals on Craigslist.
2. Limit vehicle source to Southwestern USA to avoid rust, reduce drive home.
3. Short frame (4 or 5 windows + handicap door), inspired by hopes and dreams tour bus (Instagram). Handicap buses also tend to have lower milage.
4. Ford E-450 chassis (availability of services/parts, powerful engines, seemingly reliable). Leaning towards diesel engine vs gasoline. Hwy speeds will likely top at 70mph, also expect mountain driving. I would greatly appreciate your input here.
5. Tied on auto vs manual transmission... I have no experience with Manual transmissions, but I feel like downshifting would be useful for mountain driving.
Q1: Do any of the above drastically influence insurance costs?
Q2: Are there any particular engines or transmissions I should avoid? Any I should seek out?
Various posters stating to avoid the Ford 6.0 and 6.4 Powerstroke motors, due to high failure rate. The 7.3 motor seems highly recommended. People are stating the 4r100 transmission has heat problems, which may be remedied with aftermarket cooling.
Q3: Are any particular engines better for fuel efficiency?
Q4: I'm in no particular rush to purchase a bus, what kinds of things could I watch for that would make for a better purchase?
Commenters are posting that fiberglass busses are not as well-being as metal busses, though both can make great skoolies.
Q5: For experienced Skoolie folks: What do you wish you would have known before getting into all of this? What would you do differently if you were to start over? Any other advice?
Edit: I'll try to post answers as I get them or find them in other posts.