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Old 10-01-2018, 12:24 PM   #1
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Smile Hello / Looking for Bus Suggestions

Hi all,

New member here. I've been reading the forums for a couple weeks and looking at buses for the past month (and looked at vans for 1-2 years before that). Once I discovered skoolies, I knew the additional space and cheaper purchase price was better for me than a van!

I'm ready to purchase a bus and begin my conversion ASAP. Before I do, I wanted to get some suggestions from everyone here.

Here's what I'm looking for in a bus:

- $3-5k budget range
- Less than 200k miles
- 5-6 window short bus (I visited a bus dealer and looked at a few buses in person. The 4 window buses are too small for me and the 7+ windows are too big.)
- Conventional/dog-nose engine (based on my research, short skoolies seem to only come in this engine style anyways)
- Leaning towards diesel due to fuel efficiency, longer engine life, and like the 7.3L size for powering up dirt/mountain roads
- Ideally without a wheelchair lift
- Would like to avoid buses from the NE since they seem to have more rust issues
- Solo traveler with no kids/pets, although I may get a dog in the future
- Interior height is not an issue, I'm 5'3", although it'd be nice for tall friends to be comfortable if they join me on trips
- The bus will be my full-time home for at least a year. I love the outdoors, hiking, backpacking, etc. so I plan to live mostly off-grid, boondocking for a week or two at a time and slowly making my way across the US. There may be long highway driving days, but they'll be broken up by weeks of camping and exploring.
- I don't want to spend much time in cities, but it would be nice for the bus to fit into regular parking spaces when needed, and for it to easily navigate smaller rural roads
- I plan to insulate the bus well, install a wood stove, and test out 4-season living. I have at least one ski trip to Colorado planned for this winter.
- I'm looking to purchase a bus ASAP and move into in the next couple months. I'm already living the nomad, minimalist life and have my finances squared away, so moving/downsizing/saving up isn't a concern.


A few questions:
- Can you please advise if there are certain years/engines/transmissions I should avoid?
- Any models/years I should seek out? I've seen a lot of Ford E450s and various Chevy models
- Does diesel truly make a difference when it comes to powering a small bus up mountain roads or dirt Forest Service roads?
- Based on my research, the 7.3L seems to be a good size engine for powering up mountain roads. Would you agree?


I've been considering our unconventional lifestyle for a few years and cannot wait to jump in.

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old 10-01-2018, 01:21 PM   #2
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Consider a short bus with full size chassis. I have two and they're great.
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Old 10-01-2018, 02:34 PM   #3
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Consider a short bus with full size chassis. I have two and they're great.
Much easier to work on than a cutaway.

As a bonus, they can be found with the DT466.
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Old 10-01-2018, 05:11 PM   #4
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Thanks for the replies.

Steve - what makes the full-size chassis easier to work on than a cutaway? Just asking out of curiosity. I'm new to all of this and don't know much about cars/engines.

A couple people recommended the Ford/GM cutaways due to availability of parts and mechanics who are familiar with consumer trucks (rather than school bus engines).

EastCoastCB - what make/model are your buses? I'm not sure which short buses are on a full-size chassis. Still so much to learn!
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Old 10-01-2018, 05:41 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Chad1865 View Post
Thanks for the replies.

Steve - what makes the full-size chassis easier to work on than a cutaway? Just asking out of curiosity. I'm new to all of this and don't know much about cars/engines.

A couple people recommended the Ford/GM cutaways due to availability of parts and mechanics who are familiar with consumer trucks (rather than school bus engines).
I'm not Steve, but in Ford and GM vans, the motor is hard to access, as it sits under the dash. Don't know about newer Dodge vans, but older ones had really good access to all of the motor.

It's true you will find more mechanics and shops familiar with the Ford or GM vans. If you really want a more off-road friendly vehicle, the full-size chassis buses that EastCoastCB will have more clearance, bigger tires to crawl over rocks, and a tougher build.

The DT466 is common enough, methinks, that you shouldn't have problems finding parts.
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Old 10-01-2018, 06:36 PM   #6
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I prefer the full size shorter length bus too and have one myself with a 7.3L engine. I was thinking of a cutaway chassis, but I work on them since I am a full time truck mechanic and don't enjoy it. It's nice to have a hood that opens all the way forward for easy access to the engine compartment. I also like the extra ground clearance with the full size chassis.
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Old 10-01-2018, 08:51 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Chad1865 View Post
Thanks for the replies.

Steve - what makes the full-size chassis easier to work on than a cutaway? Just asking out of curiosity. I'm new to all of this and don't know much about cars/engines.

A couple people recommended the Ford/GM cutaways due to availability of parts and mechanics who are familiar with consumer trucks (rather than school bus engines).

EastCoastCB - what make/model are your buses? I'm not sure which short buses are on a full-size chassis. Still so much to learn!
One is a 99 Thomas on a Freightliner chassis. Its a 5 window with a Cat 3126 and allison 545 with 4.11 rear end.
The other is an 04 IC CE300 with DT466 and Allison 2000. Its a 6 window.
They're short enough that they're not hard to drive and not too bad to park.
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Old 10-10-2018, 03:20 PM   #8
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Thanks so much for everyone's replies. This info is really helpful. It steered me towards the full-chassis buses and hopefully a DT466 engine!
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Old 10-10-2018, 05:51 PM   #9
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best engines out there are 5.9, 466, 7.3 and Duramax, avoid the V10 Ford
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Old 10-10-2018, 06:13 PM   #10
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best engines out there are 5.9, 466, 7.3 and Duramax, avoid the V10 Ford
Anecdotally, I have a 2009 Ford V10 and never had a problem with it. It's on a 14,4000lb chassis and pulls my 5000lb jeep around all day.

I have heard problems with the older V10's but it seems that mine is pretty solid.
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Old 10-10-2018, 06:33 PM   #11
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best engines out there are 5.9, 466, 7.3 and Duramax, avoid the V10 Ford
We all have different opinions. Personally, I think that the 8.3 belongs on the top of that list and also missing are the DT-530 & DT-360.

To be avoided: Anything newer than 2004.

Good transmissions :

MD-3060
2000series
MT-643 or 653

Less desirable transmission: AT-545

Good luck with your quest.

If you should find two DT powered 5 windows please let me know 'cause I want one of them
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Old 10-15-2018, 05:59 PM   #12
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Engine: 7.3L V8 Diesel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
We all have different opinions. Personally, I think that the 8.3 belongs on the top of that list and also missing are the DT-530 & DT-360.

To be avoided: Anything newer than 2004.

Good transmissions :

MD-3060
2000series
MT-643 or 653

Less desirable transmission: AT-545

Good luck with your quest.

If you should find two DT powered 5 windows please let me know 'cause I want one of them
Hah I'll definitely let you know! Haven't found any DT powered 5 windows yet.

Thanks for the help, Steve. I've heard the DT-360 is good, just a smaller version of the 466 with better fuel mileage. What's your take on the DT-530? Haven't heard that one mentioned yet.
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Old 10-15-2018, 07:30 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chad1865 View Post
Hah I'll definitely let you know! Haven't found any DT powered 5 windows yet.

Thanks for the help, Steve. I've heard the DT-360 is good, just a smaller version of the 466 with better fuel mileage. What's your take on the DT-530? Haven't heard that one mentioned yet.
Hey Chad,

The 530 is the same basic engine as the 466 but displacing 530 cu. in.

As best I understand it, many parts from the 466 & 530 will interchange. The big exceptions would be crank and rods.
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Old 10-15-2018, 09:12 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pizote View Post
Anecdotally, I have a 2009 Ford V10 and never had a problem with it. It's on a 14,4000lb chassis and pulls my 5000lb jeep around all day.

I have heard problems with the older V10's but it seems that mine is pretty solid.
My parents RV has a ford V10. Its reliable and powerful.
The downside is that its thirsty and repairs are expensive and a PITA especially in a van chassis.
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Old 10-15-2018, 09:13 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Chad1865 View Post
Hah I'll definitely let you know! Haven't found any DT powered 5 windows yet.

Thanks for the help, Steve. I've heard the DT-360 is good, just a smaller version of the 466 with better fuel mileage. What's your take on the DT-530? Haven't heard that one mentioned yet.
I've got a 6 window with a high powered DT466E and allison 2000.
My 5 window has a Cat 3126 and allison 545.
Both are amazing buses.
You won't find a 530 in a short bus. But you could swap one fairly easily if you have the $$.
I'd take a shorty with a Cat 3126 any day.
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Old 10-15-2018, 09:15 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
We all have different opinions. Personally, I think that the 8.3 belongs on the top of that list and also missing are the DT-530 & DT-360.

To be avoided: Anything newer than 2004.

Good transmissions :

MD-3060
2000series
MT-643 or 653

Less desirable transmission: AT-545

Good luck with your quest.

If you should find two DT powered 5 windows please let me know 'cause I want one of them
The only short bus with an 8.3 was someone on here trolling us saying they had a 5 window with an 8.3. It never materialized!
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Old 10-16-2018, 11:00 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
One is a 99 Thomas on a Freightliner chassis. Its a 5 window with a Cat 3126 and allison 545 with 4.11 rear end.
The other is an 04 IC CE300 with DT466 and Allison 2000. Its a 6 window.
They're short enough that they're not hard to drive and not too bad to park.
I am interesting...could u give more details information to me.
5504564@gmail.com thank u
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Old 10-16-2018, 04:03 PM   #18
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I am interesting it? Where r you located?
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Old 10-16-2018, 06:58 PM   #19
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I have a DTA360. and its a great little engine in a shortie.. but like the cummins 5.9 it is a bit power lacking in a full size bus in the mountains.. well i say that nbecause it was mated toi an allison. 545.. it may be fine now that i have a 643.. i just finished the trans install and have yet to drive it..



the allison 1000 is another good transmission.. it is simlar to a 2000 but has even taller 6th gear than the 2000.. you'll find it on the IC BE series short busses and many of the GMC van chassis busses are sporting 1000's. it is a 5 speed up through 2005 and 6 speed capable afterwords..

-Christopher
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Old 10-16-2018, 08:08 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
I have a DTA360. and its a great little engine in a shortie.. but like the cummins 5.9 it is a bit power lacking in a full size bus in the mountains.. well i say that nbecause it was mated toi an allison. 545.. it may be fine now that i have a 643.. i just finished the trans install and have yet to drive it..



the allison 1000 is another good transmission.. it is simlar to a 2000 but has even taller 6th gear than the 2000.. you'll find it on the IC BE series short busses and many of the GMC van chassis busses are sporting 1000's. it is a 5 speed up through 2005 and 6 speed capable afterwords..

-Christopher
That 643 is PERFECT for your DT360.
If you ever tire of that bus I'd like first refusal!!!
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