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Old 01-04-2020, 02:27 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Looking for our bus to skip town in

Hey Skoolie.net!

Long Time reader first time poster

My name is Peter. My wife and I have been investigating purchasing a bus and converting it into a home on the road for a few years. We are now to the place where we are looking to purchase and start building. I'm self employed and would be able to take a few months to work full time on our build.

We are looking for a RE flat nose, is that redundant to say, hoping to have a bumper to bumper somewhere between 28-35 feet, ~25-30 feet of livable space. I'm 6'1'on a tall day so we are looking for a hightop as well.

Currently we are looking at all the auctions sites I found suggested here, plus we have messaged a good number of dealers across the country and near to our home in Columbus OH.

Top of our list right now are 2 Thomas pusher 2004 and 2006. They have a 78" interior standing height. I've been assured they are "identical" they have CAT7 inline 6s engines (preregen) with Allsion 6 speed transmissions that have been geared down to 5 speed. i'm been told they can have the 6th gear easily accessed.

They are asking 5500

Only problem is they are in Delaware so i haven't had my eyes on them yet. THEy were purchased from Montgomery county schools there.

So a few questions

1) how does one get a forum member to check a bus out. i make leather purse wallets, backapcks, small goods, messenger bags, etc. and would be more than happy to trade goods for time and opinions of anyone willing to put their eyes use for me?

2) what other info should i try and get ahold of (i have asked for Allison model but im waiting)?

3) Should i be wary of someone telling me these buses are identical?

4) Any tips for searching for RE buses. Pitfalls, common issues, etc.

Super excited to join this community and eventually be able to give some help rather than ask or it.
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Old 01-04-2020, 02:44 PM   #2
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Well since there's no Montgomery county in Delaware I'm going to go out on a limb and say these were Maryland buses that made their way to Delaware. In either case, be very diligent to check for rust and if either one has it be prepared to walk away. The Atlantic and Chesapeake region is rust hell.

2003-04 was kind of the transition period for EPA diesels but it is conceivable that a 2006 model year bus was built on a pre-EPA chassis which means no diesel exhaust treatment system. I wouldn't count on getting quality info verbally and an in-person inspection (preferably with photos) is the best bet. Even if you need to pay a local mechanic to inspect them on your behalf, $500 could save you a $5500 mistake.
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Old 01-04-2020, 02:52 PM   #3
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Welcome to the madness. You're in lcuk that you came here before buying a bus and not make the mistake many make. You would have made a few with your plan.
1st off, EPA came in at the end of 03 and added a bunch of emission equipment that can be very problematic, hard to diagnose, and expensive to repair. For those reasons we like to stay in the 95-03 range for good buses to build.
2nd, never buy a bus anywhere from the upper right corner of the USA, they will all have substantial rust issues to deal with. You'll save money if you have to retrieve one from the west coast. Buying sight unseen is chancy. There are services that will check it out minimally for around $100, or if you can find a local Skoolie to check it out you'd be in luck. I have always bought my buses sight unseen, but knew they were just retire from service due to age and that they were WELL maintained until then. I've been lucky with 6 buses so far.

Flat Front RE is redundant. No RE's with a dog nose. You'll need a 37' if you want 30' of build space, this is where an FE pays off.
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Old 01-04-2020, 06:11 PM   #4
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Welcome fellow Buckeye!! C-bus here too..(grove city)



1. im interested in seeing your work.. im a Laptop warrior Coffee-shop surfer who Loves cool and unusual messenger bags.. I might want to buy one!


as others have or will mention.. busses in the great midwest and east are likely to have more rust issues than being able to travel and go get it.. I have 3 busses .. one came from ohio.. and it was well taken care of so isnt a rust bucket but is more rust underneath than my texas and oregon busses no rust on either of those ..one is 20 years old, the other is 42..




I see you mention " a few months" to make your build.. does that include getting your bus? the more patience you have where you can research and look for your bus, the better deal you can potentially get.. if in a hurry then of course you may end up squeezed a bit.. Busses pop up on auctions all the time.. inventory at dealers changes quite a lot..



Maccalister in indy is likely one of the best priced dealers in the midwest.. some of their busses are nice.. others are turds.. they turn em over pretty quick..



government and private auctions are always coming up with new entries.. again some arew good, some suck..



sounds like you have your base parameters down of what you want so thats a plus as you can concentrate on looking for units that fit your needs..



buying busses with no 6th gear but "it can be unlocked".. there are multiple threads on here where that is sometimes a tough endeavor.. ive been succesful at doing a couple.. some have had success with 3rd party.. and very few get success through the manufacturer..



I realize im close by you but im happy to look at busses with you if you find something you might like.. all mine are conventionals but we can go for a drive if you want to try driving a bus (if youve never done it)..

-Christopher
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Old 01-04-2020, 06:13 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
Well since there's no Montgomery county in Delaware I'm going to go out on a limb and say these were Maryland buses that made their way to Delaware. In either case, be very diligent to check for rust and if either one has it be prepared to walk away. The Atlantic and Chesapeake region is rust hell.

2003-04 was kind of the transition period for EPA diesels but it is conceivable that a 2006 model year bus was built on a pre-EPA chassis which means no diesel exhaust treatment system. I wouldn't count on getting quality info verbally and an in-person inspection (preferably with photos) is the best bet. Even if you need to pay a local mechanic to inspect them on your behalf, $500 could save you a $5500 mistake.

I was looking at some 2005 and 2006 units at Mccalisters this past week and they are non DPF and non DEF units.. they are C7s so they do have CAT version of EGR... good runners and couple were RE, however wont work for the OP as they were not high clearance..
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Old 01-04-2020, 06:35 PM   #6
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I may be in the market for a new wallet. I have nothing to put in it but I need one nonetheless.
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Old 01-05-2020, 11:04 AM   #7
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As best as I understand it, EPA standards became progressively more strict in 2004, 2007 and 2010.

We started seeing EGR in '04 and DPF in '07.

Both are troublesome.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
Welcome to the madness. You're in lcuk that you came here before buying a bus and not make the mistake many make. You would have made a few with your plan.
1st off, EPA came in at the end of 03 and added a bunch of emission equipment that can be very problematic, hard to diagnose, and expensive to repair. For those reasons we like to stay in the 95-03 range for good buses to build.
2nd, never buy a bus anywhere from the upper right corner of the USA, they will all have substantial rust issues to deal with. You'll save money if you have to retrieve one from the west coast. Buying sight unseen is chancy. There are services that will check it out minimally for around $100, or if you can find a local Skoolie to check it out you'd be in luck. I have always bought my buses sight unseen, but knew they were just retire from service due to age and that they were WELL maintained until then. I've been lucky with 6 buses so far.

Flat Front RE is redundant. No RE's with a dog nose. You'll need a 37' if you want 30' of build space, this is where an FE pays off.
Thanks so much for the info! i appreciate it. I been told to be incredibly diligent about rust so its certainly something we will look for.

With your buses how were you assured that they were well maintained? did you have service records, were you in contact with the service garage?

As of right now i'm avoiding any buses at auction that are to far for me to check out in person unless by some miracle i was able to get someone to check them out. Id love any advice you have on how to set standards high standards for auction buses.

thanks
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:07 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
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For those of you who were interested in my work it can be seen here. Have a few updated wallets that i still need to add to the site.

https://www.openhandleather.com/
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
As best as I understand it, EPA standards became progressively more strict in 2004, 2007 and 2010.

We started seeing EGR in '04 and DPF in '07.

Both are troublesome.
just for knowledge sake i know what DPF is, waht is EGR?

thanks.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:24 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skiptownbus View Post
just for knowledge sake i know what DPF is, waht is EGR?

thanks.
DPF = diesel particulate filter... These use DEF (diesel exhaust fluid (the blue pump)) to treat exhaust gases and the filters do require periodic but pricey maintenance.

EGR = exhaust gas recirculation... These avoid the need for DEF but have proven troublesome in diesels, in fact this is what ultimately killed Navistar's MaxxForce engines line.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:27 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
Welcome fellow Buckeye!! C-bus here too..(grove city)



1. im interested in seeing your work.. im a Laptop warrior Coffee-shop surfer who Loves cool and unusual messenger bags.. I might want to buy one!


as others have or will mention.. busses in the great midwest and east are likely to have more rust issues than being able to travel and go get it.. I have 3 busses .. one came from ohio.. and it was well taken care of so isnt a rust bucket but is more rust underneath than my texas and oregon busses no rust on either of those ..one is 20 years old, the other is 42..




I see you mention " a few months" to make your build.. does that include getting your bus? the more patience you have where you can research and look for your bus, the better deal you can potentially get.. if in a hurry then of course you may end up squeezed a bit.. Busses pop up on auctions all the time.. inventory at dealers changes quite a lot..



Maccalister in indy is likely one of the best priced dealers in the midwest.. some of their busses are nice.. others are turds.. they turn em over pretty quick..



government and private auctions are always coming up with new entries.. again some arew good, some suck..



sounds like you have your base parameters down of what you want so thats a plus as you can concentrate on looking for units that fit your needs..



buying busses with no 6th gear but "it can be unlocked".. there are multiple threads on here where that is sometimes a tough endeavor.. ive been succesful at doing a couple.. some have had success with 3rd party.. and very few get success through the manufacturer..



I realize im close by you but im happy to look at busses with you if you find something you might like.. all mine are conventionals but we can go for a drive if you want to try driving a bus (if youve never done it)..

-Christopher
Thanks so much for all the helpful info! Thanks as well for the offer to meet up! I will take you up on that for sure! I'd love to get some time to chat with someone with some first hand knowledge! I'll try and PM you(I did before I put up a post and it wouldn't let me send the message).

As far as a few months goes I can take that time off whenever. In truth I'm confident in my ability to do most of the build process. It's the purchasing a bus and getting a good skeleton to work with that scares me the most. AS i said I'm a super novice mechanic at best.
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:04 PM   #13
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I normally only buy my buses from the auctions that are listing school buses just removed from service. While in service these buses are maintained on 30 day intervals for the life of them so the KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE. Any bus listed in an an auction like that will have a contact number to the bus garage where they most often will tell you anything you want to know, and if asked nicely, will even print out the full maintain history of that bus. I have found that if a bus was a POS during it's life, the garage guys will be quick to tell you to stay away from that one.

The problem with most of the rust issues, is the worst areas can't be seen until you pull the floor up. Most of the damage comes from kids tracking in salty snow that melts and flows under the floor where it eats away for years. Often there is not a lot of visible rust outside. So in my experience of growing up in New England, anything 10 years old is not worth saving. Not so bad now as back a few decades. If any rust is showing outside, you can be assured your floor will be toast. For those reasons we just plain avoid anything up in that area. There are plenty of buses elsewhere. I think the biggest mistake noobs make is not allotting time and money to buy the best bus for the money. That mean mean traveling 3k miles.
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:20 PM   #14
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From what I've heard over the years- Montgomery County is REALLY hit or miss and I've heard they tend to beat the hell out of buses.
I'd probably avoid one from there and definitely wouldn't want anything from Delaware.
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:32 PM   #15
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Marc has it right,. occasionally you find those nice busses in the midwest / northeast but the odds are like mark has it right.. rust can be hidden as well as other blunders..



my DEV bus is an ohio bus.. "Tipp city" and I got lucky, it was washed often and being a handicap bus it likely saw much lighter duty than a regular bus,, even so I have some rust on the bottom.. nothing structural but it is there.. and the blunder of how the floors were mated incorrectly resulted in lots of rust in my driver area.. flooring that I replaced and fixed when I swapped a trans..


my other 2 busses.. one is from Texas (houston).. and the other is from the eastern part of oregon.. the texas bus is 20 years old.. the oregon bus is 42.. Neithger have any rust.. pretty much Zero... well worth the trip, fuel, and travel to get them.... in both cases contacting the seller resulted in lots of pictures and info about the busses..



likje marc says.. the schools dont have any skin in the game.. those busses are getting sold no matter what.. the mechanic / trans director / superintendent doesnt get a pay bonus for selling his bus sooner or higher.. so they will generally be glad to tell you about the bus...



Bus dealers are a good way to touch / inspect / drive / and see the bus in person.. however in many cases as mentioned, the prices are higher.. sometimes by a lot.. (of course you can neogtiate them down)... bus dealers may get some on trade-in however many times they go buy busses at auction just like all of us can do.. then they mark em up and wash them and sell them at a higher price.. just like a used-car dealer...



my PM box should work now.. it was full previously...
-Christopher
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Old 01-05-2020, 08:32 PM   #16
Mini-Skoolie
 
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narrowing the search

Seems like you all feel alright about our base parameters. Pusher, 28-35 ft, 78" standing height, and, based on the responses i saw here, pre 2003 to avoid epa regs. With some exceptions?

Any recommendations on how to further narrow the search.
-I have read many of the forum posts about generalities of engine, transmission etc. Im looking for specific to pushers.


This what im focusing on reading up on to narrow the search am i missing something else to consider.
1)Any Engine make and models?
2)transmission Allison seems to be the name of the game(any models to avoid or seek out)
3)Best years in terms of solid running buses
4)IC, Bluebird, Thomas seems to be the go tos fro pushers. am i missing somebody else?

Any questions i should be asking are welcome.

Agian thanks so much for any input you choose to share.
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Old 01-05-2020, 09:12 PM   #17
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Pushers often will have the better drivetrains.

1) the 8.3 is revered in a pusher, as well as the Navistar DT466/530
2)Absolutely avoid the AT545 in a full size pusher, any other Allison will do, with the 3060 being top of the heap if 6th is open. Still near the top if only 5.
3) I would stay in the 98-03 years
4) Yes, International. I've driven many makes and models and find the International Genesis line to be in the upper range in quality and options.
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Old 01-05-2020, 11:15 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
From what I've heard over the years- Montgomery County is REALLY hit or miss and I've heard they tend to beat the hell out of buses.
I'd probably avoid one from there and definitely wouldn't want anything from Delaware.
I dunno; I rode 'em for 12 years and they seemed to be OK to me. Same number picked me up every day and the heat worked. Not a lot of visible rust. This was back in the day, though.
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Old 01-05-2020, 11:29 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
As best as I understand it, EPA standards became progressively more strict in 2004, 2007 and 2010.

We started seeing EGR in '04 and DPF in '07.

Both are troublesome.
One of the articles on the standards I read stated that they were initially established in 2002 and were meant to go into effect in 2004, but companies began incorporating the new gear in engines through 2003, so it's possible that some 2003 models have the EPA stuff.
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Old 01-06-2020, 07:56 PM   #20
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This is great info thanks so much for the added auction info. I hate to keep asking questions but I assume you are looking for auctions site that have lots from school distritcts?
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