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Old 07-13-2015, 09:09 PM   #1
karrlot's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Manitou Springs, CO
Posts: 219
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Ward
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DT466
Rated Cap: 65 passenger
Starting The Search From Colorado Springs


I have been a lurker on this forum and other websites about school bus conversions for about 7 or 8 years. I recently came to the realization that $4-5K is not going to fall in my lap, and I need to start saving if I really want to do this. I started rat holing money (almost literally under the mattress) and every cent and dollar that I come across goes into my Bus Fund.

Just this weekend, I was camping with my family. While my wife and I were sitting in the tent during a lightning storm I asked her "Imagine how different this would be if we were in my bus!" This was the first time I had mentioned it in a long time.

When she got back from a 50 yard hike at 10,000 feet at 2AM to go to the vault toilet, I reminded her of how much more pleasant that process will be in my bus.

As we were breaking camp, I said "Pay attention to how long this takes, and then watch how long it takes my folks" who have a little Casita trailer. Later I said "In my bus it is going to take even less time than that, because we won't have to hitch up a trailer. We'll just throw the chairs in and batten down the hatches!"

On our drive home she just had a few questions "Are you serious about this?" and "What kind of gas mileage will it get? How do you make it more economical?"

In my mind, I am looking at a medium sized bus. I don't want a short bus and I don't need a super long 70-80 passenger bus. I think it will have a dinette (using the bus seats), kitchen sink, counter, oven?, fridge, toilet, shower, 2 sets of bunks (each set converts into a couch), and a queen sized bed. I want a bus that looks like a classic school bus, not a flat nosed bus. I am going to paint it (she gets to pick the color) but I want it to be obvious that it was a school bus not a coach.

So I am wondering if you can tell me what kind of gas mileage I could expect from a school bus? Obviously it depends on a ton of factors, but what is a ball park. When I buy a bus, I will be looking for gas mileage over speed. I am looking to be taking road trips camping along the way, but also heading to the mountains to camp. Obviously heading east is going to be better mileage than west!

So as I start this process what do I need to look for? Gas or diesel? Engine/transmission size? Mileage on the bus? Age of the bus? Ebay, craigslist, a private individual, used car lot, a school district?

I know this is all very open ended and subjective, so if you have a strong opinion, please let me know why.

Thanks in advance for your help or adivice.

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Old 07-14-2015, 12:30 AM   #2
Bus Geek
EastCoastCB's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 23,764
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
Hello and welcome...
I'll address some of your concerns, points and questions.

I too spent a long time planning. One failed attempt at bus ownership. It can be a PITA owning a bus if all your ducks aren't in a row. Lesson learned- own property or have at least two definite, confirmed places to store it. And if you shop around and have the cash in hand, a little patience can net one a bus for well under 4 or 5 grand.

Knowing exactly how you are going to use the bus and having a realistic set of expectations (not that you don't, not at all) is the key to ending up happy. LOTS of these buses end up for sale a year later or even less...
A 70-80 passenger school bus is basically a full size. But after owning and driving it, it won't feel or sound as large as it did before. WIth the list of all the beds and stuff you want, I'd imagine when its all said and done you're going to NEED at least a 35 footer.. give or take... But 70-80 passengers means little. Its the length of the bus or the rows of seats that are better gauges of size. My 78 pass is nearly 40 feet. It will have more or less what you've listed.
Mpgs for a good diesel should fall somewhere in the 7-10 mpg range depending on all the factors blah blah, etc etc.
Don't even consider gas buses. In my humble opinion- they suck. They suck gas down quickly thus sucking the money from your wallet. They suck at lasting as long or pulling as hard as diesels too.
Get the biggest International or Cummins you can. the DT466 or 8.3 would be my choice. For age go with a mechanical diesel 95-97 were the years they mostly transitioned over to electronics.
I prefer my buses straight from the schools. Auctions other than Ebay.
Craigslist buses for the most part, in my opinion of course, aren't where its at. Sure there are some real deals on CL but mostly higher priced, more neglected buses.
I have strong opinions. WHy? IDK maybe my genes.
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Old 07-14-2015, 10:00 AM   #3
crazycal's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: NUNYA
Posts: 4,236
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: 3800
Engine: DT408, AT545
Rated Cap: 23 500 gvw
I reminded her of how much more pleasant that process will be in my bus.
DUDE, you're going about this all wrong. Who taught you about women? It's like this.

I reminded her of how much more pleasant that process will be in our bus.
I'm hungry!

You Gotta Let Me Fly
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Old 07-18-2015, 01:27 AM   #4
New Member
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Olympic Peninsula
Posts: 3
Year: 1993
Coachwork: Amtran
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466
Rated Cap: 72
I agree, you need more space than you are giving yourself in your estimation. Also, diesel over gas every time. Not only longer lasting and better mileage but easier and cheaper to fix. The DT466 is a winner. That's what I have in my Genesis International, and while its never given me a problem, general maintenance is simple. The most important point that EastCoastCB hit on though, and I can't stress this enough, HAVE A PLACE TO PARK IT. Seriously, they just don't fit in the standard urban driveways, many RV parks don't allow buses either, and they are often too big to park on the street. This is a lesson I learned the hard way, immediately after I bought my bus. I got mine straight off of Harlows bus lot for only $2300. She only has 167,000 mi on her and she came with new tires, no body rust, on the road until last year. She gets 10 mi to the gallon. Shes so sweet I named her Creampuff. I live on mine full time, and there has been nothing easy about the process, but the pleasure of the work cant be compared to anything else, either. I'm excited for you, jump in, you'll dig it!
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Old 07-18-2015, 10:20 AM   #5
slideforlife's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: in transit
Posts: 62
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Wayne
Chassis: International
Engine: dt466/5 speed spicer
Rated Cap: 72
parking just takes a little bit of skoolie ingenuity. You know how they say that parking is such pain in NYC? I had an apartment in the Upper West Side and used to park my IH 66 pas on Riverside Ave on the bridge over St. Clair Pl.
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