Originally Posted by Dahook
. . . 1996 International 3000 53 passenger 444E Auto 4 Speed Allison 225k miles. I am not sure I even know what I just typed.
I am concerned about maintenance costs and how many hours/miles are left in the bus I am looking at. Also, any feedback you could provide on if its a good value or not at $3.5k.
International, up to around 2004, would be an excellent choice. The T444 engines have excellent reputations and parts availability. The DT466 engines produce *MUCH* more power and will be a better option for much highway cruising. Avoid the "MaxxForce" engines like the plague. They had numerous (and very expensive) emissions hardware problems. The V365 engines (similar to the Ford 6.0) were also not without problems, so most people avoid these too.
The "Allison 4-speed" behind the T444E suggests it's the AT545 transmission. Great choice for stop-and-go school bus use, not so much for a highway cruiser. This transmission lacks overdrive, and lacks a "locking" torque converter, which in turn generates more heat when ascending hills or pulling heavy loads. Too much heat is murder on a transmission. Most people prefer to avoid this transmission for this reason. Also, *CHECK THE REAR-END GEAR RATIO!* This *WILL* determine your highway top speed! Get the VIN and call an IH dealer if necessary. Having said this, knowing is half the battle. Choose wisely.
You'll also want to consider two other factors - brakes and GVWR. Since I don't know where you live (and, just as importantly, where you plan to register the vehicle/maintain your driver's license), some states absolutely require special licensing for a GVWR above 26,000. Others do not, provided it's titled/registered as an RV/motorhome (or "House Car", in some states). And brakes - this really is more of a personal choice as opposed to "one is better than the other". Both do the job of stopping the bus. Air brakes, in my opinion, have much better parking "holding power" than typical hydraulic brake buses do (typically a driveshaft brake on these). Air brakes take a little getting used to, don't expect these to have much pedal travel. Hydraulic brakes work like the ones in cars, so it takes very little getting used to, and other than the size of the parts being bigger, are otherwise very similar to your personal car. Hydraulic brakes in buses will have a motor/pump which will activate whenever you use the brakes with the engine off - there is *NO WAY* your foot can generate enough pressure to stop the bus without this power assist. Again, knowing is half the battle. Make an informed choice.
Check *ANY* bus for rust. Look underneath, behind the wheels, etc. $3500 wouldn't be out of line for a bus with a big engine, overdrive transmission, air brakes, and highway gearing. This bus lacks those, so I'd expect to see a value around $1500-2000 (at an auction). New tires would be around $1500, so if it has new tires (NOT re-treads), you could justify a higher price.