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Old 06-10-2020, 12:00 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: PA
Posts: 13
Exclamation Best bus, model, year, engine to purchase

Hi skoolie fam!!!

I am in the works of purchasing a school bus. I have visited a many buses and have come up empty. From your experience:

1. What is the best bus model to purchase?
2. What are your preferred bus year(s)?
3. What engine and transmission do you prefer?
4. Best place to purchase a bus?

I live in PA and have not had much luck. My goal to purchase a bus by end of July. I want to have the renovation done and on the road by February 2021. Thank you for the help in advance!

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Old 06-10-2020, 12:14 PM   #2
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 1,259
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: All American
Engine: 8.3 Cummins ISC
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We need more information about the size/type you want. This will dictate what to look for. Another metric to consider would be roof raise or not. If you are NOT doing a roof raise it may be worth it to hold out for a high headroom bus (usually has a couple inches taller roofline than standard roof buses, depends on the manufacturer though). This is dependent on how tall your family is in general. Short people would be fine in a low headroom bus.



In general the following are desirable
Cummins 5.9 (smaller but still reliable) or the 8.3 (harder to find and more expensive but much better suited for highway driving).


CAT motors used to be disliked on this site but the 3126 is a decent motor. They stopped making them in 2003 however, after that came the C7 which seems to be a mixed bag.



For International you want pre 2004 DT466. The T444E is fine in shorter buses but I wouldn't touch a full length with one.



For transmission you want an Allison 2000 series or the higher end MD3060. You may run into older buses that have the AT545 which is a big negative and best avoided if you're doing a lot of traveling and heavy hauling with it.



You are best off buying a bus down south or out west. Rusted out floors and stairwells cost time and money to repair. I hauled my bus back from southern Colorado back to Wisconsin because all of the local buses get completely trashed by the road salt in winter. Even with the <$1000 it cost in hotels, airfare and fuel for the way back I am still WAY ahead.
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Old 06-10-2020, 12:15 PM   #3
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
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Year: 1999
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Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
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That's like asking which soda is the best, which truck is the best, which color skittle is the best. There are as many different configurations of busses as there are skittles!

We need more input on what your need/intentions are.

For me, the best bus is the one I ended up with. 40' rear engine Blue Bird with a 8.3 Cummins and the Allison MD3060 trans. As I learn more about the bus world and my needs, There are other things I would do differently if I were searching for a bus, but this one landed in my lap, so I am very happy with it. If I ever do a second bus, I will spec out exactly what I want and I will settle for nothing less. But then, I will have this one in the mean time, so I will not be in a hurry.
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Old 06-10-2020, 12:30 PM   #4
Bus Geek
 
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 23,673
Year: 1999
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Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KD0520 View Post
Hi skoolie fam!!!

I am in the works of purchasing a school bus. I have visited a many buses and have come up empty. From your experience:

1. What is the best bus model to purchase?
2. What are your preferred bus year(s)?
3. What engine and transmission do you prefer?
4. Best place to purchase a bus?

I live in PA and have not had much luck. My goal to purchase a bus by end of July. I want to have the renovation done and on the road by February 2021. Thank you for the help in advance!
1- Crown Supercoach
2- Any
3- Cummins big cam 855 with 10 speed roadranger.
4- west coast of usa. Cali, Oregon, Washington
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Old 06-10-2020, 01:26 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: PA
Posts: 13
Thank you for the insight. I did not think about roof height. I do not want to raise the roof so I will start looking for a taller roof.
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Old 06-10-2020, 01:31 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: PA
Posts: 13
My goal is to do more travel and less sitting. I do not plan to stay in one location for more than 2 weeks. I will be carrying a scooter so that I can get around a city when visiting. I do not want something too big due to mobility. I will stick with a bus in the 25-35ft range.
Last, how many miles are too high for a purchase?
I am new to the forum and may not be replying to the messages properly. Sorry. It is a little tricky.
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Old 06-10-2020, 01:42 PM   #7
Bus Geek
 
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
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Engine: Cat 3126
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If 25 feet is what you're after you're looking for a short bus. My shorty is a 5 window and its 22 or 23 feet. Maybe a 6 window?

If that's the case-
look for any pre-2004 Bluebird, Thomas, or IC shorty. Look for air ride and high headroom. Less than 250k miles and 10k hours is good to start.
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Old 06-11-2020, 01:46 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
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This is great 411. I will continue my search.
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Old 06-11-2020, 06:30 PM   #9
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2018
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Year: 1990
Coachwork: Crown
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Engine: 6-71TA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
1- Crown Supercoach
2- Any
3- Cummins big cam 855 with 10 speed roadranger.
4- west coast of usa. Cali, Oregon, Washington

For sure
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Old 06-11-2020, 08:44 PM   #10
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2020
Posts: 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by KD0520 View Post
I will stick with a bus in the 25-35ft range.
.

IMHO, you need to work out on the floor of your garage or patio how much space you might like (and then must have) because there is a HUGE difference between 25' and 35'- about double the useful space.



As many have said here over and over when questions like this are posed- figure out what you want to do, (boondock with 4 people, tour National Parks, stealth urban camp, drive a lot, work mobile, stay put, tow a car, have a shower, washer/dryer, dishwasher, etc. etc.) and what you need in order to do that pretty much makes a lot of chassis (bus) decisions for you. Focus on your ideal bus life first, and then the requirements for what you need to move it around will become more obvious.



The bus is just the box that your 3 dimensional (five, if you count money and time) skoolie puzzle fits into, hopefully perfectly. The puzzle itself is how you want to live in the bus. If you focus on the box first, your likelihood of ever getting the puzzle correctly assembled and fitted into it goes down dramatically...
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Old 06-12-2020, 02:05 AM   #11
Bus Nut
 
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As others have said, pretty big difference between 25ft and 35ft.

35ft is just a few feet shy of a full on 40 footer (which is about as long as they come right?)
25ft is a touch longer than the longest sprinter van (24ft I believe)
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Old 06-21-2020, 12:47 AM   #12
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: RVA (Richmond, VA)
Posts: 22
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Thomas Built
Chassis: Saf-T-Liner MVP
Engine: CAT 3116 (TA185) / AT545
Rated Cap: 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by KD0520 View Post
My goal is to do more travel and less sitting. I do not plan to stay in one location for more than 2 weeks. I will be carrying a scooter so that I can get around a city when visiting. I do not want something too big due to mobility. I will stick with a bus in the 25-35ft range.
Last, how many miles are too high for a purchase?
I am new to the forum and may not be replying to the messages properly. Sorry. It is a little tricky.
It depends on how much information you have about the bus, not so much how many miles...

If you can get a hold of anyone at the school district that it came from... They usually don't dump records right away on the buses. So look for a bus with a verified history of being well cared for.

My bus had 205k at purchase but only 25k on the engine after a rebuild. It's the Cat 3116 motor with the AT545, which despite all the hype, hasn't let me down yet. I don't plan on moving around as much as it sounds like you do. You want a highway bus. I'm sure someone has posted the ideal combo already. Ask what the bus was used for. If you can't find out don't buy it.
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Old 06-21-2020, 07:59 PM   #13
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 18
Best engine Cummins Best transmission Allison international and Detroit also a great engines I've heard a lot of horror stories about the Cat engines and the Mercedes engines as far as working on them good luck
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Old 06-21-2020, 08:27 PM   #14
Bus Geek
 
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Location: Eustis FLORIDA
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Year: 1999
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Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roxious55 View Post
Best engine Cummins Best transmission Allison international and Detroit also a great engines I've heard a lot of horror stories about the Cat engines and the Mercedes engines as far as working on them good luck
I've not heard any legitimate horror stories about any 3126's or even C7's in buses. My only horror story was a Dt466E that ruined my year.
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