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Old 11-04-2017, 05:55 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Conneaut, Ohio
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Year: 2004
Chassis: International CE 300
Engine: DT466E
Rated Cap: 71 passenger / 12 window
Does this bus even exist?!

If I'm going to look for a unicorn, I may as well figure out if it exists.

The ideal bus for me looks like this:

-Large but not too large (perhaps 8 - 11 windows)
-Good engine (seems like a DT466(E) or Cummins 8.3 would be best, but I'd take a different engine that was as well regarded)
-Good transmission (something long-lasting with lockup and hopefully overdrive)
-Good rear axle ratio which enables it to reach at least 65 mph without being wound out to maximum power
-Underbody storage (ideally pass-through)
-High-back "coach" seating
-High headroom
-Low to no rust
-Mileage under 150,000, hours under 8,000
-Decent tires
-No work required to be fully operational
-Price no more than $3,000 including all buyer's premiums or whatever

I don't care if it's flat nose or dog nose. Front engine is probably best, as my plan for the bus is to be able to use the rear emergency door a lot... but if it is rear engine and has a side emergency door, that should be fine.

I've found buses that have each of these qualities individually, and some buses have a handful of them. I have yet to find one bus that has them all. Will I? Or have I listed mutually exclusive qualities without knowing it?
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Old 11-04-2017, 06:21 PM   #2
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Expect to pay 4-6 grand at auction for something like that. 2-3x that at a dealer.
It really is a tall order to fill at the price you're looking to pay.
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Old 11-04-2017, 06:39 PM   #3
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A used bus is not cheap unless there are mechanical issues with it. Trying to find your perfect combo is also very hard to do.
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Old 11-04-2017, 06:43 PM   #4
Skoolie
 
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Year: 2004
Chassis: International CE 300
Engine: DT466E
Rated Cap: 71 passenger / 12 window
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Expect to pay 4-6 grand at auction for something like that. 2-3x that at a dealer.
It really is a tall order to fill at the price you're looking to pay.
Man, I'd do that extra dough if I had to, to get the PERFECT bus. Are you saying that it actually does exist? (Of course, if I had to sacrifice maybe one or two of the less valuable things on that list to be able to pay $3K or less, I probably would. I don't know if it's like this all over the country but around here, almost nobody is willing to pay "fair market value" for anything you're selling. They all want to get something for nothing. To give you an idea, I attended a two-lane auction today and kept an eye on the lane where only regular passenger cars were being auctioned... at least 15 cars came across the block and not one of them generated a bid high enough to sell the car. I tried to auction a car I owned, in 2008, in the same general area. Same thing. No vehicle actually sold at that auction because all of the high bids were too low. It seems that they max out at 2/3 of what the seller wants to get.)

I was wondering about it for a few reasons:

1) The prevalence of AT545 and T444E in smaller buses. (I've heard them called "3/4 buses". Something like that might just be perfect, though a 9 or 10 window would give us more working room.)

2) The fact that all of the buses I've found so far with "coach seating" have been HU-U-UGE... I'm talking like 15-window. Something that big would probably be more trouble than it's worth, given how we want to use it.

3) One would think that the "activity spec" buses that are likely to have the better engines and transmissions, better seating, underbody storage, etc. would be really big. (Why spec a bus for activity use when it's only 3/4 size? I never recall using anything but a full size bus when traveling for extracurricular activities.)
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Old 11-04-2017, 07:07 PM   #5
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Many of the shorter buses are specc'd for Special Ed. By law they have to have AC, and many have the higher ceilings, but not all. They won't have underfloor storage but that's an easy fix. Plenty have the DT466 and decent transmission.

Rear axle ratios might be a bit high, again fixable.

I'm not saying you are looking for a unicorn, but remove the requirement for luggage, 8.3 engine and perfect condition and you open up the field and lower the price.
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Old 11-04-2017, 07:10 PM   #6
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Not that 3 grand is a bad starting point but buses like what you're looking for pop up at auctions, mostly in summer, and if you've for 4-6 grand you can get a REALLY nice bus.
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Old 11-05-2017, 08:19 AM   #7
Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twigg View Post
Many of the shorter buses are specc'd for Special Ed. By law they have to have AC, and many have the higher ceilings, but not all. They won't have underfloor storage but that's an easy fix. Plenty have the DT466 and decent transmission.

Rear axle ratios might be a bit high, again fixable.

I'm not saying you are looking for a unicorn, but remove the requirement for luggage, 8.3 engine and perfect condition and you open up the field and lower the price.
I'd rather not have to spend money and time changing a rear axle ratio, unless it could be done for like $300 or less.

I could live without underbody storage, 8.3 engine, and perfect condition. I'd be okay with DT466(E) or 5.9. I might even take T444(E) if need be, but I'd prefer to try a different engine I've never had. I don't need perfect condition either - just something that doesn't immediately require work to be fully functional. I want something where I can buy it and then immediately get rolling wherever I feel like going.

Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Not that 3 grand is a bad starting point but buses like what you're looking for pop up at auctions, mostly in summer, and if you've for 4-6 grand you can get a REALLY nice bus.
I'm not sure that I want to get a "really nice bus" at first. As I've said before, we got a nice RV and then didn't use it as much as we thought we would. When we went to sell it, we lost a bunch of money on it because, around here (and maybe everywhere), nobody wants to pay market value for anything. "Book value" means nothing to people... leading me to believe that it is itself completely useless. If we get a bus and then we don't use it as much as I am envisioning we will, such that we want to sell it, I can't figure on getting my money back from local buyers. I've learned that my desires for "stuff" tend to be very unique. I'll get something that's a "unicorn", which is totally awesome for our needs... and then if I go to sell it, nobody else values it as highly as I did. So... a cheap bus will work at first, and if we decide that we like "bus life" enough to get something better, we can always sell the cheapie (losing only a little money in the process) and get something better... if need be. (Ideally, the "cheapie" would work great for a long time!)
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Old 11-05-2017, 08:58 AM   #8
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the 444E / AT545 directrain was considered "budget" at the time..

it cost significantly less than the DT466(E) of the time.. in the navistar lineups. Thomas tended to use freightliner chassis with cummins or CAT engines.. which were more expensive..

the AT545 transmission was well regarded as a great school bus transmission.. it was cost effective, very durable, and in standard school bus route service Lockup wasnt required or even desired.. as 90% of the time the busses were in first or second gear trudging through suburban subdivisions..

big cities didnt require highway capable busses.. columbus city to this day still has issues with busses never being run up to speed and temperature as the routes are so dense..

more rural districts.. even outlying suburbs would be more likely to have busses that had lockup transmissions, bigger engines, and highway gears.. some routes would take a bus 15-20 miles away from home base (or more if its a consoldidated dustrict)..

it seems many opf the busses being purchased by members in texas and colorado / utah / arizona are coming with good highway drivetrains.. mountains and longer routes require this..

while the carolinas would seem to have similar terrain it seems people buying busses from there end up with 45-50 MPH top speeds more frequently than other places..

if you are reading ads or bidding on auction busses, you can get the VIN numbers.. I know international dealers can tell you what was put into a bus if you call them with the VIN number.. axle ratio, tire / wheel size, engine / transmission info.. while districts CAN change wheel / tire sizes from original, most often they dont..

if as bus is a bluebird you can look them up online by bluebird body number or call them..

im not sure about thomas as I havent dealt with them much.

-Christopher
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Old 11-05-2017, 02:06 PM   #9
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If you buy a run of the mill bus resale is much harder. But a NICE bus that cost a few bucks more could MAKE you money if you buy smart.
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Old 11-06-2017, 05:05 PM   #10
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Location: Phoenix, AZ
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Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
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I can certainly understand your logic. My concern though would be that you could end up creating a bad experience by not spending enough on the bus, or waiting to find the right one.
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Old 11-06-2017, 05:09 PM   #11
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I can certainly understand your logic. My concern though would be that you could end up creating a bad experience by not spending enough on the bus, or waiting to find the right one.
Agreed.

If you are going to do a good job, you really want a good platform to build on.
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Old 11-06-2017, 08:27 PM   #12
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Engine: DT466E
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I certainly appreciate the information from all of y'all. However, I did actually follow the provided advice about getting something "nice" when I got my class C RV, and it ended up burning me to the tune of $7,000. Never having had an RV before, I plunked down 12 grand to get a relatively nice one. I'd wanted one for a long time, and my wife had RVing experience, so we figured it was something we'd keep for a long time. Then, life took an unexpected turn, and the RV sat for over two years. If for whatever reason life takes another unexpected turn, I don't want to be out a ton of money. I'm fairly sure that I can figure out what I like even if I get something cheap at auction, just as I did with the cheap cars I used to buy in my younger years.

It's one thing for someone whose household income is like $75,000 per year to drop ten grand on a bus. For us, that amount would be a much higher percentage of our yearly household income. In the current system within which we live, it seems that nearly all of us get the choice between the following two things: 1) work at a job you generally dislike, for a decent salary... 2) work doing something really cool, for peanuts. Everyone thinks it's awesome that we're full-time performing musicians. They don't see our tax returns.

On top of that, I hate spending money. I'll do what I must, but it physically sickens me to an extent, having to part with large sums of money. So... I intend no disrespect to anyone here if I buy a cheap bus, but that's probably what I'm going to do. That way if I lose money, it won't be much.

On the upside, I found out today that every local Ohio bus yard that I called had retired buses for sale, and the people seemed quite excited that I called. (Pennsylvania - not so much. Seems those districts contract their transportation out to private companies... at least every one I called did that.) So, maybe there are some choices around here... now to find one that has everything we're looking for...

I still feel that if I'd known in September what I know now, I would have bought one of those buses I saw at the late September auction.
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Old 11-07-2017, 11:25 PM   #13
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 228
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
Rated Cap: 78
Does this bus even exist?!

I totally hear you, and hope my opinion doesnít come across too preachy. I wish you all the best in your quest, at the end of the day only you can decide whatís best for you. I suspect the right bus will come along and choose you soon enough


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Old 11-08-2017, 06:51 AM   #14
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one thing ive noted about ohio busses.. while some of them may have rust.. they generally seem to be mechanically sound.. while rust in a huge way can ruin a guy's day.. overall if you learn to repair it, or realize it isnt as bad as it looks.. ( rust under a bus looks a lot worse than it often is..), can be repaired for relatively low cost.. esp if its a body panel here or there.. the beauty of school busses is that they arent and never were meant to be show vehicles.. exposed rivets, screws, and panels that werent mirror straight from the factory make body rust repair easier.. even something that looks good!..

blowing an engine is a bad day now matter how you slice it.. even for a guy like me that thinks rebuilding engines and custom drivetrain swaps are fun. still has to incur significant cost for a mechanical failure..

Here in Ohio may be your ticket.. if you find any busses near the central part of the state you want me to look at let me know, id be glad to snap some pics, listen to it run, etc..
-Christopher
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Old 11-08-2017, 07:04 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
one thing ive noted about ohio busses.. while some of them may have rust.. they generally seem to be mechanically sound.. while rust in a huge way can ruin a guy's day.. overall if you learn to repair it, or realize it isnt as bad as it looks.. ( rust under a bus looks a lot worse than it often is..), can be repaired for relatively low cost.. esp if its a body panel here or there.. the beauty of school busses is that they arent and never were meant to be show vehicles.. exposed rivets, screws, and panels that werent mirror straight from the factory make body rust repair easier.. even something that looks good!..

blowing an engine is a bad day now matter how you slice it.. even for a guy like me that thinks rebuilding engines and custom drivetrain swaps are fun. still has to incur significant cost for a mechanical failure..

Here in Ohio may be your ticket.. if you find any busses near the central part of the state you want me to look at let me know, id be glad to snap some pics, listen to it run, etc..
-Christopher
The best bargains seem to be found among the buses with mild to moderate rust.

Dealers don't want them because that represents hours of shop time. Many individuals don't want them because ... it's rust. They sit, unbought and unloved until someone hauls them off to a wrecking yard.

For anyone wanting to save a lot of money, spending a few hundred on a welding machine and taking a course at your local community college will repay you for the rest of your life.

Buses are flat panels with a few simple curve. Apart from the corner caps I don't think there is a compound curve on the entire vehicle. Our aversion to rust stems largely from our experience with cars. They are not the same. Cars can be extremely difficult to repair even for an experienced body shop.

Avoid anything with serious rust on the frame or around the mounting points of suspension, engine, gearbox. Other than that, it's just time and a few consumables.

If you really need a rust-free (ish) bus, then that's fine, but you will pay for it.

I was looking at one yesterday that has rust across the entire back panel, but very little rust anywhere else. Very odd pattern as it has rust high up too. I suspect a long-term leak up top. It will sell for very little money. It's an RE with a great engine and gearbox, and low miles.
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Old 11-08-2017, 07:13 AM   #16
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Join Date: May 2009
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body work has always been the achilles heal of the classic car world.. twigg hit that nail square.. and of course having been in the hotrod world, body work was always the most time consuming and expensive.. I always did a mixture.. had someone weld my metal.. and then I spent hours and hours, sanding, smoothing, priming, then would pay a lot of $$ to shoot the car with paint and hope it looked good.. and if it wasnt perfect, yeah the cruise-in attendees were first to point that out. "Looks like that fender's been fixed!..".. really? its a 40 year old car of course its been fixed!..

we have seen members buy seriously over-rusted busses here on the forum before.. ones that werent salvageable.. where the body shifted on frame during the maiden voyage or the ribs were rusted all the way through.. or panels so rusty they peeled off like masking tape.. but thosse arent the norm..

rear rust on a bus is somewhat common.. the rear windows and school lights seem to leak more than the front.. that area is a place many otherwise rust-free busses will show some rust.
-Christopher
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