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Old 04-27-2021, 07:48 AM   #1
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Question Has anyone ever purchased a bus without seeing it in person first?

Is that absolutely insane or is that normal to purchase a bus without seeing it in person first? I ask because I see some seemingly good buses for good prices in some online auctions. Some allow pre-inspection and some are strictly online due to covid.

What would yall recommend?

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Old 04-27-2021, 08:21 AM   #2
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I bought sight unseen, other than pics, then flew from Atl to LA to Alq rented a car to get to Aztec NM picked up the bus and drove home 1600Miles.

But yeahhhh... I'm insane.
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Old 04-27-2021, 08:25 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by cntryby View Post
I bought sight unseen, other than pics, then flew from Atl to LA to Alq rented a car to get to Aztec NM picked up the bus and drove home 1600Miles.

But yeahhhh... I'm insane.
Haha thanks for the reply. It's worked out for you overall? Were you afraid the bus wouldn't run?
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Old 04-27-2021, 08:26 AM   #4
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It's pretty common for people to buy buses from online auctions sight unseen - there's a limit to how much beforehand travel you can do, especially when bidding on buses thousands of miles away. If you're not a mechanic type, there's also a limit on how much you'd be able to find out about the bus just from seeing it in person. You can detect bad rust that is hidden in pictures, but the rust problem can be avoided by not bidding on a bus from the salt zone in the first place.
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Old 04-27-2021, 09:29 AM   #5
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I've never seen a bus before buying. Just how its always worked out for me.
only 1 dud in 6 and even that one made it home and never fully failed.
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Old 04-27-2021, 09:37 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
It's pretty common for people to buy buses from online auctions sight unseen - there's a limit to how much beforehand travel you can do, especially when bidding on buses thousands of miles away. If you're not a mechanic type, there's also a limit on how much you'd be able to find out about the bus just from seeing it in person. You can detect bad rust that is hidden in pictures, but the rust problem can be avoided by not bidding on a bus from the salt zone in the first place.
Oh really? I wasn't aware of that. That's good to know. How do people navigate auctions where they don't get to inspect it? Do you just pray for the best?
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Old 04-27-2021, 09:38 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
I've never seen a bus before buying. Just how its always worked out for me.
only 1 dud in 6 and even that one made it home and never fully failed.
That's awesome. It sounds like what I'm hearing is that some of the adventure will be in taking a leap of faith.
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Old 04-27-2021, 10:39 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buslivesmatter View Post
Haha thanks for the reply. It's worked out for you overall? Were you afraid the bus wouldn't run?
I've been turning wrenches in some form or another for 40 years. This is relevant because I called the county bus shop who had the bus and talked to the service manager and the tech who maintained the bus. I knew how to ask the questions I wanted answers to.

They were really cool and let me ship stuff to their location so I could pick them up when I went to get the bus. I sent suspension air bags, and tools. I figured if needed I'd get a bottle jack locally, to heavy to ship.

I had all those conversations before I ever bid.

Ended up not needing to do anything but fuel up to get home. Didn't even have to add oil.

I have some repairs to do, but I knew that when I bid. If I had to pay someone else to do the repairs, it wouldn't be worth it for me.

I did have fun on the trip.
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Old 04-27-2021, 10:55 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by cntryby View Post
I've been turning wrenches in some form or another for 40 years. This is relevant because I called the county bus shop who had the bus and talked to the service manager and the tech who maintained the bus. I knew how to ask the questions I wanted answers to.

They were really cool and let me ship stuff to their location so I could pick them up when I went to get the bus. I sent suspension air bags, and tools. I figured if needed I'd get a bottle jack locally, to heavy to ship.

I had all those conversations before I ever bid.

Ended up not needing to do anything but fuel up to get home. Didn't even have to add oil.

I have some repairs to do, but I knew that when I bid. If I had to pay someone else to do the repairs, it wouldn't be worth it for me.

I did have fun on the trip.
This is wise. Thank you. I may hold off on my purchase until I can make sure I have time to do these things.

What types of questions did you ask the shop? Is there a list of questions like that to ask here?
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Old 04-27-2021, 11:01 AM   #10
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Oh really? I wasn't aware of that. That's good to know. How do people navigate auctions where they don't get to inspect it? Do you just pray for the best?
Most buses are sold due to age more than any other reason. These buses were maintained on a regular monthly service in most cases. The buses are listed at an auction site, but stored usually at the school bus yard. There is always a contact number for info on the bus, and many will connect you with the garage and provide all maintenance records, or at least answer any question you may have. The school is not trying to get over on anyone, so you'll get accurate answers. Bottom line is you still pays your money and takes your chances on a sight unseen bus. I've been lucky and found a perfect bus about 2500 miles away. Happy searching.
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Old 04-27-2021, 11:11 AM   #11
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Oh really? I wasn't aware of that. That's good to know. How do people navigate auctions where they don't get to inspect it? Do you just pray for the best?
We just picked up our bus about 3 weeks ago from an Los Angeles auction - we only saw the pictures and got a confirmation that the bus starts and "runs". I have VERY limited mechanical knowledge, but I'm pretty savvy.

I researched engines and transmissions for about 3 months, shopped for our bus for about 4 months. When I saw the photos on the auction site I knew I had to act, just kind of a gut feeling: it was our exact engine, transmission, and bus length and we just couldn't let it go. Took her home for $3900
I went with the "pray for the best" route and it worked out fine. Everything is in top-shape for a '95, and we drove her home to Vegas with no problems. I was thinking in the worst-case scenario I'd track down a mobile mechanic or truck driver and pay them cash to help me figure out what was wrong - but that didn't happen

I'm a newbie - but my advice is do TONS of research, creep hard on this forum (there is SO much good advice here, you just have to find it). While researching you will get to know what good/bad engines and bodies look like, where to look for rust, what specs you're looking for, etc. Once you have your "perfect bus" in mind - stick to that (within reason), and be diligent:
  • I made a list of links to every bus selling site within a reasonable traveling distance. This way, every day when I woke up, ate lunch, and before bed, I could just click through all of the links. This saved me a ton of time and headache, instead of searching "school bus for sale" every day.
  • I also made a spreadsheet tracking bus sales I was watching so I could keep track of pricing, how fast they sold, which one's I inquired about or bid on, etc.

Finding a bus close to home, that you can inspect, in working order, that isn't $10k + became a pipe dream for me so I had to take a leap or I would still be sitting here shopping for a bus!
Stay strong, don't give up - your bus is out there!
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Old 04-27-2021, 11:20 AM   #12
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That's awesome. It sounds like what I'm hearing is that some of the adventure will be in taking a leap of faith.
Even people who "pony up" for dealer buses don't always get home on the maiden voyage. The dealers buy the same buses for sale at the auctions and they wouldn't be making much money if they did a whole lot of repair.
Yep- its all a leap of faith. Get the best bus you can as cheap as you can at auction and if you don't like what you get its EASY to sell a bus these days.
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Old 04-27-2021, 12:28 PM   #13
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From what I have seen if the bus is from a school district it is more than likely ready to drive. If you buy it from a church… plan to tow it home.
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Old 04-27-2021, 12:36 PM   #14
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We did. No issue.
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Old 04-27-2021, 12:41 PM   #15
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We did. No issue.
Thanks. How far did you have to drive it home?
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Old 04-27-2021, 12:42 PM   #16
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From what I have seen if the bus is from a school district it is more than likely ready to drive. If you buy it from a church… plan to tow it home.
I appreciate the insight. I was looking at a school board bus.
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Old 04-27-2021, 12:44 PM   #17
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Thanks. How far did you have to drive it home?
We don't have a home ... So it was a 1500 miles one way trip, and we built it where it was located (Texas).
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Old 04-27-2021, 01:09 PM   #18
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I drove from GA to OR to see a TC1000 that I thought I wanted to buy for $5500. Guy wouldn't let me test drive it. It had a bit of surface rust outside and moss growing on the seats inside. No deal. But it was the size I wanted. Saw another bus on auction in Eugene, test drove it, but was outbid at over $6000.



Then I saw another TC1000 in Tucson on auction ending before I could get there: "starts with a jump and drives, with check engine light". I bid just over $2000, thinking I could rebuild/replace the motor or tranny and still be in that $5000-$6000 range. Paid $2285 with taxes and fees. No rust at all! And with 2 large A/C units!



Had many minor issues, bad batteries, alternator, battery isolator, coolant hoses, water pump, tranny hoses, etc., all that were issues within a month/2K miles. I'm a mechanic, so no prob for me. Check Engine light was insignificant, and I ended up fixing it randomly by disconnecting and reconnecting a wire. Since then I replaced the brakes' air compressor also. Also replaced all the A/C hoses. Maybe close to $5500 that the first bus costs, but got a clean bus with all issues fixed instead.


So, yea, sight unseen (except for a few pics) and it worked out for me. Motor and tranny seem solid.
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Old 04-27-2021, 03:12 PM   #19
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Every auction bus we've purchased, and some of the others through eBay or Facebook marketplace, we purchased without having seen them in person first.

If you balance your emergency resources against the value, or potential value, of the bus then you will know whether that makes sense or not. It's different for every person and every situation.

Of the main auction sites I do really like GovDeals the best. They allow bidders to ask questions and those become part of the description. So if you ask about rust and the response, which gets posted for all to see, says the rust is not structural then you have some protection. If you buy a bus through their auction site and find out, when you go to pick it up, that it is not as described then you have that one opportunity to walk away before you take it from the lot. You will get your money back.
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Old 04-27-2021, 06:25 PM   #20
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We purchased our Crown without seeing it in person from a small CA school district about 1800 miles away. I called and spoke with their transportation guy who provided pics and electronic copies of maintenance records.

Made the decision to purchase it since they were getting a lot of interest they had not expected. It would have definitely sold for what they wanted given the engine only had around 60-70k on a rebuild and the Bus itself just over 100k. The district purchased the Bus new and after the rebuild just used it as an activity Bus.
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