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Old 02-18-2021, 12:12 AM   #1
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Idea (possibly a bad one) that occurred to me

I see more and more newbies making bad purchases without doing their research lately. It has given me pause for thought -- perhaps I should become a bus dealer. The main problem is that I have limited startup capital. Thoughts?
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Old 02-18-2021, 01:19 AM   #2
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I think that’s a great idea. But I also think there’s a lot of bad decisions lately because inventory is so low.

There, snark free
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Old 02-18-2021, 01:39 AM   #3
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But if you want to try your hand at it you don’t need to have a dealer license to start. I’m sure it varies from state to state, but you can sell a number of vehicles a year.

With your expertise you could do a good job buying right and flipping them for a fair markup.
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Old 02-18-2021, 04:52 AM   #4
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I have had a similar thought but I wouldn't want to invest the capital buying buses without a seller already lined up so I think being in a broker type position is safer but then you have the issue that someone uses your connections then bypasses you to save the cost of your services. In either situation too you have the issue of getting to customers BEFORE they've already made a bad purchasing decision and then arrive here looking for redemption.

IF you have/had the capital though it would make sense to start snatching up the best quality and most popular types of buses and then also offering some value-added benefits like tuneups and mechanic certification then pre-delivery upsells like new tires, batteries, deleting lights, livery removal and such. Some may want to keep the purchase price as low as possible while others may appreciate starting with a blank slate and immediately launching into the build without the demolition step. That's probably going to be more profitable than just flipping buses. Anytime I have these ideas that's usually the eventual course they follow.
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Old 02-18-2021, 08:15 AM   #5
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I would'nt.

There are people that have built a reputation on knowledge that now offer services for a large margin fee, like importing large machines from China or locating quality items for decent prices etc. But they had to build that reputation first.


To be successful at buying and selling, you have to offer something that your proposed customer base can not get elsewhere, but that can be confirmed online. You need start up capital and space to store your inventory, as well as insurance to allow customers on the premises and view the bus, take it for a drive, then possibly arrange finance etc. You'd need a decent mark up to make it worth your while and keep your interest up.



Now if you were to acquire the capital, and you have the land to park your inventory, (zoned accordingly) and maybe a shop, you might also offer conversion components and services like seat removal and security item installation etc.



I dont wish to seem a downer. In fact I far prefer to encourage people to get started in something that may either get them to a business on their own or at least make them happy making a few dollars in their spare time. However, I have watched countless people that were certain their idea would pay off, borrow money to start, acquire inventory, sign lease contracts, insurance, unknown fees and taxes such as parking lot and sidewalk maintenance etc., only to close a year later because their unforeseen overhead costs priced them out of the market etc.


There was an established rv repair business for sale locally a while back, I dont know if it is still for sale or not, but that would have been a prime method to incorporate bus sales into. It had a loyal customer base, awesome reputation for quality repair and knowledge sharing. The two owners were retiring and had no successors that wanted to step in.
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Old 02-18-2021, 08:42 AM   #6
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CHEESE_WAGON, I like your idea but I have 1 question. Where are you going to find good buses? Most of the buses I have seen locally being released by school districts are emission laden piles of crap. As you say MAXX FARCE. The entire automotive industry has been consumed by this cancer. Finding good buses is going to be much more difficult as time goes on. Here in NM 200K miles is the limit set by the state that they can be used, but my contact at a bus barn tells me they generally have enough problems before then that they dump them before 200K. Here we also have a lot of buyer competition from buyers from Mexico, taking them to Mexico. And they won't even bid on some of them now.
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Old 02-18-2021, 04:09 PM   #7
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Hi CheeseWagon,


Maybe your knowledge and time c/would be better spent as a Consultant for newbies looking to purchase the bus that best suits their needs.



Inexpensive entry into the enterprise as most of the work could be done online, with little overhead.



Word of mouth advertising, maybe even a one or two page website with a blog. Hook up with various bus sellers/school districts, reliable builders, etc., and build a database, etc.



Just my two cents
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Old 02-18-2021, 05:18 PM   #8
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I kinda like the consultant idea. I wonder how much of a fee would be excessive, and how much I would need to make it worth my time. s2mikon and I are having a private conversation that has given me some ideas that could potentially be worth pursuing, but I would need a good reliable mechanic that really knows their way around these things that is willing to work off commission, at least for the time being.
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Old 02-18-2021, 05:29 PM   #9
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I thought about doing consultation as well, having done a build for my purposes. I wonder what the demand for that is like, doesn't seem to be a fading fad at this point.
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Old 02-18-2021, 05:45 PM   #10
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Serious about it, start a go fund me account and take it from there?
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Old 02-18-2021, 06:34 PM   #11
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Long read, but bear with me -- this got a lot lengthier than I planned.

For starters, I'm just tired of seeing newbies get screwed out of hard-earned money that should have went into their build, by either paying shady flippers outrageous prices for reasonably decent buses, or worse, buying a bus they should never have even looked at. And I have been thinking a great deal about the fact that the proven platforms are getting harder to find.

Add to that, the fact that my asthma critically limits what I can and can't do, and makes it dangerous for me to be in an uncontrolled, open-air environment. How cockeyed is it that I steer people away from emission-controlled diesels when they were supposed to be designed to help clean the air for people like me?

Simple. It's because I know from experience that these systems are unreliable and that many of the engines are problematic at best. My input on a couple threads here and some back-and-forth banter behind the scenes has given me what could be one hell of an idea for a business that could really give the skoolie movement a shot in the arm and make it possible for more newbies to actually get a decent bus, despite the disproportionate overabundance of eco-choked junk on the market vs the ever-fading supply of good buses.

Sure, you could run the risk of swapping out your MaxxFarce boat anchor for tried-and-true DT466 or 7.3, but even though RVs are exempt from most regulations, a non-emission engine swap in a vehicle with factory emission controls is a no-no, and a damned big fine comes with it if caught. And quite frankly, folks, I have seen the light about emission controls. Diesel emissions have personally impacted me, as they have forced me to give up a good career that I loved, driving 18-wheelers. I then retreated to rideshare (a colossal driver and rider rip-off), but have been furloughed due to COVID, as the severity of the asthma I have makes me extremely high-risk.

So what to do? I've had a revelation of sorts. I see a lot of new folks dropping $10k on a MaxxFarce RE because it's newer and shinier and oh, look at the low miles... Wait, what's that funny light on the dash? Why is my bus slowing down? Wait, Mr. Mechanic, what's a piston? What's a DPF?

Boys and girls, most of you may not remember, but way, way, way back in the day, very few, if any, school buses were diesels. I grew up through the early 80s to the early 90s in a very rural 290 square mile county with a fleet of approximately 45-50 school buses, including spares. All were 64-66 passenger, which was as big as they came at the time to my knowledge. Not one diesel in the lot. Not one had air brakes, and not one had an automatic transmission.

The Chevy/GMC variants had tall-deck 366 big-block V-8s, more or less an industrial engine adapted to commercial truck use. The Fords were mostly 330s, 361s, 391s. We even still had a few Dodges back then, though I could only guess what powered those -- 440s, perhaps, as they were common in motorhomes back then.

You see, these were nothing more than a long wheelbase Class 6/7 truck chassis with a bus body instead of a cab, and that's essentially all most of them are now, with the exception of REs. Though the REs have mechanicals that are much more similar than you might think.

The only difference is that somewhere along the line, a bean-counter figured out that diesels were more efficient and that it was likely that air brakes would at least slightly reduce maintenance costs. And many drivers were having problems with their legs and knees from pushing a clutch pedal all day that were causing them to fail the physical when the CDL became mandatory. And that, boys and girls, is why through the 1990s, more and more school buses were ordered with diesel engines, automatic transmissions, and air brakes.

It's not that a gasser cannot power a skoolie. It can, and they've always been able to. They're just not as efficient. But then, diesels are worse for the environment, and they contribute greatly to air pollution and respiratory problems as well.

The MaxxFarce is a rather-growing poison pill as of late. Those in the know obviously avoid them, cherry-picking the tried-and-true pre-07/08 Navistar DTs, T444s, and the like, leaving uninformed newbies to overbid on the junk left over. But what if there were a way to make these buses more reliable, while making them less harmful to the environment? There IS.

No, I'm not talking about an electric conversion -- that's pie-in-the-sky, Bill Nye the Science Guy BS. Yes, I am aware that Thomas and other manufacturers are now offering factory electric school buses. You got $200k? Neither do I. You got a reliable way of charging it? Neither do I. Battery technology is rapidly improving, but none of it means diddly without a reliable means of charging. And even then, range is quite limited.

I can tell you personally that I have SEEN why electric buses are not as practical as you might think. The closest city (I call it a sh*tty, because it's truthfully a small college town that got too big for its britches) bought several brand-new electric transit buses for its city routes.

They quickly found out that these turds could not pull a hill even half-loaded, and people were having to get off and help push the POS up the hill before they could continue their ride. So they were furloughed, and quietly auctioned off at pennies on the dollar to the next city that had a 'Eureka!' moment.

So if I'm not talking about electric conversions, what AM I talking about? Well, it is illegal to remove, disable or tamper with emissions equipment. Any vehicle must conform with emissions requirements for the model year in which it was delivered new.... OR.... In the case of repower, emissions requirements applicable to the model year of the engine used to repower such vehicle. What this means:

A 1998 Blue Bird could be repowered with a 2009 Cummins, provided all the emissions controls are intact and functional. I saw one such beast at auction. But realistically, who would want to do such a swap? Diesel emissions controls are exponentially more complex and quirky than those for gasoline engines.

So what's the next best thing, you might ask? A rather common trend in the street rod world is the restomod, which is more or less a cosmetically restored classic or muscle car with a modern powertrain swap, such as GM's LS-series V8s. All perfectly legal, as long as emissions controls remain intact. Perhaps now the clouds are parting a little?

Bus manufacturers aren't stupid. School districts could only be fooled for awhile, and they have begun to see the light. Recently I have seen two brand-new school buses that were totaled en route before delivery show up on salvage auction blocks. One was a real shame, 2020 Blue Bird Vision with less than 700 miles -- on a Ford 6.8L V10 gasser. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the next generation of skoolies are returning to gas power after about a 30-year-hiatus. So why can't we?

The answer's simple. We CAN. There's no rule anywhere that says you cannot replace an emission-controlled engine with another emission-controlled engine -- it just has to have all its own emission controls intact and functional. Meaning it should be perfectly legal to replace a MaxxFarce boat anchor with an emission-controlled gasser. Diesel to gasoline conversions are nothing new -- they were quite common in the days of the Oldsmobile diesel. What made those swaps easier is that the vehicle's VINs were listed as diesel, which for the model years in question were emissions-exempt.

There are plenty of RVs with leaky roofs and other damage being sold for salvage at insurance auctions, or that private owners simply want to dump, that have low-mileage on complete, running and driving, perfectly intact mechanicals. And many of them are factory built with GM 8.1s, Ford Triton V10s, even a few 5.4s out there, not to mention there are plenty of older ones with the likes of the Ford 460, Chevy 454, etc., that are still fairly low mileage and perfect candidates for a powertrain/drivetrain or body swap.

This would also mean getting away from other modern nuisances such as the air-over-hydraulic parking brakes and the pesky Wabco electric/hydraulic parking brake that won't stay fixed in newer Navistars, as well as the common diesel fuel injection issues that seem to be common to the newer VT365s and MaxxFarces. An added bonus would be the ability to offer an additional package of the various RV bits from the donor. Now THAT'S a bus that would be worth paying $10k or more for.

Think about it -- repurposing what would otherwise simply sit and rot away to replace what is not only a problem, but worse for the environment. You don't get much greener than that -- far more emissions are put into the air by diesels than gassers, and far more emissions are put into the air by shredding and melting down steel and iron than by simply repurposing the mechanicals of an existing drivetrain, especially if it is emission-equipped.

The trouble is, it takes a good mechanic capable of doing such work right, some startup capital, a suitable space to do such conversions, and the willingness to see a vision to fruition. And it would give the bus market a much-needed shot in the arm, while providing newbies with much better options. I may have (very limited) startup capital, but I need partners for this idea that I can trust and rely on to work with me.

Thoughts?
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Old 02-18-2021, 06:50 PM   #12
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All good ideas, and there would probably be interested municipalities that would send you their business.
Location for the proposed business would be best near large cities, with plenty of suburban municipalities to augment the business "flow".

As you're aware, you'd have to have deep pockets $$$ initially to get such a business up and running.
And then the dreaded warranty and recall work. Potential headaches for a fledgling business but with the right personnel running the administrative side, it might still work!

You'll never know unless you try! No guts, no glory so to speak!
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Old 02-18-2021, 06:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHEESE_WAGON View Post
The trouble is, it takes a good mechanic capable of doing such work right, some startup capital, a suitable space to do such conversions, and the willingness to see a vision to fruition. And it would give the bus market a much-needed shot in the arm, while providing newbies with much better options. I may have (very limited) startup capital, but I need partners for this idea that I can trust and rely on to work with me.

Thoughts?
You need more than a mechanic or two I'd think... Here's my pie-in-the-sky take on your idea: machining capabilities needed to craft custom mounting plates for the client's chassis, combined with a set of (two or three maybe?) crate engine/transmission combos that will each serve a segment of the market, combined with your own replacement electronics. Everything to replace the user's power train, the custom/difficult part being fitting the engine/transmission in place securely and connecting to the driveshaft.
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Old 02-18-2021, 07:38 PM   #14
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Love the idea of going gas. That triton is an awesome engine. Ford is really putting some serious r&d into the heavy duty gas segment.



As you mention, the old GM diesel conversions. I removed a 6.2 and installed a 454 in it's place. Direct fit.
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Old 02-18-2021, 08:19 PM   #15
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Hi CheeseWagon,


Maybe your knowledge and time c/would be better spent as a Consultant for newbies looking to purchase the bus that best suits their needs.



Inexpensive entry into the enterprise as most of the work could be done online, with little overhead.



Word of mouth advertising, maybe even a one or two page website with a blog. Hook up with various bus sellers/school districts, reliable builders, etc., and build a database, etc.



Just my two cents
My thoughts exactly! Connecting buyers and sellers for finder fees both ways, giving opinions about buses buyers have found, general education consultation, online zoom classes, etc.
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Old 02-19-2021, 06:21 AM   #16
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I like the consultant idea myself. I also hate seeing newbies buying a bus with a known problem child engine, but in my honest opinion people need to learn from their mistakes. You can't fix stupid and most newbies do no research before diving in.

Too much capital, need a large building, and work like engine swaps is honestly not very cost effective costing the customer thousands of dollars.
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Old 02-19-2021, 08:02 AM   #17
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The same people who most need a consultant may also be the most hesitant to employ one. People simply don't know what they don't know.
From my limited time here, it seems that a lot of first time bus buyers simply don't have enough money to buy a quality bus and convert it to a finished skoolie. Once something goes wrong (rust, engine, tranny problem, etc.) - they don't have the reserves or financial capacity to recover from the hit. For example, a buyer pays 4k for a bus and has an additional 4k to spend on conversion, planning to do most of the work themselves. There's simply no room in their budget for an engine swap or total rust-ectomy.
I've learned my lesson on smaller vehicles - I have an old Scout that came to me with much greater rust than I'd planned for. I've learned my lesson. Next time, I'm going to start with the best vehicle I can afford. If I can't afford a good one (rust free with my preferred mechanicals) I'll wait until I can, or until the idea passes.
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Old 02-19-2021, 08:29 AM   #18
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I think the idea is admirable. But I don't think it's going to work. It's probably a 10:1 ratio of people on here who buy a bus and then ask what to do vs people who ask for advice and then buy. So you'll essentially only be catering to a handful of people in the latter group, and those people are already serviced by us for free.

Truthfully, I feel if a person wanted to make some money, they could setup a shop near a bus dealer, process their returns before they list them, and then buy the cream off the top before the average joe gets a chance to. The shop could then do the simple demo work like seat removal and painting, and then sell buses "skoolie ready".

The biggest problem I see for the future of skoolies though, is that the prime conversion candidates aren't really being sold anymore. We're getting to the point that all decommissioned buses have the emissions stuff on them. I guess one could make money buying those, deleting them, and then reselling, but I question the legality of such an operation.
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Old 02-19-2021, 09:15 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Booyah45828 View Post

The biggest problem I see for the future of skoolies though, is that the prime conversion candidates aren't really being sold anymore. We're getting to the point that all decommissioned buses have the emissions stuff on them. I guess one could make money buying those, deleting them, and then reselling, but I question the legality of such an operation.
Yep. In a few years it will be 2020 buses sold and the new fangled electrics with worn out battery packs. It may be that the 2020 and newer units will be more reliable but I would not bank on it. As far as doing deletes to a skoolie it is illegal and as the EPA gets more aggressive at enforcement we may not have that option. A couple of years ago a garbage company in southern CA was hammered by the Feds and charged with federal class e felonies just for this kind of behavior. Even the poor mechanic who was probably just following orders was charged. So if you want to do a delete I think you may want to do it on the QT. Skoolie conversions will be relegated to the dinosaur museum. This may also explain the prices that some of these things bring. I think that the future of diesel school buses look dim. Ford has a new gas engine out that looks promising, if they don't screw it up. The company my son works for used to buy only 3/4 ton diesel pickups. They have penciled it out and only buy gasoline powered trucks now. They run them to 200K or the first major repair and scrap them. Have you noticed the decline in used car lots? Even small towns had a couple now you have go to a large city to find them. Short buses with gas engines may be the only option. And that may be a good business model for you. Besides as more parents home school as I'm seeing here we will need less buses.
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Old 02-19-2021, 09:52 AM   #20
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The pre-emissions supply problem for skoolies is one of many reasons I'm looking hard at an MCI or other coach chassis for my next build.
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