"Is Bus Life for Me?"
As cool as the tiny home movement in school buses is, I do have to stress that it's not for everyone. If you are the kind of person who gets frustrated with curveballs, I wouldn't recommend school buses. In my humble opinion, as safe as school buses are, they are just as unpredictable. You will have problems and your bus won't always perform the way you expect it to. I personally love overcoming a challenge and getting the better hand of a bus issue. You'll find that all used buses have "personality" or "quirks" and like raising a child you will encounter different issues. Be ready for them and embrace it. You will grow as a person.
"How many more miles can I expect out of my school bus?"
The answer everyone hates: "it depends." Most used school buses you find will have around 200,000 miles. That's because most public school districts discard school buses around 180,000 miles. Now just because you hear the phrase "diesel engine" that doesn't mean your bus is getting 1,000,000 miles like tractor trailers. Buses have medium/light duty diesel engines and wear down faster than a Semi Truck. The most I've seen on a single engine is 360,000 miles, but I've read about 400,000- 500,000 miles. It all depends on the maintenance and care. In my two years experience as a driver the most common issue of engines dying is lack of coolant or oil (please don't be victim of this: CHECK YOUR FLUIDS ALWAYS) With used buses it's common that a line cracks and drops your fluid. Don't let a minor occurrence turn into a ruined engine. Build a relationship with your vehicle and monitor crucial functions.
Yes and no. In the beginning, before your conversion, the bus is still a 26,000lb vehicle capable of carrying passengers. On the road, legally you must have a CDL. The circumstances quickly change when you remove the seats and proceed to convert your title. You have the ability to reclassify the title to "Motorhome" if you follow the necessary procedures and documentation to prove to the State you are converting. Once you submit the documents and reclassify your title you will no longer be required to carry a CDL to drive your new home :) Email me for me details about this.
"Do I need a Commercial Driver's License to Drive a School Bus?"
I have nothing to base this answer on except from friends and online forums, but I do prefer the DT466 by International (also known as Navistar). The transmission I usually look for is the MT - 643. A beefier transmission more suitable for highway speeds. This is the combination that is equipped on my bus and I couldn't be happier. I usually trust International, Caterpillar, and Cummins. I have found that although all three companies are reliable parts are expensive. From Most expensive to affordable: Caterpillar, International, Cummins.
Watch for these combinations:
Engines: 1) DT 466 2) Cummins 8.3 L 3) Cummins 5.9 4) CAT 3126B
Transimssions: 1) MT - 643 2) MD 3060
"What's your favorite combination of Engine and Transmission Model?"
You'll begin a relationship with someone who is going through the same thing as you are. I won't have all the answers, but I can figure out where to get those answers. As a fleet manager for a party bus company and a school bus company in Commerce City, I can help you find the best prices for rubber, the best places for parts and filters, and quickly diagnose problems you may have. By no means am I a diesel mechanic, but I've seen enough to know about certain symptoms your bus may experience. I am experienced with changing filters and fluids and have a knack at problem solving when it comes to electrical wiring. I also do carry my CDL Class B so if you need a bus delivered, or emission tested, I can help you legally transport your vehicle. I'm excited to build a grassroots community of adventurists with "skoolies" as it takes a certain breed of people to begin a bus conversion. I cannot guarantee an immediate response at all times since I work a full time job, but you will always receive advice and a response.