Looking at different types of buses for sale for your conversion can be a daunting task – we get it. Initially, all we knew about school buses were that they transported us to and from school when we were younger.
When the idea came into our heads to build a bus conversion, we became overwhelmed with how many different types of buses there were for sale.
After hours of conducting our own research, we realized that purchasing the right skoolie all comes down to what you plan on using it for! Check out these key factors before you go out and find your dream bus.
Bus Length and Style
There are TONS of different types of buses to choose from including high-tops and low-tops, truck or van chassis, flat noses, or dog nose buses. While some of it does come down to preference, there are a few things to take into consideration when making your final decision.
WHAT’S YOUR TRAVELING STYLE?
Will you be working full-time on the road? How many people (or pets) do you plan on traveling with? Are a shower and toilet important to you? What are you most comfortable driving? These are all important questions to ask yourself when looking at the different types of buses to choose from.
If you plan on spending most of your time traveling to different campgrounds, a full-sized school bus may be ideal for you. They provide space for people looking to accommodate 2+ people. Also, consider that a larger school bus will affect how easy it is to stay in specific locations.
A smaller sized school bus may be a more ideal option for you if you plan on doing a lot of traveling and boondocking with the goal of staying under the radar. Generally speaking, most state and national parks have vehicle restrictions of 21 to 28 feet to enter. If your goal is to visit the parks around the country, you are going to have to consider a smaller bus OR towing another vehicle. Smaller buses also mean less demolition, renovations, and money!
So, what’s the catch? Unfortunately, you will have fewer amenities to choose from. They can also be more expensive to purchase.
While a bit rarer to find, there are also medium-sized school buses that kinda give people the best of both worlds (that’s actually what our school bus conversion, “Charlotte”, is)!
General Note: It has been known that some RV parks may not let dog nose buses inside the premises. However, they are generally more lenient with flat noses. Take this into consideration if you plan on wanting or needing to use an RV park.
HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH DRIVING A LARGER VEHICLE?
School buses are LARGE vehicles, and you have to think about this when looking at the different types of buses and sizes for your conversion. If you aren’t as comfortable with driving such a large vehicle, a smaller sized school bus may be a more realistic option for you.
You also need to consider the turning radius of the bus. A smaller wheelbase has a smaller turning base, making it easier to turn. On the other hand, bigger wheelbases have a larger turning radius that may take longer to get used to. Flat nose buses usually have a smaller wheelbase than dog nose buses.
Many buses come with either hydraulic or air brakes. Air brakes take some time getting used to, but practice makes perfect.
The largest buses can be approximately 45 feet. The short buses range from 19 to 22 feet.
To find out more information about the different types of bus sizes, check out our article: 3 Types of School Bus Sizes for Your Conversion
HOW IMPORTANT IS BUS HEIGHT TO YOU?
Most school buses for sale come in either a high top or low top styles for interior height. Low top ceilings are usually at 5’10” while a high top is at 6’4″. If you want an even higher ceiling, you’re going to want to do a roof raise. If done professionally, you are looking at spending another $8K-$14K.
Drivetrain Options On Different Types of Buses
Different types of buses offer different types of drivetrains. You need to consider the lifestyle you plan on living and the traveling you plan on doing in order to make a well-informed decision.
HIGH-GEARED (MOUNTAIN) BUS
Mountain buses have higher torque and lower top speed. In other words, they will have a higher RPM, which results in poor gas mileage. Mountain buses are great at climbing and descending mountain passes with ease and can get through backroads with no problems. If you are planning on doing a lot of backcountry and mountain exploring, this option could be ideal for you. However, while cruising on long stretches of road or highway, this bus will have slow speeds and guzzle through gas quickly.
LOW-GEARED (HIGHWAY) BUS
Highway buses are much more efficient on fuel and mileage. This style has the potential to save you thousands if you’re traveling long distances. The highway buses are still efficient with accelerating and climbing mountains, but not nearly as fast as a mountain bus. Furthermore, they are much slower at accelerating from stops and would do better in suburban or rural flat areas.
Always Consider the Condition of the Bus
I think this was the most overwhelming part for us when looking at different types of buses. Neither of us are mechanics, so it was difficult to figure out how to find signs of a bus in poor condition.
To make it easier, we made a list of areas to check when checking out a bus for sale. To avoid many of the horror stories you may hear about others going through, take note to check all of these areas prior to making the final purchase:
Whatever you do, DON’T buy a rusty bus! You may think it’s the perfect fit for you (and, sure it may be), but the rust is just not worth dealing with. Rust always comes back, so unless it’s minimal and only surface level, move on.
Remember, surface rust is manageable and can generally be sanded over.
Where to Check for Rust:
–Look underneath the bus. Surface rust is okay, but you should be concerned if it is flaking off when you poke at the metal.
–Look at the wheel wells.
–Look under the windows (specifically the back, above the bumper). Check for paint bubbling or rust seeping out of any rivets or screws.
–Look at the driver and passenger side.
You’re going to want to do a nice evaluation of the tires for thread depth. A simple way to do this is to do the “penny test”: If the penny disappears when placed in the tire tread, you’re tires are good to go. Don’t bother if the tires are old unless the bus is affordable. New tires for a bus can cost a TON of money.
Do any of the windows or windshields have cracks in them? Replacing a bus windshield can be expensive due to how large the glass is. When we bought our bus, our entire front windshield was cracked. We loved the bus, so it was an expense we were willing to deal with and factor into our budget later on.
Ours was a little under $1000 to replace.
4. ENGINE TRANSMISSION
You don’t need to be a mechanic to look at the engine transmission for defects. If you see any black deposits, that generally means there could be leaks or something worse. Another issue not worth dealing with!
5. TEST RIDE
You’re going to want to take the bus for a test ride if it’s allowed. If not, at least start it up. Listen for unusual shaking while steering. This can often mean that the tires have abnormal wear or there are other mechanical issues not worth dealing with.
Here are a few more resources you can use when searching for your school bus: craigstlist.com, publicsurplus.com, or other local bus auction websites. Don’t worry – the perfect bus is out there for you! There are TONS of different types of buses choose from, so don’t get discouraged.