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What all can you do with a old school bus?

14663 Views 54 Replies 36 Participants Last post by  Jim S.
I've always dreamed of buying a school bus and making it into a RV camper. Well the nearby high school is having a auction to get rid of a bunch of stuff. Computers, desk, office equipment, kitchen equipment, etc, etc, and a school bus. The last time I went to the school auction they had 2 buses and both went for only around $200. each. They both was in running order but high mileage.

Well what if any ideals could you do with a school bus? I've also thought about buying one and remodel it into a commercial kitchen for my wife to use. I would park it and put it up on blocks if I done this.

Or, park it on a leased hunting land and make a hunting lodge out of it.
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Just keep in mind that because of it's weight, it is a class B vehicle and you'll need a CDL to drive it.

Take a look at the inspection stickers to see if it is up to par, or just an old beater that they want to get rid of.

I used to be a school bus fleet mechanic, and have repaired more of the big yellow monster than I care to think about.

Some repairs may require expensive parts and tools that are beyond the kind you'd normally find in your tool box. Most of them will have Cummins straight 6 turbochaged diesel engines, some will have International 6's or 8's. Some, depending on age, will have a gasoline powered V-8, but you don't run into that too much nowadays.

I've always thought about converting one to a camper in such a way that it has the sides cut away on the back to make a porch. The porch would be used to haul motorcycles or a Jeep while on the road so we'd have something small to drive when we got wherever we were going.

I've seen lots of busses converted to be race car haulers, they are just wide enough to drive a car up into it if you convert the back to a ramp.

For $200, buy it, have fun with it, and if it dies on you, park it in front of your house to use as a shed and keep property values down. Who knows, it may keep snooty city people from moving in across the street from you LOL.
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freeinalaska said:
Here's a couple of my favorite bus conversions. Pyrodon is right about school bus conversions being less than welcome in many campgrounds and RV parks. Hey Buspete is that CDL requirement set in stone in all states? It seems that the owners of conversions I've known never mentioned that they had to have a CDL.
You know, I'm not sure if the various weight classifications are on the state or federal level. My license was in Massachusetts, and when I moved to NH they just transferred the same class of license at the DMV. I don't work at a bus company any more (had enough of grease and bloody scalps from whacking my head on things), but I kept the CDL so I could rent bigger trucks now and again.

A full sized school bus is in the 14,000 -20,000 pound range. I think the biggest thing you can drive with a regular passenger car license is 10,000 pounds. There is usually additional licensing to be done on top of the CDL to actually drive a bus as a bus (in other words, with passengers) and even more to drive it as a school bus (I.E. with school children).

Take the screaming kids out, and busses are fun to drive. They are even yellow, like big stupid Tonka trucks. Which reminds me, the yellow-with-black-stripe that is the standard motif for a school bus will need to be changed to be legal. You'll have to remove all of the lettering, the red lights and stop sign too.
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When I still worked for the bus company, we made a couple of roadtrips to the Thomas bus factory in High Point, NC and the Blue Bird factory in Ontario (forget the town) to pick up new busses and bring them home. It's kind of cool to see how they build them. The bodies are assembled as a unit and the chassis are put together separately. Then they just drop the body onto the chassis and clamp it down.

When we were there, there were a couple of guys driving just the chassis around for some reason. They had a chair clamped to the frame to sit on, but beyond that it was just a frame with the hood. They had some kind of repair or dealer plate on them and actually drove them to town that way (still not sure why).

For the NC trip, we rode down from Mass. in a motor coach on a hot summer day, climbed aboard brand new busses that we were not familiar with (transit style instead of conventional) and drove them the 860 miles home. No sleep down or back. Probably half the people driving them had never driven an air brake vehicle before. There were a few people who dinged them on the barrier posts around the gas pumps, and I think there was one that scraped the guardrail, but no major crashes. It's actually kind of a miracle. Poor planning at it's finest! :nono:

The next year, when we went to Ontario, they planned it better. We brought back 100 busses that time. They even planned for a hotel for us to stay in that had a parking lot big enough for 100 school busses. Of course a bunch of people stayed up partying and drinking half the night and had to drive the last 300 miles with hangovers... :rolleyes:
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Chuck said:
Funny you should mention this, I've been looking to purchase a school bus lately. Down here in Panama, they use old buses from the U.S. as public transportation. You can sell an old, beat-up used bus here for about 13,000 - 15,000 dollars. I'm looking to ship a couple down here and sell 'em.
Wow, this is like real estate: location-location-location!

A servicable used bus that is too old for most contracts but still perfectly good and functional can be had for $3k-$5k. Sea freight can't be that expensive. This might really be worth looking into.

These days, a lot of school district contracts specify that the busses can't be more than 5-6 years old. Contracts are usually for three years, so new busses are often purchased for a new contract. A lot of older US busses go to Mexico. Panama is a bit of a drive, and I suspect that you could probably ship one "rolloff" on a cargo ship for a couple of grand.
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