Bus for Sale Guide
Bus for Sale Guide helps you find, choose and buy the right bus the first time. Adding a coach to your tour bus fleet? Looking for a bus conversion candidate or dependable church shuttle? Follow these guidelines to ensure your bus, limo, motorcoach, or recreational bus conversion purchase goes your way.
When you are choosing a bus to convert to a recreational vehicle, church transportation, live aboard unit, or tour business, be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the particular platform you are considering. Visit bus types defined for more information on which type of vehicle is best for you. Read the Seven Commandments for buying a bus first! This buying strategy will save you thousands of dollars and a lifetime of headaches. You may also find the governments list of state transportation websites helpful.
If you haven't seen our bus make and model quick reference chart - browse that next! It identifies many popular major makes and models, complete with a list of advantages and disadvantages.
If you are spending more than $10,000 GET HELP and consult a professional salesman, used bus dealer or broker. See bus companies by state for other dealers I know are reputable, experienced and intelligent enough to be worth every penny they may cost you in "markup". I say "may" cost you because usually they SAVE you money. They purchase the buses wholesale, can mark them up for a fair profit, and still offer them to you retail for less than you will find on the street.
Whether buying from a school district, municipal government, or used bus dealer, you have a number of issues to consider. First you have to decide which type bus you want (see navigational links on the left that appear on every page) then you decide budget and begin research on the individual units in consideration.
Just because a bus is being sold at an auction doesn't mean it's a worn out piece of junk. Usually due to insurance reasons they have been maintained quite well. Many agencies have to sell due to decreased enrollment in a project or funding changes. Sometimes it's simply their policy - no buses over 5 years old or over 200,000 miles, etc.
Trying to save a few bucks on the foundation is unwise. If you need to skimp do so on the cosmetics later. The church kids or tour group aren't going to care if they sit on vinyl or leather, but schedule a big event and have a breakdown due to faulty brakes, and they won't forget it. Your spouse may not mind the firm foam bed mattress you chose, but if the bus won't start, you won't be using the bed at all.
So, you have access to an auction list or an inventory of used buses, or an individual bus in mind. Ask for service records, original paperwork, and recent repair receipts. Everything in the paper trail will help you determine value and avoid potential problems. It will also reward you with some eye opening information.
Oh, you mean you didn't know an engine swap could cost $3,000? Surprised that a brake job with rotors and new lines was $1,400? Or that at tire mounted and balanced might cost $400? Receipts and paperwork are very valuable. Carefully look through the paperwork and avoid the purchase of buses with no paper trail at all. Look for weird situations.
Finding a receipt for an AC charge might be good, if its recent. Come across receipts for an AC charge done three times in the last year and you have a problem. Of the receipts don't have the bus VIN on them how do you know the receipts are for the bus your looking at.
Rule of thumb when buying a bus for one tenth the original price. BUDGET for parts an labor on ANY mechanical part for which you don't have a good history, receipt trail, or ability to inspect. In other words if you can't verify it's condition then don't buy the bus unless you can afford to replace it, part by part. That means: AC, brakes, hydraulic lines, engine compression, transmission condition, steering and front end parts, electrical system from the wiring harness to the gauges, alternator and fuse panels, tires, body, and glass, air compressor buildup and recovery times, and many other items your mechanic can advise you about. This is especially true when buying for a committee or group where you have to answer to alot of people long term for the purchase such as when buying a church bus.
It is possible to buy a used school bus for $5,000 that originally sold for over $70,000 or a nearly indestructible stainless steel passenger coach for 10% of the original price. With such a great bargain to begin with, you really shouldn't purchase anything but the best foundation you can afford. You may later choose to spend $10,000 to $30,000 or hundreds of hours of your time on converting or customizing the bus or establishing yourself as a dependable tour operator. Do you really want to build on a shell that has a bad frame? Do you really want to invest so much in a bus that has a bad engine or transmission that you must fight with?
Rust - When buying a used bus remember - rust cannot be stopped. Rust does not rest. Rust MUST be taken seriously no matter how cheap your bus candidate is. If you think you can sheet metal and bondo your way to a permanent fix, think again. If the rust is just a little, it'll grow quickly by the time you're done investing a lot of your time and money. A little rust on the body surface may be acceptable for the price. Do not, however, accept structural rust, heavily flaking frames, rusting-out fenders or hood hinge mounts. Anything that would be a major problem when (not if) it gets twice as bad as it is now, will make you very sorry.
Service Records - If it's been in fleet use, it has one. If you're buying from a middle man and he can't produce it, you may have problems, possibly serious ones. If not, he'd be proudly displaying the records. Check how long since the engine rebuild - they last about 75 -125,000 miles, depending on whether they are driven stop and go in the mountains or over long stretches of flat highway.
Leaks - Look for ANY signs of leaks, particularly from Automatic Transmissions. Some Allison transmissions used in buses have weak front seals and leak when the transmission gets really hot. Don't buy a bus with a leaky transmission. A replacement Allison can cost $5,000 parts and labor. Leaking brake components or hydraulic systems can be expensive to repair also.
Engines - get the biggest engine you can afford, especially if you are adding conversion weight to the vehicle. There is NO substitute for size (raw cubic inches) I don't care what the ads say. My car has a 440 in it why would you buy a 65 passenger bus with a 318?
Transmissions - try for an automatic unless you have a real preference. Older standard shifts are MUCH harder to sell because many older coaches are purchased as conversion candidates. Retirees mostly buy motor home conversions and they don't like to shift. Allison makes the best transmission systems. Explore the links on the right for more comprehensive bus for sale help.
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