Last time we spoke, I explained why we chose a bus for our nomad home rather than an RV . Now, since EVERYONE has asked, here is how we chose our bus, where we found her and how you can do the same!
When we started our research, we kept hearing about skoolie.net.
This forum is set up a lot like Reddit. It can be a little difficult to navigate but is well worth the time. Everything you might want to know about building your school bus home can be found there. This site has been extremely useful in this whole process.
The first thing we needed to decide, if we wanted a dog-nose or a flat-nose school bus.
A “Dog-nose” school bus is one with the engine in front of the driver. A “flat-nose” bus will either have the engine under the driver or in the back of the bus.
While a dog-nose bus will hold onto its bus-look, a flat-nose school bus can appear more like an RV.
Many skoolie owners have mentioned that some RV parks don’t allow skoolies. A flat-nose school bus might be accepted to more RV parks. But the thing that really helped us decide was this image from Buslandia.net. It shows what potential usable space you could have in a full size (40 foot) school bus. We now knew we wanted a flat nose school bus. LOL.
Next we thought about the length of bus we wanted. There are many different sizes of buses available. From short buses to long buses. The length of bus you choose would depend on a few factors, how you want to camp and how much space you need. For us, we want to camp in National and state parks as much as possible and we are not concerned about stealth camping (camping in secret..shhh) in cities. We learned that many state and national parks were built at a time when RVs didn’t get longer than 35′. If we wanted to take advantage of those places we needed to stay under 35 feet. We also like to have friends visit and I have a son, so space is something we would like inside our home. Finding a 35-foot bus would be ideal. We also learned that every bus window is approximately two and a half feet of inside space, so that helped us to estimate length of buses that we saw online, count the windows!
Something we didn’t expect to factor in was the interior height of the school bus. Red is six feet tall. Most buses average around 73 inches tall inside, some are even shorter!
If we want to add insulation and framing inside our home, we need something taller than that. While cutting and raising a school bus roof is possible, it would add more work and possible infrastructure issues that we don’t want to deal with. We discovered that Thomas school buses had raised roofs available which measure 78 inches inside! Our ideal bus was starting to take shape.
Another decision we needed to make was the type of engine and transmission we wanted in our bus. Certain engines and Transmissions will last longer when well maintained, others do better on mountains, some don’t like high speeds. Again this decision would depend on how you would like to travel or live in your bus home. Our research and discussions with many diesel mechanics led us to pick a Cummins engine, at least a 5.9 liter, and an Allison Transmission.
We wanted a raised roof, Thomas, flat nose school bus with a Cummins engine and an Allison Transmission. Those were the things we needed to have in a bus. Of course, we had things we would have liked on our bus as well, under-storage, air conditioners, and cruise control, just to name a few. While they would be nice, we didn’t NEED them. Your ideal bus may look a bit different than ours based on your needs.
Now that we had an idea of what we wanted, we just needed to figure out where to find it.
Through our research we discovered buses on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, govdeals.com and publicsurplus.com . I followed them incessantly. There are also major bus re-sellers who mark up their buses, a lot, so be careful.
When we were traveling, we would see buses that looked like what we wanted. I would note the school district and call them. I asked how they got rid of their surplus buses at the end of the year. From these calls I was able to locate a number of Texas based auction houses used to liquidate surplus inventory from schools around the state. I began following these auction houses as well. Some of these include https://www.lsoauctions.com/index.cfm , https://www.onlinepros.com/, and https://www.renebates.com/.
Because we were looking for such a specific bus, I knew it would take time to find just the right one. We placed bids on buses. We visited ones for sale. I kept looking.
One day, Rene Bates listed a flat nose Thomas 35 foot School Bus for auction.
The pictures looked to show a raised roof, but I just couldn’t tell. As with many listings, the VIN number for the school bus was listed. My Google-Fu was strong and I found a website, CPTDB, that helped me dissect the VIN number. Using this website I realized the bus listed DID have a raised roof!
I shared my discovery with Red and we decided that we should take action on this bus. Because the bus was nearly six hours away and our mechanic was not available, we found a different solution. We located a highly rated diesel mechanic about half an hour from the bus and I commissioned them to do a pre-purchase inspection for us. Then I contacted the school and scheduled a time for the mechanic to go check out the bus.I highly recommend hiring someone to check out the bus, or viewing it yourself if you are mechanically inclined. The mechanic we found spent two hours checking out the bus for us. He took it on a test drive and even ran diagnostic scans.
We waited patiently for the mechanics report.
The bus came back with glowing reviews. A small wiring issue, but everything else was outstanding. Our budget allowed for some repairs if the bus sold cheap enough. This bus just seamed right.
Based on all of that information, we sent Rene Bates our bidder’s deposit, as required to place a bid with them. (Make sure you know how to bid and pay before you place your bid.) We placed our maximum bid.
Again we waited.
At the close of auction, WE HAD WON! I promptly sent our payment and within days received notice that we now owned the bus! I made arrangements with the mechanic who had done the pre-purchase inspection to pick up the bus, take it to their shop, to check everything more thoroughly and work on that electrical issue.
We had done it! We had found a bus that fit our needs and we had successfully purchased it from start to purchase, it took us about 9 months to find and buy the perfect bus for us.
Now we just need to figure when to go get her and bring her back to us. Just wait until you hear about that, it was an epic journey all on its own! Join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube to see more!