01 Nov Buying a Bus? 5 Important Things to Inspect
Today’s the day your dreaming, planning, and saving starts to become a reality. It’s buying a bus day! Are you nervous? Have you been searching the internet, looking at auctions, and now are ready to go buy your bus?
It doesn’t matter if I am buying a bus for us or for a client, I always get nervous. I wonder if I am buying a bus that might have some problems. One thing that puts my mind at ease is Jeff’s checklist of the 5 Important Things to Inspect Before Buying a Bus. When a bus passes the inspection, I feel better about the purchase even though there is no guarantee.
Buying a bus is a huge step.
For goodness sake, if you are planning on this being your home on wheels, you are buying your house! You should know what type of bus you need before beginning your search. If you haven’t decided yet, check out What Do You Need to Know Before You Buy a School Bus?
Are you ready? Let’s talk about buying a bus!
Buying a Bus? 5 Important Things to Inspect
For most people, price is a determining factor when buying a bus. Please don’t just buy the first bus under $2,500 because it looks like a good deal. Now, don’t get me wrong. You can buy a bus at this price point, but you just want to make sure it is in good condition before handing over the cash. You don’t want to buy a lower priced bus just to sink $5,000+ in it before your first trip.
Here are 5 important things to inspect before buying a bus
The chassis is the frame of the bus. It is important that you check to make sure it is not bent or rusty. If there is damage to the chassis, walk away. Another bus will come along. Buying a bus with a damaged chassis is going to cost you an extreme amount of money in the future.
Pro-Tip: If the chassis is in good condition, while you are under the bus, check out the rear axle and u-joints.
Depending on the age of the bus, you can expect to see some surface rust. If you see more rust spots than yellow paint, walk away. A few places to check for rust are under the bus, the inside rear wall, the steps, and around the lights. Again, some surface rust is expected and can be sanded, treated, and painted. If there is considerable rust, walk away.
Jeff always carries a rag in his pocket when inspecting a bus. One of the first things he does is look around the engine for leaks, oil spots, and damage to the hoses. He will check the oil and antifreeze. When he starts the bus, he listens to make sure there are no problems. Next, he will test drive the bus, listening for any problems. Before you test drive the bus, crank it and let it run for about 15 minutes. When you return, park the bus in a different spot. As you are test driving, look to see if the bus is smoking. If you have a diesel mechanic friend, this would be a great time to cash in on a favor. Buy him lunch and his favorite beverage and let him inspect the engine prior to buying a bus.
During the test drive, listen to how the bus changes gears. If it is a manual, make sure it changes gears smoothly. Put the bus in reverse, back up, and make sure you don’t feel a bump when it changes gears.
Ask the owner if the engine and transmission have been rebuilt. If so, is there a warranty on the rebuild that is transferable? Ask if the owner has any maintenance records and ask to see them. This will tell you how often the oil has been changed, and other maintenance that has been done on the bus. If the owner has the records and refuses to let you see them – walk away. Likely, he is hiding something. Make sure you know how many miles are on the engine and transmission.
When Jeff is checking the chassis, he looks on the ground to see if he can find any spots where the bus might be leaking. Also, he will get under the bus in the front and feel around on the engine from underneath checking for leaks. During the engine inspection, Jeff will look for oil leaks, transmission leaks, and radiator leaks.
After the test drive, he checks the ground where the bus was originally parked and where he parked it after the test drive.
Check the battery boxes for leaks. Is the bottom of the box corroded out?
Look around the windows for leaks inside and outside.
Tire inspection involves more that just kicking it with a boot. Take your time and check out the following things on the tires before making an offer on the bus.
- Tread – Pick 2-3 different spots on a tire and make sure it has 4/32 tread depth in the groove on the steering tires. The back tires should have 2/32 inch depth. If you don’t have a tread depth gauge (or whatever that thing is called), you can use the “penny trick” to check the tread. Place the penny in the groove upside down, if you see Lincoln’s head, it is time to replace the tire. Take your hand and feel the sidewall and tread while looking for any fabric that might show through. Make sure the tires do not have any bumps, dips, cuts, or knots.
- Wheels or rims- check for cracks and any damage.
Pro Tip: Check the date on a tire during the inspection.
If the tires need replacing, it is an excellent bargaining tool to get the price down. Jeff would tell you to bargain if you have to replace one tire, but if the bus is going to need all new tires, to walk away. A new tire will cost you anywhere from $500 and up.
After checking the chassis, tires, for leaks and rust, and looking at the mechanics you will have a pretty good idea about the condition of the bus. At this point, if nothing made you walk away, negotiate the price based on the results of your inspection. Keep in mind that no matter how detailed an inspection you perform, things happen.
On our current bus, Jeff did a detailed inspection. Ten days into the conversion, on the way back from getting a generator installed, the bus started running hot. Yep, you guessed it! We had to replace the radiator 20 days before Katie’s Make-A-Wish Trip. See, there are no guarantees, but neither are there in life. So, just get out there and get your Skoolie dream started.
Have you purchased a bus recently? If so, tell me about your bus inspection process in the comments below.
If you are looking for some more information on buying/inspecting, or converting a school bus, we have an online course that takes you step by step through the conversion process. See more details at learn.skoolie.homes.