Five Important Things to Remember Before Buying a School Bus

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We finally found our bus! It only took 19 days and 1,600 miles of driving. Well, that’s not entirely true. It took a lot more than that. We learned some important lessons during the process of buying a school bus.

1. It’s okay to work out the kinks.

Honestly, I don’t even remember when or how we decided on buying a school bus. Initially, we talked about traveling in our car. A platform we made for sleeping in the back proved to be effective for camping, but impractical for long road trips.

So we considered buying a box truck. The ones we found for sale were either junk or too expensive. At some point, we stumbled upon the idea of a school bus. As it turns out, school buses are a common item for sale on Facebook and no one really knows much about them so they often sell for cheap.

We knew we wanted to travel the US and we knew we wanted to be able to live out of what we were traveling in. The price had to be reasonable, as did the length. We wanted to be able to sit, stand, and sleep comfortably inside.

A good engine and transmission were a must, as well as decent fuel economy. We talked a lot about our options and capabilities, what we wanted, and what we didn’t want. It took us a few tries before we finally came to a decision but once we did, we stuck to it.

There’s a difference between being wishy-washy and covering your bases. It’s okay to take your time, talk about your options, what your budget is, what you do and don’t want, and come up with an answer that best suits your needs. But once you decide on something, see it through to the end. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Conflict: Too many options!

Resolution: Talk about it until you find the perfect match

2. There is no such thing as too much research.

Jacob and I started looking at school buses online in July. Jacob was already extremely knowledgeable on all things mechanical. He fine-tuned his knowledge base toward school buses and caught me up. We researched the best engine, transmission, year, make, model, length, height, weight rating, and more. At one point, I had looked at so many different buses, I couldn’t keep track of them any longer.

The people selling the buses were overflowing with information. Their favorite response to my questions was “I don’t know.” Sheesh. Every time I read another “I don’t know” I turned to Google for answers. Someone out there had to know! We found forums, YouTube videos, blog posts, Facebook groups, and Instagram pages from so many people. The amount of information was overwhelming!

The best thing about the Skoolie community is they have all been where you are! They remember when they were buying a school bus and know what it’s like to have one sitting in their front yard with no idea what to do with it. They’ve been where you are and they are almost always more than willing to offer any advice they can to help you out. All you have to do is ask.

If there is one thing you take away from reading this article, I’d hope it would be that research is very important when it comes to buying a school bus. Do your research! The information is out there. Know what you’re getting into (as much as you can) before you drain your savings account into a nightmare. Again, you’ll thank yourself later.

Conflict: What the heck do you even look for when buying a school bus?

Resolution: If you don’t know the answer, somebody out there does.

3. A picture is worth a thousand words.

When considering buying a school bus, do not hesitate to ask lots of questions. It might feel weird to ask a stranger a seemingly unending list of questions about a school bus of all things, but this vehicle could potentially be your house for a long time.

It’s crucial that you pick the right one, especially if you’re having to drive a long way to see it. If the seller is reluctant or unwilling to answer your questions, it could mean they’re trying to hide something. Maybe the bus has a lot of rust or something is wrong with the engine. You don’t want that.

Ask for pictures. Lots of pictures. Of everything. If the bus isn’t parked around the corner for you to look at, there’s going to be a time commitment to drive there. Even if you ask all of the questions and get all of the answers, you still could be surprised. Reassuring, right?

An added step to avoid surprises is pictures. Whatever it is that you want to see about the bus, ask them to take a picture. It is equally, if not more important, to see the bus with your own eyes as well. Take your time, make a list, and check everything before you agree on a price.

Conflict: I don’t want to drive 12 hours just to look at a bus that I might buy.

Resolution: Ask for pictures and videos. 

4. Have patience. It’s okay to wait.

In fact, it’s really important to wait. I know, I know, you’re really excited and you want that bus NOW! By all means, if you’ve found The One, do it! Go for it! Get that bus! But if you’re uncertain whether a school bus is the one or not, wait. There will be other buses. Or, the bus you’re hoping to get will drop in price. Even better! If it’s meant to be your bus, it’ll happen.

The first school bus we looked at in Pendleton, OR!.

It was so exciting when we looked at our first bus! I was convinced the first bus we looked at was going to be The One. It was a flat-nose, rear-engine 1999 Thomas bus. When we saw the bus in person, it was filthy. The windshield was cracked, the tires looked about ready to pop, and wasp nests were in every nook and cranny of the bus. Everything was covered in dirt and Jacob was not impressed with the condition of the engine.

The owner was hardly willing to negotiate the price considering the bus’s condition (and wasn’t very nice about it either) so we took a deep breath, thanked the owner for his time, and politely declined. Our search continued the next day and, miraculously, we found our dream bus within 24 hours.

Conflict: I don’t know if this is the right bus.

Resolution: WAIT! Be patient.

5. Don’t forget to have faith in yourself

You’ve done your research. You’ve asked all the questions. Your phone’s camera is full of pictures of buses. You’ve taken a deeeeeeep breath and prayed about it. Don’t forget to actually buy a bus! Getting cold feet or being scared is normal. It’s okay. You can do it.

Here’s our bus! It’s a 1993 International and we’re in love!

So many other people have done the same thing and look at all the incredible buses out there! Have confidence in yourself, in your research, and in your bus. You got this. If I can do it, you can do it. Now go get yourself a dang school bus!

Conflict: I’m in my head and I don’t think I can do this.

Resolution: Don’t be silly. You can do it.

Bonus Tip: Set up an Instagram account!
Loads of people that are doing the same thing with their school bus want to see other’s progress and ideas. The learning never ends! One of the easiest ways to share pictures is through Instagram. If you buy a bus to convert, make sure you give us a follow so we can follow you back!


We want to see your bus!

By Tara Stefanetti

Shortly after getting married, Tara and her husband Jacob quit their jobs, moved out of their apartment, and traveled the West Coast in search of a school bus. 

Now they are in the building stages of their very first home on wheels and are looking forward to the day they can get back on the road. 

Tara and Jacob are thrilled to be a part of the Skoolie community and love following everyone’s unique stories. 

You can follow their conversion journey

@wherethetravelersmeettheroad 

on Instagram or at their blog 

WhereTheTravelersMeetTheRoad.com

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