Why a Bus Conversion?

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We asked our readers “Why did you choose a bus conversion over a conventional motorhome or trailer?” Here are some of their responses.

Post by: richard5933

Safety and roadworthiness. My hypothesis was proven correct when we walked away from a head-on collision against a car a few years ago. Next in line was the cool factor – love vintage cars and buses, especially those with a unique look like our current bus, a GM 4108.

Post by: Nova Eona

Reliability and longevity. I used to have an 80’s era Class A RV which was constantly doing its best to fall apart, and I knew that no matter how much work I put into it, without going full Ship of Theseus, that asks, is an object that has had all of its components replaced still the same object? It would forever be a battle just to keep the thing in one piece, all the while risking a major engine malfunction which would simply not be worth repairing.

Switching to a bus chassis meant bigger and often more expensive repair/maintenance tasks, but also that I could reasonably expect many more years of reliable service and a platform that would be worth repairing from all but the most extreme issues that might turn up.

Post by: Jim Blackwood

The whole S&S (Sticks-N-Staples) thing really. Having owned a trailer and a “bread truck” (an unfair characterization to the bread truck I think) and also having had to repair or replace essentially every major component except the drive axle on the RV including some of the framing, well let’s just say I didn’t really care for the construction. Then of course there was the one that I saw in S. Carolina that got zippered by a tree. That sort of gets your attention.

Buses aren’t generally known for roof leaks. That’s a major improvement. But it wasn’t until the roofs lifted, the mileage improved, and the cost dropped that it became practical to consider.

Post by: richard5933

Aside from the safety, roadworthiness shines as a key reason for choosing a bus. To me, most traditional S&S (Sticks-N-Staples) are designed around being great once they get to the campground. On the road, they are acceptable, usually. You have to pay quite a bit to get a S&S with good road manners.

The design priority of a bus conversion is different. Just starting out with a bus will result in a vehicle that is designed to be on the road 24/7 and to have good road manners. Comfort in a campground might not be as high as a S&S, but road manners will always be better.

Post by: benherman1

In my price range, any “Stick & Staple” I could buy would have been a trash heap. For less money, I bought a badly converted bus instead. Even if the bus broke in half down the middle of the road today, I could get my money back by parting it out. I also enjoy antique vehicles which ruled out me wanting to spend any amount of time traveling behind the wheel of anything modern. Now that I am tearing the old conversion out and redoing the interior, the end result will be extremely well insulated and finished the exact way I want it.

I’m also the sort of person who will buy a vehicle and try my best to keep it running for the rest of my life. A “Stick & Staple” will fall apart at the seams long before an MCI bus. I have no intentions to sell it or worry about how my build choices will affect resale value.

Post by: TomC

I drove cross country big rig Diesel (1979-2000) and saw the remains of many RV crashes. Sticks and Staples motorhomes, including rear engine Diesels, just don’t fare well in a crash. Many of them literally come apart and have to be cleaned up with a loader and dump truck!

I chose a transit bus because it has real bumpers in front and back, is the strongest built bus, has the largest drum brakes, and the V-drive is very reliable. My 1977 looks as good as it did 20 years ago when I first got it painted-sans some small peeling spots. But you won’t find too many Sticks and Staples motorhomes that are 43 years old still on the road. Plus, almost all the components (at least on my AM General) are universal to trucks too so they are still easy to find.

Post by: luvrbus

The C’s are crappy, all you’re dealing with is a pickup camper mounted on a van front with most of those. I did see some slide-in campers for pickups the dealer was asking $60,000. I could not believe the price or that anyone would pay it, although people do. There was a guy in a new F450 Ford that paid $100,000 for the truck and $60,000 for the camper.

Post by: windtrader

I went looking for an RV and somehow stumbled onto bus conversions. I suspect the overarching reason was value – what one can get for x dollars. You get a lot of good and bad, but everyone places a different weight on what is considered good and bad. In the final analysis, I feel like I maximized the benefits and minimized the risks of owning something like a bus conversion.

Post by: Jim Blackwood

It’s the only way I know that I can build an RV with lots of room, big holding tanks, lots of storage and do it in a way I could afford. Still under budget and money in the bank. So far so good. The solid structure and underpinning are certainly a plus.

Post by: dtcerrato

One really nice thing about converting a bus is there’s very little concern about overloading it. I just took 200 pounds times the number of original seats plus the weight of everything gutted out of it (seats, overhead racks, A/C assembly, bottom compartment luggage, etc., etc., etc.!) and started replacing it with a conversion. We’ve been running an antique 41 passenger bus with 11 to 20 passengers for 40 years now as a conversion. It has been loaded over its GVWR only with a toad.

Post by: Jim Blackwood

After pulling out the seats I found I had 15,000 pounds of weight capacity to play with. Heck, that’s almost as much as the gross on my old S&S. Well maybe not quite but you can do a lot with that. I don’t worry much about the weight.

Post by: Glennman

The typical trailers or motorhomes are pretty cheaply built, but the main thing with me is that I love to do things myself. I built my own house twice and remodeled others. I think the main thing with me is the do-it-yourself factor.

Post by: 6805eagleguy

First of all, we needed a flexible floor plan, and then of course the bus won’t crumple if it rolls, etc. I know busses aren’t the best (for driver safety) but these sticks and staples just literally fall apart if you touch them. And driving a pickup is no fun if you have a trailer. Of course, the first time I saw an Eagle I was instantly hooked on the look. And of course, I like to build things.

Post by: Raymond Smith

Going to concerts and seeing the buses I had to have one. Being an RV tech, you wouldn’t believe the crap that comes thru the shop. I made the right choice, besides, I got room for my bay car.

Post by: dtcerrto

When we laid our class C on its side and saw how it fell apart like an open pack of toothpicks in midair if it wasn’t going to be on a foundation on a piece of real estate it had to be a bus!

Post by: TobyU

I think they look a lot cooler than RVs and I love the stainless steel (aluminum on Eagles) from the middle down! They are more durable with fewer leaks. I love the tour bus look. I don’t buy for safety at least can’t think of a time I ever have but they do far better in collisions than a motorhome.

Post by: JT4SC

I am pretty sure our story will be fairly unique… I was 27 years old and my wife and I had tried to have kids for a couple of years with no luck, so we decided to do something not easily accomplished with kids – go on a road trip! Neither of us had spent a single night in any kind of MH, so we had no idea what we were looking for or wanted/needed. I did some research and learned bus conversions rode better than typical S&S, were safer, and held their value better than other types of MHs. So, I naively decided a bus conversion was right for me!! I had ZERO mechanical or big-rig driving experience, so of course, it made sense to buy a commercial bus.

Post by: lvmci

I had trailers for years, had a Streamline while the boys were growing. We got an Ultrastar class A. I saw a bus conversion with a window in the bay.

When I looked inside and saw a bedroom with a dog lying inside, tail wagging, I was hooked. Sold the Ultrastar quickly and started the hunt. My first bus was a pro conversion of a MCI-5A, with interior access to the lined and carpeted interior of the second bay, big enough for a queen bed.

When the wife wanted to retire from nursing and travel, she still wanted to make silver jewelry. We needed more space, so we sold the 5A in a month. Got a great deal of a 102C3 that was somewhat started to take out the seats and luggage racks. We finished enough, in record time to stay in SoCal, to live in when working.

Post by: peterbylt

Before the Bus, we had a mid-80’s Class C. When we purchased it, we had to do major renovations, no matter how much we did there was always something else deteriorating or we discovered a new leak. Don’t get me wrong we very much enjoyed it and had a lot of fun in it.

The other major issue with it, and most every other purpose-made motorhome that I have driven is the way they drive, I never had any fun driving them. The RV’s in my price range, almost all of them when built, used the minimum amount of suspension, engine and brakes that they could legally get away with. As a result, you more herd than drive them down the road and I would be worn out by the time we got where we were going.

Looking forward to retiring in a few years, we wanted to get something with more room, more suited to our needs and something that was much more fun to drive. Having driven many large trucks when I was younger, I knew there were much better things to drive.

After much research (and liking a good project), the wife and I decided on a bus conversion, although it would probably have made better sense to buy an already converted bus.

For us, there was really no other choice than to buy a seated coach and build it our way. We have not regretted our decision. I absolutely love driving the bus. We really like the layout we designed. One of the things we had not expected since we have made it so comfortable inside, that now when we go to a campground, we end up spending more time inside the bus than we ever did in the Class C.

After I fixed a few major and unexpected mechanical issues that were left to us from the previous owners the bus has run well. We could probably never have afforded a purpose-built motorhome that has all the amenities that we have built into our bus. Having the advantage of building it slowly over time and paying for the conversion as we built has worked out great for us.

Even if we had bought an S&S or an already converted bus, the wife would still have wanted to tear everything out and remodel it to her exacting standards.

Forum content extracted by Phil Lyons, the Forum Moderator. To read the rest of this discussion in the Forum, click the following link:

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Gary Hatt

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