Author Topic: What is the best brand name bus to buy! OR, Let's open a BIG can of worms!  (Read 15188 times)

Offline oldmansax

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We may buy another bus  :)  and I am looking for opinions.

I know bus brand name preferences are like auto preferences… everyone has their own opinion! BUT, I also know that the collective experience on this board far outweighs my own, and also outweighs my physical ability to even look at the number of coaches that have been bought, sold, driven, converted, maintained, looked at, and/or thought about.

So, here’s the question: If money up to $150K were not a consideration, what brand of bus would you buy and why?

Please narrow your choices by considering the following criteria. I want one already converted. I have the skills to do it my self, I just don’t have the time. I would consider some renovation to suit my needs but not much. I am obviously looking at used but not abused. We have never been in a campground other than one day to visit Dallas & Cat so it HAS to be self-contained. Most of the trips last one week, so two people need to be able to stay comfortably (showers, some suits & ties) that long without having to refill water or dump the tanks (100 fresh, 50 grey, 50 black now, would like a little bigger). We need to run a couple of days on batteries (except when running the A/C). 60% of the time we have access to 20A shore power but I want to have 50A capability when it is available. We usually setup at some ones home or church, so I don’t want to have to run the gen set in the winter for heat. When we do run the genny it has to be quiet! We use the coach year round  :) so it has to be usable in all kinds of weather. I need to tow a 5000# trailer sometimes. I would like to be reasonably efficient, meaning I don’t want a coach that needs a 30KW gen set to operate.

Here are a few things I have learned. I have an MCI & like the looks of stainless on the bottom and paint up top although I would buy a painted coach if everything else suited me. The MCI I have rides terrible. I think that is because the air beams have been blocked off. I have been told they are not worth repairing but can be fixed with the new rolling lobe kit but I don’t want to buy a new (to me) coach and have to deal with a bad ride. Eagles supposedly ride good but rust & are very expensive to fix and are no longer in business.  MCIs develop cracks in the engine cradles and do not make good candidates for tow hitches, although I have one on mine & see a lot of them around. I want an auto transmission and more power than the standard 8V71 I have now but I don't need to run 85MPH either. GMCs are light and get better mileage but are not made anymore either, the engines are not mounted very good for maintenance … and they are not stainless. I know nothing about Prevosts other than they have a good name. There seems to be more professionally converted Prevosts around than other brands thus giving a little more choice. What ever we buy this time we will keep for the next 12 to 15 years so it needs to be in decent shape when we buy it. The MCI we have now is 40' x 96" and that seems to be enought room. I don't want slide outs.

Please keep posts CIVIL!!!!!!!! No “ Buy a GMC & you’re an idiot for spending extra money to get the Prevost name”.

I have already had very smart people tell me I was an idiot for buying the bus I have now!  ;D ;D TELL me WHY I'm an idiot!  ;D ;D ;D

Thanks, TOM

Offline Sean

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Neoplan, of course!  ;D

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Offline bobofthenorth

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If the budget is up to $150,000 then there's no decision, IMHO.  A Liberty will do what you want for that price and I defy anyone to come up with a higher quality conversion.  I freely admit that I am NOT an impartial advisor but if/when we are ready to trade up there is only 1 bus on the list and that's a Liberty.  With that budget you can get a Series 60 which will give you minimum 7 MPG (US) and probably 8+.

When I am making a 10-15 year commitment to any machine then the questions I ask are:
- what's the parts availability?
- how standard (and current) are the components?
- how overbuilt is it?

I plan to do my own service on anything other than my daily driver so availability of service isn't really an issue for me.  YMMV

I think if you honestly answer those questions then there are only 2 options in North America.  I'm not familiar enough with MCI and I'm prejudiced toward Prevost.  You can probably find a fleet operator who runs significant numbers of both coaches who could answer the question.

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Offline Len Silva

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Prevost catered to the conversion folks very early on, providing empty shells and all manner of improvements for that market.  I don't think anyone else would even sell a shell at that time.  Thus their popularity in the market today.

As for the converter, Liberty, Marathon. American Coach, Angola etc., etc. all do a good job.  My preference is Marathon but they are all good.  Except for the spec show coaches, most of these were custom built so there really is no standard to compare to.  You just have to find one you like.

In your price range you should be able to find a very well maintained low mileage coach that will give you many years of service.  It most likely will be a Prevost just because of the numbers.

Check http://www.heartlandbus.com/index.html  and  http://www.horizoncoach.com/

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Offline Stan

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When looking in the 150k range, you are looking a newer models which means Prevost or MCI. There is just too much problem with parts and service if you can't phone a dealer or factory when you need parts. Both of these companies will likely be in business as long as you are driving a bus. Even if they are bought out (like Prevost) and come out with new models with different names, they will support their relatively new buses for many years.

Offline Sean

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... it HAS to be self-contained. Most of the trips last one week, so two people need to be able to stay comfortably (showers, some suits & ties) that long without having to refill water or dump the tanks (100 fresh, 50 grey, 50 black now, would like a little bigger). We need to run a couple of days on batteries (except when running the A/C). 60% of the time we have access to 20A shore power

OK, I'll weigh in here in a more serious vein, in light of the requirements you've listed above, and these other replies:

...  A Liberty will do what you want for that price

and

... Liberty, Marathon. American Coach, Angola etc., etc. all do a good job.  My preference is Marathon but they are all good...

I have to say, I've spent a lot of time looking at coaches from all of these converters, and if you look at their "off the shelf" products, I don't think a single one of them can go "a couple of days" on batteries alone, nor can any be livable on a 20-amp circuit.

There are exceptions, of course.  Most of those vendors had a wide range of allowable customer specification, and a handful of customers likely asked for this kind of extended boondocking capability.  But that's the exception, not the rule.  Also, these converters have moved progressively toward "cookie-cutter" approaches to the "custom" market, and extending the self-contained capability is just not on the menu.  For example, Marathon has roughly 17 floor plans -- if you want something different than what they already have in the computer, you're SOL.  Likewise, they might be able to give you 10-20% more batteries, but not, say, double the number of batteries (typically six 4D AGM's).

If you buy a later model from any of these vendors, you'll likely be hunting for power outlets or running the genny pretty consistently.  20 amps will be barely enough to keep all the whizz-bang electronics and maybe the fridge running.  These are generally all-electric coaches, so the minute you turn the stove on, or want hot water, etc., you'll be drawing on those batteries.  You might be able to squeeze a day or two out of them, but it will mean some very conservative practices.  Possibly starting with ripping out the massive, frost-free, 24 cubic foot fridge these vendors use, and replacing it with something more energy-efficient.

FWIW, YMMV, HTH, etc.

-Sean
http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com
Full-timing in a 1985 Neoplan Spaceliner since 2004.
Our blog: http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com

Offline oldmansax

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Right now my coach has 2 roof airs, propane range, heat and hot water, and a 12V/120V, 14 cubic foot(?) fridge. I found out the fridge has two 120V compressors and a built in inverter to run off 12V. My 2000W inverter is much more efficient & stays on always anyhow so I just disconnected the 12V side of the fridge. I have a 12V alternator on the bus engine so I charge the coach batteries while traveling. I have a 60 gallon propane tank that lasts several months and am not opposed to propane in the new bus. I think Sean is right about boondocking in an all electric coach. That would probably be a nightmare.

The points on MCI & Prevost being still in business are well taken. How about the mechanicals between the two. I know engines & transmissions are made by the same folks but how about suspensions, ease of maintenance, parts availability and price. What kind of suspension does a Prevost have and how do they ride? Any opinions?


Offline Sean

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The points on MCI & Prevost being still in business are well taken. How about the mechanicals between the two. I know engines & transmissions are made by the same folks but how about suspensions, ease of maintenance, parts availability and price. What kind of suspension does a Prevost have and how do they ride? Any opinions?

Prevost and MCI pretty much use the same basic design.  However, the products are targeted at different segments of the market.  As a consequence, the MCI's (with the exception of Renaissance models, designed to compete with Prevost in the luxury segment) are million-mile coaches, whereas the Prevosts are half-million-mile coaches.  Drivetrain issues aside, there's probably more trouble-free life left in an MCI versus a Prevost of the same mileage.

That said, those same market differences make Prevosts more favorable for the luxury conversion market.  And, since Prevost also explicitly targets (among others) the conversion, entertainer, and VIP coach markets (as opposed to MCI, who targets the long-haul passenger and, yes, prison transport markets -- think about that), they offer factory features targeted at those markets, such as factory roof-raise and factory slide-outs, as well as a factory air-leveling system.

Both brands ride on air springs, and I would characterize the rides as "similar."  Prevost probably has a slight edge over MCI in this regard.  But if you really want the best air ride, again, you need a Neoplan  ;D

HTH,

-Sean
 
Full-timing in a 1985 Neoplan Spaceliner since 2004.
Our blog: http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com

Blacksheep

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Don't forget to weigh in the fact that Prevost are mostly stainless steel chassis. Not sure about MCI"s!

There's no rust on mine and it's 16 years old! :)

Might also add that parts are very plentiful and it doesn't cost you to have them shipped to your door, even overnight if you really need them!

BS
« Last Edit: April 26, 2008, 12:57:37 PM by Blacksheep »

Offline niles500

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This makes me sick, but check this one out - do you think they'd take 100K - If you don't buy it I might take it as a spare

http://www.philcooper.com/details.php?v_id=349

Take any of these and make a ridiculous low offer and don't be suprised if it's accepted - I'd love to be buying a coach right now

http://www.philcooper.com/
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Offline H3Jim

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Sure makes us guys that have a lot more than that in our coaches wish for one of these.  Or for our friends.  But when I was shopoping they were all a lot more, and I do have a series s 60....

Having said that, I agree you may likely end up with a  Prevost, and they do make good coaches.  parts and maint are good, I am very pleased with the support I've recieved from Prevost.  YHour price range is getting firmly into the used market for professionally done conversions.  Sean makes some good points, but there may be some out there that would make a good startiing point, have been well maintained and won't take too much to modify to meet your boondocking needs.

I would not limit myself to one brand or another, but rather start looking and buy when I find one that has been well taken care of and meets my needs.  Who knows you might even find a Neoplan that you like!
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Offline tekebird

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Honestly and without Bias, MCI or Prevost.....both are the market leaders in the US and have nationwide servicecenters and parts wharehouses in several locations.

on top of that pretty much anywhere you happen to be you can find a prevost or MCI operator

Offline Stan

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About 1980 Prevost got into the new shell conversion market when they had excess production capacity for highway coaches and MCI had an 18 month back order. A few years later, the MC-8 shell sold for the same price as the Prevost Mirage (US$140,000.00)

I would be reluctant to make a general statement that Prevost is a 500k coach versus MCI with a 1 mm mile coach. They compete aggressively in a lot of the same markets. Prevost sells a lot of their buses for transit use (like MCI with NJT) as well as line haul and charter.  Conversion shells must be a small part of their market however the name Prevost has become a generic name for a bus conversion (like Winnibago did for S&S class As).

Offline Sammy

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I have fleet maintenance experience with many brands of coaches.
Our fleet at it's peak consisted of 60 coaches - MCI 5c's,9's,96A2's,102A3's,DL3's, Prevost H340,41,45's, Neoplan (we had 3) and Eagle Model 15's.None of them were converted coaches, all charter and line run coaches.
The Prevost most definitely stands out front in this group.
We ran 100k miles per bus per year. All Prevost were Series 60 with a B500 trans and had air disc brakes with ABS.
No major engine work was needed to well over 800k miles.
Prevost parts and tech support are fantastic, even on the weekends.

No disrespect to other brand coaches is intended, this is just my opinion, based on my personal experience.Hope this may help you. Good luck with your search.  8)


Offline Nick Badame Refrig/ACC

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