If you are considering the purchase of a shuttle bus to use as a recreational vehicle, trade vehicle, mobile showroom, band touring or live aboard unit, you should consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of this particular platform.
Used shuttle buses offer advantages in cost and versatility over traditional RV’s for conversion. Parts are readily available for the most popular brands, and they are easy to locate and purchase from bus part suppliers, RV dealers, and well as Home Depot and Lowe’s. Most of these suppliers have on-line catalogs that are quite useful and you can save on travel when you have your parts shipped.
Bus Conversions do offer certain challenges for the uninitiated. There are two issues to consider before you start: 1) The underlying platform and its adaptability and 2) The type, quality and sensibility of the conversion you plan to undertake.
If you are considering the purchase of a bus for conversion, I highly recommend you work with a professional in accessing your needs, finding the right bus, and checking it out. There is more to it that purchasing the bus, buying the parts and screwing everything together.
Find someone in the bus business that has a shop that has done a project such as the one you are planning. You need the help and advice of a professional salesman, bus dealer or broker. It may take you a little time and patience, but an ethical dealer will usually be accommodating, especially if he has a bus on hand that can be adapted for your needs. They have purchased the buses wholesale, can mark them up for a fair profit, and still offer them to you retail for less than you might find on the street.
Bus Conversions are a great choice from an investment perspective. A well built and maintained bus conversion coach does not depreciate much if any after its 10th year. This is due to the prices for new ones being so extravagantly high. Buy a 5 year old conversion, use it for 5 years, and you will probably be able to sell it for what you paid for it.
Bus to RV Conversions advantages include: body, chassis, engines, and transmissions that are designed and built to last for years and use standardized parts. In addition, you have the pleasure of putting your thoughts and craftsmanship into the project which provides the “pride of authorship” missing from so much in our lives today.
Many bus conversions are sturdy and need little maintenance due to aluminum or fiberglass skins.
Conversions are solid, safe on the highway for the driver and occupants, relatively quiet, offer a smooth comfortable ride especially when suspensions are Mor Ryde adapted or have air-ride suspension, do not get blown around in bad weather due to dual rear wheels, and are the best cold-weather vehicles to travel in because they start out with full insulation and front and rear heaters and air conditioners. Note: this does not apply to school buses! Buses conversions can include a dog grooming bus, executive transport bus, band bus, family bus, party bus, and more!
Parts for the major brands are available for many years from licensed dealers, bus supply houses and eBay. More obscure brands and those made in foreign countries, and models only produced one or two years should be avoided.
Bus to RV Conversions disadvantages include: easy to underestimate the total costs for conversion, design errors and incorrect power plant choice. See Conversion Bus Issues for more detail. Huge, heavy, scary for some to drive, steer and backup. Parts and service can usually only be obtained from big bus & truck repair shops which may be difficult to locate. Parts for less known brands may be impossible to find at any price.
When it comes to buses which are going to get nothing but heavier and harder to drive as you modify them, (102″ wide models) are NOT always better. We recommend 96” wide body buses. Larger buses may give you more room, but remember the wider bus might not be easily maneuverable and will cost more to purchase and maintain. We recommend buses built on a “cutaway” chassis or a manufacturer like International or Freightliner. Weight issues for your new coach should not be ignored, or underestimated. Make sure the converter or shop has a plan for weight distribution and that they followed it. You must test drive your conversion bus before you put it on the road to get a feel for handling, acceleration, fuel mileage, steering, braking and overall safety.