How To Buy A School Bus

How to buy the perfect school bus for you!!

So you have decided that you want to buy a school bus but don’t have a clue where to start! I was in the same boat. I even was one of those people who went onto and asked in the build thread area if this was a good bus to buy. I know I was a little to eager and excited to buy our new bus. But some things are just so exciting you can’t help but want to jump in with both feet without thinking. Buying a school bus however as I have learned is not one of those things that you want to do like that. This vehicle is going to be your new home and you have to make sure you buy the absolute best foundation you can afford to build your new home off of.

Size Matters

The first thing you want to ask yourself is, how big of a bus do you want to get? Length kind of determines what styles you can start to look at, and the best way to determine length on a bus is by the number of widows. If you count the windows and then times that by 2.5 and add 5 you will have the approximate length of the bus in question.

Take our bus for example, there are 9 windows times the 2.5 is 22.5 add 5 to that we get a grand total of 27.5 and our bus is 28 feet long so it is a pretty good estimator. Length determines quite a lot as far as your skoolie is concerned such as: parking, driving, and weight just to mention a few. The reason that we chose to go on the smaller end of buses is for ease of finding a space. I have read in a couple of places that some national park campgrounds and other campgrounds as well are limited in the number for 40′ spaces.  We hope that having a smaller bus will make it easier to find a spot at campgrounds and RV parks not to mention maneuverability.

Now what style of bus do you like?

The main styles that you will run into are conventional, transit front engine, and transit rear engine. There are many different pros and cons for each. Here is a quick rundown  of what I like about each style. Conventional buses are easier to work on and have a rear emergency door. Transit FE have great big windshields with a good turning radius and the rear emergency door. The RE on the other hand is much quieter when driving as the engine is in the back which, also makes it  easier to work on like the conventional, while having the nice big windows in the front. The cutaway school buses are a great option as well and they are built on a van base by all of the major manufacturers.


It’s your worst enemy!! Avoid at all costs!! Do not compromise on this at ALL!


Check the date codes and tread! If you have to buy new tires it is going to cost a fair amount of moolah.

Engine and Transmission 

Low miles and low hours are going to be your friends, but a bus engine well maintained can run for a long time with no issues. If anything major does happen there are refurbished engines and transmissions that can be purchased. The engine is the brain of the bus. I am not a mechanic by any means, just a regular guy who knows some common things about busses.

Take my advice on this how you will, as to me if the engine or trans goes out you can just replace it with a “new“one or go with a rebuild kit. The “shell” and frame are very important when looking at school buses. Checking for rust, dents, and water damage can also save you on time and money. It takes a lot of work to convert a bus not to mention the amount of cash. Chances are you’re going to keep this specific bus for quite some time, engines and transmissions fail for all types of reasons all the time. Are you really going to want to build from scratch again? You cannot replace the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that you have put into this particular school bus.

Where To Find A School Bus


Public Surplus



I hope you find this information helpful, as well as the links. Let me know if you think there is anything that should be added or removed. Big thank you to all of our readers and followers.

And remember size matters.

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