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Author Topic: New to forum, looking for bus, MCI  (Read 3674 times)
RC4U
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« on: July 12, 2006, 02:44:39 PM »

I have been a camper for 20yrs. owned a class A first then 5th wheels now I am without. After looking at bus conversions this is my dream. I now own a hobby shop for three yrs but was a home builder for 25 yrs{not a suitcase builder who subbed it all out} I did all my own design with softplan and had employees work beside me. So I know i can do the work. Although I am only 50 my shoulders cant take much for to long .
       I have looked at many sites for a bus , found some of greyhounds mc12's 1993 models with like 1.2 million miles and good general condition. Need maybe a panel or two and some repairs. 6v92 engines. Are there any better deals Out There? I know 25-30thousand will get me a nicer bus but Cant afford that. Thanks for any help. Jeff
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grantgoold
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« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2006, 02:59:29 PM »

Jeff. welcome to the busnuts group. You sound like you will have a great time converting your first bus. Like you, I could only pay around $10,000 for my first shell. I ended up with a 1984 MCI 9 in outstanding condition. I am very happy with that purchase. I have painted, polished and installed the electrical system. I pay as I go and have little heartburn about the "investment" in my hobby.

Start to keep a log of all the items you would like to install in the bus (upgrades in your native tongue) and that will give you an idea of the total cost of conversion minus your valuable time.

I look to have my bus converted, the way I can afford for under 25,000 and have it done by the end of the year. As you will hear several times on this site, each owner has their own vision, wallet size and tolerance for disrupting family life.

Have a great time, be patient and you will eventually fall into a great bus for just the right amount of money.

Welcome,

Grant
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Grant Goold
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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2006, 11:35:42 AM »

Grant, could you expound a little on exactly what you mean by "outstanding condition". Im also new here and am in the process of looking for a "bus on a budget". Ive seen MCI's in the price range from $3000 to $20,000..some in the same years but am not really sure what to look for....
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John P, Lewiston NY   1987 MC 9 ...ex NJT
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« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2006, 12:27:16 PM »

Guys,

Give Mike (MAK)the owner of this board a call.

He always seems to have some nice coaches at all price points.

or click on MAK bus sales above.

Cliff
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« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2006, 01:36:32 PM »

What I mean by outstanding condition is a bus without any rust. A bus with intact electrrical and no evidence of "mickey mouse" electrical repairs. A bus with all the glass, body in great condition. A bus with a recent rebuild or new powerplant and transmission. A bus that despite its age checks out in excellent mechanical condition. A bus with records that demonstrate a long history of appropriate maintanence. A bus that when you go to check it out and drive it around, doesnt need the owner to fiddle with it or jump start it, or....... The baby just fires up, no smoke and heads down the road.

I mean outstanding condition when you have looked at 100 buses of the same vintage and you keep saying to yourself this bus is the best of them all.  If you do, you have an outstanding conversion candidate.

A bus that doesn't have a restroom...... someone hasn't tried to modifiy the original engineering.....

These are a few of the things is mean when I say "outstanding"

Hope that helps.

Grant
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Grant Goold
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« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2006, 01:44:10 PM »

thanks Grant...that definetly helps..I've yet to find one close enough to my place to actually go and look at it, but I can't wait. We've definetly adopted the attitude that we will only buy what we feel is a good deal and will not "settle" for a bus that is less than what we want !
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John P, Lewiston NY   1987 MC 9 ...ex NJT
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« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2006, 02:39:11 PM »

10K was also my limit.  I looked at a lot of buses up here in the Northeast and all were rust buckets.  Go south and buy a bus you say?  That's a possability, but if your shell budget is $10000 and it costs $4000 to bring it home, now you're looking for a $6000 bus.  I ended up finding a bus with a little rust, but not too bad.  It had a documented 77K on a rebuilt engine and transmission. We had the interior stripped and were surprised to find basically no rust in the framing.  Seem like the worse is right above the engine, and once I get into a proper shop, the engine will come out and all of that will be taken care of.

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« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2006, 05:12:16 PM »

I agree that geography is something to consider. I would try and purchase a bus with a long history on the west coast or southwest. MAK is an excellent choice and he will tell you straight up about his buses. The cost of a flight once you believe you have the right bus is marginal, the fuel back home may not be. Set it up as a family trip.

I would also request a bunch of pictures of basically the entire bus, bays, engine, all compartments, wheel well, electrical compartment under the driver's window, door frame, fuel tank, battery box, interior, dash....

If the seller hesitates or tells you that he/she doesn't know alot about the bus....run!!!!!!  This is a red flag. An owner who has extensive knowledge about the bus and can prove it with documentation is more likely a straight shooter.

If you look in the topic of pictures of buses, you will see towards the last few pages, my bus. With the exception of a polish job and painting the rub rails that is the bus I got in California after a two year hunt.

Good luck and keep us posted. Cool

Grant

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Grant Goold
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« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2006, 06:38:33 PM »

I got an 87'  MCI 102A3 back in the winter and am satisfied with the bus.  Keep in mind the bus folks (sales people) will not tell you everything you would like to know (or need to know).  Shop a lot!!!  Make friends with a machanic before you buy and ask a lot of questions...

Danny
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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2006, 06:40:53 PM »

Ok so you go out and look for a bus that needs nothing!! Is in perfect condition and you will probobly pay top dollar, nobody I know does they alll get them for next to nothing.
 There is another option, buy a bus that needs alot or everything. NOthing worse than paying top dollar for a perfect bus with rebuilt motor and trans and the motor takes a dump after 6 months! Why pay big bucks for a bus with good tires when you can negotiate on a bus that needs 6 or 8 new tires? Maybe save a few pennies and have brand new tires!

 Not trying to influence anyone just trying to present an option.
                                                                                             HTH Jim
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« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2006, 07:09:30 PM »

Doubt you'll find a "perfect" bus for cheap.   I'd rather look at older MC9s than the ex 'hounds.  Those things have had the dog $*%# run out of them.   Some are probably serviceable, but those are being sucked up by charter companies.  The ones individuals end up with will likely be the worse of the lot. 
Finding a non-restroom coach limits the market considerably.  Still a good idea.   Ex transits are about the only highway coaches that don't have restrooms.    On the East Coast, only NJTs come to mind.   They are picked over, but there are some around that people have bought and haven't completed for various reasons....mostly $$$$$$$$$$$.
A bus is a ton of work to maintain...this ain't for the faint of heart...and ignored or postponed maintenance will return to bite you in the butt...at the most inopportune time. 
If I considered a budget coach, I'd try to find an ex NJT or a GM bus.  GMs are old, but those that have been used and serviced have a ton of miles left in them.  And they were well built.  Parts are available.   
One would think that with the fuel prices where they are, buses wouild be for sale all over...but they're not. 
I got an idea.   Christy Hicks has a "temp-bus" that's a nice looking GM conversion. She will want to sell the bus as soon as the "big-bus" is completed.  Get in line for that coach.   It's nice coach. 
Otherwise, if you cannot find a GM that suits, look for an MC9.  Watch for rust in the steel suspension parts and soft, rotted floors in MC9s.  They are also pretty cheap....just be certain that when you look at a bus, you have someone along that can spot trouble.  They all got trouble..you just want to have a heads up so you're not surprised.  And of course, you can deal on a "troubled" bus.   
I bought mine without driving it.   I knew that I could change out an engine easier then repairing major body problems, so I picked out what appeared to be the straightest bus Sawyers had out of maybe 50 MC9s and bought it. 
You may be a better welder than I am, or have other skills and would do better repairing  different shortcomings.  Somethings gonna need repairing.  Get ready. 
Keep in mind that advertised prices and selling prices are quite different.  If you see something that looks nice to you, but is a little more than you wish to spend, make an offer...and be ready to buy.   
Good luck, JR
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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
87 MC9, 6V92TA DDEC, HT748R ATEC

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« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2006, 09:53:37 PM »

Jeff, look at this unit on the e-place. If the unit checks out, a powerplant may be the easy and cost effective solution. I have seen powerplants in Southern CA for $2500 at the low end and up. You may be able to get this unit cheap and then have a powerplant installed onsite?

Just thinking out of the box.

Item number: 160012029138

Good luck! Cool

Grant
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Grant Goold
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« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2006, 10:31:06 PM »

Have a friend that has bus to sell.  Does this board have a place to sell it?  I would understand if it doesn as I understand that Mak is in the business of selling busses.
JIm
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« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2006, 04:22:14 AM »

Click on the MAK Bus Sales banner above for information.
Richard

Have a friend that has bus to sell.  Does this board have a place to sell it?  I would understand if it doesn as I understand that Mak is in the business of selling busses.
JIm
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« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2006, 04:50:05 AM »

Hahahah, thanks for the plug, JR. Wink  I disagree that you should run from any bus that doesn't have maintenance records, because, none of the three busses we purchased actually had all the maintenance records.  The 8 that we purchased first was sold at auction, and we purchased it from the bus dealer who bought it.  They did a complete maintenance on it, and took the trouble to show us the shape of this one compared to another one they had purchased that needed some undercarraige structure repair.  That 8 fires right up and barely smokes on startup, none at all once it's running, handled great, etc.  

The 9 was purchased from a charter company, which was owned by an "investor" type guy, who didn't actually have a CDL and knew pretty much nothing about his busses.  When his partner/driver had marriage troubles and decided to move back up north, he realized that he needed to shut his charter service down, and take his losses.  We had made the deal, paid him, and were getting ready to pull out when another charter guy showed up at the storage lot to pick up a bus.  He walked up to see what we were doing with "Ralph's bus" and when he found out that Ralph had sold it to us, he was extremely disappointed that Ralph hadn't told him he was selling out.  He would have like to have had the one we bought, especially when he found out what we had paid.  You see, it evidently didn't occur to Ralph to put a "for sale" sign in the bus.  The other guy cussed around a little bit, and then told my husband the few things he knew about that specific bus, and really, since Ralph had already left and this guy knew the deal was a done deal, he had no reason to pretend about anything, he was just really disappointed that he didn't have "first chance" at it. 

I guess our mistake was thinking we wanted a standard instead of automatic, and then taking a look at another bus, a 9, "BigBus", that was a bit more expensive, but was an automatic and had the smooth sides package already installed.  We realized that we could afford to pay more than we paid for the first one, to get one that had the features that we'd want in our "forever bus".  So, my advice is to decide what the maximum is that you can afford to pay, see what you can get for that money, and then look at a bunch and buy the best one you can afford.  Then you won't be like us and have to start and then re-start a conversion, ending up with a "bus fleet". ha ha

We do have the bug really bad, which is why we have a third bus right now, the afore-mentioned "TempBus", which is a fully converted GMC 4107.  We made the decision to buy TempBus for a couple of reasons. . .we really wanted to be using a bus instead of our current motorhome, but we didn't want to rush our conversion, (and, well, when we do travel, we kind of like comfort,  Wink), so we decided to buy a converted bus as a temporary bus.  Also, since this bus has some of the components we had planned for BigBus, such as the Webasto, the air leveling system, etc., it gave us a chance to "test drive" some of that stuff.  Finally, we felt like it was a really good buy for the quality of the bus and conversion package.  

Now, we are known in some circles as being "bus poor", due to possession of three busses and, of course, our motorhome.  One of these days we will thin out the ranks, we just haven't had time to make the effort to sell the excess.  And, yes, TempBus will be for sale in another year or two (likely two Wink), when BigBus is complete, and will be in even better shape than when we purchased it as we did put in the new fridge  Grin, and the tile guys are almost complete with the new tile in the floor and shower.  BTW, the tile guy, Riggs Tile, Mustang, Oklahoma. asked me to please NOT give out his name to any bus owners  Huh, as this was one of the hardest jobs he's ever had to do  Angry, with numerous cuts in each and every piece, ha ha.  I assured him he was doing a beautiful job  Grin, and I'd be sure to tell EVERYONE  Grin what great work they do Grin.   Luckily, I can run faster than he can Wink  Christy Hicks
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« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2006, 06:06:29 AM »

Guys...keep in mind that any bus that was removed from passenger service was removed for a reason, and that reason is because it becomes more economic to buy a new bus than to keep fixing an old one.  If you find a bus in perfect condition, you have to ask, if it's so perfect, why are they selling it?  You can also bet that if it needs repairs, they are not going to repair it before selling it.  The reason they are selling it is because they don't want to do any more repairs.

All we can do is try and find one that has as few issues as possible and try to make sure those issues are something you can deal with yourself without having to pay truck shop labor rates.  I looked at buses with hammered chassis and nice driverrtains and buses with clean chassis but all but blown engine and trans, but I never looked at a bus that thad both.  I chose to do some chassis work, which I can do myself, over an engine and trans rebuild.

Ross
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« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2006, 07:04:04 AM »

Wow now some answers,Thanks everyone. The one with the bolwn engine gone few hours ago. I really can deal with an engine as Two of my customers here at my store Wheels Wings-N-Hobbies are Diesel mechs at butler machinery and I have done Three complete rebuilds on gas[I'm sure I would need help on diesel] And I did get a hold of Mak on the bus on his front page a week ago that had blown engine but it also is gone. I have also talked to ABC in Minn but he just wanted me to get an MC12 from him, even thou I asked about the 102c3's . So I will keep looking . I know our local bus charter here has a mc 7 for 6800 but thought that to much for one so old. and also has an 81 mc 9 for 12500 that I have not looked at yet. Thanks a lot for the replys and any more info.
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« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2006, 08:18:55 AM »

Since I too was on a budget, I bought an AMGeneral 10240B transit for $4,000 with the seats and overhead already removed.  Since it was an Portland Trimet bus, rust wasn't an issue.  Without going into details of how it was built, what I ended up with was- bus that is 40ft x 102" X 6'10" tall inside with huge windows (which both my wife and I adore).  Same chassis and drivetrain as many of the older GM buses.  With 130gal fresh water, 85gal gray, 45gal black, 20gal propane, 10kw Diesel Gen, 3 rooftop airs, 2-8D AGM deep cycles, 2,500 watt inverter, 9ft kitchen, 36" house type shower, etc, I have all I want.  I still have two storage compartments-one that is 99" (width of the interior of bus) x 22'' high x 66" long for all my junk; and another in the rear that is 15" x 18" x 24" that I keep my oils in.  It has a 36,000gvw chassis and I weigh in at 31,000lb wet with my wife and I inside-still 5,000lb from capacity!
My point is, if you want a low price bus that is in good shape and is built like a tank (transits in general are built stronger for their harder duty cycle they are put through), and the fact you are a builder, consider the transit.  The two drawbacks, no built in cargo compartments so you have to build everything in underneath your self; and also along those lines, not as big exterior storage as a Greyhound type.
I know that Santa Monica Bus Lines (in Calif) is about to let loose some MCI classics that are newer cousins of my AMGeneral with Series 50 Detroits and Allison 6 speeds.  There are already some available now, but with the 6V-92TA and V730 transmission.  The ones with the Series 50 would be a killer bus, and get close to 10mpg!  Just my way, Good Luck, TomC
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Tom & Donna Christman. '77 AMGeneral 10240B; 8V-71TATAIC V730.
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« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2006, 03:40:45 PM »

TomC -  You forgot to mention a couple other "challenges" with using a transit bus as a shell:

** The non-flat floor inside, with the very large wheelwells than must be built around,

and. . .

** Non-highway gearing.  Most transits are geared to top out at about 60 mph, as compared to the highway models that easily will reach 70 - 75 mph.  Granted, the rear axle pumpkin can be replaced, but that's additional work and expense, and sometimes a real PITA - like finding 4.10 gears for a V-drive.


RC4U & Travelingfools -  Buses from NM, AZ & Southern CA will be the most corrosion - free, but you still have to inspect them thoroughly.  MC-9s are probably the best "bang for the buck", and they're plentiful - over 9,000 of them were built.  MC-12s, especially with the Series 50 repower, may  be OK, but only Greyhound operated them, and 'Hound's been plagued by it's bankruptcy, which severely strained the maintenance dept., so buyer-beware!!

Altho they're more expensive, and many are still in service, I'd highly recommend that you seriously look for a 102C3 or a 102D3.  Both are excellent, with greater interior height (so you don't really need a roof-raise, unless you're 6'6"+), and often can be found with the 8V92TA engine.

IBME that major chassis work (body & fender type) is far more expensive than powertrain repair. . . but I'll leave that decision up to you.

Finally, there are a LOT of converted coaches available today - it might be better to buy one already converted, go out an enjoy it for awhile, then decide what modifications you want to make, either to it, or another unit.

FWIW. . .
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RJ Long
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« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2006, 07:15:28 PM »

The term "transit" may be used to describe some highway coaches...such as New Jersey Transit MC9s
These are full blown highway coaches...albeit a little underpowered, but they have basement storage and operate at interstate speeds.  Most "transit" buses don't have any useable under floor storage as has been stated. 
Become familiar with the various popular coach models so you can spot what may or may not work for you.   You can pick up an RTS for almost nothing.   An RTS, with a bit of time will make a really spiffy looking conversion.  They just had nice lines.   Maybe you won't need a lot of basement storage.   
Another thing with bonafide transits is the potential road speed...verify that it will operate at a speed that you can live with.  Lots of real "transits" won't do 60 MPH.   Again, be familiar with what you're buying.  It's a snake-pit out there!
Be very careful with old Eagles, and old Prevosts.  They can be rusted in places where the sun don't shine...and you can't see without substantial disassembly.   
At least with the old GM and MCI coaches you can see the rust if you look...and it may well be there.  Subscribe to Bus Conversion Magazine and you'll find a 102C3 that looks nice (MAK internet bus sales?)....may be just what you're looking for.  I'd like to have it.
But...$$$$$$$$$$  Embarrassed    May be better off buying a really nice shell and take some time converting it.  You can use it as a "steel tent camper."
You may find that a website such as www.coachinfo.com offers some good info on bus models and years produced.
JR
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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
87 MC9, 6V92TA DDEC, HT748R ATEC

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« Reply #20 on: July 26, 2006, 10:12:06 PM »

New Jersey Transit is the name of the operating company, not the type of bus.  The buses they purchased from MCI were not transit buses in the normal definition of the word.  They definitely are MC-9 highway coaches, built to NJT specs, and were used mostly on commuter runs, as opposed to the normal transit operation of driving a block and stopping, driving a block and stopping, driving a block and stopping. . .  Golden Gate Transit in the San Francisco Bay Area also ran a fleet of MC-9s and 102A3s in similar fashion.

For the newbies:

Skoolie:  Slang for a school bus, usually in a "dog-nose" configuration for front engined-models.  Bus body on a truck chassis, altho they're also built on a dedicated platform, especially the mid-engined Crowns and Gilligs, as well as the pusher designs.  High ground clearance and steel springs make these ideal for those who really  like to do the backwoods boonie-bouncing. . . but also perpetuate the "Partridge Family" hippie-bus image.

Cut-Away: Small buses that usually have a van front end on them, similar to a Class C stick 'n staple RVs.  Used mostly for light-duty shuttle work, very small city transit service, senior citizen transportation, and "dial-a-ride" service. 

Transit:  Most commonly defines a heavy-duty bus designed for city/urban stop & go operation, with very limited highway use.  Normally no built-in luggage bays underneath, front & rear doors, large protruding wheelwells inside, small fuel tanks, lots of headroom inside (designed for standees),  low-speed rear axles designed for 0 - 30 acceleration, with top speeds in the 55 - 60 mph range.  Most built since mid-1980s have wheelchair lifts, either at the front or rear door.  Transit agency purchases 80% funded by Feds (your tax dollars at work!), sold after 12 years of service at auctions for pennies on the original dollar.  Often "ridden hard & put away wet", depending on the agency.  Today the big thing in transit is low-floor models (absolutely NO space underneath for RV componentry!) as well as hybrids, CNG power, and other experimental stuff.  These won't even make good donor buses for replacement powertrains when they're retired.  High-floor models, such as the RTS and Gillig Phantom, have space underneath to install necessary RV components, but it must be fabricated.  Geoff and Pete have RTS's, and are very proud of them - rightfully so, as they've put a lot of work into them and it shows.

Coach:  Normally thought of as "the Greyhound bus", as that's the image that comes to the majority of people's minds.  These are the models designed to provide transportation on the highways, either in line-haul, charter or tour service.  Most will run all day at 70 mph w/o breaking a sweat, have large luggage bays for RV stuff, and the most comfortable ride.  Most expensive as a shell, also.  These, too, can be found where they've been "ridden hard and put away wet" - especially the crop of MC-12s that Greyhound recently released for sale.

All of the above mentioned types of buses have their pros and cons.  The real question somebody needs to ask themselves, BEFORE beginning their search for a shell, is this:  "What, exactly, do I want to do with the bus?  Do I want to boonie-bounce on logging trails?  Do I want to travel power-pole-to-power-pole?  Do I want to live in it full-time?  Do I want to be able to go a week (or more) w/o having to break camp for fuel, water, holding tank dumps?  What do you want to do with the bus???  Only after you've laid out what your plans are should you begin your search for a shell, by then you'll have a better idea of what type of bus is going to suit your needs best.

Clear as mud??  Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy
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« Reply #21 on: July 27, 2006, 01:29:30 AM »

"Guys...keep in mind that any bus that was removed from passenger service was removed for a reason, and that reason is because it becomes more economic to buy a new bus than to keep fixing an old one.  If you find a bus in perfect condition, you have to ask, if it's so perfect, why are they selling it?  You can also bet that if it needs repairs, they are not going to repair it before selling it.  The reason they are selling it is because they don't want to do any more repairs."

I would suggest that the majority of smaller or regional operators tend to buy and sell their buses in response to fluctuations in the level of business they are dealing with, rather than because the buses themselves are getting worn-out. You very often see buses advertised for sale 'due to ending of contract', and my own vehicle is a case in point; I have a fairly unusual 8m 35-seat coach, which the operator bought to service a specific contract, then sold to me after a couple of years when the number of passengers on that contract had risen to the point where the operator could use one of his regular 53 seat coaches. Sometimes a given vehicle will remain on a particular service, even when the operator of that service changes - frequently a lot of horse-trading of vehicles takes place between different operators in the same locality.

Jeremy
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