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Author Topic: Buses are expensive vehicles  (Read 4240 times)
TomC
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« on: August 30, 2007, 08:37:04 AM »

Many of you are doing a converted bus since you can't afford to buy a pre made motorhome (that includes me).  I bought my bus for $4,000.00.  I have put in an additional $38,000 into either rebuilding or modifying the actual buses chassis, and drive train (could of bought a nice bus shell for that $42,000, but didn't have that kind of money available then).  I've spent about $90,000 total on the bus, so take off the $42,000, my actual conversion cost so far has been $48,000.  Not to bad when you consider Marathon gets about $1.2 million for their conversions-then add the $450,000 to that for the shell.

My point though, once you buy the bus, you have to be prepared for repairs and maintenance. Everything on a bus is commercial quality and big (translated expensive).  Round figures, each part on the bus can cost up to 10 times what the equal part on a car would cost. If you keep that in mind, then you'll have a pleasant bussing experience.

Just to show a small list of what I've replaced on my bus.  Before I even took it home, I had a mechanic in Kelso, Wa change the injectors from N55 to N65, install Jake Brakes, change the grease wheel bearings to oil bearings, change the rear end ratio.  I've had the engine overhauled, transmission overhauled, installed a turbo with air to air intercooling with larger injectors and a bypass blower, new enlarged radiator core, new larger air cleaner, new muffler, rebuilt air compressor, rebuilt water pump, rebuilt oil pump, rebuilt starter, rebuilt alternator, new power steering pump, rebuilt Sheppard power steering box, added an auxiliary transmission cooler with fan, added King Cruise, Tachometer, and misters to the radiator.  This is where the $38,000 additional cost for mechanical came from.  If you get a bus with the correct engine, transmission, and rear end ratio-all these costs would be minimized.  Course, overhauling parts is always possible.

Enjoy your bus, but plan on spending some money to both keep it up for good reliability AND for maximum safety on the road.  Good Luck, TomC
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Tom & Donna Christman. '77 AMGeneral 10240B; 8V-71TATAIC V730.
wvanative
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« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2007, 09:24:06 AM »

Wow Tom, You always amaze me when you post information for us novice to ponder. There is no one on this board who can cove a subject in the manner that you do. I always read your post because you are one of the best.
 
Dean
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Dean Hamilton Villa Grove, IL East Central IL. Near Champaign
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DavidInWilmNC
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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2007, 09:32:19 AM »

I could have afforded a motorhome, but not one that I would have been satisfied with.  I'm sure I would have spent a lot of time, energy, and money on it as well.  I figured that if I were going to the trouble and expense of one, I might as well have one that's set up like I want it.  Converting a bus seemed to make the most sense... to me, anyway.  A friend who has a 21' class A comments that it must cost a fortune to drive the bus.  The funny thing is that when I've used her RV, I got around 6.5 mpg.  The average from my last three trips in the bus has been 7.2, so the fuel cost, while not low, aren't much different from that of a low-end S&S.  The bus drives a hell of a lot better, too.

I'd also like to add that the overall costs can be much higher or lower depending on one's mechanical abilities, time, and inclinations.  I certainly had no commercial vehicle experience prior to my bus.  I'd never even changed the oil on a diesel car.  I learn quickly, am very mechanically inclined, am good at troubleshooting, and am great at using available resources (these forums, online research, etc).  Also, equipment and tools need to be added in to the costs, if one does any sort of work on their own.  To get where I am now in my conversion, I've had to buy a welder, impact wrenches, rivet tools (shavers and guns), bigger cordless tools, drills, grinders, a new air compressor (burned out my old one), sockets and wrenches, numerous general tools, and the required accessories to use all these tools.  I already had a fairly extensive set of tools before starting this project.  The good part is that even if I sold my bus now, I'd have a ton of really cool tools and a lot of knowledge that I wouldn't have had otherwise.  Still, there are a lot of costs to consider prior to attempting a conversion.  I do know it's going to cost me a lot more than I had anticipated, but most of the costs aren't due to the age of the bus or lack of maintenance, but rather to the cost of materials, equipment, and tools.  I'm sure that this is why a lot of us drive old(er) buses with engine technology from half a century ago.  I wonder if I'll get as much use out of my bus as time I've put into it?  I would like to use it quite a bit, but I do actually enjoy most of what I've done on it so far.  I just wish things weren't so heavy and dirty and that the summer's weren't so hot!

David
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luvrbus
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« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2007, 09:54:57 AM »

Tom C,you can also add 12,000 to 20,000 dollars for a custom paint job.
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belfert
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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2007, 10:30:19 AM »

I know all about about buses being expensive.  I have now spent around $15,000 on mechanicals, not including tires.

Probably half the expense was related to neglect by the previous owner and half the expense was routine stuff that has to be done at some point.  Of the $15,000 about $5,000 to $6,000 was labor and the rest was parts.  The expense of the tools and such to do brakes, wheel bearings, and the like wasn't worth it having not done it before.  Craig Shephard recommended not trying it myself.

The good news is I will have almost all new mechanicals on my bus except the engine and it has been checked by Detroit and declared in good shape. 
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Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
1989, MCI 102C3, 8V92T, HT740, 06' conversion FMCA# F-27317-S "Wife- 1969 Italian/German Style"
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2007, 11:32:14 AM »

And Just to Add to Tom's info..

The good thing about repairs on your bus is that there is almost a 100% chance that you will NEVER make that repair again...

We hope anyway.

Nick-
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TomC
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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2007, 12:41:19 PM »

WVaNative- Thanks for the roses-just like to help

Luvrbus- I did spend $11,000.00 on my paint job.  One of the few converting jobs I did not do.  The other jobs were having the insulation blown in (nasty job), laying the carpet.  I had most all the mechanicals done by commercial mechanics.  Good Luck, TomC
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Tom & Donna Christman. '77 AMGeneral 10240B; 8V-71TATAIC V730.
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2007, 12:52:30 PM »

I laugh to myself regularly when selling buses.

Presently with the 4108 we have had on ebay.....people are expecting to pay in the 30's for it.

paint.................12,000.00
new tires.............3000.00
Alcoa wheels........3000.00
Documented 8-71  with 200k
Rebuilt V730 with less than 40k
couple thousand in Flexsteel furniture
few thousand in inverter/batteries
few thousand in Webasto heaters.

oh...forgot 10KW Diesel Generator.....about 10k

People don't realize that even bargain shopping on ebay, doing all the work yourself.....you still rack up alot of money

then you have to account for either a rode hard put away MC-9 platform ( example) vs someting nice and solid with documentation on everything.


Sort of off topic, but I am supprised MAK sells buses as Unknown mileage.  unless he is getting these buses from third hand auctions or such I would expect these records to be available.  I know any company that I would purchase a bus from ( charter outfit) that did not or would not provide records I would walk away no matter the deal.
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belfert
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2007, 01:33:20 PM »

I think MAK doesn't want to get into legal trouble if what he states as the mileage is not right.  Hub odometers are often changed when the engine is rebuilt.  The regular odometer may have been changed and the previous mileage not documented.

My dash odometer reads 41,xxx miles, but I know the dash odometer has been replaced at least once
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jlaney
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2007, 01:42:14 PM »

tom
just spent a dallor to save a dime,
i was putting the last piece of ceiling material up in my prevost and found out that a light fixture was right over the folding door in the bath and hall. so my helper which is also my wife wanted to save the piece and move the hole to another location to save the material. so i go along with it , wee moved the hole over about a foot and glued the new material over the one that i used before. quess what glue won't stick to the finish side of vynil .  so if you think you are wrong you probly are.
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j.t. laney  tyler texas 1980 prevost lemirage
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2007, 02:08:39 PM »

Wow Tom.....one of the neat things about this Bus Conversion board is that all kinds of people share their experiences with their buses.  Even VERY $broke$ individuals like....ME!  Actually, practically speaking, I have zero business even trying to do my own conversion.  Can't $afford$ it.

But.....I'm having a great time trying.  Am finding out doing things with 10 cents rather than 10 bucks is a lot of fun.  My future paint job will probably be done by me using.....a paint brush.  Recently turned down a super deal on ten (10) good 11R x 24.5 Michilens on Alcoa wheels for $4000.00 INSTALLED!...

...because I didn't want TO SPEND THAT MUCH!  I offered $3000 doing it myself and the wrecker said "no".   He still has the stuff I think.  Bought a bucket of gauges and senders and for $50 bucks from the truck yard, but traded them off for some other stuff....again.  Now have plenty of mirrors though.

The Cummins shop wanted about $10,000 to upgrade my Big Cam 2 mill from 250 hp to 444 hp.  Practically an out of frame major.  I thought that was $outrageous$ and plan on doing it myself.  Still accumulating the necessary USED parts like pistons, cam, followers, Jake, turbo, manifolds, etc., etc.. 

The plan was to make the necessary water and holding tanks myself until I priced 308 16 gage stainless.  OUCH!!!  Now thinking fiberglass, again doing it myself. Built a ski boat years ago...wonder if I can still work fiberglass.....quess I will find out....one way or the other!! Smiley Smiley  Are we having fun...yet?

Had some health issues awhile back that may have stopped all of this sillyness, but soosss far, soosss good.  We will see.  Fun getting up EARLY in the morning thinking all about the bus conversion; smiling knowing that having much fun doesn't mean spending an arm and a leg.  Iced tea is fine.  Smiley Smiley Smiley
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Hi yo silver
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« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2007, 02:29:10 PM »

The seller of the exceptionally nice MC8 I looked at recently had receipts for about $90K in materials for the conversion.  And that was in the early 90s.  10K diesel gen, fantastic vents, corian, etc.  It adds up.  Tom, that was a great post.

Dennis
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Blue Ridge Mountains of VA   Hi Yo Silver! MC9
Jerry32
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« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2007, 02:34:27 PM »

I had a motorhome beefore I got the bus and it was not what I expected. It's cummins 230 engine was too small and gutless to drag a MH and a toad around the mountains of the west so I boosted the power and then the cooling system was not big enough. The thing lost it's brakes twice going u[hill so had to park at the top to get them back before decending. This was an Allegro Bus on a frieghtliner chassis and damn hard to work on too. The air intake was behind the rear wheels and so when on a dustey road the air cleaner was shot in no time and then it was a hundred plus dollars to change it plus a couple of hours work to figure out how to get it out and back in again. So when I bought a bus I wanted the right enging and transmission to staret with and so far no overheating problems even on 100 plus days and hills with 6 percent grades. Yes they are a money pit but I was glad to see that MH gone Jerry
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1988 MCI 102A3 8V92TA 740
cody
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« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2007, 02:38:33 PM »

I know all about the idea of finding a way to do it yourself and save a little money and yes, this is an expensive way to go.  Money is a foreign concept to me, I'm not sure what it is, but I do know that a day spent working and sweating on a project that I just spent a week researching, meant I didn't put the money intended for labor into someone elses pocket, instead it'll head to the lumber yard for the next piece of material that after another day of sweat, will save me a little bit more that might go into the fuel tank so we can go someplace next weekend. Sound familier?  Very few of us have the deep pockets that would make this all go by quickly and painlessly, so we learn to improvise and try to contort ourselves into unknown shapes and squeeze into places to reach that stubborn bolt that was never intended to be seen again muchless touched.  All this so we can own something that will haul our carcuses to the lake or down the road to the next hill so we can see whats over the top of it and to do it our way.  Which brings us to the next step in Darwins (dallases) version of evolution, at what point do we pool our resources and talents to create things that nobody else has, if someone is a top notch welder but needs an inverter installed, would it make sence to park his bus next to an electrician that needs a hitch installed? The question posed is logical but goes against human nature, real men don't need to stop for directions or to buy a road map lol, and we can all do the entire job ourselves, right?  We should start a discussion about what we're good at and how that could be utilized by the others on this board, as a minority in the RVing world we need to recognize that we could dominate it and eventually take over, we already have figured out that buses are the best way to travel, now we only need to control the peasants that are still in their winabago's, then who knows, the world? lol, Isn't it amazing the deep thoughts that can come from taking the laptop into the bathroom, I mean the thinking room lol.
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DrivingMissLazy
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2007, 02:51:43 PM »

tom
just spent a dallor to save a dime,
i was putting the last piece of ceiling material up in my prevost and found out that a light fixture was right over the folding door in the bath and hall. so my helper which is also my wife wanted to save the piece and move the hole to another location to save the material. so i go along with it , wee moved the hole over about a foot and glued the new material over the one that i used before. quess what glue won't stick to the finish side of vynil .  so if you think you are wrong you probly are.

Be extremely careful of lights over any door where the door in a partially or fully open position could be directly below the light. This is particularly dangerous with halogen lights which get very hot. I witnessed several luxury yachts that burned to the waterline due to a fire caused by this situation.
Richard
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