How To Buy a Used Bus: Used Vehicles

Learn How To Find and Purchase a Cheap Bus to Meet Your Needs

Green bus

Many people utilize buses, from commercial transportation companies, to touring artists, to individual churches or retirement homes.  If you own a small business, or are even just looking for a bus for personal use (such as to convert into an RV), you should consider buying used.  This is an especially good option if you are only buying one or two used vehicles. 

Don't expect to get your second-hand bus dirt cheap, however. You will have to do your research and make sure that you buy from a reputable dealer and with the best guarantee or service contract you can afford. As long as you ensure that the vehicle is in full working order, and you know exactly what you're getting, buying used can add up to significant savings.  (Negotiating for a service repair deal will minimize the hassle that can rear its head later when it's time to do scheduled maintenance or in the event of a break down.)

Here are some ideas to help you learn how to buy a used bus:

  1. Determine exactly what you'll be using your bus for.  Ask yourself a few questions about what your needs are before you buy a bus.  How many people are you planning to transport?  How often?  How far are you planning to travel?  By determining what you need your used bus to accomplish ahead of time, you'll be able to rule out those that don't meet your requirements quickly and efficiently.  Don't jump at the first deal that looks good. 
  2. Use bus dealers, online bus sale sites and auctions to look for buses.  There may be many organizations that are selling buses for one reason or another.  You can typically find used buses through school districts, municipal governments, professional dealers, auctions and even online.  If you can find a used bus auction in your area (or online) this may be your best bet for a great deal.  Many auctioned buses are in good condition due to insurance requirements and are being sold because a project has shut down or has run out of funding.  Just because you find a used school bus for sale at an auction, however, does not inherently mean it's in good condition.  You should follow the remaining steps regardless of where you find your used bus to ensure that it will meet your needs and will be easy to maintain and repair.
  3. Budget what it will cost to purchase and maintain the bus.  You should realize that buying your used bus is only the beginning when it comes to expenses.  You'll need to budget for expected costs, like gas, licensing fees, insurance and scheduled maintenance.  But you'll also need to set aside a contingency plan for any unforeseen breakdowns or necessary repairs.  Depending on the problem (and your bus) these can become expensive, which brings us to our next point.
  4. Find a repair shop that can get you replacement parts.  Before purchasing a used bus you should locate a repair shop that can not only handle maintaining your bus on a regular basis, but who can also find any parts or perform any services that your used bus may need.  Some people sell buses because they are no longer able to find the appropriate replacement parts; you certainly don't want to be on the purchasing end of that deal.
  5. Once you find a bus you like, there are some specific things you need to look for before you commit to making a purchase.  When looking at used buses for sale, make sure you take the time to inspect the:
    • Rust.  Check for rust on the frame and supporting body.  If you find any rust on these critical areas of your used bus, do not buy it.  Some rust on the body surface may be ok with you if the price is right, but remember that a rust patch (or patches) will continue to grow.  Under no circumstances should you buy a used bus with a flaking frame, structural rust, or rusting fenders or hood hinge mounts.
    • Engine options.  Get the biggest engine you can afford.  The more people you're transporting and the heavier your bus, the more you'll need-and there's no substitute for a powerful engine.
    • Transmission. Get an automatic transmission unless you have a personal preference.  They're usually easier to handle and on long trips as they can make the drive less of a hassle.  Additionally, if you're planning to try to resell your used bus when you're done with it, you should realize that most people are more inclined to buy an automatic than a manual transmission.  Automatic transmissions are much easier to sell.
    • Leaks.  Don't settle for a used bus that has any leaks whatsoever.  A leaky transmission or braking system can be extremely costly and time consuming to try to repair.  Don't buy a used bus that already has problems.  There are plenty of leak-free options out there, just keep looking.
  6. Paperwork.  Title, service records, receipt records and history-these can all help you determine the value of the vehicle and avoid potential problems in the future.
    • Your used bus must have a verifiable title with the year of original purchase.
    • If your target bus has been in fleet use, it has a service record, so make sure you see it.
    • Ask for repair receipts and make sure the repairs make sense.  If the used bus has been serviced or repaired a few times, no problem-that's probably good-but if it has had the same repairs done 4 times in the past 2 years, something could be seriously wrong.

    A used bus's paper trail is important.  If you can't verify something about the bus you should be suspicious.  Also, make sure that the receipts and records you're looking at have your used bus's VIN on them.  If they don't, you can't verify that those receipts are for the used bus you are considering.

  7. Professional inspection.  After you've narrowed your used buses for sale search down with the criteria above, you should hire a professional to come out and thoroughly inspect your used bus before you buy it.  The inspector should focus on all of the bus's major parts including the engine, transmission, frame, electrical system and air conditioning.  Make sure that you inspector is as thorough as possible and gives you the full story.  And make sure to believe him (and follow his advice) when he tells you about potential problems and concerns--that's why you hired him.
  8. If your buying a bus that needs repairs, get an accurate estimate of costs.  If you're planning to modify your bus, or you don't mind taking on some of the repair work (either yourself or with the help of a repair shop), no problem!  Just ensure that you get an accurate idea of both what the repairs will cost and the time it will take to complete them.  This will include time to track down parts, which, as discussed above, should be readily available.  Make sure to actually create a plan for completion as well, don't just discuss costs and time in a theoretical manner; put your plan and timeline down on paper, and stick to it!

Now it's time to make your purchase!  Once you've determined which bus fits your needs and you've gone through all the steps to make sure that the particular vehicle you're considering is mechanically sound, you can start talking to your seller and negotiate a fair price. 


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