So I Bought A Bus... with @thebulldogbus
Names: Jake, Dylan and our two bulldogs, Grizzy and Pilsner
Hey there! We are Jake and Dylan, two beer-loving skiers converting our 1999 Bluebird TC2000 into our tiny-home on wheels! Originally from Maine (Dylan) and New Hampshire (Jake), we have been together for over eight years after meeting while getting our degrees at University of Southern Maine. Four years ago we followed the snow and made the move from Portland, Maine to Denver, CO where we quickly added two bulldogs to our little family - Grizzy (AKA Sassy Miss, below/left) and Pilsner (AKA Big Bad Buddy, below/right).
We had been obsessed with the skoolie movement for a while and recently made the leap to join this amazing community! Make sure to follow us on our Instagram (@thebulldogbus) as we navigate through our conversion - spoiler, we have no idea what we’re doing.
Did you have any criteria for what you were looking for in a bus?
We wanted to be picky with our bus - we knew what we wanted and what we didn’t. We knew we wanted a big (close to 40-foot long, higher headroom), rear-engine bus that was a little older (pre 2003 so we didn’t have to deal with the EGR systems). Little to no rust was a MUST and since we are skiers, a mechanically-driven (versus electrical/computer-driven) bus with a retarder was non-negotiable for tackling the mountain-driving. Some under-storage would have been nice but wasn’t a deal-breaker.
We knew we didn’t want a Cummings 5.9 (engine), as they’re underpowered for a bus in the size we wanted, or an Allison 545 (transmission) since it’s lighter duty and doesn’t have an anti-slip function so it wouldn’t fare well in mountain passes or towing a car.
Where/how did you find the bus?
We bought our bus off Craigslist from a rafting company in the Colorado mountains that had initially won the bus in a public-school auction (they bid on three buses with the hopes of winning one - ended up winning all three!). Since they were only looking to add one bus to their fleet, they resold the bus to us and actually brought down their selling price if we gave them all of the seats we removed for them to reuse in their fleet (no brainer, right?!).
We were very fortunate in our buying process. The seller was so helpful in answering all of our questions, let us remove all of the seats on their land and even checked in on us after we drove it off their lot for the last time!
How long were you searching before you found the one you bought?
From concept to purchase, we spent around 9 months researching what we wanted AND searching online for buses for sale.
Did you look at multiple buses before buying the one you did? If so, what stopped you from buying the others?
Honestly, the bus we bought was the only bus we looked at in-person - we were very particular about what we wanted. While there were others that we wanted to check out in-person and test-drive, they all fell through before we had a chance. Not sure if it was a product of the COVID quarantine times, but there were so few buses for sale in comparison to when we were looking in the fall of ‘19. I remember being very frustrated as bus after bus went off the market, but looking back I’m glad that they all did! We might not have held out for our perfect bus if they hadn’t.
Did you do research on what to look for in a potential purchase beforehand? What are some good resources that you used?
SO much research (mostly by Jake - he’s the researching guy) was done on what to look for in a bus. Forums/blogs (Skoolie.net, Reddit, etc.), Youtube, Instagram - you name it, he read it.
When you first saw your bus was there anything that concerned you about it?
Purchasing our bus during COVID-19 quarantine definitely made it difficult to get it looked at by a professional mechanic. We were able to facetime a local mechanic and Jake’s dad, who is a truck driver, but not being able to have someone come out and physically inspect the bus was a little nerve-racking. There was a small leak by the engine, which we later found out was a leak in the injector pump, but that was really the only thing concerning we could find.
Was there anything that excited you about the bus you bought when you first saw it?
Is it too encompassing to say everything? EVERYTHING about the bus excited us when we first saw it. I cannot say this enough, but the stars aligned on this one. It was everything we were looking for (minus the under-storage, but who doesn’t love a good project?).
What did you learn during the buying process? What would you do differently if you did it again?
We learned that buying from a school system (or shortly after auctioned from a school system, in our case) is definitely the way to go. By law, most school systems have to keep their buses in tip-top shape and have regular maintenance. I don’t think we would have done anything differently if we did it again.
Do you regret getting the bus that you have instead of a different one?
Absolutely not :)
What was the registration process like for you in your state?
We are still in the process of registering our bus. Due to the quarantine, the DMV in our county JUST reopened. We have all of our paperwork - emissions, title, bill of sale, and proof of insurance, so fingers crossed it’s a smooth process!
How did you insure your school bus and what was the process like?
The insurance process was wicked easy for us. We just called our friendly agent at State Farm and she had us insured in less than an hour. We need to get our bus weighed (a want, not a requirement) to see if we can get our premiums lowered.
Is there anything else you want to share for those that are in the buying process or will be in the future?
We cannot stress the importance of OVER researching. A bus is a big investment of time, money, and EMOTIONS. If you’re looking to convert a school bus into your full-time home, or even a part-time traveling vehicle, you want to make sure it’s going to be reliable. Buying a bus that is in good condition might cost more upfront, but it will save so much in repairs and time spent converting.
The skoolie community is really such a helpful and group of individuals. Have questions? Ask! There are so many people who have gone through the conversion process, are still in the conversion process, or are just random experts - someone is bound to have a solution to your problem or had a similar experience with an issue.
We are still in the early stages of our conversion (starting the roof raise this week!), but so far it has been an incredibly fulfilling, educational, and personally growing experience. Some days are better than others, but we are so glad we took this step in our lives. SO excited for everyone about to take a step on their own skoolie journey - can’t wait to see the pics :)
Much love - Jake, Dylan, Grizzy & Pilsner