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Thread: Should I buy a mini-bus? Am I out of my mind?

  1. #16
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    Mar 2018
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    My current car insurance company doesn't cover this type of vehicle for personal use, so my helpful house insurance agent is looking into it. I was planning to inquire about switching the car to her agency anyway, in March when the current policy runs out. I have not been able to reach the seller by phone yet, but plan to keep trying. I don't think I can get a mechanic to look at it, I don't know any mechanics who travel and don't trust the ones I don't know, (nor the majority of the ones I do know, actually).

    I perhaps shouldn't admit this, but last fall I carried 6 16' and 2 12' 2x10 KD joists about 6 miles on the roof rack without incident. I have 3,000 and 10,000# rated straps, and drove cautiously. In years past I carried one of those palletized 275 gallon plastic tanks 7 miles on an Outback roof rack, and also a 12" x20' plastic culvert 35 miles or so. Both of them were light, but too big to go inside the car, and I didn't have a trailer when I bought the tank. I just carried a 30x84 solid oak interior door about 40 miles on the roof, and it didn't move at all. I used a 3,000# strap on that. Even once I'm through with all of this house repair craziness I'll want a roof rack to carry canoes on the occasions when I don't want to pull them with my bicycle, so I wouldn't want to be without one on my daily driver.

  2. #17
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    For $1500 plus $500 for insurance you can rent a 6 x12 trailer from Uhaul for about $30 per day. That is at least 60 rentals with no problems with fitting your loads.
    Lee Schierer
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  3. #18
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    That is true, I will add that to the list of possibilities. The Outback 4 cylinder is supposed to be rated for 2700# with trailer brakes, which I see the U-Hauls have in the bigger sizes.

  4. #19
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    The gas leak could be the fuel tank as well. I don't know if the tank is steel or not. The 6.0 engine is as good as they get. I know of them with over 400K on them for mileage. They are as bullet proof as you can ask for. It's unfortunate that you didn't look at it in advance. That being said it's scrap metal value is easily at least half the cost. If a fuel leak is the only issue that needs immediate attention it seems like a good deal. Convenience is a key factor. If you rent a trailer it has to happen during Uhaul or whoever's hours and it has to be available when you need it. You can't leave it loaded overnight without incurring additional costs. The old bus can be used as storage/unload at your leisure instead of having to get it off that day. It's a 1 ton chassis so you can load it up far heavier than a trailer you will tow with your car. It's safe to say that at least the majority of it's life it was a bus and I hope maintained correctly. You can build some structure in there to handle your materials safely. I don't think you can go wrong here if it's as it appears.

  5. #20
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    Well, the die is cast, for good or ill. I've gotten a reasonable insurance quote from the helpful agent and have spoken with my friendly local low truck driver who is going to bring it here, so that saves trying to diagnose the fuel leak in the school parking lot. The person at the school thought it was leaking from the top of the sending unit but couldn't remember for sure. If that's the case it should be a reasonably easy fix. I changed the fuel pump in a pickup when I was 17 and even more clueless than I am now. I don't plan to start using the bus till the snow melts, sometime in March or April depending how the spring goes, so that will give me time to look it over and see what it might need.

  6. #21
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    Ronald Blue, I missed your post as I was typing my last one. What kind of structure would you recommend building to hold things inside? I have no experience with that job. I can imagine that having some tiedowns anchored to the floor along the sides would be good, and maybe I can use the seat bolt holes to bolt down a plate with a ring or something. The bus was fleet maintained as part of the school bus program, and the inspection sticker is supposed to be current, though of course I'll have to have it done again after I buy it.

  7. #22
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    Feb 2003
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    Yorktown, VA
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    Over the last twenty years, my artist son has purchased two similar (maybe in better shape) bus type vehicles from public transportation auctions to carry his large format art work to shows and make deliveries . He guts them and removes the wheel chair lift and then creates interior racks for his stuff. He also builds a bunk in them for overnights. IIRC they also cost in the neighborhood of $1500 and have been well worth the money, with few high dollar maintenance issues. Not a bad return on investment.

  8. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary Hoyt View Post
    ... The person at the school thought it was leaking from the top of the sending unit but couldn't remember for sure...
    The top of the sending unit is part of the fuel pump assembly, which includes the outgoing and return fuel line connections, pump 12v line and sending unit wire... Likely just a new $150-ish fuel pump assembly will solve the problem...
    ========================================
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  9. #24
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    Ted Calver, that's good to know. It sounds like he was keeping them for a longer term, so it's nice to hear that they worked out for him. I think in a more normal economic time it would be possible to get a nicer bus for $1500, but everything has gone up a lot lately.

    Kev Williams, yes indeed. Having done a fuel pump before (even though it was 19 years ago) makes it seem like it should be pretty easy now. My recollection on that truck was that the hard part was getting the rusted bolts and nuts cut that held the tank strap ends up, since there was no way to unscrew them anymore and they were way up in there. I've never looked at the underside of a bus, but I imagine there's a little more room to reach around things, maybe.

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary Hoyt View Post
    Ronald Blue, I missed your post as I was typing my last one. What kind of structure would you recommend building to hold things inside? I have no experience with that job. I can imagine that having some tiedowns anchored to the floor along the sides would be good, and maybe I can use the seat bolt holes to bolt down a plate with a ring or something. The bus was fleet maintained as part of the school bus program, and the inspection sticker is supposed to be current, though of course I'll have to have it done again after I buy it.
    The main thing would be a bulk head of some sort to keep your load from ending up in the drivers seat. With the width of the body you could get some of the load control bars that they use in semi van trailers. They telescope out against the sides with a cam style lever. It looks like you have already given some thought to load management. Look forward to seeing and reading how it all falls in place.

    If you do need to drop the fuel tank look into new straps and just cutting the old. I know that would be a simpler option possibly if replacement straps are readily available.
    Last edited by Ronald Blue; 01-26-2022 at 7:44 PM.

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary Hoyt View Post
    That is true, I will add that to the list of possibilities. The Outback 4 cylinder is supposed to be rated for 2700# with trailer brakes, which I see the U-Hauls have in the bigger sizes.
    You may not be able to rent the 6x12 with the Outback, but you can test it on their site. The process requires indicating the make, model, trim, etc., of the vehicle you have and they match that up with the published specifications for that tow vehicle. I was able to rent one with my Ascent recently to move my Kubota, but I have a 5000 lb limit with 500 lbs of tongue weight available. I was close to that with the trailer and the tractor with FEL and BH. The other issue with the UHaul 6x12 is that the front of the trailer is closed, so all extra length has to go out the back. Harder to balance the load front to back that way.
    --

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  12. #27
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    Ronald Blue, the bulkhead idea is very smart. I've seen those things they use in dry vans that you talked about, or I may be able to make something from stuff I have around here. I'll have to find out how much of the body is steel and how much is aluminum, and how strong either one is. I might be able to bolt on brackets to the inside of the walls or the floor and ceiling behind the driver's seat and put some kind of plywood panel there. I'm not even sure from the pictures if the back of the seat is already somewhat protected by the wooden shelf unit and such.

    Jim Becker, I tried the onsite test thing back in the afternoon, and it seemed that they were saying that I could rent a 6x12 with the Outback but would be limited to about 1000 pounds payload as I recall, because the trailer itself is so heavy. My Outback is a 4 cylinder and a 6 can tow 300 more pounds. It's a great all-around car for this climate, and has done well towing some heavyish loads in my 5x8 trailer but I think it will work better to do most of the heavy hauling from here on in with the bus since it is built more for that kind of thing and has a much beefier engine and transmission.

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary Hoyt View Post
    Jim Becker, I tried the onsite test thing back in the afternoon, and it seemed that they were saying that I could rent a 6x12 with the Outback but would be limited to about 1000 pounds payload as I recall, because the trailer itself is so heavy. My Outback is a 4 cylinder and a 6 can tow 300 more pounds. It's a great all-around car for this climate, and has done well towing some heavyish loads in my 5x8 trailer but I think it will work better to do most of the heavy hauling from here on in with the bus since it is built more for that kind of thing and has a much beefier engine and transmission.
    I think you made the right choice. Trying to haul anything on a trailer where you have to calculate the load to convince yourself it can be done is generally a bad idea. Not much room for the unexpected and/or error.
    Regards,

    Kris

  14. #29
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    Mar 2003
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    Three years ago I got a commercial Lowes credit card. I didn't think I would qualify, but I told them I have rentals I repair, and they said no problem. Apparently they will give one to almost anyone.

    The best thing about it is that they deliver local loads for $20, instead of their regular $85, if that card is used. At the time I got about 30-40 4X12 sheets of 5/8 drywall on a clearance for real cheap, and they delivered it to my house for $20. I also bought sheathing OSB, and L/P siding for the same addition at home, as well as some Trex for a porch, all delivered for $20.

    At the time I had a Ford Super Duty pickup, but imagine the number of loads that would have been...not to mention loading and unloading.

    Best deal of that year.

    I don't know how far it is to your local Lowes, but it might be worth looking into.
    Rick Potter

    DIY journeyman,
    FWW wannabe.
    AKA Village Idiot.

  15. #30
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    That's actually a good point, Rick. Delivery can be pretty cost effective in many cases, A lot of locally owned building materials suppliers offer reasonable delivery and remember, those folks unload it, too. Saves time and saves your back. (I use delivery for my sheet goods for the same reason...it's essentially free with a minimum $300 order which is pretty easy to do, even for a small project)
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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