THE VAN/BUS BUYER'S GUIDE
Choosing the right vehicle for your bus life adventure is very similar to choosing a living space. The experience should be exciting, inspiring and fun all at the same time. Before you dive into the world of vans, buses and trailers. Spend some time on Pinterest, Instagram, blogs, youtube, and talk to somebody that is living the van/buslife. That is a great way to get some inspirations to see what fit your needs & lifestyle all together.
Size is considered to be one of the most important topic amongst bus/vanlifers since you would be living minimal to fit all your belonging in there without taking too much. Just think of the time you are flying away for a weekend getaway and you overpack and end up buying more junk with you back home. Packing light is essential because having less things in life can make your life stress free. It's a fact. (Best minimalist book) There are less thing to keep track of, lose value or best way to steer away from materialism.
ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS: FINDING OUT THE PURPOSE OF THE BUS
1. A long term living space on wheels
2. Traveling daily for cross country road trip for a extended time period?
3. A weekend warrior for shorter distance road trip
For instance, our shuttle bus is a 28 passenger carrier with 110 sq ft of space. our extended road trip begun with 3 people and later was condensed to 2, but it was awesome to have extra space when it’s needed. We stored two 400lb motorcycles in the back storage and a 180lb scooter with a tow rack. Overall it was enough room to have a sleeping courter / 32”x80” bed, 4 seat dinette that fold out to a 6’x 3.5’ bed, kitchen area with counter top sink combo, closet & storage a small size sofa. There’s was definitely room for improvement for proper space saving.
The overall length determines the maneuverability of your home on wheels. Once you are on the road, things will be apparent to you since parking in many area could be limited. City parking, campsites, drive ways, parking structures, hotels & Airbnb stays.
GAS VS DIESEL
That was the dilemma for us right in the beginning. We argue that diesel would be more fuel efficient compare to a gasoline engine, but the price difference at the pump would make up the difference. We were in search of a diesel-powered shuttle bus but found none within our budget. When we found diesel but it needed expensive repair that only speciality shops could handle. Upon dozens of searches, we finally decided that either way fuel cost is going to be a big part of our budget, and we should just find what fits our needs as long as it was in excellent running condition.
1. Powerful torque range for towing and hauling a lot of weight
2. 25 to 30 percent better fuel economy
3. Holds Better value
4. Engine durability
1. Less in fuel cost - Approx 20% less (This may not apply outside of the U.S)
2. Mechanic for gasoline engine is readily available
3. Repair parts may cost less
4. Easy to find and many to choose from
I KNOW WHAT I WANT, SO NOW WHAT?
After you get an idea of what you want. Set a budget and see if your goal is achievable. Price of vehicle can vary, so you should consider the cost of maintenance, renovation, add-on/upgrades, parking, fuel, lodging cost, preventive maintenance, backup funds for repair, etc.
With the budget set, now it’s time to check craigslist, eBay, & local fleet dealer. There’s definitely advantage to each of it’s own, and here is a simple breakdown.
CRAIGSLIST - everybody is there, you can buy something personal or commercial. Price usually negotiable and there’s more freedom in areas where you can make deals, but one wrong move might get yourself a lemon by some scammer named Vlad. Bring your mechanic and inspect everything. And don’t forget to test drive it on the street and highway to get the motor and transmission going.
EBAY - while there’s purchase protection, there’s also tons of option there, you won’t get to test drive or check the mechanics and shape of the rig, and you also have to deal with shipping but there’s a high chance you can get a really good deal on something that’s not local to your area.
LOCAL FLEET DEALER - Just like buying a car from any dealer, you get the full service, from working with a sales rep all the way to finance and customizing. You might pay the premium for a vehicle that has been inspected and certified which you might not get form craigslist or eBay. Also another point that is worth mentioning is that commercial fleet type vehicles are required to have a state inspection to ensure safety & mechanically operation, so there is a high chance you are looking at a properly maintained machine with up-to-date repairs and preventive maintenance.
ASK EVERYTHING BEFOREHAND
When you go meet the seller, first thing is start up the bus and turn on the AC unit while you ask all the general question. Start with obvious questions; overall condition base on seller's opinion, title status, maintenance history, reason for selling, expected mpg, future repair or running cost, and ask for a test drive is possible once the vehicle is warmed up. This is to ensure that engine is in good shape and any confident seller shouldn't have anything to hide.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR DURING TEST DRIVE
Before the test drive, have the seller explain to you the operation procedure. Once you start driving it down the street make sure operating temperature & oil pressure is within normal range. Make sure the heater and AC is operating and there’s no electric issues that would cost you money in the long run (battery drain, lights or other buttons not functioning). Accelerate to evaluate the shifting points and whether it makes a odd jerk when it kicks in the next gear (which can indicate a bad transmission mount or in need of service), find an uphill to see if the transmission would slip under load and generally hear if suspension is worn and steer have any excess play when you turn right and left. The engine is hardest to tell but the obvious would be unusual knocks & ping on the motor and idle should steady without any issues. If it has a loopy idle, it could be miss firing or vacuum leak in the system. Ask if the motor burns oil and kind of oil is used. Check for leaks and look where the vehicle is parked has wet oil spots which indicate a recent leak. ( note: AC create condensation which would leak water and it’s not to be confused with oil leak from engine or transmission)
INSPECT THE INTERIOR & EXTERIOR
Check for leak and cracks on any of the wall structure. Flooring on the vehicle can be inspected under the chassis for rot, mold, rust and cracks. If the structure is bad enough, you would be able to hear squeaks within the cabin while go over bumps on the road. Rotted floor by the windows and stains on carpet. could be a sign of leaks through the windows or roof. The ideal chassis should be rust-free or minimal, the nuts & bolts on the under carriage should be visible and not worn from rust corrosion.
NEGOTIATING THE PRICE
Once the test drive is completed you should have a better idea of how you can negotiate the price. See if there’s room to make an offer and let the seller do the rest of the talking. Understand the seller's value and you will connect better and possibly get the better end of the stick when you make an offer.
Do your research and know the market prices and don't be afraid to walk away from a deal. You can always research cost for certain thing you are not sure about. The key is to test drive as many of them as you need to so you can differentiate the good and the bad ones.
Always ask if the seller is willing to negotiate respectfully, wait for an answer and proceed to explain your reason for the offer...
8 out of 10 times, your offer will be at least be considered by the seller. Feel free to express that you are on a budget and but you are willing to negotiate if the conditions is right for both parties.
COMPLETE THE DEAL. GOOD LUCK
Sign the paper work and paid the seller, and start budgeting for your built.