While Vin was perusing sites looking at school buses and coaches, notably Las Vegas Bus Sales, I came across a Craigslist post offering three school buses for sale. A school in south Orange County were looking to thin their fleet and had two 40′ Blue Bird pushers and one 30′ International dognose (engine in front) up for sale, ranging from $1800 to over $6500. We glommed onto the $1800 bus, a 1999 Blue Bird pusher, 40′ long, with about 305,000 miles on it. The other two buses were newer with less miles on them, plus the prices were a little out of reach for us at that moment. All maintenance records were kept up to date, per California law, which gave us confidence that we’d not find any hidden surprises down the line.
We got a test drive (one of the school bus drivers took us around the neighborhood) to listen in, make notes, get a feel for the bus in general. Bonus: this one is turbocharged! Added bonus: the Allison automatic transmission is practically new, only replaced two years prior. The engine (tan-colored 6-cyl Cummins diesel) is virtually bulletproof.
We did learn a few things along the way while looking for a bus. For example, buses in California after 2010 required a retrofit to the exhaust system to help cut emissions. Supposedly this retrofit did help reduce emissions but at the expense of horsepower and possibly the overall life of the engine. But as it turned out, this 1999 Blue Bird was indeed fitted out with this system; it could be removed down the line, but certainly not while still in California. Whatever horsepower was cut was made up for with the turbo.
This one also has pass-through storage underneath, another bonus. One of the doors has a broken lock and some bent metalwork on the lower edge, but fixable down the line. Clearly this bus was a steal at that price and it was necessary to jump on it. Those racing thoughts of “we’re actually doing this??” washed over us when we got the cashier’s check made out.
October 6, 2020: the sale was made, the bus was ours!
…But, where are we gonna put it? It couldn’t be parked at our place, the HOA would have a fit (more on this later).
Picture: The bus at the school, before purchase.
There was a mad scramble to find RV storage in the days leading up to the purchase. We discovered quickly that RV storage, especially for a 40′ vehicle, was hard to come by in Orange County, unless you wanted to either pay a bundle or wait a long time. We were told that many storage facilities in the county were shutting down, the land being converted to some other kind of development, leading to a shortage of available space. What was available went at a premium, $400 per month and up. We found a location with a $150/month pricetag, but the waiting list is 600 long!
Our options were clear: we’d have to resort to storage in the Inland Empire, further and further away from us. Availability was still scant, prices were only marginally better… but we truly hit the jackpot in a local Facebook Buzz community. A landowner in Chino had space available for only $100/month! Yeah, this one’s staying a secret! It’s still a decent 45-minute drive and the plot is unsealed, but at least we found something reasonable, with the added bonus of being able to work on it there (something most RV storage facilities won’t allow).
The school removed their identifying stickers before the handover. They were kind enough to deliver the bus out to the storage spot for us, and give us a rundown of how to operate it, where all the switches were and what they did, plus a quick driving lesson. Vin got passing grades from the drivers.
The bus has a home!