No reserve price vehicle auction?

A pair of friends are looking at used school buses for sale with the intent of converting one into a camper / RV / art van. They know it will take a lot of money and time to DIY the conversion.

She worked many years in the office of a major school bus distributor / sales / leasing / service company so she is aware of many issues specific to buses to have checked by a mechanic before buying and knows the type of costs for such things as tires for a bus, etc.

Two questions:

  1. In looking online at buses for sale they are finding that many are listed for auction with no reserve price. To me that seems a red flag??? Or is that common practice?

  2. Obviously, school buses often get rough use on the interior which my friends would gut for renovation. But pictures of one out of state bus for sale they are considering showed that the face plate of some controls on the dash and the screws securing it show noticable rust, especially all across the top of the face plate such it is bubbled with corrosion. And this is on a bus with only 152,000 miles on the odometer. Is that particular evident interior corrosion common in school buses??? Or is it another possible red flag?

I told my friends I’d do some info research for them. Any helpful info offered is appreciated and I’ll pass it along to them.

Of course, used school buses are going to be offered for sale with no reserve. There just aren’t many people who want them, have somewhere to park them, and have use for them. School buses which are too old to be used for their intended purpose of transporting children are probably too old to be used as a private transport bus, or any other commercial purpose either. Thus, they are really only useful to people like your friends, and there just aren’t many people like that out there.

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@bcohen2010 Ah, ok. Thank you. I had no clue of the how or why about no reserve auctions. This is exactly the type of info I’m looking for.

Many public vehicles sold here are done so at no reserve auctions and minor interior rust would not bother me. As long as they don’t live in the Rust Belt where the entire undercarriage is being eaten away.

A shop in Enid used to service buses for several outlying small school districts and repairs costs are high for things like brakes and so on. Talking to one of their guys once (15 years ago) he said they got 900 bucks per axle for doing the brakes and that was without brake drum replacement or brake calipers being involved.

I hope they know what they are getting into. Generally speaking, when it comes to renovating something (vehicle or house) it always costs much, much more than what was originally figured.

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I don’t know much about the whole thing and don’t really want to know. Around here though they are private companies not public so the do what they want. There was an article in the paper last fall when ownership changed with local company. They talked about how often they traded (I think it was 7 years), the maintenance requirements, and the annual inspections. I believe the state patrol is the one that does the inspections. At any rate my only advice would be to maybe talk with the folks with one of the smaller bus operators to get their view on the whole idea, and the other to talk with an inspector with what things they consider big issues or no issues.

A little different but I remember one of the docs at work had bought an old Greyhound bus and spent years restoring it. His plan was to drive it around the country when he retired. He finished it, retired, and took it for a test drive and ran it right into a tree. Then he sold it. Plans change.

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@bing @ok4450 Good info with good points I’ll pass along to my friends. Thank you.

The one who worked some years for a school bus distributor spent many of those years handling billing so I assume she has a fairly clear idea of maintenance and repair costs. She mentioned that tires alone are dearly expensive.

Just a small comment. Our old school buses had left hand threaded lug nuts on the left side. 1959 buses in 1969 were common in our technical schools. I don’t know about newer ones. We usually remembered before we broke anything. That’s the end of my knowledge about school buses. Reserves are usually for hot rods, antiques and luxury cars.

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@pleasedodgevan2 Thank you.

I’ve got a friend across the border in KS who bought an old mid 60s diesel Greyhound bus about a dozen years ago and has taken it on several road trips although he never converted it. Just gutted the interior of most of the seats and added a few amenities to it. It’s not something that dazzles me but it works. One trip was from OK to NV and back.

Around the same time he bought a decent 53 Buick 2 DR HT (500 bucks, pretty straight, and runs well of all things) along with a 50s era bulldozer with an engine problem that he subsequently fixed and uses on his property. Too much time on his hands or a glutton for punishment I guess.

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Your post made me wonder about the fuel economy that a typical school bus gets. When I did a Google search for that, I ran across this site that looks very useful to your friends if they don’t already know about it:

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The owner won’t use it anymore and wants to get rid of it. A no reserve auction is a good way to do that. Government owners are required to do it that way, and I imagine private owners would want to sell them off quickly. I imagine that there would be several bidders and the first bid won’t take it. These buses should be pretty well used up by the time they are sold, and your friends should take a mechanic with them to check out anything they are interested in.

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At State surplus site buses seem to be going for 2 to 3 grand, school busses and municipal busses.

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@lion9car @Barkydog @jtsanders Thank you.

All good information to know. Thank you everyone for the informative responses. These will be helpful to my friends.

New York State has very strict requirements and 6 month inspection for School Buses. If you can find one that is just retired they are in pretty good shape. I bought 2 978 International gas engine standard shift school buses in the mid 80s from National School Bus S for $700 each for our church. They had just been inspected when they realized they could not hget enough drivers willing to drive a standard shift. We had them for years with npo [roblems except we could not get the drivers to check the rear tires before every trip and every time they drove with a flat on the rear it ruined a tireand we never found out about it until it was time to go on another trip.