More Tips for Buying Used School Buses

Nicole Schlosser
Posted on October 15, 2018
In SBF’s October issue, a story covered tips on purchasing pre-owned school buses. Here, we share additional words of advice, including on vehicle titles and getting information at trade shows. Shown here are some of A-Z Bus Sales' pre-owned school buses.
In SBF’s October issue, a story covered tips on purchasing pre-owned school buses. Here, we share additional words of advice, including on vehicle titles and getting information at trade shows. Shown here are some of A-Z Bus Sales' pre-owned school buses.

In our October issue, we shared a story with some tips on buying used school buses from school bus dealers across the U.S. After publishing the story, we received some more insight on the issue from a school bus dealer in California.

Eddie Chavez, sales manager of the preowned bus division at A-Z Bus Sales in Colton, California, told School Bus Fleet that many customers are buying school buses pre-owned for two main reasons: they have not budgeted for new school buses within the fiscal year and have a need, and they do not have access to state funds for new buses.

In the initial story, we were able to include nearly a dozen steps on making the process easier, and we hope those were helpful. However, some additional pointers didn’t make it into the story. Those are listed below: 

Get informed through state shows

Richard Wolfington Jr., president of Wolfington Body Co. in Exton, Pennsylvania, who is also the president of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association, encourages those in the market for a pre-owned bus to attend their state school bus or school transportation trade shows to learn more about what’s available.

“Many times equipment is on display [at trade shows], and you’ll have a chance to talk to the people who sell that equipment, perhaps even see the differences in the kinds of equipment,” he explained. “Some people choose a different engine with a different horsepower [or] brake system. You might learn about geographical differences; going to a state show in Delaware, you might learn something different than in Pennsylvania or Ohio.”

Check all parts in mechanical inspection

In the previous article, one of the recommended steps is for a used school bus shopper to bring a mechanic or pay a trusted mechanic to check out any buses they may buy. Tom Buhle, used bus sales manager at Midwest Transit Equipment in Lansing, Michigan, added that any inspection should find out whether all parts are in a condition that is consistent with the bus’ age.

“All areas of the bus need to be checked out — engine, transmission, electronic and chassis and steel components — to ensure they’re in reasonable condition matching the age of the bus.”

More factors to consider before buying

Before deciding to purchase a used bus, Chavez recommended keeping the following checklist of criteria:  

●    Type of engine. Some engines, particularly diesel, are more costly to repair or rebuild, he said.
●    Fuel type. CNG tanks have expiration dates and some can cost $20,000 to replace. Diesel engines tend to have longer life cycles than CNG engines, he added.
●    Capacity. Be sure about the seat count needed for routes that require a certain capacity.
●    Shipping. The cost to ship a bus from one coast to another could cost $7,500 or more.
●    Maintenance. Ask whether the bus was fleet maintained or not, and whether the dealer offers extended warranties for used buses.
●    A clear title. “You do not want to buy a bus that has a lien on it,” Chavez said. “Do your due diligence to find out, even if you are buying from a dealer.”

Avoid auctions

Finally, used school bus shoppers should choose a dealer or a broker rather than finding a bus at auction.  

“Finding the right bus can be very stressful and time-consuming,” Chavez said. “If you are considering buying a used school bus at a public auction, you should ask yourself, why would a school bus be auctioned off if the [useful] life can be considerably long? Many times, fleets are getting rid of aged units that they no longer want and often have little use life left.”

Related Topics: California

Nicole Schlosser Managing Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • David Miraglia

     | about 2 months ago

    Good article and helpful.

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