10 Things to Know Before Buying a Used Shuttle Bus
Newer is always better.
Used shuttles come out of all kinds of applications. Churches typically accumulate 6 – 8,000 miles per year. Nursing homes will drive 10 – 25,000 miles per year. And it is not uncommon for transit, limo or parking applications to rack up 35 – 50,000 miles per year.
3. Seating Capacity
A Commercial Driver’s License is required by federal law in order to operate any vehicle with seating for more than 15 persons including the driver. This includes wheel chair positions and any fold up seats over said wheel chair positions. Additionally, this is further dictated by the manufacturer’s placard stating the number of seats that the bus was designed for. Simply removing some seats will not change the CDL requirement per the placard.
Most shuttle buses in the 10,000 to 14,000 lb GVWR range are going to be Fords. Ford has supported the bus industry since its inception; and through incentives and continual product development and improvements.
Gasoline engines rule the shuttle bus world in the 25 passenger and under sizes. Some diesels are available, however in recent years the availability of diesel engines and their high additional costs has limited their availability in the used market. Newer gasoline engines will give you comparable gas mileage as a diesel. Most common thought is that diesels give you better mileage. However, in the past 5 years or so, improvements in gasoline efficiencies have negated the diesel advantage. Gas or diesel, you can figure on 8 to 10 mpg depending on speed, load, temperature, and location. Additionally due to the initial added cost of the new diesel engine, more and more users are switching back to gasoline power, making used, late model diesel powered buses harder and harder to come by.
If you are insistent on having a diesel or the bus that you are looking at is a diesel, you will find the 7.3 liter PowerStroke diesel in 2003 and earlier chassis. And while the newer 6.0 liter diesel earned a poor reputation on its introduction in 2003, this engine did not arrive in the E-series used in shuttle buses until 2004; long after those issues were resolved. In fact the later years of the 6.0 Liter Ford Diesel has enjoyed better reliability statistics than the 7.3 PowerStroke engine.
In the large chassis, F-550, GM 5500, Internationals and Freightliners, diesels are all that is available. The F550 is available in either the gasoline or diesel engines. The GM Duramax has a good track record, as does the Cummins typical of the International and Freightliner chassis. With the larger chassis, you can figure on 6 to 8 mpg depending on speed, load, temperature, and location.
Please note that the later generations of diesel engines operate at such a low temperature in order to meet emission standards, they do not produce enough heat to keep you warm in the winter. Accordingly, in colder climates, you will want to be sure that the diesel-powered bus that you are looking at has an auxiliary fuel fired heater to assist in heating the bus.
Since buses almost always sit outside in the weather, the older the vehicle, the more likely the weathering will be greater. Also, most lettering and logos added over the past 5 years, are vinyl. Once removed, they will still be visible due to lack of fading under them.
Rear heaters should be under the seats. If they are in the middle of the aisle – this is an indication that the bus came out of a parking lot application and that some one has turned the seats around to make the bus more marketable. Beware of this, because parking lot usages are some of the most severe shuttle bus applications.
The flooring used in shuttle buses are plywood. 5/8” thick is typically standard, while most transit agencies will spec ¾” thick flooring; and all buses are undercoated. However certain buses are prone to more leaks than others. Walk the floor of the bus. Beware if you feel soft spots (mushy or spongy), especially around the entrance and wheel chair doors and behind the rear wheel wells. Generally speaking you are looking at over $5000 to replace flooring.
8. Air Conditioning
Depending on where the bus was operated, it will dictate the amount of rear AC and heat installed. A good bus dealer can tell you at a glance the size of the rear AC and heat and whether or not it is suited for you climate. It is always better to have too much than too little.
9. Prior Use
As with any used vehicle purchase, get a CarFax report. Any reputable bus dealer should be able to provide you with such a report upon request.
New shuttle buses today list for more than $50,000. So you will not find two to three year old buses with less than 10,000 miles on them for $10,000. They simply do not exist any more than you’d find a similarly aged and priced Lexus.
Lastly, due to the slow economy over the past few years, operators have put bus replacements on hold, opting to repair rather than replace. Accordingly late model, low mileage, used buses are getting harder & harder to find. And with the reduced supply and more parties chasing the same buses, the prices paid for these buses are going to be higher than what they have been in the past. Hint: If you find a good late model used bus, you better jump on it, because most likely it wont be around very long.