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Author Topic: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase  (Read 674 times)

jonnyc

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Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« on: December 12, 2018, 12:57:19 PM »
Hello,
Currently suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis. Iíve been thinking of living in an RV full time with my wife (no kids yet) for like 3 years and I think weíre finally going to take the plunge . At first, we were going for high tops cargo vans conversion like the transit or the promaster. Due to the lower cost AND space I started looking into the e350 bus platforms. I was looking for that famous 7.3 diesel under 100k but I didnít find nearby at a good price. Might be a blessing as I possibly found a better deal. I found a vehicle that was owned by the DMV for around 20 years. Its an E350 bus with gas engine. The mileage is incredibly low less than 30k and carfax records confirm this (not sure how much to trust carfax). I scheduled a viewing with the owner on the only day off I had. Unfortunately, I was unable to test drive it due to a flatbed truck that was not in working order blocking the garage exit. This new owner has had the vehicle for less than a year and a half and only put a couple thousand miles on it. I was able to hear the engine running and it sounds very smooth with no ticks or weird noises. Exhaust shows no signs of engine problems. I checked for rusk in the undercarriage and did not find any extensive damage. I found some rust but considering the age of the vehicle it is very minimal. I already schedule an appointment with a mechanic on Thursday to inspect the vehicle by then the flatbed will be moved out. The owner seems legit, I met him at his familyís party rental business and then he took me to the garage where they had equipment for other businesses. Obviously, this is no guarantee, but it put me at ease as the story makes sense as to why they acquired the vehicle and why they are getting rid of it.

Im going be a bit ambiguous because Iím a little afraid someone could steal the deal from me (i know highly unlikel)

E-350 cutaway
1992-1997
less than 30k miles
gas engine 5.8L
23' bus

Interior dimensions
90Ē width
190Ē from back of bus to the back of the driver side seat
73Ē interior height in the passenger area, about 79Ē at the front by the driver area.

Link below to a similar age bus with similar shell, although it might be slightly longer than my find.
http://www.michaelsmotorco.com/detail-1994-ford-econoline_rv_cutaway-rv_cutaway_176_wb_drw-used-18046049.html

1-If you were in my shoes and wanted to convert a bus to RV for full time living, would you consider the bus I found?

2-What are some must haves when selecting a bus platform to convert (not taking into account vehicle mechanical issues ie engine, transmission problems, etc. )

3-What mechanical issues should I be aware for the e350 platform?

4-Anything you would like to share that can make my life easier?

5-What would you pay for a bus with these specs?

Thanks in advance!

Roy M

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2018, 01:37:28 PM »
 I have a 25' fifth wheel, a week or two was plenty for my late wife and myself. Full timing was out of the question. Where are you going to put propane bottles and three holding tanks? By the time you are finished you could have bought a nice class C or even an A for less money and be more conmfortable.

jonnyc

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2018, 01:51:29 PM »
you think so? ive seen so many cargo van conversions on youtube that im confident I can do the same for around the same price.
I honestly dislike the layout of most RVs, I feel like they dont use the space well. Budget is very important so please feel free to go into detail on your last reply.
What price range are you referring to? are we talking about 40+k?

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2018, 03:09:32 PM »
I have the tech skills and RV knowledge and still would not take on a project like that except perhaps as a challenging hobby.  Nor would I want to live fulltime is a 23 ft van, no matter how well designed it might be.

If you really think you can live in a little over 100 sq ft, find a beat up Class C RV.  Strip it to walls and lat it out the way you want, and you will still be ahead of the game in cost and effort. The C will have all the basics in place (water tanks, roof a/c, plumbing lines, etc.) and will also be wider than a straight van (102" vs about 72").  Maybe even pick up a late model damaged one in a RV salvage yard, if you can do some body work.
Gary
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Home: Ocala National Forest, FL

jonnyc

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2018, 03:43:05 PM »
I have a 25' fifth wheel, a week or two was plenty for my late wife and myself. Full timing was out of the question. Where are you going to put propane bottles and three holding tanks? By the time you are finished you could have bought a nice class C or even an A for less money and be more conmfortable.

Thanks will go under the bus. I plan to encapsulate them in foam (same foam plan to insulate the interior with).
As far as the size, we believe we are ok with the size of the bus and were actually considering the tall cargo vans which are tiny. We do not speak from experience of course but we hope to be happy with that space. If we needed something larger we wouldn't even consider a larger RV as this bus is will be barely short enough to boondock around towns.

So the bus we found has 11k miles and is being sold for 4k. does that change anything? im I just nuts trying to convert this thing? Could you please provide an expample of what I can get for say 15-20k?

jonnyc

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2018, 03:49:20 PM »
I have the tech skills and RV knowledge and still would not take on a project like that except perhaps as a challenging hobby.  Nor would I want to live fulltime is a 23 ft van, no matter how well designed it might be.

If you really think you can live in a little over 100 sq ft, find a beat up Class C RV.  Strip it to walls and lat it out the way you want, and you will still be ahead of the game in cost and effort. The C will have all the basics in place (water tanks, roof a/c, plumbing lines, etc.) and will also be wider than a straight van (102" vs about 72").  Maybe even pick up a late model damaged one in a RV salvage yard, if you can do some body work.

The size is actually what is attracting us. I know we would be much more confortable in a larger RV no doubt but it also comes with its negatives. We were actually looking at the tiny cargo vans like the pro master but that was too small. This is definitely pushing the length we wanted but we are doing it primarily for the extra width in the bus.

So the bus is 4k and seems to be in great shape with only 11k miles on it. Now what price point im i looking at for an RV that I can strip to the walls?

johnaye

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2018, 03:54:33 PM »
I started a bus conversion once when I knew a lot less than I know now.  I would not even consider it.  If you are going full time I would suggest a used Class A, so you will have some storage, would be your best bet. 
John and Becky
2004 Alfa See Ya DP
2015 Chevrolet Equinox LT

Experience comes from mistakes.  I have a lot of experience

jonnyc

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2018, 04:12:09 PM »
I started a bus conversion once when I knew a lot less than I know now.  I would not even consider it.  If you are going full time I would suggest a used Class A, so you will have some storage, would be your best bet.
thanks for the reply. Unfortunatelly we are not trying to go that size (unless you mean those short class A rvs) knowing this would you still advice against the bus? would you advice for a cargo van instead of the bus?

PancakeBill

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2018, 04:41:20 PM »
Looks like the paralysis is keeping an open mind past what you want to do.  We are all youg at one time, looks like you are now, we all had to make mistakes along the way.  You have to make yours.  I think the project you have in mind is a lot larger than you think.  When you are done, how will you sell it?  You better want it for the long haul!.

Harsh?  Sure but think about it.  4k for the bus, what do you think your budget is to fit it out?  Yes it can be done, but remember, when the builders start, they have a cab and chassis,  not retrofitting, which is where you will be.  What are your ideas for storage?  Where will the tanks be?  What size?  How will you mount? 
is your skill set?  Mechanic?  Plumber?  Electrician?  IT?  BA degree?  Tool inventory?  Fasteners?  Time frame to complete? 

What is your actual ambition for this, live inexpensive while saving for a house? 

Examine your motive. 

Another thing to think about in a 1994 with 4k miles,  closely examine rubber.  Tires, belts, hoses etc, that old and not a lot of use this stuff degrades, and when it starts breaking it is a real issue.

Let me share something, when I was in my 20's, married and at the time 1 child, and a house.  So maybe a little further than you life-wise.  Well I wanted a sailboat, really bad, and I am pretty comfortable around tools, and fixing things, maybe you are?  Anyway, I kept looking at project boats.  Wooden boats, absolutely beautiful, but wood.  The broker knew me, and gave me great advice, buy a fiberglass boat, the wood boat has a life of its own, you will spend more time working on it than sailing it.  Do you have the room to work on it at home?  Enclosed workshop?  Well I had none of that, followed his advice and sailed happily, and while at the boatyard saw the wooden boats going in the water in August.

Listen to what these folks are telling you.  An older class C (BTW, usually built on e450 chassis), will give you a bit more room, it will be pretty much ready on day one, and trust me, this project would likely have a day 365!  Learn the systems, gut it is you want and refigure the layout, but it is something you can actually live in.  Yes it will cost more, but your 4k initial and what it will cost to get to living condition, I bet you will be in for more. 

Whichever way you go, let us know how you make out.  All the bet.
Bill & Jolene W & Koda

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jonnyc

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2018, 05:34:55 PM »
I am worried about the age of the vehicle. Like i mentioned, it did seem very well taken care of by the DMV. im taking it to a bus mechanic to have him inspect it and he agreed to do a walk through with me. My goal is to travel cost defectively. You're absolutely right that I haven't picked out all the parts appliances and location for tanks. I have seen people mount tanks under regular cargo vans. I inspected the undercarriage of the bus and saw plenty of room there for the tanks. I have some skills mainly electrical and some woodworking skills. You're also right, im just terrified to sink a bunch of money in this and me not finishing the project due to lack of research. I was all set and not at all questioning how to convert a cargo van. I thought the bus isnt much different than the cargo van and I have more skills than many people I follow on you tube that did some outstanding work in their van, many of them are head and shoulders above most class C rvs in insulation and layout. 

kdbgoat

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2018, 06:04:35 PM »
Folks here have provided you with a lot of good advice and I will be another to recommend following it. Yep, there may be some nice stuff on YouTube, but if the builders were completely honest, they could tell you the true cost of the conversion in money and labor. Then when done, never be able to sell it for what's been invested. I used to be involved in redoing garden tractors, and completely understand doing a labor of love, but I also knew when to draw the line. Practice living in your kitchen and bathroom, and that will give you an idea of living in a small RV. My wife and I love each other dearly and don't mind staying close to each other 24/7. We stayed in our 33' bumper to bumper class C with 2 slides for 2 months, and it was too small for us to even consider fulltiming in. It's great for camping, but.....
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Isaac-1

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2018, 06:34:08 PM »
I am not going to tell you not to do it, but I do want to mention the following:

1, An E350 chassis has a 12,500 pound GVWR, this means that when you are done and loaded for travel you need the total weight to be under 12,500 pounds.  I had a friend that did something similar 20 or so years ago, bought a 1970's class B / B+ Trans-Van gutted it, rebuilt it and found he was 2,000 pounds over the GVWR before loading it down with his junk.  There is a reason so many class C's on the E350 chassis are built so flimsy.

2, You will never get your money back out of it when you decide to sell it.

3, Some commercial campgrounds will not allow bus conversions RV's, but strangely enough will tend to accept any factory built RV no matter how bad of shape it is in, at least for over night stays.  (many RV resorts have a 10 year age rule, particularly for longer stays)
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Bill N

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2018, 07:29:53 PM »
I know you are saying that size is not the issue. But when you say full time for two people SIZE does matter and even if you convert an E350 it will be SIZE that finally convinces you to sell it.  Just my thoughts.  I know you have price worries but there are some good deals out there and estate sales and consignments in the off months (winter) are good sources for bargains.  Good luck and keep us advised.

Bill

PS:  On those good low mileage older vehicles be sure and check the tires, not for wear, but for age.  RV tires should not be pushed further than 7-8 years normally.  They can hit a wallet hard when a new set is needed.
Bill & Joan N in Missouri
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johnaye

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2018, 11:20:35 PM »
thanks for the reply. Unfortunately we are not trying to go that size (unless you mean those short class A rvs) knowing this would you still advice against the bus? would you advice for a cargo van instead of the bus?
I did two van conversions in my younger days.  Neither had bathing facilities, black or grey water tanks.  They did have a small propane stove.  No heater.  The bathroom was a portable toilet. Fine for a weekend, or even a week in the summer, but that is it.  Unless you can figure out how to raise the ceiling, you are not going to be able to stand up.

Are you really going to get what you want doing a conversion?  You said you want to go full time.  if so, you are going to need storage.  If a short A or a large C may meet your needs, then think about them.  Having said all of this, have you considered your options such as a TT or a small 5er?  We had an 18' TT that my wife lived in for over 60 days during a family emergency.  The TT was cramped and had limited storage,but contained everything we needed, refrigerator, full bath with a very small tub, heater, bed stove and over water and holding tanks.  It was cramped,  but we made do. Finally, maybe it is just me, but the mileage on the unit you want to buy seems very low.  If you are going to do the conversion I would suggest you have a professional mechanic check it out unless you are a vehicle mechanic who can do your own checking.

Please let us know what you decide to do.
John and Becky
2004 Alfa See Ya DP
2015 Chevrolet Equinox LT

Experience comes from mistakes.  I have a lot of experience

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2018, 08:41:30 AM »
Quote
we wouldn't even consider a larger RV as this bus is will be barely short enough to boondock around towns.
That has an ominous ring to it.  "Boondocking" on the streets is heavily frowned upon and is illegal in most all cities and larger towns.  Too many "stealth campers" cause problems for the residents, e.g. dumping waste in the streets, leaving trash, maybe indulge in prohibited substances, etc.  Of course that's not you, but you will be strangers to the town residents and LEOs.
Quote
So the bus is 4k and seems to be in great shape with only 11k miles on it.
Are you sure that it isn't 111k miles? 


Quote
Now what price point im i looking at for an RV that I can strip to the walls?
$5k-$10k.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2018, 08:43:27 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
Gary
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Oldgator73

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Re: Suffering a severe case of analysis paralysis on bus purchase
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2018, 08:54:58 AM »
Our son is a 100% unemployable Gulf War vet. He just purchased a 26í box truck (Uhaul). He is converting it to an RV and his plan is to travel the country and boondock along the way. The truck was $3000 and he purchased a used BMW dual purpose (Street/off-road) motorcycle. He is so excited about doing the conversion and getting on the road. Are we concerned-hell yes! Will we in any try to dissuade him from doing-no! Donít let naysayers stop you from doing what you want to try. Go on YouTube and look at the videos of folks converting box trucks, vans, school buses, ambulances almost any vehicle you can think of to RVís. There is a FB site dedicated to boondocking and free camping. Follow your dream.
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