Operation Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Stage 1: Purchase and Deliver School Bus
We did it! We found an old school bus that fit all of our criteria and were able to purchase it the first week of April in Phoenix, AZ! She is a 1999 Genesis International with a DT466 Engine, Allison Transmission, 250,000 miles (which is nothing for this engine), and in great shape! Crab flew into Phoenix to purchase it, and then drove it all the way back to Central Texas! A few things to think about if you are doing something like this, is to find insurance, check your state laws on types of drivers licenses needed to drive a bus, have enough money in gas (costs about $200 to fill the tank on average), have a friend who is or knows a diesel mechanic, and look for a bus in areas that have less moisture which will keep you from having any major rust issues.He also ordered a gauge reader from Amazon that he could plug into the bus to check to be sure there were no major codes that came up while he drove the bus before he bought it. We were able to find a dealer that had 4 of the same types of buses, 3 were left by the time Crab was able to get there. He checked under the buses, around them, the codes on his gauge, drove them, and then decided. Thank GOD he bought the gauge reader, because codes popped up on 2 of the 3 buses, and when he inspected under the hood and under the buses, he saw hanging lines and leaky hoses. He is not a mechanic, and only knows some things about vehicles, so the gauge reader helped him keep an eye out for things he may have missed. The third bus had the most miles, but no codes and looked the best over all. Then, he bought her for $4,700.
I was able to contact a local Texas insurance Company (not a name I ever heard of, and I can’t remember it) and the agent I was given was super helpful. He was able to get us coverage through Progressive under a Commercial Policy, for now. I am going to try to change this once we can register the bus as an RV as it is more expensive under commercial. The cost is $1400 a year…a little steep for just liability but for peace of mind for Crab to get home, I can handle it.
In Texas, you need a Class B license (not a CHL license) to drive a bus. You have to pass a written test and bring your bus to take the drivers test, to get your license….so how do you get your bus with no license? Find a friend, or play the “dance in the gray area game”. Crab has driven several types of military vehicles during his service in the Army as an Airborne Infantryman. They ranged from Susvees (spelling) in Alaska to Stryker Vehicles (tanks on wheels). His confidence in driving the bus was pretty high to begin with, so that helped my nerves! After studying all night, he passed his Written Test with flying colors before he left to check out and buy our bus. The DMV employee told him to remove all of the seats and have “school bus” painted over before he brought it to her to do his drivers test. Since none of our friends who possess CHL licenses could just up and leave their jobs to drive our bus back from Phoenix, we decided to dance in that gray area of the law. I don’t recommend it, as it was definitely stressful! But it worked out. Having insurance for Crab on his way home helped him look somewhat squared away if he was pulled over, and since he would be so close to border checkpoints it made his nerves a bit more shaky! But even after stopping at a checkpoint, he was clear to go and did not have any issues on his way home:) We def had to break the law to become in compliant with the law, but it worked out. And Crab passed his driving test this week so now we are 100% good to go until we need to register the bus as an RV, still doing research on that one though.
The driving and written tests does not include the school bus portion as long as your bus does not have school bus on it or the seats in it. Definitely check your state laws though because they are VERY different state to state.
We surround ourselves with quality friends, as quantity doesn’t matter. This is a lesson we learned a few years ago as we hit some milestones in our ever growing and changing lives. One of those great friends, Jimbo, was an Army buddy of Crab’s and his brother-in-law is a diesel mechanic. His house is a little north, in west Texas and more than half way between Phoenix and our place. This made an excellent stopping spot for Crab to have the bus inspected by a no Bull**** mechanic (I hear there are some that rip you off), especially after driving 1000 miles from Phoenix. That bus probably never went that far for that long. The mechanic confirmed the gauge’s readings and said we got an excellent deal on the bus. He suggested one thing that would need to be replaced in the future, but overall it was in great shape. We plan on going back to him when we need to work on the bus so he can teach us how to do it ourselves.
Crab finally sent me a picture of him driving the bus to curb my excitement a little. The girls and I were completely ecstatic and could not wait for him to get home with our future tiny house!
Now, the real work begins!