Lesson learned? Maybe we were a little too ambitious for day 1.
We started our day at 8:00 AM dropping my dad off at the bus to get him back home. We then headed straight to Home Depot to buy a cone bit for the drill. We were told this would be the best way to remove the rivets. We got to the bus, tried our brand new $20 cone bit and in SNAPPED! We spent probably the first 2 hours of the day trying to figure out the best way to remove rivets. I had done research before hand, but nothing we were trying was working. We broke about 6 drill bits in the process. We tried grinding them, but it produced so much spark it was terrifying and it wasn't working so well. Around lunch, Craig's dad came out and gave us a stronger drill and a whole set of bits he said he didn't care about. We started using a nail punch to punch through the center of the rivet. Then we took a drill bit and drilled through until the rivet spun or broke off. I'm still not convinced this is the best method. We still have tons more rivets to remove so there will be much more experimenting.
Our friend Molly showed up around 3:00 to help out! She went to work on the rivets. I had already punched them out and she took the drill to them and the cats paw with a hammer. She killed it! She got way further than I did and got us way further ahead than we would have been without her! Go MOLLY!
He didn't know I was filming him. This is one of many dance breaks to come!
There was a lot of rust so removing the seats cleanly was not an option. After trying to get them out with a socket wrench and a crow bar, we decided that the grinder was going to have to do it. We ended up cutting out the seats and then using the crow bar and hammer to remove the rusted out sockets. It took most of the day to get out the 4 seats and 2 front barriers. All I could think was how glad I was there weren't 12 rows of seats!
After months of searching Craigslist and calling bus companies, I finally bought a bus! I spent a lot of time searching Craigslist using SearchTempest which allows you to search all Craigslists at a time. I wasn't finding anything that appealed to me that I felt was coming from a trustworthy home where I could get a title and not have issues getting insurance and legal plates. I decided to turn to a dealership. I lucked out to find out there was one only 40 minutes from my parents house, which was perfect. I bought the bus from Don Brown Bus Sales in Johnstown, NY. It's about 30 minutes from Albany, NY. They sell buses all over the world. They keep their inventory very up to date and you can search it online.
At first, I thought I wanted a short bus (4 windows) but once I saw the half size, I knew that was my bus. A full size bus was just way too big for my needs. I bought an International Bluebird 2001. It's diesel, automatic with 130,000 miles on it, which I've been told isn't much on a diesel. It got a T444E engine. When I went to look at the bus initially, I paid a diesel mechanic to come with me. We looked under the bus and took a look at the engine. We looked at one other bus that had a Caterpillar engine and was much heavier duty with way bigger wheels. It was a standard and the wheel wells came into the bus. I chose the International because it was Automatic and the wheel wells don't come above the floor, which will make designing it way easier.
Finding a bus in your price range
The bus was originally posted at $7,000, but I called Don Brown's and asked them if they had any buses in my price range. My cap was $3,500. They showed me this bus and the final price was $3,100. I learned that if you see a bus you like but it is above your price range it is good to call and tell a bus company your price range and see what they show you!
Getting insurance proved to be a pain in the butt. I had advice from multiple skoolie owners on how to go about it. I read a lot online about people lying to insurance agents that the bus was an RV but I didn't feel comfortable doing that incase there was a serious issue on the drive from the dealership back to Ithaca, NY. I called about 15 different insurance companies, even ones that explicitly say online they can do it. When I called Progressive, they told me they could not cover me but if I called a local insurance agent that they might be able to help me get insured through Progressive. They suggested 3 agents in Itahca. I ended up getting insurance through True Insurance.
The DMV in Ithaca recommended that I just get an In-Transit permit so that I did not have to pay to have the bus registered while I was transporting it. When I called the DMV in Johnstown they said they could not do an in-transit permit for a bus moving within NY State even though I was holding an application for an in-transit permit that said that was a possibility. They recommended I call the DMV in the town over (Fonda, NY) and see if they could do it. They said yes, so after I paid for the bus and got my title, I headed to the DMV,
At the Fonda DMV they said it would be cheaper to register the bus for 2 years. Then, once I got to Ithaca and took it off the road, I could go to the Ithaca DMV and ask them to store my plates for the winter. I'm not sure they are going to do that for me. The other option is to have them destroy the plates and put the money for the registration as a credit towards when I decide to register the bus once it's converted. All in all, it was a lot of jumping through hoops. I knew that the purchase, insurance, registration process wouldn't be an easy one so I tried to get as much information before hand as possible. I called all the DMV's before going and insured I had all the correct paperwork and IDs to make the process as smooth as possible.
The Inaugural Journey
Hey there! I'm Karli
I bought a bus in October 2015 and have been working on converting it since with the help of my boyfriend Craig. We don't have any timeline for the project. We are working on it when we can and hope to get on the road someday for a grand adventure! I'll be blogging about the process along the way and sharing the details of our successes and failures to help future skoolie builders!