Episode 2 - Buying a bus

To avoid paying a fortune, most skoolie owners buy a bus built in the late 1900’s to the early 2000’s. Around 2007, manufacturers added emission controls to diesel engines to comply with new regulations. Unfortunately, these modifications led to many costly breakdowns. This has induced many skoolie owners to shop for pre-2007 models. If, as I do, you live in a locale where they salt the roads in winter, a 14+ year old vehicle is going to be a rust bucket. Advice I heard repeatedly on the internet was DON’T BUY A RUSTY BUS! The conversion process is lengthy and expensive. It makes sense to do it only on a solid foundation. So I looked for a bus in US states that don’t salt the roads, because they get little or no snow. I also wanted to avoid buses driven in coastal areas, as salt air can cause rust, too. My online research took me to Newnan, Georgia, about a 30 minute drive from Atlanta. There, Phillip Welch took us to the country where I saw more school buses than I’d ever seen in one spot. Phillip sells a few buses and can be contacted through his neighbor Adrienne Griffin: (678) 488-6032 or adriennelg816@gmail.com. I bought my bus from them - a 2004 Thomas Freightliner. My friend John and I (neither of us mechanics) did as thorough an inspection as we could, and took it on a test drive. The bus I chose ran well and passed a Georgia safety inspection no problem. Of course, I needed to bring the bus back to Canada. Adrienne, who has a background in import/export, was a huge help with the required paperwork, referring me to, and coordinating with the export/import broker. (I now understand Canada requires the use of a broker to import a vehicle.) Adrienne is also a licensed used car dealer, which allowed us to obtain the required temporary Georgia license plate. Once I got the bus home it had to pass an Ontario safety inspection, which I had done at a Thomas dealership. Apparently Ontario safety inspections are more stringent than in many other jurisdictions. The safety inspection itself cost almost $900 CAD and involved three different licensed mechanics - an indication of how detailed the inspection was. They found issues like worn king pins and worn pins fastening leaf springs. Fixing these issues cost about $4,700 CAD (about $3,300 USD before taxes.) The total bill was a shock, but I’m over it now. Maintaining a large vehicle will always cost more than maintaining a car. The bus looks good, runs well and is mechanically sound. The mechanics could not believe how clean the underbody was of rust. If I was ever prepared to again deal with the bureaucracy involved in importing a vehicle, I would buy from Phillip and Adrienne again. Click the image below to see the episode on my YouTube channel. And while you’re there, click the Subscribe button so you don’t miss subsequent episodes.
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