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Building Buses with Steel, Stainless Steel and Aluminum

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Archive Article from National Bus Trader
June, 2014

For some reason, we have received several questions lately on the various metals generally used in bus construction. This was probably expected since some of these metals have been in the news recently. Prevost has introduced aluminum luggage bay doors on their X-series coaches. Caio is putting aluminum siding on its new coaches and Setra is dipping their frames into a tank to coat them against corrosion.

I can go through some of the basic items on different metals without getting too involved with metallurgy. None of this is rocket science. In fact, I would bet that many of our tenured readers are already knowledgeable in this area. While we can provide some basic information, hard and fast rules are difficult because of differences in both bus construction and usage.

Let me start out by saying that there is no “best” bus for everyone and every application. One operator may want a local shuttle bus to operate three hours a day, transport 20 people around town, and have a useful life of 200,000 miles. Another operator will ask for a bus that will carry up to 50 people in long distance scheduled service and will last for 2,000,000 miles. Somewhat obviously, the “best” bus for each of these applications is not the same bus.

Next, let me suggest that a great deal depends on quality of construction and related longevity. Stainless steel and aluminum do not necessarily improve the quality of construction. However, they can help the bus last longer and improve resale value by reducing corrosion as the bus gets older.

A third point I feel compelled to bring up is galvanic corrosion. Using different metals in the same bus can cause problems where they join. I remember hearing more on this years ago. It appears that in recent times this concern is more under control.

A good place to start is to review some of the basic differences between the European and American bus markets and typical construction.
European coaches typically are expected to run fewer miles than on this side of the Atlantic. Bear in mind that it is less than 1,000 air miles from London to Rome so you do not put a lot of miles on a coach unless you run a tour beyond typical Western Continental Europe. Moreover, since tours are a major part of European coach operations, there is more pressure for newer coaches. Hence, it is not unusual for a European coach to be built from mild or carbon steel and have a useful life of about 1,000,000 miles. Since there are no major long distance scheduled service operations in Western Continental Europe and most of the tours are short by American standards, there is no strong demand for coaches with high longevity.

However, to be fair, I should mention that any of the European-built coaches that survive on the American market tend to be at least a cut above the standard European coach. In some cases, the export model going to America may have more features than coaches built for local use.

While coaches in Western Europe have primarily evolved around tourism, the bus industry in America started out primarily as scheduled service. Greyhound started out running between Hibbing and Alice, Minnesota and virtually all of the earlier larger bus companies were heavily involved with scheduled service.

Add to this the fact that the distance from New York to San Francisco is three times the distance from London to Rome. Hence, early bus design in the United States and Canada centered around longevity and durability. For the most part, I have no problem with suggesting that our domestic coaches (now primarily built in Canada) are easily the most durable in the world. They not only have a high stainless steel content but typically have a useful life of 2,000,000 miles or more.

When does it pay to use aluminum or stainless steel in addition to or instead of mild or carbon steel? This is a fairly typical question but, again, a great deal depends on the operator’s needs and the type of operation. The more years you plan to keep the bus, the more that stainless steel or aluminum would be a positive factor. Buses that are built to operate more than 1,000,000 miles are also good candidates for these metals. In addition, stainless steel or aluminum could be more important if residual value is a high priority to you.

Carbon or mild steel is the usual metal used in most buses that do not have a high longevity. The industry tends to define it as having no more than two percent carbon and no other appreciable alloying element. It is the most popular type of steel, is less expensive than other specialized types of steel and is generally easy to work with. Its biggest negative feature from our standpoint is corrosion. Iron in the steel mixes with oxygen in the air to form ferric oxide, forms of which are more commonly known as iron oxide or rust.

In earlier decades, many of the buses built in the United States used carbon or mild steel. It worked well for some makes and models and not so well with others. For example, Eagles were notorious for rust. There were people who unkindly suggested that if you stood close to an Eagle you could actually hear it rust. After looking at going to stainless steel, Eagle converted to CorTen (or “weathering”) steel. This tended to reduce the rust problem but is not as good as stainless steel in this area.

Carbon steel is almost always used for cutaways and other body-on-chassis buses in the United States and Canada. Since body-on-chassis buses rarely run for more than 500,000 miles, the use of stainless steel would be considered a waste of money by most people. However, I have seen cutaways that use some stainless steel in areas most prone to corrosion, such as doors and stepwells.

Temsa’s coaches coming to America have high stainless steel content. However, I have been told that Temsa will build some models using mild or carbon steel on customer request. This does reduce the price of the coach but it is more prone to corrosion. Setras are built with carbon steel but since their acquisition by Daimler, the frames are very carefully rust proofed in a cathodic dip tank at the Mercedes facility in Mannheim, Germany. Holes in the tubular steel allow the treatment to go both inside and outside of the frame members. The use of an electrical charge on the frame makes this process similar to plating and provides a very thorough coating.

Aluminum has been used in bus and coach production for a long time. There are different kinds of aluminum alloys with some less likely to suffer corrosion and some actually stronger than some steel alloys. The primary advantage of aluminum is its ability to withstand corrosion. Aluminum does react with oxygen in the air to produce Aluminum Oxide. This then typically coats the aluminum and tends to prevent any further corrosion.

A second advantage of aluminum is low weight. This can be increasingly important today when weight and ecology are important considerations. However, there are at least two disadvantages when using aluminum. One is the potential for galvanic corrosion when in contact with steel. The second is that most aluminum is not as strong as steel and hence is less appropriate for use as structural members that have to bear a lot of weight.

General Motors made good use of aluminum on many of their buses and coaches. The use of aluminum for siding was typical. What the industry called “silversiding” was actually aluminum. I note that many of the Scenicruisers ran more than three million miles before leaving the Greyhound fleet, suggesting that GM knew how to make steel and aluminum work well together.

Today we are seeing a reemergence of aluminum in buses and coaches. Its light weight and reduced corrosion are factors making it popular. I note that Prevost is now offering aluminum baggage bay doors on its X series coaches. In addition, I find it interesting that CAIO is putting aluminum siding on its coaches. I suspect that we will see more aluminum on coaches in the years ahead.

Of course, the “top of the line” as far as buses and coaches go is stainless steel. Also known as inox steel (from the French inoxydable), stainless steel is usually defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 to 11 percent chromium content by mass.

The single biggest advantage of stainless steel is its reduced corrosion. Unprotected carbon steel tends to form iron oxide or rust when exposed to air and moisture. The rust is active and helps form more iron oxide. Since the iron oxide molecules are larger than iron molecules, the rust tends to flake and fall off. Hence, over time the carbon steel is reduced in size and in strength.

Stainless steel is stain-less, not stain-proof. The chromium in stainless steel mixes with oxygen in the air and forms a coating of chromium oxide that protects the metal from further corrosion. On the negative side, stainless steel is more expensive than carbon or mild steel. In addition, some people say that some types of stainless steel can be more brittle than mild steel and hence more difficult to work with.

Credit for introducing stainless steel into American coaches in a big way goes to Harry Zoltok, the founder of MCI. Challenged with building buses for Canadian Greyhound that could survive Canadian winters and pre-War Canadian roads, Zoltok developed a combination of platform integral construction and stainless steel that undoubtedly qualifies as the most durable type of bus ever built in any quantity. This goes a long way towards explaining why MCI has had an enviable reputation for durability and continues to enjoy a substantial market share.

However, I do give credit to other manufacturers for learning that stainless steel enhances the longevity of an already high-quality coach. Today, Prevost, Van Hool and Temsa coaches sold in the United States all have a high degree of stainless steel content.

I should at least briefly mention that we are seeing more and more plastics and similar materials being used in bus and coach construction. Bob Lee and his crew at Neoplan once developed a lightweight carbon fiber bus. Today’s modern buses typically use various types of plastics or fiberglass for front and rear caps, walls and sidings and even flooring. Their main advantage is light weight and a lack of corrosion. Although in most cases, these materials are not strong enough to be used for structural members.

Finally, for those people who have asked, the most durable American buses in the past were built with platform integral construction. This includes the popular GM coaches as well as the MCI coaches through the D model. The newer models built with tubular web frame construction have not yet met the three-million mile record of the Scenicruisers. However, it can easily be suggested that in todays operations, heavy in charters and tours rather than heavy scheduled service, coaches simply do not run as many miles as they used to.

Whether or not the top mileage makes any difference, tubular web frame integral construction appears to be replacing platform integral construction. The major reason for this is that platform integral construction tends to limit design possibilities in an era when design is increasingly important in a charter and tour market. In spite of this, I suggest that stainless steel will remain important in coach construction for a long time and we most likely will see more aluminum in the years ahead.

An interesting read about Motor Coach Seat Belts

Motor Coach Seat Belts

The forthcoming federal mandate requiring seat belts on motorcoaches has prompted several questions from the readers of National Bus Trader ranging from the number of coaches with seat belts to what to do with coaches without seat belts. We will try our best to answer the questions that we can.

We admit to not being the first to tackle this topic. Our old friend Dave Millhouser recently wrote an article on what to do with seat belt-less motorcoaches and offered suggestions ranging from turning them into livestock carriers to using them as windbreaks (see the February 15, 2014 Bus & Motorcoach News). While obviously humorous, it did point out the fact that we need to deal with this situation and there are numerous questions to be answered.

Seat Belts and Compartmentalization
The discussion on seat belts is not new and has been an ongoing topic for years. I should point out that it was not fostered by serious bus safety issues. For decades, buses have had an enviable safety record, due in large part to several factors including bus size and weight, operator safety and compartmentalization.

In fact, many people in the bus industry took the position that seat belts were unnecessary because of compartmentalization. While experts argued that coaches did not have true compartmentalization, they did have large padded seats that contained the passengers and became a major safety feature (see the article in the March, 2009 National Bus Trader.)

An excellent argument was provided in support of compartmentalization instead of seat belts. The compartmentalization was actually built in the coach and would be there in the event of an accident. However, the seat belts were useless unless the passengers buckled up.

While the Europeans did mandate seat belts on coaches in 1997, their regulations were somewhat watered down by allowing two-point seat belts where three conditions for energy absorption were fulfilled. Meanwhile, the lack of seat belts became a possible major litigation item in the United States in the event of accidents. The feds began looking at seat belts as a possible passenger restraint, particularly in answer to passenger ejections during rollover accidents. Seat belt legislation was proposed and comments were solicited.

Federal Action
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced their final rule on November 20, 2013. It was 202 pages in length and required three-point belts on coaches starting in November of 2016. It amends the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) Standard 208 to require lap and shoulder seat belts for each passenger seating position in: (A) all new over-the-road buses; and (B) in new buses other than over-the-road buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 11,793 kilograms (kg) (which amounts to 26,000 pounds), except transit buses and school buses.

It is noteworthy that the new law applies only to new coaches. It does not apply to existing coaches. In excluding existing coaches from the law, the feds cited the high costs of engineering expertise for retrofitting seat belts on older coaches for bus operators, many of which are small businesses. It was also noted that there was no mandate for passengers to actually use the seat belts.

In justification of the new seat belt law, the feds named the high occupancy rate of the coaches, the speed at which they travel and occupant ejections in rollover accidents. While the number of fatalities is relatively small, the statistics made it obvious that most deaths during rollover accidents occurred because of ejection from the coach. Seat belts would reduce passenger ejections.

There is a great deal of information on the Internet if you are interested in reading it. You might want to start by searching for RIN 2127-AK56.

Buses With Seat Belts
Seat belts were slow in showing up on this side of the Atlantic. Since customers and passengers did not ask for seat belts, the bus operators did not order them on their new coaches. I was involved as an expert witness in some litigation centering around the lack of seat belts on a coach built in 2001. Not only did the buyer not ask for seat belts, but they were essentially unavailable at that time.

Real interest in seat belts did not become obvious in our market until the second half of the first decade of the new century. A few companies began offering two-point seat belts on new coaches. Temsa was one of the first manufacturers to offer three-point seat belts, but they were already offering seat belts in Europe.

In January of 2009, American Seating and SafeGuard introduced a new motorcoach seat at the UMA Motorcoach Expo in Orlando. That seat combined three-point seat belts with features of compartmentalization. Greyhound specified them on their next new coach order in April of that year. Since then, three-point seat belts have been increasingly specified on new coach orders and they are now standard on some models.

Some recent figures I saw suggested that as many as 86 percent of new coaches were being ordered with three-point seat belts in 2013 and that percentage was increasing. Meanwhile, a significant number of current coaches were being retrofitted with seat belts during refurbishing.

Where will things stand in late 2016 when the new seat belt mandate goes into effect? The ABA Foundation suggests that there are about 36,000 commercial coaches in our market. While I have not seen any official numbers, my own estimate suggests that more than one third and probably closer to a half will have seat belts by November of 2016. As is obvious, most of the coaches with seat belts will be newer models while most of the coaches without seat belts will be older models.

Retrofitting Seat Belts
Can seat belts be retrofitted on older coaches? The answer is “yes” on coach models that are still fairly recent, but the cost may be prohibitive.

The first problem we face is that you simply cannot attach seat belts to existing seats. You need to order new seats with seat belts. This will set you back somewhere in the neighborhood of $26,000 to $30,000 or more and may take from 45 to 60 days for production and delivery.

Add to this the fact that seats with seat belts place more stress on seat tracks and on the bus structure itself. Hence, some reinforcing may be required and this may be beyond the capability of the average small bus company. Hence, adding in labor, you are probably looking at a minimum of $35,000 to add seat belts to even a relatively new coach.

Experts tell me that as your coach gets older, retrofitting seat belts becomes less practical because of costs and structure. You eventually reach the point where either the cost is prohibitive for the age and residual value of the coach, or the reinforcement becomes impossible because of coach structure. Hence, there are a lot of coaches out there that will be retired before they get seat belts.

The good news is that there are places where you can get seat belts retrofitted. MCI has been doing it in Loudonville other locations. ABC has also been doing some retrofitting, including a major program for Greyhound. A nice advantage of installing seat belts is that you can also install 110-volt outlets and Wi-Fi at the same time.

No matter what happens, the bus industry is faced with a problem of having a huge number of buses in operation without seat belts in late 2016. Will passengers and charter groups accept buses without seat belts? If not, what can we do other than turn them into livestock haulers and windbreaks?
Safety
Just how much do three-point seat belts protect passengers? While two-point seat belts have several negative features, the three-point seat belts are limited in positive features. The experts will point out that there are circumstances where three-point seat belts are more negative than positive. These would include evacuating a coach because of a fire or an oncoming train. Seat belts, and even three-point seat belts, may not add much safety in the event of a frontal or rear collision. Moreover, it is repeatedly pointed out that seat belts are of no value at all unless they are buckled.

The feds said that three-point seat belts do significantly add to passenger safety in the event of a coach rollover. Out of the total 122 bus fatalities from 2000 to 2006, 38 (about 31 percent) were caused by passengers being ejected from the coach. On the other hand, during that same seven-year period there were 15 bus rollovers, or an average of about 2.14 coach rollovers per year. Since the ABA Foundation says there are approximately 36,000 commercial coaches, this means that the average commercial coach will statistically be involved in a rollover accident once every 16,822 years. That seems like a huge number on which to base a demand for three-point seat belts. While any effort to save lives is commendable, one has to ask whether this money and effort would save more lives if placed elsewhere.

For example, one of the major reasons for coach ejections is push out windows that were mandated because of a bus accident and fire in 1952. The Europeans do not have push-out windows and instead provide little hammers to break the glass on passenger windows in the event of an emergency. To the best of my knowledge, more passengers have lost their lives from being ejected through push out windows in a rollover than have escaped fires using them. One would have to question whether it would save more lives to eliminate push out windows and increase compartmentalization rather than worry about seat belts.
Liability and Litigation

I would be more concerned about liability and litigation over a lack of seats belts. While seat belts do not prevent bus accidents, their presence eliminates one possible avenue of litigation in the event of an accident, particularly a rollover. This may not directly affect the bus owner and operator. In the event of a major accident involving a rollover and fatalities, the bus company’s insurance is usually quickly depleted. Then, the plaintiffs and their attorney will go after the bus and seat manufacturers.

There is probably no way you can demand that passengers buckle their seat belts. Nor can you send your bus driver or tour escort down the aisle to check seat belts like on a plane. However, it might be a good idea for your bus driver to announce that your bus is equipped with seat belts and their use is recommended for passenger safety. Hence, if passengers are injured because of not using their seat belts, they cannot claim that you did not warn them.

Finally, I might end by suggesting that the best way of dealing with a bus accident is to try to avoid it in the first place. If you take the time to review major bus accidents in recent years, you will find that many of them are single vehicle accidents in ­charter operations during the hours of darkness.

Conventional tours are rarely involved because they typically operate during daylight hours and drivers get to sleep at night so there is no fatigue factor. Scheduled service night operations are also less likely to have problems. Drivers typically adjust their sleep habits to their route and regularity offsets the negative impact of night operations. Both fatigue and night operation could be major negative factors on charters. I recommend reading Ned Einstein’s column on “Bio-Sensitive Driver Assignment” in the April and May 2014 issues of National Bus Trader.

Great time at NEBA’s Annual Meeting

The New England Bus Association held its annual conference on June 23rd to the 26th at The Essex Resort in Burlington, Vermont. The conference was a huge success and the weather couldn’t have been better. There was the annual golf tournament, visits to some of Vermont’s famous attractions, some useful industry meetings and informational sessions, a sunset dinner cruise on Lake Champlain, an outdoor team-building adventure, and many other opportunities for networking and having fun. Of course, the highlight of the weekend was the final evening’s dinner banquet. This year’s banquet was exceptionally meaningful as we honored and remembered our good friend Peter Wilson and his family of Wilson Bus Lines in E. Templeton, MA. To learn more about this association and next year’s annual meeting, visit http://www.newenglandbus.org/

Buying a Bus – Part 3 of 3

Buying A Bus: Part 3 of 3 – The Purchase

Now comes the most important part of any buying process: the actual purchase. You’ve researched which vehicle would work best for your specific application, narrowed your search for a good candidate, fully inspected and drove the equipment, and now you have picked “The One” you’d like to purchase. But wait…there are still a few things you need to work out. The most important thing is PRICE.

Negotiating a final purchase price can sometimes be difficult. The seller wants as much as he/she can get, and the buyer wants to pay as little as possible. The trick is to find a middle point that both parties are comfortable with. This can be an easy or complicated process. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make it as painless as possible for BOTH parties.

Buyer: Remember that the seller is proud of their vehicle. In most cases, it has served them well and they have taken great pains to maintain it properly. When pointing out “issues” or “trouble areas”, keep in mind that some owners might take offense to that. Just remember the old saying “It’s not WHAT you say – it’s HOW you say it”.

Seller: Don’t take it personally. Understand their position and be prepared for it. After-all if they do find problems, you should already be aware of it and know what it would cost to repair. It is good practice to point these “issues” out to the potential buyer during their inspection. This instills credibility to your buyer. Don’t try to hide it – be honest and forthcoming. It will reward you in the end. Your asking price should have already accounted for such “issues”. If not, be prepared to adjust your price to accommodate repair.

Buyer & Seller: Remember that condition varies greatly. Two buses operating from the same region for the same amount of time can look and perform completely different. Many factors come into play such as: driver’s habits, maintenance practices, cleaning and updating regiments. If the vehicle you would like to purchase is weak in one area, it will most likely be stronger in another. Be flexible and understanding.

Buyer & Seller: Of course, form of payment is extremely important. Make sure BEFORE the delivery date that both parties have agreed to payment type and final amount. Doing this ahead of time will surely make for an easy and hassle-free delivery.

The last thing to think about is the delivery. Because buses aren’t found on every street corner, often times you will have to travel to find the right bus. Make sure you are familiar with the registration laws of the state where you are purchasing the vehicle. Some states allow the seller to offer a temporary “tag” or license plate for transport. If not available, you must make arrangements to bring a tag with you. This might mean that you will have to actually purchase the vehicle before pick-up, have your insurance in place, and register the bus to receive your registration in order to get your tag. My motto is the same as the Army’s: “Be Prepared”

Here is a helpful check list for your delivery day:
1. Bank check, wire transfer or cash (for purchase of vehicle)
2. Transport tag / License plate
3. Insurance verification (usually a faxed copy from insurance co.)
4. Money or charge cards for fuel, tolls and food
5. Cash (for the unknown or unexpected)
6. Miscellaneous tools (adjustable wrench, pliers, vise-grips, screw drivers,
hammer, duct tape, misc. sized tie-wraps, WD-40, extra wire, etc.)
7. Map/GPS (bus/truck compatible)
8. Sunglasses/reading glasses (if necessary)
9. Pen & notepad (to keep track of mileage in case fuel gauge is not working,
expenses, phone numbers, etc.)
10. Water & snacks

 

Buying a Bus – Part 2 of 3

Buying A Bus: Part 2 of 3 – The Physical Inspection/Test Drive

Once you have narrowed your search down and are able to focus on a few select buses, it is strongly recommended that you physically inspect and drive these buses. In this article, we will cover some basic pointers on what to expect and look for when the physical inspection and test drive takes place.

If you are looking at a vehicle that requires a CDL license, and you do NOT hold the proper class of license, you have two options:
a) Bring a qualified, properly licensed driver with you
b) Make sure whoever is selling the bus will be able to take you for a long drive

I would also recommend that if you do not have a good mechanical background or knowledge of the type of vehicle you are looking to purchase, that you bring a mechanic with you to inspect the drivetrain and chassis of that bus. These vehicles are pretty complex and it is important to know what you are looking at. If the bus is far away, and you can only afford to have one person inspect that bus, I would send an experienced mechanic. They can sometimes spot things that you could easily overlook, potentially costing you thousands of dollars if not addressed before the final sale, or negotiated into the final sale price ahead of time.

Before the test drive, a complete inspection should be done. Here are some tips on what to look at:

  • Engine compartment – check oil leaks, cracked or damaged hoses & belts, excessive dirt, rust, etc.
  • Body & frame – Inspect for accident damage, rust and corrosion
  • Brakes – brake pedal is working properly and they release correctly
  • Parking brakes – Must hold in place when foot is off the brake and bus is in gear at idle
  • Gauges – all in working order, temps & pressures are within proper limits
  • Check the HVAC system for operation.
  • Seats – Check for broken or ripped seats
  • Luggage areas – check overhead doors, inspect rear area or under-floor areas
  • Condition of the various controls – make sure they work properly and move freely
  • Mirrors – broken or not adjustable
  • Windshields & windows – for cracks/brakes. Don’t forget to check the emergency exits too
  • Emergency equipment – not a must at purchase, but should be in place before any trip
  • Signal lights – all working and lens covers not cracked
  • Running lights – all working and lens covers not cracked
  • Air/Hydraulic system – no leaks and hold pressure when vehicle is turned off
  • Tires & spare tire – proper inflation and tread wear, also check for tread depths

Now that your pre-trip inspection is done, it’s time for the test drive. Here are a few things to do when out on your test drive:

Try to have the engine cold before starting, then check for smoke, vibrations & strange noises.

  • Test the brakes in the yard before going on the open road. Brake noise in reverse is normal with most S-cam brakes, but should not have any noise in forward.
  • If the bus pulls to either side when brakes are applied, have the brakes adjusted and try driving it again. There should be no pull either way.
  • Check the transmission in both forward & reverse. If there is significant lag when put in reverse, this could be trouble. See how it shifts over the road. It should have good solid shifts with no slippage between gears.
  • On a straight road check for free play in the wheel & see if the bus pulls either way if you were to take your hands off of the wheel. It should go straight.
  • See if there is a bumpy road to drive on to check for suspension and other noises.

NOTE: Please keep in mind this is meant only as a guide. For a complete list refer to your State DOT’s requirements for more detailed information about exactly what you’ll need in your particular state to pass inspection.

 

Buying a Bus – Part 1 of 3

Unfortunately, you can’t just drive around town visiting several bus dealerships to find the right bus like you can when buying a car. Buses and bus dealerships are scattered throughout the country, and visiting many of them when searching for your next bus would be far too expensive and take far too much time.

Fortunately, today, you have the internet: a useful tool that allows you to search the world for buses. Now you can compare prices, options and alike directly from your office, home or even your cell phone! Once you have narrowed your search, you can then contact the owner or dealer to ask more detailed questions and make possible arrangements to view the vehicles.

This makes shopping much easier, faster and far less expensive. But you still need to do your homework and make sure you are buying the right bus to fit your specific needs.

Ask yourself these 10 basic but important questions:

1) What is your price range? This seems obvious, but be sure to factor in insurance/registration/taxes/fuel/routine and unexpected maintenance – consider the age of the vehicle when factoring maintenance costs the older the bus, the more maintenance it will need.

2) Will you need financing? It’s helpful to have your financing in place (pre-approval) before your vehicle search and know what your finance company’s requirements are ahead of time.

3) Will you be trading in a vehicle? Whether you plan to trade-in or sell out-right, make sure you know what your current vehicle is worth. You can research this on your own, or contact a professional appraiser.

4) How many passengers will you typically be carrying? The number of passengers you will be carrying will determine the size of vehicle you will need. Be sure to think ahead to future plans and development.

5) Where are the nearest factory-authorized facilities? For warranty work or a support facility for example: if a Cummins dealer is 10 miles from you and a Detroit Diesel dealer is 100 miles from you, you might consider a Cummins engine a better option.

6) How far will you be traveling with this bus? Day trips and casino runs have much different requirements than overnight trips and long tours. Don’t under-buy or over-buy buy what you need.

7) What options are most important to you and your customers? Whether it’s an entertainment system, Wi-Fi and auxiliary power sources and automatic climate control for your passenger’s comfort, or fire suppression systems and tire pressure monitors for safety make sure you get the options that are important to you and your customers. After all, it’s your customers who you are buying the bus for.

8) Will you need a restroom? Restrooms are beneficial and more comfortable for passengers on longer trips, but unnecessary for shorter day trips. Be sure you know the needs of your passengers.

9) Will you need under-floor storage? Consider the type of trips you will be providing and what is needed for luggage room by your passengers.

10) How far are you willing to travel for your purchase? It’s never too far if it’s the right bus for you!

 

Marketing Your Bus For Sale

How should you market your used bus for sale?

You have a bus for sale and you are wondering what the best way to go about selling it is. When selling anything, exposure is key! Getting your item in front of as many people as possible, but also the right people – buyers! Here are some things to consider: Before you sell your bus, the first thing you should do is get a professional evaluation on it so you know what it is worth! We recommend www.BusAppraiser.com

Broker/Dealer – This can be a very effective way to sell your bus. They often know people looking for good pre-owned equipment and have good connections throughout the industry. The negatives are high selling fees/commissions, often they require bus to be in their possession, long selling times. Just be careful. Do your homework on the company/agent and be sure to ask the right questions, such as: – What is your average turn around for a bus like mine? – What is your commission/selling fee – Are there any other fees I might incur? – How often do you start and drive my bus while it’s in your care? – What do you do with my bus if there is a mechanical issue with it while in your care? – Do you have a current insurance certificate I can examine? – Once the sale has been finalized, how long before I receive the funds? – How do I receive the sale proceeds? (we recommend a wire transfer)

DO IT YOURSELF – Who knows your bus better than you do? As a previous bus dealer myself, I can tell you that often times I would have to contact the owner several times throughout the sales process with questions or concerns. So the thinking of “I will let someone else handle that for me” really doesn’t apply, as you are still very much involved as the owner. So here is how to best sell your bus on your own and keep that commission as $$$ PROFIT $$$…

Print Classified Ads – Years ago, this was a great way to sell your bus. Today, with the power of the internet, readers are way down and with the cost of printing and mailing, it can be quite expensive compared to online classifieds. If you chose this method, be sure to place your ad where it will be best received. For instance, if you have a late-model bus with a high asking price, don’t put an ad in a local weekly auto magazine. At the same time, the local weekly might be a great place to advertise your older bus that is no longer ideal for charter/tour businesses.

Online Classified Ads – This is by far the most effective way to sell your bus. You can reach buyers 24/7 – and at their convenience. It can also be the least expensive option. Of course like anything, you want to be sure the online service you choose will reach the right people and as many of those people as possible. Make sure they continuously update their search engine optimization (SEO) and that their content and use of keywords is optimal for the equipment you are selling. I have written many articles on HOW TO SELL YOUR BUS and VIDEOS can also be seen, so I won’t cover that in this article. Ok, so you have decided to go with an online ad… now how do you choose the right one??? Here are some examples…

eBay – by far the largest online marketplace. But beware of their fees that can get quite high. There is also a very large number of spam and non-buyers “pulling your chain”. It has been reported many times that even the winning bidder often never follows through with the sale – only to leave you with the choice of having to relist your item or find something else – wasting all that valuable time and money (oh yes, you are still responsible for the selling fees even though the sale was never completed)!

Craigslist – Also a very popular resource, especially because it is a free service. But seller-beware…LOTS of spam and scammers!!! Because of its simplicity and popularity, Craigslist is a favorite for these bad institutions to try and take advantage of unsuspecting users. Many a virus has been spread this way. I have also experienced myself, many people who contact the seller have absolutely no desire to purchase your item, they just seem to like to take up your time.

BusesOnline.com – This is the largest online marketplace for the bus industry and has been very successful in helping owners of buses, bus conversions (motorhomes), mini-buses, school-buses, transits, trolleys and limousines sell their equipment. Almost all of their visitors are buyers, and the right buyers…. BUS buyers. BusesOnline.com gets over a million visitors annually – which means excellent exposure for you the seller! Prices are extremely reasonable, starting at just $25.00 per ad, and your ad remains on their website until it is sold – no other fees or commissions. No spam or unsolicited email…just real bus buyers looking for a vehicle just like yours! And unlike print ads, you have full control over your classified ad – you can change your photos, price or description at any time and as often as you’d like. I hope this has been helpful to you. As always, if you have any questions or if I can be of any assistance to you, you can reach me via email, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google.

Best Wishes,
Jim Michaud

DISCLOSER: Jim was a partner in Michaud Bus Sales, Inc., a leading bus sales company. He is also the owner and creator of BusesOnline.com. He is the fourth generation in the bus industry – his family has been involved in the bus industry since 1914.

 

NEBA ANNUAL MEETING June 23-26, 2016 – See you there!

We are heading to the Essex Resort & Spa in Essex (Burlington), VT for the annual New England Bus Association meeting. Always a fun and productive time networking with bus company executives, bus vendors, and other industry professionals. Buses large and small will be on display and there are always fun activities planned for everyone! See you there soon!

Our New Website

On February 1st, 2016 at the United Motorcoach Expo, we introduced our new & improved website. We’ve got a lot to be excited about! BusesOnline.com was already the largest online marketplace for the bus industry, but we wanted to freshen up our look, take advantage of new technologies and provide a more user-friendly format for our customers. After 6 years, we’ve learned a lot and we’ve listened to our users.

Here are some of the new features you will find:

  • Larger format to maximize entire viewing area
  • Simpler design with less clutter
  • Robust internal search engine
  • Available in any language
  • Easier navigation
  • Better SEO
  • Larger photos
  • Larger banner ads
  • New & used buses for sale
  • Dealer pages with profiles and inventory
  • Redesigned Products & Services Directory
  • Better tools for managing your classified ads

Take a look around and let us know what you think. We look forward to helping you.

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