Before anything else, the first step in beginning your buslife is actually buying your bus. Although it seems simple enough, sometimes finding a bus can be the hardest part of the process. Four years ago, when I bought my first school bus to convert into a full-time home, finding a bus was the first real hurdle. I spent a lot of time scouring the internet trying to find a bus for sale, but found it difficult to sort through all the endless web pages.
So, the real question is: where can you find school buses for sale?
School buses are available for purchase from either private or commercial sellers. Privately-owned buses are most often found on online marketplaces such as Facebook, Craigslist, and other forums. Or sometimes, privately owned buses are found as, what I like to call, “side of the road” finds. Commercially-owned buses are sold by businesses such as dealerships, school districts, and auction houses. Knowing how hard it can be to find buses for sale, I want to share with you the top bus sources that I found during my personal search.
Buying a Bus Private Owned Market
It might sound crazy at first...but sometimes the best place to buy a school bus is from your neighbor. Well, maybe not your next door neighbor, but a lot of school buses are actually privately owned and up for sale all around you. These buses were likely in service at one point, bought by an individual, and then put back up for sale. Therefore, if you are looking to stay away from the auction houses and dealerships, this is the place for you! Here are some of the top online and public locations that I found helpful. On this list you can find commercially-owned buses for sale; however, the listings are typically privately-owned buses.
If you’re looking for a school bus, why not start local? Finding school buses for sale on Craigslist is one of the best ways to source local school buses. The best part of Craigslist is that you can pin down your search area for ‘used school buses’ to a small geographic location, eliminating the need to drive long distances or even flying to see a bus. An added bonus: I occasionally found listings from bus dealers who posted some of their used buses for sale.
The first school bus that I ever bought was found locally on Craigslist from a private seller who bought the bus from a school district. Craigslist can be a great option because of the one-on-one communication between buyer and seller, but if you are not really familiar with buying a school bus, it might be a good idea to take a mechanic or trusted friend with you. If you are looking for more information about buying a school bus, consider downloading our School Bus Buyers Checklist right here.
Facebook Marketplace and Groups
Facebook Marketplace is another one of my favorite places to look for school buses. I personally have found a bus on Facebook Marketplace that I now own and have fully converted. Facebook Marketplace is a lot like Craigslist because it allows people to publicly post items for sale and it allows you to funnel your search into specific geographical locations.
The big difference is that Facebook is a social media platform, so it not only has a full marketplace, but it also has niche groups. You can quickly search Facebook and find tons of skoolie groups that can be a good resource finding school buses for sale. There are even groups that are solely dedicated to buses for sale. You can find these groups by typing in keywords, like skoolie, into the search bar. If you want to find a good bus, sometimes the best place to look is to people who are already living in buses.
Ebay is an online public auction where people also list buses for sale. The special thing about eBay is that you can either bid on a particular item or buy it right away for a set price. I have seen and looked at a lot of buses on eBay myself, but I have yet to personally buy one.
However, one of the things I like about eBay is that they protect your bid with a money back guarantee. This always gives me a lot more confidence in purchases because you still have some protection from a possible issue with the sale.
Something that is quite different about eBay, than Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, is that eBay gives you the ability to search key terms and it gives you all of the results, regardless of location. It may be hard to travel, see, or pick up the bus; but, you can quickly and easily widen your school bus search.
One of the downsides to eBay is that, as an auction site, there are time limits on buses for sale. This puts some pressure on the sale, so it is important to do your homework before you begin bidding.
Skoolie.net is a website that will most likely come up on your search results if you have ever googled ‘skoolie’. Skoolie.net is a forum that is dedicated to everything concerning skoolies. The nice thing is that there is particularly a lot of information about places others have found their buses and even some information about buses currently for sale!
Skoolie.net can be a great option to find your bus. The only downside to skoolie.net is that the forum can be hard to navigate at times. Filtering through all the different feeds and questions can be difficult. There are a lot of open forums of people sharing all things skoolie, so be patient and keep searching. If you are willing to go through the results and feed, it is possible to find a really great school bus here.
Side of the Road
After driving my first school bus conversion, Navi, over 150,000 miles, I have noticed that one great place to find school buses is surprisingly on the side of the road. I can’t even begin to count the amount of unique and awesome buses I have found in parking lots or fields, across the country.
The greatest thing about finding an awesome bus on the side of the road is that it is most likely not posted anywhere else. This means that you will have low competition, you can have more time to look over the rig, and you can talk directly to the owner. If you have an open weekend, maybe you should head out on a drive pretty soon…you may end up driving back in your future home.
Buses on the Commercial Market
Sometimes searching through the private forums and online marketplaces can be laborious. An easy and direct alternative can be buying a bus on the commercial market. Just like used car dealers and car auctions, you can purchase a school bus the exact same way at a local dealership. Still, it is important to remember, these buses will require the same level of inspection as privately owned buses. One of the benefits of buying from a dealer or auction is that you can possibly get financing and your title and registration changed over right at the dealer.
School districts are another obvious and solid choice when looking for a school bus. They have several unique benefits that you may want to factor in when deciding where to buy your bus. I wish I had thought to buy a school bus from my town back in high school because when I graduated they retired a whole bunch of buses and put them up for auction.
If you have the opportunity to purchase a bus directly from a school district, you can actually get access to all the service records and may even talk to the mechanic who has worked on the bus during its service. In my opinion, this is a great advantage to buying from school districts because it is helpful to know where the bus was used and serviced. It provides valuable information that you will want to know for the future and it can tell you about potential problems that may occur down the road. After all, the goal is to find a bus that you know will perform and not have too many surprises during its second life as your home.
GovDeals is one of the most popular ways to find a school bus for conversion. GovDeals is an auction site that allows government agencies to auction off vehicles as well as other used and surplus goods. It is particularly known to have great deals as well as some really good buses up for auction. Quite a few of my friends, who now live in school buses, all got their buses on GovDeals.
Some of the great things about GovDeals is that they provide extensive listing details of the vehicles up for auction and you are able to contact the seller and see the vehicle in person. [Below is a typical vehicle description you can expect.] The only issue is that because it is a national auction site, the bus you are wishing to buy might be on the other side of the country. So it can be hard to see the vehicle before purchasing. I would recommend always contacting the seller and doing a good bit of research before bidding on any bus.
An added bonus to GovDeals is that, as a large government auction house, you can find other types of vehicles such as vans, box trucks, and ambulances.
Public Surplus is another public auction website much like GovDeals. On this site, public businesses sell off various goods and vehicles. Since it is an auction site, it can be another good way to find a great bus for a fair deal.
Unfortunately, one similarity that Public Surplus has with GovDeals is that the site is very popular and therefore has a competitive buying environment. I have found that it is important to watch your budget, know your limits, do your research, and know what you want from the beginning in these scenarios.
If you have ever bought a car at a dealership, you could also do the same for a school bus. Dealers buy used school buses from school districts once they end their service and then they sell them on the used bus market.
I have noticed that these buses are priced slightly higher than many other places; however, they tend to be in better condition and they are often looked over by the shop mechanic. I would still look over the bus myself or with another mechanic, but it is nice to know it was initially looked over by a professional.
Sometimes, dealers are able to offer some form of financing options upon purchase. This can be a great option for anyone looking to purchase a school bus and take a longer period of time to complete the bus and pay it off.
My favorite part about going to a dealer is that they are a great place to see a lot of buses all in one location. This can be really helpful because you can evaluate more than one bus at a time.
When I was looking for my first school bus, I visited Don Brown Bus Sales in New York State. I did not end up finding a bus that would have worked for me at the time, but I was able to walk through the whole bus lot and see a lot of different buses in a short span of time. I always figure that the more you educate yourself on a topic, the better chance you will make the right decision when you need to make one.
When I was looking for school buses, I found a number of school bus dealers around the country such as NorthWest Bus Sales, AAA Bus Sales, and Don Brown. This list is in no way intended to be a complete list of bus dealers. Do some research and you will likely find another dealer in your local area. It just may be the place you find your bus.
When we started this article, one of the hardest parts of the process in buying a bus was knowing where to actually buy a school bus for your conversion; now you have a number of resources and places to look for your school bus! Finding a school bus can be done in various public locations and online websites, but the point is to start the process and know that the first bus you see might not be the best bus you find. Continue looking around, researching, and figuring out what you want and need; your future home is waiting for you!