Purchasing a new school bus is no simple task. Whether you’re looking at new buses for sale or used, it’s going to be a significant expense that you’ll be maintaining for the next ten to fifteen years. Choosing the right bus is another challenge entirely, with several different fuel types, chassis and loads of optional features available. Luckily, we’re here to help. We’ll go over the benefits of buying a new school bus and the main factors you should consider throughout your search.
Benefits of Buying a New School Bus
The price of a used bus may look appealing when compared to new buses for sale, but that idea goes out the window once that used vehicle starts breaking down.
Used buses can certainly be reliable if you purchase them from a reputable dealer and you commit to making the necessary repairs, though the threat of a breakdown is always higher with older buses. New buses for sale are, well, newer. New school buses are built with advanced systems that last longer, are easier to work on and safer than their predecessors.
Less broken down buses mean fewer headaches for your school district, your parents and of course your students.
Lower Long-Term Maintenance Costs
Used school buses have higher miles, structural damage or rust, more wear and tear on the transmission, and just need a lot more love in general. These are all things you can address upon purchasing a used bus, but it won’t be cheap and the maintenance won’t stop there. Used buses require more diligent upkeep and maintenance to operate at acceptable levels and that only increases as they continue to age.
When you buy a new school bus, it’s good to go the moment you’re handed the keys. Sure, the upfront cost may be a tough pill to swallow, but school buses are a long-term investment. If you purchase the wrong used school bus from a less-than-reputable vendor, the lifetime maintenance costs can quickly exceed the price of a brand new school bus.
New buses for sale also generally come with extended warranties – either through the manufacturer or distributor – that last anywhere from five to ten years, ensuring your new bus stands the test of time.
New buses for sale are much more sustainable than most older buses you’ll find on the market. With the adoption of alternative fuel types like electric, propane and CNG, new school buses are cleaner and more environmentally sustainable than ever before. Even diesel buses, which on paper are the least “clean” of the newer bus types, offer much better gas mileage than the smoke bellowing diesel buses of decades past.
While you can certainly convert older buses to run on these renewable sources, these conversions can be pricey and are less reliable than a bus designed from the ground up with clean energy in mind.
Environmentally friendly new buses for sale do carry heftier price tags than those that run on diesel or gasoline, but the government has started offering attractive incentives to school districts that go green.
In 2022, the EPA set aside $500 million for schools interested in replacing their old school buses with cleaner ones. Schools may request funding for up to 25 new school buses, provided they scrap their old diesel-powered buses and replace them with buses powered by electric, CNG or propane. These incentives make the purchase of a brand new school bus much more manageable if your district is willing to move towards a more renewable fleet.
Things to Consider when Looking at New Buses for Sale
Now that you’ve decided on purchasing a new school bus you have an even more important task ahead of you: what kind of bus are you going to get? There are a nearly endless number of options available, but hopefully we can walk you through some of the most important factors you should consider while narrowing down your search.
The number of features available in new buses for sale can make your head spin. You might be tempted to throw every cool new gadget in and call it a day, but those costs add up quickly. When searching for the right new school bus, be sure to think long and hard on the features you need.
WIFI, state-of-the-art cameras, automatic doors and GPS are impressive options, but does your school district’s buses need them?
Knowing the list of features your district requires of a new school bus and sticking to that list will keep unnecessary costs down. Just be sure not to cut too many costs; like seats for example. Remember, the students will need somewhere to sit.
Choosing the Best Fuel Source for your New School Bus
In recent years, many new buses for sale are electric. Many districts see quite a few benefits from adopting fully electric new school buses. With zero emissions, low fuel costs, low maintenance costs and little to no noise pollution, it’s easy to see why these buses are an attractive option. Recent studies have shown that an electric school bus could save roughly $230,000 per bus over a 14-year period. These findings are promising, but there are a few negatives you must consider before going all-in on a battery-powered new school bus.
For one, they are more expensive than their typical diesel counterparts; generally $200,000 dollars more! You must consider the infrastructure required for charging electric buses as well. Depending on your town, there may be nowhere to fuel these buses outside of the bus yard, making the planning of routes a difficult endeavor. Electric buses typically have a range of 60-90 miles, making long routes or extended trips a real problem.
Propane & CNG
If you’re looking for other environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional fuel, propane and compressed natural gas – also known as CNG – buses are a great option.
Propane-powered buses may seem like relatively new technology, but they have seen successful use since the 1970s. The advantages of propane and CNG come from lower costs of fueling and maintenance. The price of propane and CNG is far lower and more stable than diesel or gasoline, resulting in thousands of dollars saved per year. These buses also start far easier in cold weather than diesel, allowing for a faster fleet uptime and giving your drivers a bit more time to sleep.
New buses for sale powered by propane and CNG are also very easy on the environment. The emissions from these vehicles are less harmful than diesel or gasoline buses, and propane itself is non-toxic and non-poisonous; posing no harm to groundwater, surface water or soil
This is all sounds great on paper, but there are some caveats to be found. Despite costing less in the long term, propane and CNG buses require a heavy investment if the infrastructure is not already in place. Districts will need to build a costly fueling station in order to get these buses running. Additionally, propane and CNG fueling stations are rare in most communities, requiring precise route planning from the school district to avoid running out of gas.
When you think of a school bus, a diesel-powered vehicle is probably what comes to mind. The loud rumble of the engine echoing through a neighborhood. The billowing plumes of smoke left behind when it pulls away. The smell; who could forget that? These things are probably cemented in a lot of people’s minds when thinking about diesel-powered buses, but it’s simply no longer the case.
New school buses powered by diesel are a far cry from the gas-guzzling relics people may think they are. In fact, today’s diesel engines are more than 90 percent cleaner than they were just 15 years ago. Diesel fuel is readily available and on average and buses can travel up to 510 miles on one tank. In terms of cost, diesel is more expensive than gasoline but the price is far more stable. Gas prices fluctuate wildly over the course of a year, while diesel prices tend to remain stable.
Lastly, clean-diesel engines last much longer than gasoline engines. Manufacturers build these engines from the ground up for the medium-duty market, enabling them to withstand much heavier abuse than gasoline engines. When it comes to deciding on the fuel type of new buses for sale, clean-diesel is a tried and true option that isn’t going anywhere.
Sometimes you just can’t beat the classics. Gasoline powered buses are a popular choice among schools due to their relatively cheap cost and ease of fueling.
Like clean-diesel, gasoline is more accessible across the United States for fueling that takes place outside of the bus yard. Because of this, transportation managers don’t need to plan the route based on fuel availability as they would for propane or electric-powered school buses.
On top of that, fleets report spending less money upfront on acquiring gasoline-powered school buses and less on the fuel itself. A gasoline engine may need to be replaced once or even twice during the life of a school bus. However, depending on your district’s needs, a new school bus powered by gasoline might be a perfect choice.
New School Bus Body Types
New buses for sale are divided into four main categories: Type A, Type B, Type C and Type D. Each type of bus fulfills a specific role, which we will explore below.
Type A school buses are easy to spot as they are the smallest of new buses for sale. These buses are assembled by placing a bus body on the chassis of a cutaway van. Students board through the door located behind the front wheels, while the driver enters through a smaller door in front of the wheels. Type A buses carry anywhere from ten to sixteen passengers and have a weight rating of around 10,000 pounds.
The Type B bus, though not as common as the other options, could be a great new school bus for your district. Built on a stripped chassis with the passenger door placed behind the front wheels, this bus is significantly larger than the Type A. In most versions, the Type B’s engine bay is located partially in the passenger compartment, resulting in a much shorter hood than other conventional new buses for sale. Type B buses typically carry 30-36 passengers and can carry between 10,000 to 21,499 pounds.
The Type C’s tend to be the most common new school bus you see transporting students. The bus bodies are mounted onto a cowled medium-duty truck body and have a traditional hood carrying under which the engine resides. These buses carry anywhere from 36 to 78 passengers and have a weight rating between 23,500 and 29,500 pounds.
The Type D’s are the largest of new buses for sale. They look most similar to metro buses you’ve seen driving around, with a flattened front end rather than a traditional hood, which is why this style is often referred to as a “transit bus”. The engine may be either behind the windshield next to the driver’s seat, mounted at the rear of the bus or in the middle of the bus between the front and rear axels. These buses carry 36-90 students and are rated for over 20,000 pounds.
You are now ready to purchase your new school bus
For certain school districts, purchasing a new school bus is the best option available. They’re more reliable, safe, offer more options on fuel types and will most likely be cheaper in the long term. We’ve gone over the various options you and your district has at their disposal and we’re hopeful that you’ll use this knowledge to find the perfect new school bus for your needs.
If you’re looking for a proven dealer with an unbeatable selection of new buses for sale, be sure to check out our inventory here at Central States. And if you have any more questions or need a bit more information, feel free to reach out to us here.