Making a major purchase can be overwhelming. How do you know you’re making the right choice? It’s too much money to do anything less than complete due diligence. This is especially true if you’re looking to buy a used school bus. School districts often don’t have a lot of wiggle room in the budget and they need to make great decisions the first time around when making the choice of used bus for sale. Here, we’ll take you through everything you need to look for when selecting a used bus for sale so that you don’t end up with expensive maintenance surprises right from the start.

First, here are the reasons why buying a used school bus is a great option. Then, we’ll get into the specifics of what makes a used bus for sale one worth purchasing.

Why You Should Buy a Used School Bus

In most cases, many people consider buying used items as a lesser option than buying new, as a sort of compromise or sacrifice. With school buses, however, there are significant reasons why choosing a used bus for sale could actually be the far superior choice. Here are some of them.


The most obvious reason to choose used is for the initial cost savings upfront. A brand-new school bus can cost between $100,000 – $400,000. And even if you don’t choose those absolute top-of-the-line buses, overhauling your fleet with new vehicles is going to add up remarkably quickly. Choosing to buy a used school bus (or several of them) is an obvious way to cut those costs.

Of course, some will argue that those upfront savings don’t amount to much, as a used bus isn’t going to last as long as a new one and might require more upkeep and repairs. However, the right used school bus is going to make more sense financially. Keep in mind that many used school buses for sale are only a handful of years old, if that. Some are even still under the manufacturer’s warranty. It’s a complete misconception to assume that buying a used school bus means buying a dilapidated rust bucket that only has a few miles left in it. As we’ll cover in a later section, you can do your due diligence and buy a used school bus that’s structurally sound and runs great.


This one goes for most used items you might want to purchase. It’s a lot more sustainable to give an already used product a second life rather than to buy a completely new one. That principle is also applicable to selecting a used bus for sale. Although there are other ways to make sure that the materials from the bus are recycled or otherwise put to good use, choosing instead to buy a used school bus to use in its entirety is often a more environmentally friendly choice.

There’s been a big push toward greener buses in recent years. Diesel has been the default fuel choice for school bus engines for a long time, and there have been major developments in diesel technology over the years providing for cleaner and more eco-conscious forms of diesel,  contributing to its efficiency and durability.

Cleaner diesel is definitely gaining popularity, but due to other recent developments in green technology, diesel’s dominance is beginning to change. Between gas, electric and propane buses, there are plenty of options on the market. 

This is all to say that there’s no single environmentally conscious choice to make here, and making an eco-friendly choice when it comes to buying a used school bus can come in many different forms. Extending the life of a vehicle by purchasing a used bus for sale is one of those options.

Potential for more options

When you limit your search to new school buses, you’re limiting the scope of your options. With supply chain issues and other problems bus manufacturers might run into, there’s always the potential that you can’t find everything you want with a brand-new bus. At least consider adding used buses to your search to avoid this. That way, you’ll be sure to cover all of the options.  

It’s true that new buses can have lots of options and accessories that many used buses, especially older ones, just won’t be able to compete with. However, if you’re not looking for any of those advanced features, then you’ve got plenty of used buses that could fit the search.  Don’t discount them right off the bat.

Conversion options

Plenty of school districts buy used school buses to use for their intended purpose of transporting kids back and forth, but there are also lots of people who are looking to buy a used school bus for a completely different reason. A used bus for sale has so much potential. The right one could continue to serve its original purpose of transporting students to and from their schools, but others are ripe for converting into another kind of bus altogether.

Buying a used school bus with the intention to convert it into something else is a completely different experience to purchasing one to use it as a school bus. Lots of our tips on what to look for in a used bus for sale will still apply if you’re looking to renovate, but they’re really more geared toward those who are looking to buy a used school bus to add it to their existing fleet. Those that want a fully-functioning school bus are going to weed out the ones that need repairs right away. Just keep those different needs in mind when reading the rest of our tips. 

What to Look for in a Used Bus for Sale

We’ve just explained all the reasons why buying a used school bus can be the smartest move when you’re trying to overhaul your fleet or any other reason why you might be interested in purchasing a used school bus. Now, we’re going to go over the things you need to look for once you start actively reviewing your options in that field. 

Meets your specifications

This one probably goes without saying, but it’s the absolute baseline for finding a used bus for sale that’s going to suit your needs. Think about how many people you need to transport, what kind of amenities you need, the type of engine you’d prefer, and all other aspects of a bus.

Capacity is one of the first things many people decide on when they are looking to buy a used school bus. A bigger bus can obviously transport more students, but it will also be more difficult to maneuver and take up more space when not in use. 

Another aspect of the bus specifications you need to decide on right away is the style you’re interested in. There are conventional models and transit models, and they each have their own pros and cons. A conventional bus is probably what you picture when you think of a school bus — a protruding front section housing the engine. A transit model is flat in the front with either a rear or front engine. 

Understanding your State specs unique to each state is something that our Bus Experts can guide you through to find the used buses that meet those requirements.

A complete history

Knowing what kind of maintenance the bus has had over the years is important to understanding how it might perform in the future. Ask if the used bus for sale has been in any accidents. If it has, make sure you have a clear understanding of what repairs were done or if there are any service records of work previously completed. These can provide some insight to the life of the vehicle.  

Reasonable rust

Finding a completely rust-free used bus for sale is going to be a tall order. Rust is a natural part of an aging bus. However, you should think twice before buying a used school bus that has a significant amount of rust. Make sure you’re doing a thorough check of the entire vehicle to assess how much rust is present. The surface might look good, but what do the interior, underside, and other more hidden places look like? A bunch of rust in any of those spots should be enough to give you pause.

Check to see if the rust is surface-level or deeper than that. To do that, scrape your finger across the rust. Do you see metal, or do you see paint underneath? If you uncover paint, that means the rust is just on the surface, and you should be able to sand it off and repaint the area without any problems. But if you uncover metal, that means the rust is deep and a problem.

A serviceable frame

Definitely inspect the frame of any used bus for sale that you’re considering purchasing. Repairing the frame is typically an expensive process, so making sure that it’s in good shape is imperative to choosing the right used bus for sale. 

Check for any bending, as that will be a big deal to fix. You want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before you buy a used school bus — if repairs are in the budget, know where you’re going to draw the line.

You’ll also want to check the frame for rust or any other damage. Repairs for any of these issues can get pretty pricey, so think twice about buying a bus in bad shape.

Fits your budget

The relative budget-friendliness of a used bus over a new one is a huge plus, but not all used buses for sale are going to fit every price point. Aspects like age, mileage, and engine type are all going to impact the price. Set your budget at the beginning of your search and stick to it. That way, it’ll be much easier to narrow your search only to buses that you’ll be able to afford.

Set that budget intentionally. Like we said in the last section, you’ll want to factor in any potential repairs the bus might need. You should also be realistic about what’s out there and how much you want to spend. 

A good road test

Before you buy a used school bus, see if you can take it out for a drive. You might uncover some issues that even the most thorough inspections can miss. For example, it might be fine at slower speeds, but once you reach a certain threshold, there are certain signs of strain. This isn’t always possible, but it’s worth at least considering and asking the seller for. School buses are held to high inspection standards, so you’ll want to make sure yours fits the bill.

Now you know what to look for in a used bus for sale.

Choosing to buy a used school bus can be a great option and suit a lot of different needs. As we’ve seen, there are some things you need to take into account before making that purchase, but as long as you know how to select a used bus for sale, you should be making a great decision. We’ve given you all the necessary knowledge to get you started with that process — what to look for, what to avoid, and the reasons why you’re making a great decision. And if you still don’t feel confident that you know what you’re looking at, see if you can bring an expert along with you. Central States is “The Bus Experts” and we are the perfect place to start.

If you need a place to begin looking for a used bus for sale, you can always check out our inventory here at Central States. We have plenty of used school buses for you to consider! And if you need more information, don’t be afraid to reach out to us here. We’d be happy to start a conversation about your transportation needs.