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Old 07-05-2002, 08:34 AM   #1
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Hello Everyone -

My wife and I are going full timing this fall and have never really considered a bus conversion for no particular reason, other than they are big.

Up to this time, we have really only been considering 35' to 40' Class A diesel pushers for fifth wheels (FWs of any weight need MTDs to pull"”so now we are talking big for an understandable reason).

From your experiences, what are the advantages and disadvantages of full-timing in a bus conversion?

Here are my thoughts so far:

Advantages: A lot of room, storage and towing power, longevity, price (older units are very reasonable), safety.

Disadvantages: Finding campgrounds that accept this much vehicle, maintenance costs.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Thanks,

Carl & Cheryl Jackson
Montgomery, TX
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Old 07-05-2002, 08:34 AM   #2
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Hello Everyone -

My wife and I are going full timing this fall and have never really considered a bus conversion for no particular reason, other than they are big.

Up to this time, we have really only been considering 35' to 40' Class A diesel pushers for fifth wheels (FWs of any weight need MTDs to pull"”so now we are talking big for an understandable reason).

From your experiences, what are the advantages and disadvantages of full-timing in a bus conversion?

Here are my thoughts so far:

Advantages: A lot of room, storage and towing power, longevity, price (older units are very reasonable), safety.

Disadvantages: Finding campgrounds that accept this much vehicle, maintenance costs.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Thanks,

Carl & Cheryl Jackson
Montgomery, TX
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Old 07-05-2002, 09:05 AM   #3
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please explain what you mean by pushers for a fifth wheel!

or do you mean a pusher or a fifthwheel?

i myself haven't seen a pusher that you could make into a fifthwheel hauler with out alot of work, and then would have my dought about it!

most bus convertions are really no bigger then your motor homes, i guess it just depends on what one gets use to!

i myself think the maint. is about the same on either one of them!

one thing you should keep in mind is just how much you are really going to travel when thinking about a diesel or a gasser!
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Old 07-05-2002, 09:35 AM   #4
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Sorry. Typo. 'pushers or a fifth wheel'

Carl & Cheryl Jackson
Montgomery, TX
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Old 07-08-2002, 02:56 AM   #5
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Carl
First off welcome to the site. You will find many nice folks and a wealth of knowledge and opinions here.
My opinion on the bus/5ver/pusher issue. The 5ver will usually have the most room for the $$. Especially if you can stay away from the MDT (which is tricky once you get into a really big 5ver).
We just traded a 5ver for our pusher because the boys are getting to the age where we will be taking longer trips. I didn't really look at a conversion because I have heard stories about affordable (older) conversions being of questionable safety considering the fact that you don't know who did what during its construction. I would be particularly suspicious of wiring and gas routing if an individual performed the conversion. If a professional firm did it then I might look at it but for the money I went with new for alot of reasons (warranties for one).
That said, I would love to have a nice professional ($$) conversion
Good luck with your decision, not matter what you end up with I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

'02 HR Endeavor Diesel 40PWD
'02 Chevy Malibu Toad
'69 Chevy Impala Untoad
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Old 07-08-2002, 03:56 AM   #6
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We also considered a 5th wheel when we decided to go fulltime but went with a Bus Conversion based on our planned use.
We will more than likely be spending quit a bit of time boondocking and moving quite frequently.
The bus is completely self contained with 10 KW geneset, solar panels plus large water and holding tanks that will allow us to do this on an extended basis.
I realize that there are 5th wheels that have this capability also but they are generally large and heavy enough to require a medium duty truck to safely handle them. We spend a lot of time exploring in our tow vehicle and medium duty trucks, or even the 1 ton conventional trucks, are not really suited for this.

As far as finding accomodations, our bus is only 40' long and many high line Motorhomes or larger 5th wheels (with tow vehicle) are longer. The only bus conversion that is likely to be turned away from the resort type campgrounds are the school bus conversions(Skoolies) that have a bad reputation, mostly due to their use by hippies in the 60's.

One additional advantage to a bus (or motorhome)that your wife will appreciate is the capability to use the john without having to stop in a rest area to do so.

Footloose on the RV Web Network. www.rvweb.net/footloose
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[This message was edited by Footloose on July 08, 2002 at 08:05 AM.]
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Old 07-10-2002, 08:03 PM   #7
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How do you figure a 5er needs a medium-duty truck to pull it? All but the largest (35-40' with multiple slides) can be towed by a 1-ton dually. Even the biggest can be towed by an F-450 or 550.

Johnny
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Old 07-11-2002, 05:36 AM   #8
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How do you figure a 5er needs a medium-duty truck to pull it? All but the largest (35-40' with multiple slides) can be towed by a 1-ton dually. Even the biggest can be towed by an F-450 or 550.

My comparison was to our 40,000 lb (appx) GVW bus conversion which may be heavier than the the largest 5er.
You could probably tow one of these with a 1-ton dually but safety and reliability will probably become a major concern.
I have never owned or towed a 5th wheel and don't pretend to be an expert on same. As I indicated in my original reply, these conclusions were based on initial research done before we made the decision to go the bus conversion route and were just one of many reasons for our decision.

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Old 07-11-2002, 09:06 AM   #9
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Johnny - I have attached below some of the replies I received back from my inquiry on the Escapees BBS regarding MDTs. This might help to answer your question about 'pulling' a heavy 5er versus 'stopping' a heavy 5er.

Carl & Cheryl:

Opinions will differ, we're sure, but what we have learned (from making a HUGE mistake previously) is that an MDT consists of a vehicle in the Class 6 or 7 category.

Thus, the F450 and F550 are definitely NOT MDTs, by any stretch of the imagination, whereas the F650 and F750 certainly are. Ditto for the Chevvy Duramax and one ton Dodges; they just do not possess the properly sized parts -- or the tow ratings -- for what we're towing.

Our mistake was in purchasing a "big" one ton Dodge dually diesel, without considering the weight carrying capability. Or, more accurately, the weight TOWING capability. The Dodge turned out to be pretty puny, given that it was rated at 10,500 lbs. Our trailer is about 16Klbs!

The MDT that we now have has a 40,000 lbs gross weight. Which means that we have over a one hundred percent safety margin.

Thus, we've gone from white-knuckling-it to hey-this-the-way-it-oughta-be!

Be sure to see our web site for tons of pix.

--------------------
Leigh & Byron Hurder, KY1T
2000 Coachmen ~16K triple slide
2001 Ford F650 300/860 CAT diesel
www.qsl.net/ky1t for details

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Carl & Cheryl,

Don't make the same expensive mistake that I did. I started out with a 97 F250 Power Stroke and then moved up to a 99 Super Duty F350 Power Stroke Dually. I decided I still didn't have enough so I had a custom built 99 F450 Power Stroke for me. (Very Expensive) and I was still not happy with the performance and stopping power. I now have a converted Volvo class 8 semi. I pull a King of the Road 32' that weighs in at 14700 lbs (looking to go bigger shortly). This is just to much weight for any of these trucks. I found another annoying thing about the dually pickups (I don't know if anybody elses experienced this or not). When traveling on a rutted freeway that has been caused by semi's the truck wanted to squirm because the front tires do not track true with the rears and so they are constantly trying to line up front to back. It is not serious but very annoying.

I wish I had not bought all of the other trucks and the expense of them and went right to a MDT or bigger.

My truck started out as a tandem axle semi tractor and it is now a single axle with a puller bed. You can see pictures of it at.

http://community.webshots.com/user/butch50110

At first my wife thought this thing was huge but after riding in it she now loves it. She can see over the top of all of the other rigs on the highway even the SUVs. The only thing you can not se over is another semi rig.

If you can get used to it I recommend a class 7 or 8 used rig. I looked at the MDT class 6 but I couldn't find one with the power I wanted and at a price I was willing to pay.

Hope this helps and good luck on your choice.

Butch

posted June 28, 2002 20:20
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Carl & Cheryl,

Some examples of a New Horizon GVWR, taken from their website;

33RLSS/33RKSS - 15,500 pounds
33rlsss/33rksss - 16,750 pounds

GVWR stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is not the actual weight of the trailer. It is the maximum weight that the fully loaded trailer is designed to weigh. Exceed that weight rating, and your warranty will be void, and you may be liable if you are involved in an accident.

If the manufacturer posts an empty weight inside the trailer, it will most likely include only the standard equipment. Any other options added by the manufacturer, would probably not be included. In addition, most manufacturers understate their empty weights. The only sure method is to accompany the dealer to a local scales and have the trailer you are considering weighed.

A fully loaded pickup will average between 7,500 - 8,500 pounds, depending on which brand, 4 x 4, diesel, and how much stuff you load into it.

I believe the 2002 Ford and Chevy are each rated at 22,000 GCWR. The most a 2002 Dodge can handle is 21,000 pounds. I am not 100% certain these are accurate so I would verify all these ratings. The 2003 Dodge will be rated up to 23,000 GCWR.

GCWR means Gross Combined Weight Rating. The sum of your fully loaded truck and trailer cannot exceed this amount.

There is also a GVWR for the truck, which also must not be exceeded.

If you add the lightest (15,500) fifth wheel to the lightest (7,500) estimated weight for the truck, you get 23,000 pounds, which is over the GCWR for all the 2002 models, and right at the maximum rating for the 2003 Dodge.

As you can see, you must have accurate weights for your truck and trailer, both empty and loaded, or you run the risk of being overloaded.

I am guilty of making the mistake that many RVers make, which is pulling overloaded. I used the same justifications that many people use, "most people are pulling overloaded" and "trucks have some excess capacity built in for overloading".

We bought a 2002, 40 foot, Travel Supreme. We already had a 2001 Dodge, 3/4 ton, 4x4, Cummins, 6-speed. The truck is stock at 245hp. The rear axle ratio is 3.54. The GCWR for the truck is 20,000 pounds.

The total scaled weight for the truck and trailer is 28,520 pounds.

I have no problems with not having enough power. The really long, steep grades slow me to 35-45 m.p.h., depending on steepness (percent).

The real issue here is braking capacity, especially going down the hill you just went up. I have a BD exhuast brake. It helps, but don't be fooled. It is downright dangerous pulling overloaded. If you make one mistake going down a steep hill, you are dead. If the brakes get too hot, or you are not in the right gear, you will be searching for one of the "Runaway Truck Ramps".

This is the "white knuckle" sensation that Byron mentioned in his post.

Again, "I have been there and done that". I thought I knew what I was doing when the TS was purchased.

I was wrong.

The empty trailer weighs nearly 3,000 pounds more than the placard in the trailer. I did not know this going in. I trusted Travel Supreme to provide a realistic empty weight for the trailer.

Big mistake.

The other problem you can have is the liability issue. This is what finally hit us right between the eyes.

If you are involved in an accident, you are now negligent, as a result of operating your truck in excess of the rated capacity (GCWR). Even if you are only overloaded by 1,000 pounds, you are still overloaded, and liable.

The following is a post from a member of another discussion forum regarding an opinion that their attorney gave them regarding the overloading issue;

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"While you're researching, you might want to look into tort (civil) law regarding this subject. The potential scenario my attorney described to me is as follows:

Imagine you are involved in a collision with a loaded school bus while you are towing your 5ver. Regardless of who received the citation, every child on that bus, through their parents, can lodge a civil suit against you on the grounds of contributory negligence. Each of their attorneys could base this suit on the fact that a truck manufacturer has rated their vehicle for a maximum load carrying capacity (GVWR) and maximum towing capacity (derived from GCVWR). By knowingly exceeding this capacity, you have created a hazard that caused injury to their client since the higher weight vehicle (1.) cannot stop or maneuver as quickly, thus could not avoid the collision and (2.) carried more kinetic energy into the collision due to its overweight condition, thus causing more damage and injury than a rig operating within the manufacturer's ratings would have.

At this point, it is up to a jury to decide whether or not the plaintiff has presented a plausible argument. If it decides that the argument "makes sense", your negligence has contributed to the plaintiff's injuries, and you have some degree of financial liability.

Now, multiply the above by 66 kids, and the problem with insurance coverage becomes obvious. The standard automotive liability policy has caps that are so low as to leave you dangerously exposed financially.

Is this scenario realistic? We thought the risks were high enough that we just purchased a truck with adequate GVWR and GCVWR to pull our 36' 5ver without exceeding the manufacturer's ratings. Insofar as others are concerned, each individual will have to make his/her own decision. You can pay a "little" now to avoid the risk of having to potentially pay a "lot" later.

Another question to consider is that, if towing over manufacturer's limits is OK, then where (if anywhere) does one draw the line? Once one has said that overweight towing is OK, is the Ford Ranger towing a 40' King of the Road 5ver really any different than the dually towing a 5ver that puts him 1000 lbs over GCVWR? If 1000 pounds over GCVWR is OK, where does it stop being OK - surely somewhere before the Ford Ranger/40' KR example, but where?

Most likely your insurance company will deny your claim, leaving you responsible to pay for your truck, trailer, the persons vehicle' you hit, their medical bills, and to satisy the lawsuit for damages they will most likely bring against you. Many have an escape clause. If they do not, they will pay the claim, then sue you in court for damages."

Also, if you injure or kill someone, the judicial system will put you on trial for negligence. This can and does happen.

We made a mistake! We are now looking for a MDT or possibly converting a Class 7 or 8 tractor.

Please, do not make the same mistake we did.

Yes, your truck will probably pull the weight. However, it will not stop going down the mountain, when the light turns red at the bottom of the hill, or someone pulls out in front of you.

Given the trailer you have selected, you will need to purchase a Medium Duty Truck. I realize they are expensive, as I have been shopping hard for one for about five months.

However, can you afford to risk loosing everything you worked all your life for, by traveling overloaded?

Do not base your decision solely on what I have said.

Byron and many other members have "been there and done that" also. Continue to communicate with members on this site, and other sites, and make an informed decision.

Sorry for the long post.

Good Luck!

Jim

Carl & Cheryl Jackson
Montgomery, TX
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Old 07-11-2002, 09:24 AM   #10
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F-550 has a GCVWR HIGHER than some MDT's--the one I drive at work (PSD/6-speed/4.88 gears) has a GVWR of 19,000lbs & a GCVWR of 26,000. I've loaded it to (and probably over) the capacity many times with no trouble.

Johnny
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Old 07-11-2002, 09:30 AM   #11
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After visiting untold numbers of RV dealers, surfing the Internet for hours and hours, and having owned 3 motor homes in the past, my wife and I have decided that we are going full timing this Fall in a bus conversion. We are convinced that they are safer and much longer lasting that what the bus people refer to as "shake-aparts"¯.

We looked at the 5ers, but the ones we like were all long with multiple slideouts and heavy (>15,000 lbs.) requiring MDTs in the $60k plus range. Then you had to drive the MDT as a running around vehicle.

We looked at Class A motor homes, the ones we liked are all in the $200k plus or minus area and JD Gallant (rv.org) generally feels they are unsafe for the occupants in crashes and roll-overs (slide-outs coming loose, etc.).

So, with all that said, we are now seriously considering an MCI or Eagle bus conversion for the longevity of the engines, roominess of the coaches, strudiness of the construction, and overall safety of the vehicle. And, the used ones are far less expensive than the Class A "shake-aparts"¯.

We are off to the Flxible Bus Rally in Ohio this weekend to talk some more with bus folks on this strategy.

Thanks for all of your assistance for those who answered this post.

Take Care,

Carl & Cheryl Jackson
Montgomery, TX
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Old 07-11-2002, 09:42 AM   #12
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I completely understand what you are saying and have no problems with it.

My personal issue is that I understand that in the state of California, and others as well, if I were involved in an accident with an overloaded 5er (more weight than rated for the tow vehicle)-- whether or not it is my fault, I could be held liable because I was overloaded. (I refer to the hypothetical situation mentioned by the attorney in a previous post above).

Stopping a heavy weight 5er,in an emergency situation, once it is rolling at 60+ mph is my real concern, and that is why I feel an MDT is better.

Also, from the reports that I have read, the MDTs hold up better in the long run as a heavy trailer puts substantial strain on the one-tons, etc. and at 40k miles or so they are showing signs of wearing out, where the MDTs are just getting broken in.

To each his own, but I am a little risk adverse when it comes to driving and living in heavy vehicles and would prefer the piece of mind that comes from knowing I am not overloaded and can respond when I need to stop suddenly.

Take Care,

Carl & Cheryl Jackson
Montgomery, TX
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Old 07-11-2002, 02:27 PM   #13
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after reading all this stuff i really believe i made a wise move when i went to pulling my 35' 5th wheel with a converted school bus!

why i changed to a converted school bus is easy, it gave me better braking, more room, and a lot less of a price tag then your regular mdt!

and i feel like i've got all the bennies of a MDT with out all the big payments!

speed is not a big issuse with me as like some one told me years ago when i was riding a m/cycle around the country,"i've got the rest of my life to get anywhere i want to go!"
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Old 07-11-2002, 11:24 PM   #14
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The 550 turned 46,000 today (with a Town & Country on the ramp). Total problems: front pads & rotors replaced at 39K. Tires almost worn out. That's it. It's holding up MUCH better than the MDT (Mitsubishi Fuso cab-over) it replaced.

Johnny
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