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BUS SHIPPING – HOW TO SHIP A SCHOOL BUS OR COACH BUS

by | Bus Life, The Lills, Vintage GM Bus Conversion

Bus Shipping - How to ship a school bus - This Lills

BUS SHIPPING – HOW TO SHIP A SCHOOL BUS OR COACH BUS

Shipping a bus can be no easy feat, especially if you need one in a hurry. Who can I trust to ship my bus? How much will it cost me to transport my bus? What kind of trailer does my bus need to be shipped?

If you’ve never had a large vehicle shipped before, this experience can be nerve-racking, so we decided to share our experience and what we learned.

Who should I contact to ship my bus?

Roadside Tow – If you’re stranded on the side of the road and need to be towed to a shop for mechanical fixes pronto, your best bet is to look up local towing companies online and give them a call. They should be able to get a wrecker dispatched to your location and they may even be able to refer local mechanic shops too.

While traveling cross-country in our VW bus, we only needed our bus to be towed once, during our 2+ years on the road. We were hit by a drunk driver in the middle of the Arizona desert at night and our bus was in bad shape. We weren’t going anywhere on our own and there weren’t many tow companies to choose from. We were charged over $600 for a 77 mile tow for our little bus and it took us over 20 days to get back on the road. Big buses can costs heaps more for emergency towing and repairs, so try to always be prepared.

In Town / In State Tow – If you need to ship your bus a short distance, you can contact local wrecker companies.

Since getting our 40 foot GM bus to the East Coast, we’ve had to get it towed in town 2 times (from the diesel shop it was delivered to, to another mechanic shop and finally, to the shop where we’re working on our conversion). The first trip was only a couple miles down the road and the final trip was a good 1/2 an hour away. Both tows were $350 each. We were lucky to get to work with the same driver both times and now we have a good relationship with him for potential future towing and advice.

Long Distance Shipping – If you need to ship your bus long distance, we would recommend calling shipping companies in your destination location (where the bus is being shipped to). ASK ABOUT A BACK HAUL!! Often, the companies will have drivers on routes to drop items off and when they make their return trip, they have no cargo and therefore, aren’t making money on the way back. They want to make more money. So, if your bus is near their route, they’ll pickup it up and charge you a bit less to transport it.

We called over a dozen shipping & transportation companies, until we finally connected with one who had a back haul. They were happy to pickup our 40 ft bus in the middle of the New Mexico desert at night for an incredible price of $3K. The first company we spoke to estimated $12K, so don’t go with the first company you speak to!

You can also visit UShip.com – a shipping website online where you can enter your shipping information / vehicle information and companies from all over the nation can bid to transport your bus.

We tried out UShip and got a bunch of bids from shipping companies that could pick up our bus in the timeframe we were hoping for. We spoke to a bunch of them on the phone and scheduled a date with the one who offered us the cheapest bid. They got there right on time, but unfortunately they brought the wrong trailer. The driver attempted to drive our bus onto the trailer, using railroad ties and he missed. It was a disaster and we had to find a new shipper, but thankfully the bus was okay and made it across the country safely.

How much will it cost to ship my bus?

When it comes to shipping costs, prices will vary, so do your research and make a bunch of calls to really get an idea of how much it will cost you to ship your bus. Below are some things we’ve learned, regarding shipping costs.

Roadside Tow – We haven’t had a roadside tow, when it comes to our 40 ft GM bus, but it cost us $600+ to tow our little VW bus 70 miles when we were stranded in the AZ desert. Be prepared and contact insurance companies who will cover roadside assistance for your bus. We’ve heard that a company called Good Sam Roadside Assistance will cover your bus for around $80 a year.

In Town / In State – We were charged $350 for 5 miles, from one mechanic shop to another. Then, we spent another $350 for 10 miles. This gives you a general understanding, but again, company’s prices will vary, so call a few to compare prices.

Long Distance – $2-3 a mile is GOOD. It cost us $3K to ship our 40 foot bus 1,800 miles, from New Mexico to the East Coast.

What kind of trailer should I ask for to ship my bus?

We learned the hard way, that the trailer type and size matters! Be sure to have your bus and shipping details on hand, before contacting shipping companies. They are going to need the model and size of your bus, the dimensions of your bus, the weight of your bus, the transport distance and they’ll ask you if the bus can run on its own. You’ll need to have the pickup and delivery location addresses, plus the timeframe of when the bus can be loaded and delivered.

Rollback Trailers – Also known as tilt decks, these trailers have hydraulic wheels, so they can change the angle of their bed.

When our vintage GM bus was shipped to us, the shipping company had to hire a wrecker with a rollback trailer to get the bus off of their lowboy trailer. They slowly reversed our bus from the lowboy to the rollback and it was wild to watch! See below.

RGN (Removable Goose Neck) Trailers – Also known as double-lowboys or double-drop trailers, RGN trailers hold their loads closer to the ground, which allows the shipment of taller objects. These taller objects can sit in the drop in the middle of the trailer. The maximum weight limit for RGN trailers is 150,000 pounds and the maximum height for loads is 12 feet.

Step Deck Trailers – These trailers are similar to flatbeds, but they’re lower to the ground. The maximum weight limit for Step Deck trailers is 48,000 pounds and the maximum height for loads is 11 feet.

Lowboy Trailers – They are also referred to as low-bed, low loader, float, or double-drop trailers. They are low to the ground, which makes it possible to load buses and other vehicles that sit close to the ground. Lowboy trailers are considered semi-trailers and they have a drop deck, which allows the companies to ship huge items that exceed the maximum weight limit of other trailer types. The Lowboy trailer weight limit with two axles is 40,000 pounds and the maximum height for loads is 14 feet.

The Lowboy trailer was the only type of trailer we could get to ship our 40 foot vintage bus. The company we used promised us that it would do the job, but it didn’t, so they paid for a wrecker to come out and hoist our bus up on to the trailer. They promised it would be easier to unload than load, but when it came time to drop off our bus, they had to hire another wrecker to get our bus off of the Lowboy. You can see how it all went down in our video below.

Things To Remember When Transporting Your Bus

Ask Questions – We want your shipping experience to go as smooth as possible, so be sure to ask every question under the sun, when you speak with shipping companies. Take your time and make sure you feel like you and your bus are in good hands, before choosing one to go with.

Compare Prices – Call a good amount of shipping companies, collect information and compare quotes. Some are going to be overpriced, some will be fair and others will not be worth your time to do business with, just based on experience.

Don’t Rush Your Decision – This is not the time to rush or make quick decisions that you may regret later. The safety of your bus is priority and you want to make sure it will be treated with care.

Insurance – The shipping company should have insurance for their vehicles, trailers, drivers and loads. Be sure to ask and see that everything is covered.

Inspect Your Bus – Before your bus is loaded off of the trailer, be sure to inspect it for any damage. The shipping company driver should walk you through the inspection and have you sign off that it looks good. Don’t sign anything and don’t unload your bus off of the trailer, if you see damage from the shipment of your bus.

Tip Your Driver – If your bus makes it to you safe and sound, we recommend giving your driver a small token of appreciation.

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One of the most asked questions we get is, how do you make money living and traveling in a bus? The two of us have been brand builders since 2010, digital nomads since 2017 and we we ran our branding & design business on the road from our VW bus for 2+ years. The experience inspired us to convert our big GM bus into a bigger home and design studio on wheels, so that we can continue our lifestyle and continue to help other bus lifers achieve their goals and thrive.