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This does come up often and way too often I see people replying with “as easy and similar to a car”… Yeah, right… (those are most of the time salesman anyway)

Sure, with a very small motorhome or campervan the difference is not that much but with a bus or coach converted (same as class A) the similarity begins and ends with you using a steering wheel and three pedals to control the vehicle.. But don’t be concern.. It is not that hard to learn, and once learned, those new skills, will serve you well even when driving other vehicles..

I’ll go as far as telling you that driving a bus or a coach is actually harder than driving a truck. Not the driving per se, but what you need to be constantly aware of, and here is why..

Trucks are made of strong thick steel surrounded by big thick rubber tyres, where buses and coaches have very thin aluminium skin or fibreglass and designed like a brick, so the wheels are not really exposed. If a truck hit a guardrail on the sides, it normally bounces off once the guardrail hit the rubber. With a coach, it will rip the skin apart like opening a can of sardines..

Then you have the new wheel’s position to learn.. On a car or a truck you are driving behind the first axle, while on a bus or a coach, you are actually up to 2 metres in front of it. That translate in a complete different approach to pretty much any manoeuvre that you perform while driving. The rear axle is also on average 3 metre forward from the back and while that is very similar to a truck, it has a completely different clearance while driving around or above objects like curbs..

You also don’t have a rear view mirror or a rear window and all reverse manoeuvres have to be performed by using the two side mirror. Ok these day we have rear cameras but at night is still fun.. But the biggest difference is perhaps how you need to change your driving technique to keep in consideration your new discovered massive weight difference from a car.. Here you will learn to look much more ahead than you previously did, the difference between an air and hydraulic brake pedal and the difference between drum and disk brake (especially in the rain or on a long stretch of downhill road) if your vehicle is not that new.. You will also finally discover why you should never cut off in front of a truck with your car, as now, is your turn to be behind something that simply can’t stop in 30-50 metres of road.. 😀

So…, no. Driving a bus or a coach is not the same as driving either a car or a truck. It is a completely different way of driving and especially when in or around busy cities, it can get quite stressful to the point that most RV people tend to avoid all together driving at those times.. Next time you are next to a city council bus, have a good look at how many scratches and dents there are on the skin..

One thing that is in favour of RV is the higher driving position that does allow you to read the traffic ahead much easier than being stuck behind one..

One thing is for sure.. Driving a bus or a coach eventually, like riding a bike, become second nature, but it will always be an adventure, so if you like adventures, get in..

Before Internet, we had books and driving to different RV company pretending to be interested in buying so to steal ideas and construction techniques

Today is so much easier..

Youtube is a gold mine of great, good, bad and ugly video conversions, where in a day you can learn so much..

Pinterest is another place where you may find great ideas or links to other people’s site..

RV Commercial site often have on display their 3d layouts and possible layout combinations..

Blogs and RV club also do offer plenty of ideas and links to all the above

Books.., there are still several out there, but they are overly expensive for what they offer and lots of them are really outdated. Books that I would still consider essential are the ones related to electrical and proper carpentry techniques.. It is hard to learn those by simply watching a picture or a 2 minutes video made to sell you something..

Plus it is nice to have some book on your RV shelves.. 😉

😁 You can try, but the short answer is No.

There are several stages in a construction of a motorhome where bulky items or large long panels must be glued, supported, lifted high and so forth… Is not really about weight but more about size.  In my experience, two people have been the bare minimum.  This project is definitely perfect for a couple still in love.. 😉

Another way could be of doing most of the jobs yourself and maybe organise a few weekends BBQ where your mates can help tackle those other jobs ;)

And that reminds me…

Thanks, Paul… Your help was invaluable…

Well, you can convert anything you want, but if you want to then being able to register your conversion as a Motorhome, then NO!

As per NHVR Vehicle Standard Guide (VSG5)

Size and dimensions

There are strict limits on the maximum dimension of a heavy vehicle. In particular motorhomes must not exceed the regulation dimensions, including:
maximum length: 12.5 metres
• width: 2.5 metres
• height: 4.3 metres
• rear overhang: 3.7 metres or 60% of the wheel base, whichever is lesser and including items or equipment mounted on the rear overhang
• combination length (motorhome towing a trailer) – 19.00 metres.

When measuring the dimensions of a vehicle, all equipment that is fitted to the vehicle must be included. For motorhomes common fittings that must be included when measuring dimensions include spare wheels, tow bars, bicycle or generator racks, solar panels, roof racks, bull bars and awnings.

There are other rules, but these listed above, are the main ones to check when purchasing a vehicle for a conversion, if you then intend to register it as a motorhome.. If there is no need for a large carrying capacity, it also pays to remember that your registration (at least in QLD) is also based on the number of axles… A three axle coach cost an average of $400-500 dollars more per year compare to the two axles standard bus/coach. Normally the tag axle will give you an extra 4000 kg of carrying capacity..

Remember, there are lots of coach for sale out there longer than 12.5 metres.. We can’t really use them..

Even the “banana bus” or “Bendibus” that really is a bus with a trailer in a permanent composition, it can’t be used either..

No, you don’t.. unless you live in an area where it does often rain..

But not having any protection from the weather, does slow you down (particularly in summer if you live in QLD), and you need to change the way you would normally work to accommodate those weather changes and sometime, it can stop your project all together..

I do recommend some form of tarp or a gazebo (at least big enough for the working table area) as it does make things a lot easier and it can actually save you money in the long run as the project will be completed earlier..

This is a very good question, as too often I see people using Earthwool for insulation in conversion…

I did too once.. Then realised that all the condensation that form when there are two different temperature between inside and outside was getting absorbed by the Earthwool (that’s supposed to be non-hygroscopic) and that could promote rust. Leave it long enough in water and you will understand. I since stopped using it.

These day there are much more suitable materials especially for vehicle that have very thin walls and prone to condensation..

I use and definitely recommend XPS foam.. It does not absorb water and is very clean, light and easy to work with. It comes in sheet of different thickness and colours and it doesn’t go brittle in time like polystyrene..

Quick answer is NO!

I/We only review products that we use, have used and the review is based on our personal experience. If you pay attention, you quickly realise that all those website out there offering reviews of products linked to Amazon or eBay do not offer any real value. They are very generic and never critical to the point of pushing you away from a possible purchase..

We like to tell it how it is. Not having to worry about making a profit from a commission, allow us to be free.. We may advertise where we got the product but you can see that our links are plain and clean without any merchant code embedded to it.. You probably could find a better or cheaper place to buy the same item if you spend enough time to search for it..

Also, you got to be really silly to believe that those people getting paid from you clicking on their product advertisement nicknamed “review” link, at no extra cost to you. I have a business and I can assure you that all my costs incurred in the transaction of sale, are and have always been passed to the buyer/purchaser.. It is not a secret. What ever you pay to sell, makes the profit goes down! In an environment where product online are already heavily discounted and the competition is huge, there is simply not room for another fee..

We always welcome other people contributions, from articles to tutorials and/or reviews.

If you would like to become a contributor, please get in touch by using the Contact Us form..

Answering this question properly, could mean the difference between a successful conversion and a failure, between a happy ending and a frustrating disaster and/or a constant reminder that your dream is not perfect or working as you envisaged it.

The first and foremost important thing to remember here is that, because we are all different individuals, that clearly can’t be a single or right answer to this question. But you can and should try to find your best answers for sure!

I have seen several websites, where in each blog the owner does try to give you a “perfect answer” or “solution” into what they believe to be the perfect choice of vehicle. Unfortunately, 100% of the times, that’s just their way to justify their choices and definitely, not your best option!

If you have been reading Gigi’s Log Book, you should clearly see my list. A 12.5 metre long tube of continuous choices, based on that original list.

I’m sure that you too, have a list. If you don’t, that should be your first priority.. A list of want/need and do not want/need, that hopefully it’s based on your experience and knowledge acquired in time. All you have to do, to make sure that list is right, is to avoid the biggest most common mistake made by the majority of people entering the RV world for the first time: to read something and without any other knowledge or experience on the matter, make a decision simply based on that person writing. I have no problem in reading or listening to somebody else experiences on a subject and I welcome it, but I have long learned that, a given knowledge can be either good, bad or simply useless. I listen, but always only use that information in conjunction with other factors, that in this day and age are almost always available.

If you have been good and used common sense, at making your list, that’s all you really need! There is no such thing as “best or perfect” vehicle for a conversion, so why pretend that it does exist? Those people that claim to have the best vehicle, are simply blind and very ignorant on the subject. If you are a wise person, you will quickly realise that all it matters for your conversion to be a success, is that you believe and know that you did your best and even more importantly, that you are happy with your maiden informed choices.

You are not buying an already made product, but you are making one, and therefore, as long as your list is good, the result will be the same! Take your time, as much as you need, to make that list right. Take a shortcut in making that list, and you may pay the price later on. Simple as that..

Have a look at the other FAQs in this page as they are all related to this subject.. The only important suggestion I can give you on this matter is not to rush into making a decision unless you are 100% confident and that you have done your homework! There are hundreds of vehicle for sale out there and new one are advertised on a daily basis, so there is no need to panic. If you are not mechanical minded, stick to a known brand and try to get the newest one you can afford to. Fixing panels or windows or removing rust, is cheaper than replacing engines or gearboxes! Other than this, follow your list..

 

How long is a piece of string? I have seen conversions time going from 8-12 months to 2 years (like mine).. Several factors do dictate the timeframe of a conversion..

The extension of the conversion, the manpower skills and time availability and the cashflow disponibility..

Please note that you can see online several Youtube “conversions” where all the original windows are still there and just a bit of paint and some home furniture (not even fixed) has been used.. These conversions do take only a few weeks, but I wouldn’t really call or classify those as conversion, but more an experiment.. Some of those videos are there just to advertise products for sale and make a quick bucks.. You can’t really take those conversion seriously.. Spend sometime on the road, and you will quickly realise that you never see them, and there are several reasons of why..

Mind you, they are still funny videos to watch..

I would be tempted to say that a good “one man real conversion”, should/would not take less than 12 months when working a bit (4 to 6 hours) every day, performed in a shed and including both skin and inside layout construction.. To give a comparison, most professional conversion workshop do required an average of 4 months (with several people) for a full converted coach to an RV..

Like when building a home and perhaps a bit more, there are several trades involved in a conversion.. Metal work including welding, plumbing, glazing, painting, flooring, carpeting, sewing, mechanical, electrical and off course carpentry and a lot of it, unless you are planning to use already made cabinets.. The more you know about these trades, the easier and quicker it gets..

This question does sometime pops up, as, after all unless you have been working in the industry, for most people, everything is a bus. But if you are in the market for a vehicle to convert, you better know the differences between the various model, series and options…

A Bus

The BUS normally has a rear or mid mounted engine. Front engine are rare these days, and so are becoming the mid-engines, due to hard access for both passengers (an extra step) and mechanics (the engine sits in the middle and it lay on one side)…

It normally has only two axles, but there are also three axles if you look around. Two doors minimum and no bins or very small bins area. Normally around 3.3 metres high and a great steering turn capabilities. 200 litres fuel tank are also common, as a very low floor throughout the entire length of the vehicle, other than above the wheels and the rear engine. Rear view mirrors are also not on the same level, for obvious reason, the left side being as high as possible. Most do not have either a toilet or any other common accessories like TV, Wi-Fi or music speakers.

Buses do tend to sell a lot cheaper than coaches as they cost much less to purchase new. They can make great conversion, particularly for old people or people with mobility issue. After all it is just one step and you are in.. You also have banana (bendibus), but because they can’t be registered as Motorhome, I’ll leave them out..

A Mini Coach

Next we have Mini Coach.

Mini Coach are simply cut down version of normal coaches. They can still have all the optional offered in the full size coach. The only difference is in the length, the bin’s size and the number of axles. They don’t really need the third axle and they normally carry only up to 30-35 passengers..

They do cover the gap between the Toyota Coaster number of seats and the regular size coach, that can have up to 60 or more seats

They also have a smaller engine and can have smaller wheels, but not all the times. They are ideal if you don’t want the 12.5 metre full size coach, but you still want something larger than the Coaster or the Rosa…

Because of the smaller size engine, they tend to use a bit less fuel, but don’t expect miracles…

Two axle Coach

Three Axles Coach

A High Deck Coach

The Double Deck

4 Axle Twin Steers Coach

Finally, the full size Coaches do come in different flavours:

  • Short range two axles Coach
  • Long range three axle Coach
  • High Deck Coach
  • Double Deck Coach
  • 4 axle with 4 steers at the front
  • Length from 12.5 to 14.5 metres

Main difference between a short and long range Coaches, beside the extra axle, is normally the size of the fuel tank, toilet and number of seats. Fuel tank for the short range can vary from 350 to 600 litres, while the long range can reach 800-1000 litres. Short range don’t normally have a toilet, therefore do have more seats. Long range do offer some extra luxury, like recliner seats, foot rest and hot water for tea and coffee. They can be found in both full frame chassis or just frame chassis. The latter has normally much more bins space, but it is not as planted as a full frame chassis.

While the two axle is cheaper to register, the three axle does offer few benefits over the two. An extra 6 tonnes of carrying capacity and a much better side wind stability due to the extra two airbags in the tag axle. The braking capability it is also increase by the extra two disk/drums brake. The extra axle allows for the bigger fuel tank, the air conditioning system in the rear, the toilet and possibly a disable rear door access. Scania also have steers wheels on the tag axle, that does make it a lot more enjoyable going around corners, and reduce tyres drag..

Size of engine does vary from 7 litres to 13 litres, with the most common around the 12 litres. HP does also vary a lot, going from 230HP up to 500HP.

There is no a real rule for either engine size or Horse Power, other than normally the bigger engine revs a lot lower, therefore giving possible better fuel efficiency at the same speed..

Then we have the High Deck Coach. The High Deck share most of the three axle coach features, but the floor has been raised by an extra two steps giving few advantages. The passenger now have their own front windows to see forward, without any obstruction like sun visors or internal mirrors. There is now room for a toilet somehow nearly entirely below the first floor and two door for access and safety..

We have an extra bin area above the rear wheels and the fuel tank can be as big as 1000 litres and because of the toilet location a possible further three extra seats… This coach is often confused with the Double Deck because of the two doors and the two front windows

The Double Deck is simply a mix of a low floor bus and a High Deck Coach. They are heavy to drive and not really that enjoyable as the driver seat it is just as high as the one in a car, so visibility is extremely reduced..

You get few row of seats and a toilet downstairs, plus a possible bed for the second driver, for interstate trips, while upstairs is just the same as a High Deck coach. Again two doors and two sets of stairs are the norm.

Because of the height of the vehicle, like in some of the High Deck, the Air conditioning unit is fitted above the engine in the back. While lots of people think these are possibly the best coach for a conversion, that’s simply not the case.

You can’t install anything on the roof because the height and the plumbing both upstairs and downstairs is a nightmare as you have no bins area under the floor other than the one above the rear wheels. So any water tank either fresh grey or black has to be pump feed..

The stairs, are also very steep and do become an issue after a while.. In the end, most people have to use the lower floor space for what normally would go into the bins area in a normal coach, making the purchase of a Double Deck, becoming more like a High Deck situation, while retaining the not so comfortable driving height especially in traffic…

In saying this, there are double decker out there that have been converted and they do look great, but let’s not confuse look with functionality…

Lastly You can see in the last picture a beautiful 4 axles Coach. Unfortunately it is 14.5 metre long making it not possible to register as a motorhome…

Ah… The million dollar question…

In a nutshell, anything between $50K to $500K.. Actually, that’s not entirely true. It could cost much less than $50K, if that is what you want. I have seen vehicle where just a quick swap of furniture between the house and the vehicle were made and in a flash the owner, was already living the dream.. It is your vehicle and it is your choice of how to go about it. You can always upgrade/improve/fix things later..

Predicting the exact cost of a conversion is nearly impossible, as there are way too many factors involved, to be able to give a precise figure… Purchase of the vehicle price, size and condition of the Coach, materials used in the conversion, quality of components and quantity of accessories, problems discovered during the conversion, change of plans.. Are you going to do the conversion yourself, or pay somebody to do it for you? How much time do you have allocated for the conversion?

The list is endless!

One thing is for sure. You can go and travel and do nearly the same things you would do with the $500K motorhome, with the $50K one, possibly, just not as comfortable and probably, not for as long… Investing in being self-sufficient in a motorhome (and therefore allow you for longer stay away from the main commodities) does increase the price quite a bit… Solar, Generator and bigger Tanks are just the beginning…

It is really similar to renovating a house, with the main difference that any product/s that it include the word “Camping, RV or Caravan in the description, will attract, at least, double the price of his counterpart equivalent for a House  😀

I think it safe to assume that if you have managed to put together a conversion budget, then all you have to do is Double It, you will be then, pretty close to the final “real” cost!

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Believe or not, that’s how most people get the bug into their system..  But I’m also aware of people, that after spending a month travelling around Australia, couldn’t wait an extra second to get back home..

So if you are thinking of renting a motorhome to evaluate if you are a possible candidate for a life on the road, definitely do it! And for several reasons;

  1. Living in an RV is a life based on minimalism, and you may don’t like it..
  2. Confined spaces, sometimes play tricks on people, even if in love..
  3. You will have to learn new skills and some of them are not as pleasant as they look..
  4. You get to test a layout that may don’t work as you firstly thought..
  5. You get to experience new driving environments, some of which can be very stressful for some while some of it will give you the best memories..

This is a great idea, especially if also is your first time in a motorhome.. It is really like try before you buy, with the added bonus of a great experience even if negative, because you get to see what it may does work and what it doesn’t..

Another popular subject among converted motorhome owners…

Raising the roof in a coach is not a difficult job, but there are important factors to keep in mind..

Some old buses/coaches are really low, and they also have the full chassis running under where the bins are… If you are tall (more than 180 cm) then you really can and should raise the roof.. It doesn’t add much at all, to the final cost if you are already planning of re-skinning the vehicle…

With newer coaches the story is a bit different… For start the actual frame is the actual chassis, so extra care need to be taken to keep the chassis true.. Some later coaches are also already 4.1 metre high… Once you have raised the roof, you probably have already reached the maximum height allowed in Australia of 4.3 metre..

That mean, nothing else can be added on the roof (solar panels, Aircon, aerials…) So you may want to keep those factor in mind before proceeding with raising the roof..

Sometime, especially if the outside of the coach is in good conditions (no need to re-skin the vehicle) and it is one of those 4.1 metre high, it would be better (and much, much cheaper) to design the interior by utilising the centre aisle where you should have at lest 2 metres between floor and ceiling.. In some coaches the centre aisle is not existent (is at the same level as the seats), while in some other, like high deck coaches it may go from one end to the other but at different levels…

Converted coaches with raised roof, do normally attract a higher value at reselling time, they are cooler, the feel more spacious, and allows for better size kitchen wall cabinets… On newer coaches where the frame is the actual chassis, I would strongly recommend getting the job done professionally and with all the proper documentation…

I like to drive with manual gearboxes, but I cannot deny that most automatic vehicle are extremely enjoyable to drive, especially around cities…

There are lots of different gearbox out there ranging from the crashbox, all the way to the fully automatic, with several variations in between…

Depending on whom you ask, you may get told that “real man” only drive crashbox, but that is rubbish and not the case.. On trucks, the linkage between the cabin and the gearbox is very short and therefore tends to be precise even after a million kilometres. On buses and coach unfortunately the gearbox is at least 8 metres behind your seat and after 20 years, as all the linkages are becoming worn out, changing gear gets very sloppy, making a clean gear change a lot more difficult. To add to the problem, you need to also consider the chassis moving and twisting while driving, making a gear change, especially in a corner going uphill, a kind of nightmare..

The next gearbox is the one where the gears are synchronised. Much easier than the crashbox, as you don’t need any longer to match the speed of the engine with the speed of the gearbox, but again those long linkages are worn out, and you may still find it hard to get the correct gear in when you need it…

To alleviate this problem most gearbox manufacturers replaced those long linkages with solenoids mounted around the gearbox and all you have left is a small stick where you still need to select the gear, but the actual gear change is effectuated by the solenoid making it virtually impossible to miss a gear… There are several variations of those gearboxes, even ones where you don’t need to press the clutch other than for stop and start, and they are all pretty easy to learn…

Lastly, we have fully Automatic gearboxes like the US Allison or the German ZF… Here like in an automatic car you just push the button and off you go… Simple as that…

If this is your first time driving a long vehicle, I would start from Automatic, so that you can concentrate on the drive, and work your way down to the crashbox if you wish or have to…

If fear of expensive repair is in your mind, the crashbox is the best bet as there is not much that can go wrong with them.  That’s why they are still so popular..

That’s not to say that the automatic gearboxes do break very often, but they do rely on being serviced regularly to work well…

Glass is not a really good thermal insulator and in nearly all Coaches they are large, heavy, and fixed… Therefore, it always makes sense to actually replace them with fibreglass or composite panels plus good insulation, where they are not needed it and proper RV double insulated windows where you need an opening..

It goes without saying that, by replacing the fix windows, you are also making a “real” conversion and therefore adding, value, functionality and comfort to your vehicle…

In some coaches, I often notice people keeping the front side first two windows as they do add visibility and interior light while driving..

I have also seen excellent conversion where the OEM windows were not replaced, but in most occurrence it was a Double Deck bus or the American yellow school bus..

What ever you do, I would recommend not to keep the OEM windows in the bath/shower area. They never look good or are properly sealed, and that’s asking for trouble, and it will lead to rust and perhaps making it harder to sell the motorhome later on..

 

Regardless if the bus does come either from a large company fleet or a small one, most fleet manager/owner, before the bus is advertise for sale will change/replace the following parts:

  1. Tyres: They will always try to get rid of the oldest tyres in the fleet. Just because they still have thread it doesn’t mean they are any good. The age of the tyre is very important. The spare tyre will be probably old and flat. Not many new buyers often check the spare tyre and same thing apply to jacks and emergency triangles..
  2. Batteries: Again the oldest batteries in the fleet will find their new home in the bus that is for sale. After all, as long as the vehicle does start the day it sells, it is all it matters to them..
  3. Gas Struts: Again a part that’s often replaced before the sale. Most bin door have two struts, and it takes  only a minute to replace them with worn out ones..
  4. Screen Wipers: Yes, sadly enough, I have witnessed a previous owner replacing even the screen wipers with worn out ones to save some money..

It may seem not like much, but just those four items will set you back up to $3,000.00 to replace. Just remember that the day you are there,  purchasing the bus.. Don’t be afraid to use those four as a bargaining tool to get the price down.. The owner won’t lose any money either way, and he is still getting rid of old stock for free..

If you can, try to buy from a small fleet or at least a bus with a “real” logbook history.. Small company do tend to take better care of their fleet, and they also have less chance of having several old tyres and batteries to dispose of.. Also, a highway bus will always be in better shape than a city bus both in the body and the chassis wear even if the highway bus will possibly have the higher mileage..

Finally, unless there is the proper paperwork, from a workshop, signed and dated, do not ever trust a seller telling you that the engine was just rebuilt.. You will hear that a lot, but without proper paperwork, that’s just bullshit! Most buses used daily are kept by most companies until either the contract runs out, the bus is getting closer to the max age allowed in QLD, or the bus has more than a million km.. Most engine will easily do more than a million km, but the rest of the vehicle will start to be really worn out and require more frequent services, therefore become more expensive to maintain in the fleet..

You may don’t like my answer here but, again, based on my experience I would stick to any European brand as far as chassis. As engines goes, there is a bit more room to move.. Volvo, Mercedes, MAN, DAF, Mack, Caterpillar, Scania and Cummins..

Maybe looking at the brand map of workshop available in Australia could help influence your decision, especially if you are not mechanically minded..

Chinese vehicle, while looking very good when new and using quality engine and gearboxes from other manufacturer, in my experience don’t offer quality chassis! That’s why they are cheaper to buy in the first place. They don’t last very long, like most Chinese products..

Maybe in the future, as Chinese quality manufacturer constantly improves, this will not be an issue any more. If you really have to go for a Chinese vehicle, make sure you take it for at least one hour driving test and not just in the city but also on the Hwy. That is where the nasty surprise normally do tend to show up. Pay special attention at how the steering box behave (as in, not moving the steering wheel and still being able to go constantly straight) and look in the mirrors at the white lines on the road to see if it does track straight (you want the same distance between the wheel and the white line on both side front and back).. The steering wheel play or lack of precision in Chinese buses, with Higer being the worst, is probably the biggest complaint among buses companies owners…

Cummings’s engines are the most expensive to work on, while Cats are the cheapest.. The others are all very similar in repairing costs.

This is not an easy question to answer, but I’ll try to point out some relevant factors not always obvious at first.

You have two specific type of A/C for RV. The roof mounted ones and the under bed/couch mounted one. Obviously the under bed/couch, if space is available, is a better choice for several reasons.

It helps to keep the weight low down, easier to service (no need to access the roof), they offer more ventilation options, it keeps the vehicle max height lower, and they could/should last longer..

But, if you are planning to do a lot of Dry Camping, then there is a serious problem even with the specific types RV A/C units.. Power!

If you have enough solar panel on the roof, you will have no problem during the day, but at this stage it is still not feasible to run an A/C all night on batteries. Even the small A/C designed for RV, still use as much power as three full size fridges, 1 to 1.5 kWh, making it virtually impossible, for a battery bank not to go below 50% discharge in only few hours.. The generator is the only option, but even that at night could be an issue in some places..

There is another factor to bear in mind regarding A/C. The more you use it, the more you depend on it. It is a vicious circle.. In a hot summer day, once you got comfortable inside your air conditioned Motorhome, it will be very hard to get any work done outside.. At night, it is a different story and having some cool air, could be all the difference between a great night sleep, and a very sticky bed..

Personally, I don’t like specific RV/Motorhome A/C units, mainly because of their exaggerated cost/performance, so I would concentrate on better insulation, better ventilation and perhaps few simple fan locate in strategic location.

Lately, the trend is moving towards home split systems that do work much better and cost much less than the specific ones and I have also seen people using portable A/C in RV and for a third of the price, same performance, it does make sense. Considering that you may use it 15- 20 time in a year, having a portable one, it may do the trick..

I get asked this question quite a lot, especially from caravan driver…

Since 2018 Australia has adopted a new plate for heavy vehicles and if you wonder how to tell where a vehicle is from, you can still work it out Lets have an example of a new plate:

XQ-88AB in Black on white reflection base, and blue band legend with the words NATIONAL HEAVY VEHICLE imprinted on it.

XQ-88AB is for Trucks while YQ-88AB is for Trailers. In this example the prefix denotes X for Trucks and Y for Trailers and the last prefix letter is for home states/territory:

  • A for Australian Capital Territory
  • N Completed for New South Wales
  • O for New South Wales
  • Q Completed for Queensland
  • B for Queensland
  • R for Northern Territory
  • S for South Australia
  • T for Tasmania
  • V Completed for Victoria
  • W for Victoria

The Best Force of Nature..

 

Here in Australia, the majority of bus and coaches are powered by Diesel, except for the council buses where they have these days, large number running on LPG. Diesel and LPG have both cons and pro but there no denial that in Australia Diesel is more readily available especially in remote areas…

I’ll leave the choice of fuel to you but I think is far more important to concentrate on the actual power of the engine…

Most twin axles buses/coaches will have an average of between 210 and 290 HP, while triple axles and/or large coaches could have as much as 550HP…

This is just a guideline but I would recommend 18-20HP for  every ton of weight in whatever vehicle you choose…

So for a 20 tons coach 360-400HP would be nice. It also pays to remember that a large displacement engine will normally use less fuel for the same given weight as it doesn’t have to labour as hard as a smaller engine would. New engine have come a long way and these days you can find smaller size like a 7 litre engine for a 16 tons vehicle.. But you won’t find those engines in the 20-25 years old vehicles… Back in those days, 12 and 13 litre engines were the norm…

Get an under powered vehicle and you will regret it every time you drive up hill or stop at the servo for fuel…

I did write a Blog about this subject back in the early days, and I don’t think that much has changed since…

If after reading the blog, there are still some uncertainty, then I would say in few words that:

  • While 12 Volts seems to have plenty of appliances and accessories available, they are very expensive, and not always of good quality..
  • 12 Volts system required very large expensive cables and massive amperage fuses..
  • 240 Volts appliance and accessories are getting better and better at using less power, they are cheaper to buy and available everywhere..

In my opinion, the best solution at the moment would be to keep the existing vehicle voltage (either 12 or 24 Volts) for the simple, basic things like lights and driving fans and use 240 Volts for everything else…

It depends.. They both do offer pros and cons.. I just listed the pros of each, as the cons are obviously the opposite for each other..

Bus

  • Cheaper to buy
  • Lighter
  • Faster acceleration
  • MR Licence (only two axles)
  • Lower entrance (fewer or lower steps)
  • Better turning radios (most of the times)
  • Lower roof and still comfortable high ceiling
  • Flat floor

Coach

  • Bigger fuel tank
  • Can carry more weight
  • Better comfort at high speed
  • Plenty of storage room in the underfloor bins
  • Higher driving position
  • Easier engine access (most of the times)
  • Hwy diff or better diff ratio for Hwy use

You can see from these lists that both vehicle can be suitable for conversion.. There are as many buses converted on the road as there are coaches. You need to consider your requirements along with what each chassis does offer..

 

The average fuel consumption does and can vary based on driving technique, weight and road conditions but the average for most coaches is between 3 and 4 Km per litre.. (Based on a diesel 4-stroke engine. 2-stroke engine do use a lot more fuel.)

It can easily drop below 3 or even 2 if there are serious problems with the engine, driving in the wrong gear, revving the engine unnecessarily and to high or a lack of filters maintenance for example..

Just for the record, and for comparison, keep in mind that the Mitsubishi Rosa and the Toyota Coaster, while being a third of the size of a coach, they only average between 6 and 7.5 km per litre and a good 4WD towing a caravan will take about 15 Litres per 100Km..

Here people tend to have different opinions based on their knowledge & Skills…

Truth is, that is a lot cheaper to rebuild an engine, even if you are not a mechanic, that to re-skin an entire vehicle, once you found rust… We are talking about rust that has already started to destroy the sub frame here, not the superficial rust..

So, based on my experience, I strongly suggest to pay more attention to the sub frame than the drivetrain and Engine..

The sub frame is not the expensive part to replace. Is the labour involved to get there and to put everything back. Re-skinning also do take considerable time, so pay a bit more for a younger vehicle, that should be built of fibreglass instead of Zincalume, can save you a lot more later on down the track..

Average cost for an Engine rebuilt in a coach (in chassis rebuilt) can set you back up to $15,000 or $20,000 and in the worse case scenario a month of time (you can also buy new/reconditioned engines for around the same money, but that does not include installation)..

The average body workshop for coach/bus , will easily charge you around the $35-40,000+ for a rust removal on the main frame and a good re-skin job..

You need also to remember that there are a lot more mechanical workshops around than body workshop that deal with coaches/buses re-skin or rebuilt. It could mean months and months of waiting for  your coach re-skinning job to begin, and off course, you will have to play their game.

Fewer body workshops, less competition = higher prices..

Around the SEQ we have Coachworks that are pricey but the workmanship is excellent, and they also tend to work fast. There is another company in Logan Village called Transfab. I had a very bad experience with them, (or perhaps I should say lack of, considering that I waited 6 months for a job that never happened) so, if you are serious about your vehicle and you do have a life, don’t bother with Transfab..

All Australian state and territories have the same class licences, so it doesn’t matter which part of Australia you are from. Before we get into the different classes I just would like to point out, especially for young people, that because of the costs involved in getting these licence, sometimes it pays to get the next higher class licence for the small difference in cost, especially if considering driving in the truck industry a possibility.. Your motorhome conversion should have either 2 or three axles and definitely weight more than 8t GVM, unless you used the Toyota Coaster or the Mitsubishi Rosa.

  1. LR Light Rigid: A bus or truck (including a prime mover or a mobile crane) not more than 8t GVM. You may also tow a trailer with a maximum weight of 9t GVM.
  2. MR Medium Rigid: A bus or truck (including a prime mover or a mobile crane) over 8t GVM with a maximum of 2 axles. You may also tow a trailer with a maximum weight of 9t GVM.
  3. HR Heavy Rigid: A bus or truck (including a prime mover or a mobile crane) over 8t GVM with more than 2 axles. You may also tow a trailer with a maximum weight of 9t GVM. An articulated bus (a bus that can bend in the middle).
  4. HC Heavy Combination: A truck (including a prime mover or mobile crane) over 8t
  5. MC Multi-combination: A B-double (prime mover towing 2 semitrailers, with 1 semitrailer supported at the front and connected to the other semitrailer). A road train (motor vehicle, other than a B-double, towing 2 or more trailers)

So, the difference between LR and MR is just the weight restriction while the difference between MR and HR is just the number of axles restriction. In the bus industry, the majority of people tend to have the MR or HR licence as most buses are only two axles, three axles for most coaches, and the HR also allows you to drive the Bendibus. In the truck industry however the majority of people tend to have the HC licence. The cost between HR and HC is not much as the test is done, most of the time, on the same vehicle, but with a trailer attached. Difference is that if one day you may look for a job in the truck industry, you won’t get much consideration, with the HR licence as most truck out there are not rigid. The MC licence is just an extension of the HC and only required for road trains.

Based on the list above you should being able to work out your licence requirements.. My suggestion… Go for the HC, even if you don’t need it. You never know..

If you look around, you will quickly realise that the majority or motorhome and caravan are white.. There is a good reason for it..

I did a test once in January on a beautiful day with two composite panels laying on the grass, one white and the other one black. Then with the help of a laser thermometer I checked the surface temperature..

At 8 am they were both sitting at 16°…

At 10am, white on 20°, black on 31°…

At 11am, white on 43°, black on 55°…

At 12am, white on 65°, black on 78°…

Both got extremely hot and I just couldn’t touch them any longer, but yes the black was a fraction hotter

Clearly, white or any bright colour are the best choice… The material also play a massive role in retaining heat… If  you can, go for fibreglass as it does offer the best of both world and it will not require as much insulation as composite aluminium or Zincalume panels.

WP is now the primary CMS used on this site. Please note that, like I tell everyone, if you are starting fresh today, have a look at Drupal first. You may like what you see…

It is a bit like when you buy a new car. You can’t just ask around. You really need to get in and drive it for a bit to get the feel for it.. WP does come with a better stereo, but Drupal has a bigger engine… 😉

This is an excellent question and the answer is that there are several good reasons for why.. But here is the thing.. Just because they are good reasons for me, it doesn’t mean that they will be good for you as well.. A lot depends on what it is important to you.. Things like safety, quality & durability, ease of use and comfort, are all subject to the individual and often people don’t mind to compromise, if they can get to the end result quicker and cheaper. Then again, sometime you could be lucky and find a bargain that ticks all the boxes and does not include compromises, but those situation are very rare..

Most conversion built motorhome, are designed with specific options to fulfil a specific series of task and demand from the owner, where mass produced motorhome, normally are designed to fulfil a more generic task.. Take 5 to 6 people around the country for a holiday or travelling for a month by offering a good looking and comfortable (to some extents) environment but without any special needs.. It is a model that does fit a lot of people but not all of them obviously..

Pretty much like when buying a house, if you can’t find what you want/need the only other option it to build! If you can also build it yourself, then you don’t just get what you want, but you also get what you want much cheaper.. Labour is always a huge part of the cost, what ever you buy or build..

Another good reason is obviously the layout.. Most seasoned RV traveller will tell you that there are few layouts that do work extremely well, while others simply do not.. Kitchen and bathroom seems to be the most common culprit.. Some people like a large bedroom while others like a large bathroom.. The way the day area is separate or utilised compare to the night area.. You can see where this is going, and we haven’t even touch the materials or the quality and quantity of the fittings.. This reason alone, is to me one of the most appealing factor of building a conversion..

Bottom line is that, if you need a motorhome just for a holiday or a small (time frame wise) adventure, something already built may do the job, but if you have specific needs, and you may plan to live permanently in your motorhome, a conversion does offer in my opinion, the best option.. To me the benefits and enjoyment of being able to use a real size kitchen, a real size toilet, a real size shower and a real size bed, does offset any possible bargain out there already being built.. Taking compromises in any of these, in the long run will lead to frustration and that does bring us to the next important reason..

Most commercial built motorhome, do use construction’s techniques designed to give you adequate strength and being functional, while keeping the weight and more importantly, the costs down.. Here the key word is adequate! Don’t expect those cabinets doors, plumbing hoses fittings or some appliances to last more than a few years, if you live permanently in your motorhome, because that was not their intended purpose..

On il Mozzo’s website, you actually don’t have to register to see most of the site. But registering does allow you to access the entire website. In future these setting may change and member may benefit from having exclusive access to specific area of the site..

Also, note that registering only require you to pick a username and a password. There are no registrations fees, and in most cases is only there to avoid unsolicited posts and spam. We don’t collect any personal details and the only data stored in the server is the one you have entered in your profile, that when you choose, it can be visible to other members but never to guests.

 

Perhaps to better understand this name/nickname we must first see what it means in the English Translation: Hub, Fulcrum.

But in Italian, it also means: “ship’s boy” and that is why and where originally my nickname came from.. Working on ships, always in trouble, and always in the middle. I don’t think, my mates could have come up with anything better or more explicit than il Mozzo..

After migrating to Australia, and several months of ugly misspelling, it became first Bert than overnight Burt, apparently after Burt Reynolds moustache 😁 That’s the story, anyway!

So feel free to use either one you prefer as, on here, to keep both countries happy, I have been using both..

 

For your Avatar to show, you must be logged in while posting the comment, even if you already are a registered member.

The most common reason for having to update a post is to maintain the links. Website constantly change and products are discontinued, while other are rebranded as new. If this is not kept in check, posts and reviews could become obsolete as the link does stop working.

Another reason could be that the post content needs updates to reflect actual changes, so to maintain the original intended purpose. In such cases, you shall find the update date and reason mentioned at the end of the post..

Finally, misspelling, grammar and punctuations are always a problem..

I get these emails from time to time and the truth is that I only developed this site using the Firefox Browser.  I actually never test it on Edge, Chrome, Safari or Opera. I know lots of people uses different browser but I have been very comfortable with Firefox since 2004, just to get away from Explorer, and I never had to look back. It does everything I need and it has all the plugins that I need and use in my day-to-day work.

I’m aware of issues with Chrome, so I guess what I’m saying is that if you think there is something missing or you are having problem logging in, perhaps just try with a different browser and it may solve the problem.

On the other hand, I still appreciate people letting me know of the problem they are having related to the site, because it could be a problem not browser related.. Google reCAPTCHA is the prime example. In the past few years it has given problem to all different platform at one stage or another..

Is not that simple as every browser does use and implement HTML and CCS differently, so sometimes these problems do happen.

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