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Old 02-24-2017, 02:24 PM   #1
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Default truck or bus conversion?

New here. Been researching DIY RV conversion project. Most research has been bus conversion but just wanted to tap this community to see if truck conversion has sufficient benefits to explore.

Thought would be to find MDT cab over box truck and convert the box, adding storage underneath for utilities and storage.

Not sure if it makes sense since there is less usable interior RV space with truck vs bus. Seems like more work involved to convert truck.

Still leaning heavily toward bus but wanted to just check with you folks.


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Old 02-24-2017, 09:44 PM   #2
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apparently you havent spent enough time around coach like ours.

consider an HDT - a lot more engine, better fuel economy, better transmission, better traction and weight hauling/pulling capacity and capability.

Don R.
'04 Haulmark (M42386) 42', 2 slide, 10kw - Pictures
'04 F350 CrewCab Longbed 4x4, 50g aux tank & gear vendors dbl over
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Old 02-25-2017, 12:30 PM   #3
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It boils down to preference and your needs... I've been in the bus conversion community for 20 yrs and have decided trucks meet my needs better.... here are some thoughts in random order as they occur to me:

Interior space:

40' bus gives you aprox 40' interior (less drivers seat area)
40' truck gives you aprox 30' interior space, you loose 10' in cab and hood. If you do go MDT you might cut that to 7'.

(bushpilot is correct HDT is superior to an MDT for a lot of reasons)

You do gain the possibility of a bunk above the cab which gives you an extra bed, however you don't actually recover all of your space because bunks don't go to the front of the engine... maybe you get 6' back at the most.


Buses have a very good safety record, however they are less safe than a truck for two reasons I can think of.

Front engine puts a large engine between you and whatever you hit in an accidnet.
(there was a recent news story about a bus that got bisected by a freeway sign)

Front engine puts more weight up front which (my opinion only.... improves handling characteristics by giving you more understeer rather than oversteer in loss of traction situations)


Buses tend to turn sharper than a truck, (MDT's and newer HDT's tend to turn sharper than older ones)

Many trucks have a shorter wheelbase (with more rear overhang) which improves break over angle and turning radius... you do need to be vigilant of the rear swing. Some trucks conversions have wheelbases similar to a bus.


With the bus you have the drive train in the rear so you can get a basement that goes all the way across, or you can lower your living quarters into the basement for creative designs/ hot tub, whatever.

It is often necessary to raise the roof on the bus (depending on year/model)

The buses I've worked on have had less right angles and a lot more custom fabrication was required.

With a truck box everything is square and you get more usable interior space.

Capacity and reliability:

The buses I've had experience with always seemed to be at their limit with respect to weight and handling.

The trucks are typically designed to handle a lot more weight, and although you might have to watch your front axle weights the truck drive train is a lot more robust.

Coaches on bus chassis *might* have an overheating and fire problem, (I'm not gonna say how I became aware of this, however do some research on OEM manufacturers using bus chassis, lawsuits and settlements, and you'll find some interesting reading about heat, fires and rear engines.... google the names of the manufacturer of the engine, chassis, coach and "fire" to find the info)

The truck engines seem to stay cool with the engine up front and the radiator facing forward.

The trucks can tow a lot more weight.

I'm sure there are other considerations... perhaps ease of obtaining service, campground acceptability and perception, etc.
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Old 02-25-2017, 01:45 PM   #4
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from the (front) bumper to the rear of our cab is 10'....close to 1/2 of that is cockpit/seating youre not giving up that much.

Our front seats, which are btw AIR RIDE) swivel - so there is no loss to the seating area of a truck conversion anymore than there is in a pusher/bus. I've never seen a pusher coach with air ride seats and even the bus conversions only have driver air ride seats at best.

What we give up in (front engine) we gain in crash protection AND over cab storage (pushers don't have over cab/cockpit storage).

We also gain in serviceability - no need to keep switching back and forth between (being inside) above the engine & (being outside) to get to the bottom - It also means when & if 13+ Liters of engine needs service no one has to go thru the coach to get to the top of the engine.

MANY pusher coaches roll off their assembly line at or VERY CLOSE to their GVWR (there are class action lawsuits) - so your cargo carrying capacity is compromised and certainly your GCWR will put you over....dont believe me....go look at the number of coach MFG's that are now installing WIDER front tires to increase or cheat the GVWR.

conversions are Million Mile chassis & drive train....CLASS 8 designed to haul 80k lbs, you'll likely never stress the Engine, Trans, axles or frame.

I've never had to use it but independent lockable differentials with TWO DRIVEN independent locking axles (no tag axles here) TOGETHER means 8 tire (driven) traction when you need it.
Don R.
'04 Haulmark (M42386) 42', 2 slide, 10kw - Pictures
'04 F350 CrewCab Longbed 4x4, 50g aux tank & gear vendors dbl over
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Old 02-25-2017, 04:55 PM   #5
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And actually 80k is conservative. I was talking to a truck driver in Michigan about weight. Michigan allows much heavier loads than most states. He said he ran a truck with the exact same C12 engine and 10 speed trans my camper has and he was always 150k lbs. He said it worked fine. Now, Michigan doesn't have mountains so take that into consideration.
'03 Freightliner FL112, 295" wheel base, with '03 United Specialties 26' living quarters, single screw, Cat C12 430 h/p 1650 torque, Eaton 10speed , 3.42 rear axle ratio
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Old 02-25-2017, 07:04 PM   #6
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X2 on all the advantages listed above.

If these advantages aren't that compelling to you, you may want to test drive a finished version of both.

I rode in/drove some upper tier Class-A coaches (not true bus conversions) and some truck conversions, when I first started shopping. To me, the commanding view, excellent power, and the amazing stability of the truck conversions was very compelling. You are driving a vehicle built to live and work on the highway, in all conditions, under an extreme load, and in constant service.

Best of luck with your decision and your conversion.
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Old 02-27-2017, 08:31 PM   #7
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I did a bus conversion as a life long dream project. While I got good use out of it and it did what I asked, I was always scared about any type of road repairs that may have been required. When I did have to stop at a truck repair place they basically had to do what I told them because no one knows a thing about bus repairs or wont tackle them at all!. The truck conversion if designed properly can move to another truck over the course of a few weekends if you want to update. My 1974 GMC 4905A will always be an old bus.
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Old 08-27-2018, 07:26 PM   #8
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: Rosarito
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During our boat build, we started with our REQUIREMENTS.

For example:
Number of passengers.
Expected duration.
Food, water, other consumables such as clothes.

What meets our requirements?
How will weight distribute?

Do we want the interior appearance of a stand-still house with cabinets and counters?

After refining and defining our REQUIREMENTS, we evolved into a space with room for everything we need.

So, what are your REQUIREMENTS?

Where will you travel?
Are you comfortable with the title 'VanDweller'?

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