What Happens To Used Buses When They Are Retired

If you work diligently at your job for a few decades, one day your office may throw you a party with a cake that says, “Life begins at retirement.” That sentiment is even more true for buses. They’re often taken out of service while they still have many more years left in them. What happens to used buses when they are retired? In many cases, their adventures are just beginning.

The Average Age for Retirement

American transit systems usually replace their buses once they’re 12 years old or have reached 250,000 miles. At that point, municipalities are eligible to receive funding for new models from the federal government. The same goes for school buses, which are retired at standardized milestones no matter their mechanical condition. If the money is there for newer buses with better technology and the latest safety features, the school district will take advantage of it.

New Regulations Create Turnover

Sometimes, buses are retired even earlier because of changing government standards. For instance, the 1990’s Americans with Disabilities Act prompted many organizations to replace their buses with wheelchair-accessible models. Something similar is happening all over the globe as cities commit to public transportation with greener fuel systems. Cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle are switching to all-electric vehicles. Of course, this means that more used buses are going up for sale—and repurposing them instead of junking them is also good for the planet.

Surprising Deals for Start-up Companies

If a bus is in horrible condition, it might sell for parts: some are recycled to other countries or used for scrap metal. But many wind up at dealerships, where they may have depreciated by 90 percent. Just because they don’t have the latest equipment and technology doesn’t mean that they’re not serviceable, though. It’s a tremendous opportunity for anyone with a lower budget: new business owners, churches, youth camps, charities, and more. These buses are mid-life, but they’re certainly not elderly.

Second Lives in Law Enforcement

With so many retired school buses available, large police agencies seize the opportunity to give them a new purpose. They start with school bus bases and convert them into transport for police officers in large-scale deployments. Other vehicles get outfitted with additional equipment for use as mobile command centers. And you might not recognize them, but prison buses were school buses once upon a time. They’re reinforced with more secure windows and doors to transport the incarcerated.

Construction Site Transportation

All kinds of preowned buses are useful for construction companies. Rather than asking workers to commute to each construction site, builders can shuttle everyone back and forth on one bus. There are various advantages to bus transportation for the industry:

  • It ensures that workers are all accounted for—and on time.
  • It cuts back on fuel consumption, which is both cost-effective and better for the environment.
  • There’s no need to communicate directions to everyone. And there’s no delay from employees who get lost along the way.
  • No one has to worry about finding parking, which is especially helpful in congested areas.
  • Workers can rest on the bus both ways.

Service in Other Countries

A retired bus in America is often a godsend in other parts of the world, like Africa, Central America, and South America. Public transportation is rarer in these areas and can connect communities. Yellow school buses are often repainted with even brighter colors to attract passengers. Their occupancy standards are much different, though. Locals nickname the vehicles “chicken buses” because they get so crowded—and can often transport livestock.

Other Creative Uses

What happens to used buses when they are retired? What would you do with one? The chances are that if you can dream it, it’s already happened. These are just a few examples of how retired buses find new lives:

  • Even bands that are just starting need a way to get all their equipment to gigs.
  • Designers use preowned buses as pop-up boutiques as they tour the country.
  • Some buses make larger food trucks or additional stationary dining rooms for restaurants.
  • Some restored buses become movie stars, appearing as period-correct vehicles in television shows and films set in the past.
  • Disney World uses retired public transit buses as shuttles to their parking lots.
  • “Bookmobiles” are still in action, bringing reading materials to areas with low literacy throughout the United States and in areas like Kabul, Afghanistan.
  • A charitable service in Montreal uses a repurposed bus to travel to the homeless and at-risk youth, especially in colder months. It provides clothing, hot meals, support, and a place to get warm.
  • Retired buses are sometimes remodeled with custom themes and rented out as party buses.
  • Farmers remove the roof and sides, using the open-bed truck as a utility vehicle for hauling hay.
  • In North Philadelphia, an arts center converted a donated bus into a mobile arts center that brings supplies to kids.
  • Resorts and other spread-out campuses need buses to transport visitors.
  • They’re inexpensive vehicles for starting charter bus businesses.
  • In London, a double-decker bus found new life as a “bicycle library” where patrons can rent some wheels short-term.
  • In the off-season, many racetracks hold vintage school-bus races or a “battle of the buses.”
  • Wi-fi-equipped school buses can bring internet access to any underserved communities so kids can do their homework.
  • At the “School Bus Graveyard” in Alto, Georgia, a “wall” of retired buses has been used as blank canvases for artists to turn into psychedelic masterpieces.

When a bus is “retired,” it’s often just waiting for reinvention. Of course, at National Bus Sales, many of our used buses are usually just a few years old: some reconditioned, high-end coach buses that cost less than half the price of new models. And if you’re looking for a real deal, we can show you a used school bus for sale that you can use for just about anything. Our brand-new buses offer all the latest features, options, and comforts and are customizable for your needs. And we only sell preowned buses of the best quality, ready to start a new life.

What Happens To Used Buses When They Are Retired
Mike Curtis

Mike Curtis

Mike Curtis General Manager National Bus Sales

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