It’s rare to find an owner who has just one bus. Most vehicles belong to commercial fleet companies or school transport organisations. While this is helpful for maintenance, compliance, and streamlining, it can be tricky when it comes to sourcing mass bus parts.
Fortunately, your buses don’t deteriorate at the same rate. Their repair requirements vary based on driving conditions, timetables, routes, and the skill of your bus driver. Town driving produces less wear and tear than country travel.
Generally, bus drivers have less free time en-route because their passenger schedules are tighter. They don’t have as much room to explore their surroundings, so it may be harder for them to form local networks as they drive. Still, there are options in the bus parts business.
Talk to your bus manufacturer
As with any vehicle, your manufacturer is your first stop. They may be expensive, but part of the cost is covered by your warranty. Manufacturers are the only ones that can guarantee the authenticity of your bus parts, and they’re the surest source of whatever you need.
You may have to wait a while for them to ship it from the headquarters, but for the most part, OEM parts are best. That said, they are likely to be above budget, so you need to have a lot of contingencies in place. Don’t think of your manufacturer as your purchase point. Think of it as window-shopping to verify the look, feel, and price range of the part you need.
Check in with used bus dealers
Now that you know what you’re looking for, visit a second-hand bus showroom. Its yard is likely to have older models of the bus you drive, or maybe older samples of your exact model. Many bus parts are interchange-able, especially if you stay within the same make, so you can probably ask the salesperson for advice on sourcing spares.
As a more extreme measure, you could consider buying an old bus and harvesting its parts. This could end up being cheaper, and you can fix multiple buses with one shell. Another source of wrecked buses with potentially salvageable parts is a junk yard. Be sure to take your mechanic with you, just to be sure the junked bus you’re buying has usable parts.
Make friends with the cops
When you have a car or bus accident, you will end up at a police station filling out incident reports or pressing charges against whomever caused the crash. Your wrecked car will end up there too, and many police stations look like car graveyards. There aren’t always measures in place to get rid of those junked vehicles, so you might have an in.
Find out the process for claiming or obtaining a ‘dead car’ from your local police station. It can be done above-board since no one is really losing anything. You might even be doing the cops a favour by taking that dead bus off their hands. Just make sure the methods you use are on the up and up. You don’t want to be accused of handling stolen property.
Get connected with insurance companies
Similarly, insurance agencies often sell write-offs at throwaway prices. Once they have replaced an unrepairable car, they are left with the shell of the wreck, and they will sell it off to a junk yard or dispose of it internally for restoration. With the right timing and good networks, you could get a bus shell on the cheap and extract whichever parts you need.
Once again, follow the right channels to make sure you don’t end up being accused of running a chop shop. Even with the number plate removed, bus parts have serial numbers, and all it takes is a clerical error for you to inadvertently end up on the wrong side of the law. In addition to police officers and insurance garages, talk to your kids’ school bus driver. They have good connections as well, especially since they shop on a school budget.
Find a bonafide after-markets dealer
Not all after-markets bus parts suppliers are equal. Some are resellers who don’t worry about where their parts are sourced from, so they can get you in trouble. You could end up with parts that don’t work, or pay premium for ‘hot parts’. While the after-market space offers the easiest option for affordable parts, only deal with a seller that has a solid reputation.
You can identify this type of dealer by their partnerships. They often source parts directly from the original manufacturer, so they have their full endorsement. They offer original parts for as little as half the price of authorised dealers, and they have branches and partners all over Australia, so your bus is safe with them.