School Bus MPG: A Detailed Review of the Average MPG

School Bus MPGA school bus MPG or miles per gallon is important information for many reasons. For one, it lets schools assess the performance of their buses and make appropriate changes.


But this information is not just for school authorities, as many are very curious as to the miles per gallon a school bus gets. In this article, we will examine what the typical school bus MPG is and the various factors that influence it. 

What Is a School Bus’ Average Miles per Gallon?

A school bus’ average miles per gallon is between 6 and 12 MPG. The exact MPG value of the bus is dependent on a variety of factors, particularly linked to the size and weight of the school bus. Unsurprisingly, bigger buses will have less MPG.

As the MPG of a vehicle is a measure of its efficiency, school buses with lower MPG are not as fuel efficient. Essentially, they cover fewer miles per gallon. This information is particularly important to the school district authorities when assessing the performance of the school buses. 

It also comes in handy when estimating the number of gallons of bus fuel needed for a specified period. An average school bus will cover 12,000 miles in a year. So, if a school bus gets ten miles per gallon, it will need around 1,200 gallons of fuel a year. 

While the most efficient school buses have an MPG of around 12, that figure is dwarfed by that of regular cars, which have an average MPG of 30. This implies that if your car and a school bus are filled with a gallon of fuel, you will expect your car to cover more than twice the distance of a school bus. 

How Can the MPG of a School Bus Be Improved?

The MPG (miles per gallon) of a school bus can be improved by regular maintenance, improving driving behavior, use of lubricants, and choosing the right tires. With the right changes, you can improve fuel efficiency by up to a whopping 25 percent.

Below, we will consider these changes in more detail.

– Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance, especially of the school bus engine, ensures it will continually perform at peak conditions without any drop-off in fuel management. This is very essential for school buses as some of them are built to last multiple decades. Regular servicing and check-ups cannot be overlooked if the miles per gallon of the bus are to be improved.

Regular Maintenance of School Bus

A critical part of bus maintenance is proper lubrication of the axle and transmission. Doing this can help improve the miles per gallon of a school bus. For best results, synthetic and lower-viscosity oils should be used as long as they are compatible with the particular school bus. 

Again, tire choice and maintenance can improve the miles per gallon of a school bus. The tires should be rotated every 5,000 miles, which is around two to three times a year.

Also, the right choice of tires is necessary. While a lot of semi-truck drivers prefer rolling resistance tires, school bus drivers don’t have that luxury. Still, the tires should be quality ones and be inflated to the right pressure to maintain the right miles per gallon for the bus. 

– Driving Habits

Driving behavior plays a role in the miles per gallon of a school bus. Rough and reckless driving, like overspeeding and indiscriminately jamming the brakes, will take its toll on the engine eventually. The result will reflect in the reduced miles per gallon of the bus. 

Therefore, drivers of the bus should be advised to drive gently and follow the road regulations. If there is going to be speeding up, it should be gradual, which also applies to the braking of the bus

Also, all vehicles, including school buses, have an optimal speed before a significant decrease in fuel efficiency results. It is key for drivers to know this speed and keep to it for the management of the bus MPG.

What Parameters Influence the Miles Per Gallon of a School Bus?

The parameters that influence the miles per gallon of a school bus include the engine type, fuel type, bus size, bus load, and environmental conditions. While a typical school bus will have an MPG between 6 and 12, the exact value is determined by these factors. 

For more information on these factors and their influence on a school bus MPG, keep reading.

– Bus Size

This is the most important factor that influences the miles per gallon of a school bus. The bigger a bus, the more fuel consumption as its engine has to do more work. For a small or short bus, you will get between 10 and 12 miles per gallon of fuel, with this figure decreasing as the school bus gets larger in size. 

Bus Size

While the range is generally between 6 and 12 MPG for most buses, it is not unnatural for extremely big buses to have less than 6 miles per gallon. This is especially common with older buses. 

– Bus Load

The load a bus carries also impacts the number of miles it can get per gallon. This should not be confused with bus size. While the size of a bus is a reference to how big the school bus is, its load describes the weight the bus carries at any given time. Using that logic, an empty bus will have less load than a full bus. 

The more the bus load, the fewer miles per gallon you will get from the bus. There is a maximum load the bus can carry, which is known as Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). If a school bus gets close to the GVWR after the weight of the passengers and load in the bus have been factored in, it will get significantly fewer miles per gallon than a relatively empty bus.

The school bus MPG will take an even more significant hit if the GVWR is exceeded. If the bus consistently exceeds this maximum weight, it can wreak permanent damage on the engine and, ultimately, its miles per gallon range. 

– Engine Type

The engine itself can influence the fuel economy of the school bus. Some engines are just simply better at managing fuel than others, and this usually comes down to the model and manufacturer of the school bus. These engines will obviously have higher miles per gallon. 

Engine Type

However, with the engines, a high MPG does not always tell the full story. Engines for bigger school buses will consume more fuel compared to smaller school buses. This is not at all bad, as these engines need to do more work to power the school bus.

So, when it comes down to buying decisions, the smartest thing to do is to go for a balance between quality engines and fuel economy.

– Fuel Type

School buses can run on either diesel or gasoline, as with other motor vehicles. However, there will be a difference in the miles per gallon the school bus gets depending on whether or not it runs on gasoline or diesel. These fuel engines manage fuel differently and have different energy per gallon. 

Of the two fuels, diesel engines are more fuel-efficient and energy-dense. Therefore, school buses that run on diesel fuel will have more miles per gallon than those that run on gasoline fuel. Some diesel school buses can have up to 15 miles per gallon, which is excellent for school buses.

What’s more, diesel engines are more durable than bus gas engines. While gas mileage is around 250,000 miles, diesel engines last around six times longer at a whopping 1.5 million miles on average. So, the school buses are not only more efficient but also last longer. There’s a catch, though – diesel is more expensive than gasoline.

– Environmental Conditions

The conditions around where the school bus is driven also play a huge role in its miles per gallon. Perhaps the most important environmental condition is wind resistance. The aerodynamics of school buses aren’t great, and wind resistance can mean the car has to do more work, consuming more fuel. 

Environmental Conditions

Therefore, there are fewer miles per gallon for the bus in the face of wind resistance. In like fashion, if there is a favorable tailwind, the car could reach around 15 miles per gallon. 

Another important environmental condition is altitude. The higher the altitude at which the school bus is driven, the more miles per gallon it will observe. However, this is accompanied by reduced power and performance

Moreover, the condition of the road will affect the miles per gallon of the school bus. Bumpy and rough roads will require the school bus to do more work, which almost always corresponds to fewer miles per gallon. 


The miles per gallon of a school bus is one of the most frequently researched topics about the school bus.

This article goes into detail on this topic, and here are the takeaways:

  • The school bus MPG is between 6 and 12 miles, although some buses record highs of 15 MPG while some record lows of 4 MPG.
  • Factors like bus size, bus load, engine type, fuel type, and environmental conditions influence the miles per gallon of a school bus.
  • The miles per gallon of a school bus can be improved by regular maintenance and good driving habits.

It is best to strike a healthy balance between the miles per gallon of a bus and optimal engine performance.

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