There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about what bus spotters do. Many stem from rational images of train spotters in anoraks waiting with a notebook to see a train or locomotive that they have not previously seen. Bus spotters seek to see all vehicles in a particular fleet, or produced by a particular manufacturer. As with train or aircraft spotters, they spend much time outdoors with notepads and therefore tend to own anoraks with scant regard for the fashion industry's attempts to discredit these garments. Some bus enthusiasts are only interested in vintage vehicles.

Bus spotters are relatively unconcerned by timetables or network quality but they may be excited by new liveries especially ad-hoc schemes to advertise particular products or events. Some may be so keen that they might track a vehicle through its life, knowing which fleet numbers it has carried with different owners for example and when mechanical parts or interior fittings were renewed. Bus spotting has never had the wide following achieved by train spotting in the UK but has become popular in Hong Kong and many bus societies have been formed there.

Since bus spotting involves urban mass transit, it often goes hand in hand with metrophily.