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3 Mistakes People are Making When Converting a Bus

Are you making these bus conversion mistakes

3 Mistakes People are Making When Converting a Bus

Lately, I have been noticing that several people are selling their skoolies. Most of these school buses are partially converted. It really got me to thinking, WHY? Which caused me to examine our own experience converting and living in a converted school bus. I came to realize that there are three school bus conversion mistakes that people make often. Keep reading to find out which school bus conversion mistake we have made.


Are you making a school bus conversion mistake that could sabotage your skoolie dream?

1. Dreaming and Not Purchasing

Are you the type-A planner? You know the kind… One that has boards and boards on Pinterest about school bus conversions. Maybe Pinterest isn’t your thing. But you follow several Instagram accounts.  Let me say there is nothing, I mean NOTHING wrong with dreaming and planning. I have gotten some great ideas from spending time on Pinterest and Instagram. The problem comes in when too much time is spent dreaming and not enough time is spent doing. You don’t move past dreaming to actually purchasing your bus.

When you have tons of inspiration but your Skoolie project is not making it past the idea stage, it’s time to stop dreaming and planning and get to doing. Don’t make this school bus conversion mistake, go out and buy the bus.


Set Some Goals

When do you want to say “YES” to freedom and a simpler way of life? Grab a calendar and set a date!

Here is a post on how to make your Skoolie dream a reality.

Find a Community and Grab Accountability

If you are concerned that you will throw in the towel on that date before you even get started, join a community of people that can help, support, and encourage you to keep working on getting your dream on the reality road. In the past, it has helped me to get involved with other like-minded people. People who are chasing the same dream and actually DOING it. When you join a group like The Skoolie Community FB Group  you will find a community of people willing to give advice, share their struggles, and encourage you along your road to Skoolie living. After you finish reading this post, click on this link and join us. Four Wheels and a Bra is a Facebook group geared just for women who desire to LIVE the Skoolie dream. It has nearly 3,000 strong and talented women who are converting/living/traveling in a Skoolie.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Now that you have set some goals and found a community where there is accountability, you have to get out of your comfort zone. You have to put the phone down, close the computer and just start working. Converting a bus into a home on wheels is not just what it is about. It’s about making a commitment to yourself that you are worthy of completing a dream. It’s about proving to yourself that you have what it takes to make this Skoolie dream a reality. Get out of your comfort zone and start living the way you want to on YOUR TERMS! BUY YOUR BUS! The first step is the hardest. Here’s the link to our FREE E-Course, School Bus to Home on Wheels, to help you get started.

2.Making an Impulse Buy

I know.. I just told you to purchase your bus and now I am saying don’t make an impulse buy. Hear me out. You need to get past the dreaming stage but you don’t want to purchase the first beautiful yellow bus that comes along without knowing what you are getting. This one mistake can sabotage your Skoolie dream before you get 100 miles down the reality road. If you purchase the first bus that comes along you will make a school bus conversion mistake that could cost you more money in repairs and leave you without enough cash for the conversion.

Just this past week, I read about a family that was selling their bus because they ended up putting thousands of dollars into repairs shortly after beginning their conversion. They didn’t have enough money left to complete the conversion and were discouraged. Man does this suck! Yes, here is a family who has saved up and got out of their comfort zone only to make the mistake of not inspecting the bus properly. Yes, there are no guarantees when purchasing a used school bus. But, there are telltale signs to look for that can alert you to possible problems.

If you are not sure what to look for prior to purchasing your bus, read these 5 Things to Inspect Before Buying a Bus.

3. Not Removing the Existing Floor

I totally get this school bus conversion mistake. Heck, this is the mistake that we made. Not once but twice! The first time out of ignorance because we really didn’t see the need to go to all the trouble and the second time because we were in a hurry. Now, we are paying the price for this mistake.

There are two reasons why Jeff always tells people, don’t do as I have done – do as I will do from now on. PULL UP THE FLOOR! You will not regret the extra time it takes. The two reasons are so that you can repair the rust on the floor and insulate the floor.

Rust on the Floor

Depending on the age of your bus, there is a good chance there is rust on the existing floor. There may even be holes where the rust has corroded all the way through the floor. There is no reason to spend your hard-earned money in a conversion building on a rusty foundation. Take the time to pull up the floors, treat for rust and prevent future rust.

Insulate the Floor

When you take the time to pull up the existing floor, you are able to insulate the floor. If you have never pulled up a school bus floor, let me tell you what is on the floor. Under all the years of yuck from kids, you will find a rubber mat. Under the rubber mat there could be plywood and then the metal floor or just the rubber mat and then the metal floor. Let me tell you if you don’t insulate that floor you’d better put on some nice fur-lined bedroom shoes. The bus floor will be COLD even if you lay a subfloor and carpet on top of the existing floor. Please don’t make this school bus conversion mistake as we did. Pull up the floor and you can add 1 inch of insulation, the subfloor, and then the flooring you choose.

We have converted several buses over the years and of all the ones where we have removed the floor, we were extremely glad we did.

Learn From Others

These mistakes can mean the difference between you living your Skoolie dream and one that is still in the dreaming phase. It can mean that you could get started on making your dream a reality only to find that your bus has now become a money pit. Or these mistakes could cause you to walk around with cold feet on a foundation that may crumble in a few years.  Take the time to learn from the mistakes of others and don’t let these happen to you.

Are you making a school bus conversion mistake? What other Skoolie mistakes have you made? Tell me about them in the comments below.



  • Tom
    Posted at 19:41h, 15 November Reply

    Thanks I enjoyed your article and have already benefitted from your advice

    • discoveringus
      Posted at 02:24h, 16 November Reply

      Tom, It’s great to know you are enjoying our blog. Please tell me how you have benefitted from our advice. I truly would like to know what content is helping others. This way I can expand on it if there are gaps. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Hey, I just opened up a FB Group if you would like to join. We will be discussing school bus conversion tips and ideas. Here is the link if you are interested. https://www.facebook.com/groups/discoveringusbus/?ref=bookmarks Hope to see you in the group.

  • Adrienne
    Posted at 23:20h, 04 January Reply

    The part about pulling up the floor. Now it is a must do for me. Thank you!
    Can you recommend a good Skoolie group for me join? I am a woman and don’t have a facebook.

  • charles
    Posted at 19:51h, 17 January Reply

    we have an 1987 all american fe blue bird that we got in or. with all the seats out of it and the floor has been redone with insulation already done …..our bus only has 82650 miles on it and we put 4000 of them on it it has an 8.2L diesel we drove it from or to fl. with a full load on it we grossed 28500 lbs and it got an average of 10.8 miles to the gal. so we are very happy with that we have started gathering things for it like a stove and and reefer where we are having a problem is wiring i cannot find a wiring manual we have a short in the 12v lights and dont have a clue where to start looking …..if i ask for help for now it would b e ….does any one know where to find a wiring manual for a 87 blue bird fe all american .

  • Nolan Getsinger
    Posted at 02:33h, 06 March Reply

    I have to agree with the three most common mistakes you list. I have pined several of your published bus guides in the past year and find them informative. I do have some of my own rulls as well when I look at the work ahead of me. I started my first conversion going on 14 years ago with the purchase of a 1978 All American 35 foot FE that had a down graded engine swap from a 555L cummins to a brand new ( at that time) 5.9 12 valve cummins. I don’t know what kind of milage the 555 would have got but the 5.9 averages 13 miles per gal. and has done for the 13.5 years I have been driving it.With two 55 gallon tanks I can drive for days without hunting for a fuel station. I now have newer bus projects lined up with the 24 valve 5.9 cummins engines. (much quieter and easier to custom tune Via the computer). I look forward to checking out the site. and sharing with my fellow Skoolies.

    • discoveringus
      Posted at 13:36h, 06 March Reply

      Hi Nolan, Thanks for leaving an encouraging comment. I am glad you are finding the blog informative and appreciate you sharing it with your friends. Let me know if we can help you in any way. Best of luck with your new projects. You are welcome to share them on our FB Group Discovering Us Bus.

    • Krista
      Posted at 12:27h, 04 June Reply

      That’s amazing mpg! Our 2011 3/4 ton dodge diesel truck gets that. I didn’t think you could get any better than 8 mpg on a bus. Will be sure to keep your results in mind when we go to shopping for our project bus! 🙂

  • Nicolas
    Posted at 01:13h, 13 March Reply

    Just stumbled upon your site. Totally agree with mistake #1 – having an idea is not enough. You gotta make the idea a reality.

    I’ve had the idea of converting a school bus into a _________ (insert mobile home / classroom / workshop / whatever here) for about 6 months, and finally decided to purchase a school bus. I’ll be picking it up in about 2 weeks from Mississippi (I live in CA). It may very well change the way I live my life forever, including my career.

    Motivation is useful only if actions follow.

    Thanks for the tips above!

  • GW
    Posted at 14:13h, 26 March Reply

    Thanks for all the advice! I have a ton of questions ranging from most recommended engine/trans combo to FE, RE, Conv to about anything imaginable! I just wish we could get a bus…anything we can afford others constantly beat us out of. We are so ready to get a bus and set it all in motion!

    • discoveringus
      Posted at 22:43h, 26 March Reply

      GW, Here is a post that explains some things about different bus options. http://discoveringusbus.com/buy-a-school-bus/ Also, the Step by Step Bus Conversion Course goes into lots of information about buying a bus and the bus inspection process. If you have any questions email Jeff at [email protected]. Depending on where you live or how far you want to travel, Jeff has several contacts and can help you get a bus.

  • Archer
    Posted at 02:14h, 05 April Reply

    Awesome post. Thanks for the advice in the post. I was planing buy and convert a bus so I can go on the road camping wherever

    • discoveringus
      Posted at 00:10h, 06 April Reply

      Thanks, Archer! Glad you enjoyed the post. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  • ossie Garcia
    Posted at 21:08h, 15 July Reply

    Hi, I just purchased a bus and i need someone to help me design it into a Kitesurf school/ surf shop. Can someone recommend a person to contact ?

  • Kristen
    Posted at 21:03h, 20 July Reply

    I have been doing a lot of research and looking. My question is how important is it to remove and replace the roof? I see there are times when there can be mold under insulation, but I’m not sure if it’s because the bus may be from above the salt line.
    Same goes for the sides? Some people say not a big deal, others say it is. Unsure!!
    I follow all of the groups. I am so happy for all who are living the dream. Keep it up!

    • discoveringus
      Posted at 23:20h, 20 July Reply

      Hi Kristin,
      I just shared a video on our YouTube channel about this very topic. Check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Hs7QQ-toPs
      It is great having you stop by the blog and hang out with us in our groups. Please let me know if you have any more questions. – Missy

    • BoloBigs
      Posted at 03:03h, 07 April Reply

      Hi Kristin,

      I’ve researched more skoolies conversion then I could have ever image before starting my journey. Watched/listened to hundreds and hundreds of hours of YouTube University. And from personal hands on experience, do it! Don’t just tear out the ceiling, do the walls, floor and kick panel along the bottom of the walls. I remind my viewers on YouTube all the time, to NOT skip these steps! You are doing it on two folds. Insulation is actually not the primary reason to removed it all. You are looking for damages. I guarantee every bus has it. A lot of folks think the school systems retired these bues due to mileage ie how the bus runs engine wise. It’s actually due to the wear and tear. They use the mileage and/or age cut off to determine how abused/worn down the bus is. Tear down the bus so you can restore the “foundation”! You wouldn’t put a “fresh coat of paint” on a fixer upper house. You definitely don’t want to on something that’s in worst condition.

  • Ron Pickle
    Posted at 02:23h, 06 September Reply

    Excellent piece of advice, like homes when buses are converted into homes, utmost caution must be practiced, you are right one must make sure that bus is in a perfect condition so that you need not spend more than your budget.

  • Samantha Sullivan
    Posted at 01:25h, 19 September Reply

    My husband and I plan to buy land and build our own house in a rural area somewhere. We have decided to convert a school bus for our temporary home while we build. We currently live in Las Vegas and will be until we move. The main problem is finding a place to convert the bus. We can’t convert it at our suburban home for space purposes. I’m thinking of renting a trailer park lot to convert there. My idea might not work so I am open to suggestions. Please help me if you can.

    • discoveringus
      Posted at 00:17h, 01 October Reply

      Hi Samantha, Your idea of renting a lot is a good one. Just make sure that you will not break any zoning laws before agreeing to rent the lot. Some RV storage lots will also let you convert your bus if you rent storage space. Hope this helps.

  • Caleb the over excited
    Posted at 02:01h, 16 January Reply

    I just started looking into this. I am a do’er. I just wanted to buy one and figure it out…..but my wife knows me well enough, and knows i should do a little planning. So the first rule is something i need to reverse. But reading this has been very informative. The one thing that we need to do is figure out what engines are best on mpg for gas. Im not a diesel man, i dont know anything about them but we havent found a short bus with diesel anyways. But any help would be nice

  • Jeniffer
    Posted at 01:15h, 08 March Reply

    Loved your article… I’ve been heavily stressing with my decision of vehicle to purchase. Loved! The idea of skoolies but I believe I got lost in all the things that could go wrong. Today I spent the day looking at van after van for vanlife but nothing looked good. Though it might look easier the bus would be so much more. There’s a tiny house / rv park nearby. I saw a Skoolie parked there. I was excited to see that along with a few tiny homes.
    I’m back to looking at buses. I’m going to take the leap. So thankful I came across this article tonight.

  • Erica
    Posted at 00:32h, 11 March Reply

    I just bought a bus! It’s a 40ft 1994 Thomas with a newer cat engine. Only 69,000 Miles!
    Just started pulling up the seats yesterday. Hopefully going to finish tomorrow. Then get started on that floor! I am a single mom of 6.. bought the bus so we would always have a home. Working with a very limited budget so it will be slow going. So thrilled to be on this journey!

  • Karen price
    Posted at 07:58h, 18 March Reply

    What do you recommend to insulate the floor?

  • Amanda Noble
    Posted at 11:04h, 25 May Reply

    Great advice. Thanks for sharing.

  • mike thompson
    Posted at 17:33h, 30 May Reply

    thanks for the useful information have a 99 thomas have pulled up the floor it is great 2 bad spots that need a little work gonna fix up the floor raising the roof ( i am 6’3″ ) is are next step after the floor

  • fireproof blanket
    Posted at 05:04h, 11 June Reply

    Thanks for providing such a useful information. The given information is really very helpful. Hope i will get more information regarding the same

  • steel buildings
    Posted at 02:44h, 17 July Reply

    Nice post ! i absolutely appreciated it .Thanks

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