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Converting a Bus: How to Manage Expectations

Bus Conversion Expectations

Converting a Bus: How to Manage Expectations

At times in life learning how to manage our expectations is difficult. It really is not any different when it comes to building a skoolie. It is awesome to be optimistic but at the same time, we should be realistic by managing expectations when converting a bus. Before you start your bus conversion, take a look at the entire project and set expectations that are reasonable and doable. Below are 3 expectations that if overlooked in the beginning could cause overwhelm during the conversion project. 

Watch your step sign

Expect the conversion to take longer

When people ask us how long does it take to convert a bus, the answer is 16-20 weeks. Now, this is ideal if all the supplies arrive on time and there are no changes to the project. For the DIY person, we advise giving yourself a year. Can it be done in less? Yes, it could but when managing expectations during a bus conversion it helps to be realistic and allow time for interruptions, delays, and for self-care during the project. 

Protip: Develop a conversion timeline.

One thing that is helpful is to develop a general project timeline. In our Step by Step School Bus Conversion Course we have a Conversion Timeline that estimates the time to complete each task. 

From what I hear from other skoolie owners and read in social media, the expectation to finish a build with-in 4-6 months usually does not happen. So, learning how to manage expectations at the beginning of the project will set you up for success. 

Expect the conversion to cost more

The average DIY conversion can cost anywhere between $15,000 – $30,000. Can a skoolie cost less? YES, it can. The final total depends on the length of the bus and your design style. 

I will say that the cost of used school buses has increased during the last 3 years. In 2015, we paid $1800 for our second bus. In 2016, we worked out a trade agreement for our 3rd bus with the price for the bus being $4500. Currently, buses are selling for $5000- $7000. In addition, to the cost of the bus increasing so has the cost of lumber. 

ProTip: Create a clear and concise conversion budget.

We advise our DIY clients to develop a clear and concise conversion budget. Start by knowing your design style and the material cost for completing the project. Once you finish your conversion budget, go ahead and start a budget for life in your skoolie. If you need help with these budgets check out our Cost of Converting eBook

Learning how to manage expectations in regard to your budget will keep your project moving forward at a steady pace.

Expect to be frustrated and overwhelmed

Most skoolie owners come into the process of converting a bus with excitement and energy. Usually, in the middle of the gutting the bus, the first bustration (frustrations caused by converting or living in a bus) hits. The person pushes through the and the expectation that “well, the hardest part is over” sets in. Only a few weeks later to find that the feeling of overwhelm is starting to arrive. Over the course of the last 10 years, we have seen this overwhelm complete cause the conversion to stop. The bus owner sells the bus and they feel defeated. 

We do not want this to be you so if you have not heard it before, please lean in close while I share with you an important fact about converting a bus. 


There are several ways to prevent the feeling of overwhelm.

  1. Take breaks. Make sure you are stepping away from the conversion for dinner out with a friend or spending an evening with your partner (no bus talk allowed).
  2. Practice self-care. Make time to do something that makes you smile or laugh. 
  3. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself grace. During the conversion, you will make mistakes. Tasks will have to be redone. Supplies will be wasted. Breathe…. It’s okay. Look around and see how far you have come. 
  4. Recognize the feeling of overwhelm. This feeling is a sign that you should pause and examine what is going on. 

Learning how to manage expectations starts with defining your timeline, developing a budget, and dispelling the overwhelm. Once these tasks are taken care of you will be able to go through each step of the conversion process with greater ease. At the end of the project, you will be in awe of how far you came and be filled with a sense of pride. You will drive off in your skoolie ready to face adventure!


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