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Thinking About Converting A School Bus? Answer these 5 questions before you buy

Thinking About Converting A School Bus? Answer these 5 questions before you buy

Are you thinking about converting a school bus into an RV or your new tiny house? Does buying a school bus and converting it sound like a project you would like to tackle? Before pulling out your wallet to buy your first bus, STOP!  Here are 5 questions to ask yourself in order to find out if you are really ready for a Skoolie. 

5 Questions You Absolutely Must Answer Before You Buy a Bus

1. Do you have the skills needed to convert a school bus into a home/RV?

Jeff will tell you over and over again that he is no carpenter. I would disagree! He has completely transformed our unfinished basement to accommodate our growing family. He has built our barn, out-buildings, and our first bus. All that said, he would tell you that you do NOT have to be a carpenter to build a bus but you DO need basic wood-working skills.

You need to know how to use a variety of tools and you need to know the extent of your knowledge and what you are going to need to out-source to complete your bus build.

Also, having a basic knowledge of how specific RV systems work such as plumbing, propane, and electrical are helpful when converting a school bus. If you don’t have this knowledge then you are going to need to find people who can help you.

2. Why do you want to buy a bus and not a travel trailer?

We chose to buy a bus because, frankly, Jeff just thought it would be a cool idea to build a Skoolie. He had seen several when he went to the NASCAR races. I, on the other hand, could not fathom traveling in a school bus! Are you thinking on converting a school bus? 

I have bad memories of riding on the bus why would I ever want to live/travel in one?!

I got busy pricing motorhomes and travel trailers to fit our family of 9. Let me just say, after looking at the cost to fit a family of 9 into a motorhome, I was alright with the idea of a bus. New memories will replace the old! Yes, we could have purchased a travel trailer. (We DID get a travel trailer for a short time but that is a story for another post. Long story short- we liked our bus better.) So, why do you want a bus? Do you like DIY projects? Are you interested in customizing a bus to fit your specific needs? Or maybe, you just think it would be a cool idea? Whatever your reason make sure you have considered point #1 before throwing out the idea of a motorhome or camper and don’t ignore the next few questions?

3. What is your budget?

We bought our first bus for $700 –  $750.  I can’t really remember the exact amount. Six years later, our second bus cost $1,800. The average price on a bus is around $2,500 – $4,000. If you are the type of person that doesn’t want to go into debt for your RV or you are the type of person that wants to downsize, a bus might be right for you. One great thing about buying a bus is that you can work on it as your budget allows. You can take your time converting it to meet your needs as you have the funds available. Total cost including buying our first bus was less than $5,500. After living in it for 2 years traveling the country, we sold it for $4,800. Did we lose money? We don’t think so. What is a typical house payment for a month? What would it cost to stay at the beach for a week for a family of 9? I am sure you would agree that the answer to these questions would equal more than $700. When thinking about a budget, think about the most you can spend. Then, if you end up spending less you can rejoice! While converting both of our buses, Jeff has looked for lumber that was damaged but he could salvage. He has gotten a discount after discount at Lowe’s just because he pointed out the damaged wood and offered them a lower price. Jeff has sought out RV dealers and asked them if they had any RV’s that he could remove parts from then receive a discount. We say, “It never hurts to ask.”  

Also, think about the expenses you will have when living in your skoolie. Here is a post about saving money when living in a skoolie.

4. Where are you going to park your bus while you work on the conversion?

For us, this was not a problem. We had plenty of room to park the bus but didn’t realize that it would damage our concrete driveway when we pulled it back on the street. Some of our neighbors didn’t like us parking a bus in our drive but we didn’t have any restrictions that said we couldn’t. However, I know that in some neighborhoods parking a bus and/or working on one may be a problem. To be on the safe side, before you bring your bus home and back down your drive, make sure you can park and work on it at your place. Some cities have restrictions on what you can park in your drive and yard. When we lived in Charleston, SC, any vehicle that was parked in our drive or yard had to be tagged and titled. Check these things out before you bring home your bus. Know the noise ordinance law in the city or town where you live. You do not want to be hard at work on your bus at 10:30 at night to get interrupted by the police because a neighbor complained. Make sure you know your rights according to the law.

5. Are you going to be able to get insurance on your bus?

This may seem like a no brainer. Insurance? Of course, I am going to get insurance on the bus. Well, I have heard and read horror story after horror story about people having to pay way more than they expected to insure their bus once it was completed. I have also heard where some people have had a difficult time getting their buses tag and titled. My best advice is to go to your city hall and inquire about how you are going to title your bus once it is complete. Most of the time, the first person you talk to is not going to know the answer to your questions. Tell them to ask someone else! In our town, once it has a toilet and a place to sleep along with either a refrigerator or stove it is considered an RV.  With the RV title, we can get a tag just like anyone else who has an RV.

Once we have a tag and title, we call the insurance company.

In the past, they have ensured the bus right on the phone. We have State Farm and paid $75.00 every 6 months for insurance on our last bus. We have not tagged, titled, or insured our 2nd bus as of yet. Hopefully, the refrigerator will be installed in the next few weeks. I will update this post if we have any problem getting a title, tag, or insurance. When I update, I will include the price we pay every 6 months for insurance. Do you have the skills needed to convert a bus? Do you want to convert and customize your own RV? Are you willing to spend at least $5,000 or more to complete the project? Do you know your city and neighborhood laws? And, will you be able to ensure your bus at a price you can afford? Are you thinking about converting a school bus?  If you answered, YES to all 5 questions then get out your computer and start searching for your bus.

Are you thinking about converting a school bus? 

Converting a school bus is exciting and challenging, we want you to know that we are here to help. Do you need a clear plan on how to convert your bus from start to finish? Enroll in our online Step By Step Conversion Course with video and written tutorials, and a private Facebook group. We are expanding the course this year. If you purchase at the current price you will have access to all the new material for free. The price will increase in September, so join now! 


 If you answered YES to all 5 questions, give us your feedback in the comments.

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