Thinking About Converting A School Bus? Here are 5 Questions to Consider Before You Buy

Are You Thinking About Converting A School Bus? Here Are 5 Questions to Consider Before You Buy Your Bus.

Are you wanting to buy a school bus and convert it into a 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 a 5 questions to consider before flinging the door open and hopping into the driver seat.

Below you will find, 5 questions to ask yourself in order to find out if you are really ready for a Skoolie. (Oh, if you didn’t know SKOOLIE is the name given for a school bus converted into a recreational vehicle.)

Let me know in the comments if you answer YES to these 5 Questions.

1. Do you have the skills needed to convert a 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 the 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 verses a motorhome or 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!

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

I have bad memories of riding on a school bus. Why would I ever want to live/travel in one?!Click To Tweet

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 consider 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 $700.00 or $750.00. 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 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.” During this bus build, Jeff has gotten great deals. You can read about one of them here.

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. If you want to check out our first bus you will find it here. 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 consider 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 insured 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.

Free resource - 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a BusClick To Tweet

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 insure your bus at a price you can afford? If you answered, YES to all 5 questions then get out your computer and start searching for your bus.

If you need to know where to look for used buses, sign up to receive our newsletter and you will receive our “Favorite Resources and Tips For Converting A School Bus” checklist. On it, you will find several places to buy buses ,as well as, some other tips and resources that have helped us with our bus projects.

Converting a school bus is exciting and challenging, we want you to know that we are here to help. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and Jeff usually answers them the same day. If you answered YES to all 5 questions, give us a your feedback in the comments.

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2017-03-22T09:08:38+00:00

14 Comments

  1. Sonia September 10, 2016 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Thanks for the information. I was glad to come across this article.

    • discoveringus September 10, 2016 at 7:57 am - Reply

      Sonia, I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment and am trilled you liked it. Keep checking back as I am getting ready to publish a series of blog post with tips relating to getting ready to live and travel in a converted school bus.

  2. Nicole September 20, 2016 at 12:14 am - Reply

    Hello, I live in an apartment and I am looking to convert a bus soon. I am positive I will not be allowed to park my bus in my apartments and work on it from here. Any ideas of where I should look to park it?

    • discoveringus September 22, 2016 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      Nicole, I have heard of some RV storage lots letting people store and convert their bus. Most people try find a friend or relative that may let them use their land while converting. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find another person that is converting a bus and work out a trade for use of their land. Other than this, I am not really sure. Sorry! Are you near TN?

  3. Ladd November 1, 2016 at 11:46 am - Reply

    A lot of states won’t issue tags/title without proof of insurance. Also, Good Sam Insurance offers insurance on a bus “during conversion” that is slightly higher than their policy on an already converted school bus. All you have to do is send photos that the seats have been removed. If you do a 6 month policy you can change to the regular RV insurance after the 6 months so you aren’t paying the higher “under conversion” price longer than needed.

    • discoveringus November 1, 2016 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      Ladd, thanks a ton for sharing! We have used Good Sam in the past for roadside assistance and discounts off of camping spots. I was unaware that they insured buses during a conversion. Super news!

  4. Kimberlee November 2, 2016 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Hey!!! Thanks guy’s, I’v been wanting to get a old school bus sense the “Partridge Family show!! And I’m now on my way!! I feel very confident on my journey, thanks to people like you who post very helpful information.

    • discoveringus November 2, 2016 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      Kimberlee, You are most welcome. I loved that show and tell Jeff that our next bus should have a Partridge Family paint job! Here is a link to my FB Group of women who live/travel/convert school buses if you would like to join. We would love to join you on your journey. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1564363513865112/

  5. Tiffany November 5, 2016 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    What kind of companies should I look for that can convert my bus into a home. What should I be looking for?

  6. Kurt December 16, 2016 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    My biggest concern about converting a bus is making rounded walls that will look nice along the roof of the bus (no gaps). How did you make and measure those cuts?

    • discoveringus December 30, 2016 at 1:47 am - Reply

      Kurt,
      Jeff is getting ready to film a video on this topic for our Step by Step Conversion Course. As soon as we film it, I will get back with you. (Psst… He is really good at making the curve look built-in the bus.)

  7. Terrance Stevens April 1, 2017 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    I’m actually interested in doing a conversion as a vacation RV but have no knowledge of how to build a RV recently moved to Georgia is there anyone close who I could hire to help me build??

    • discoveringus April 2, 2017 at 12:06 am - Reply

      Hi Terrance, I am not familiar with the Georgia area. What part of Ga are you located in? We are opening up our second location in the Low-country of SC. Also, we have a Step by Step Conversion Course opening for enrollment on Tuesday. If you are on our mailing list, you will get all the information. Thanks for stopping by the blog. Let us know if we can help you.

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