“Hey man! I’m loving your bus adventures. I have always thought of living in a bus since I was little but haven’t made the time to reach that goal until now. I just managed to land a nice paying job. I decided to take control and make my job work for me instead of me working for my job. 

 So I have some money saved up. I’ve got the plan and I’m just figuring out how to get it started and put everything together. I’ve got the tools for most of it or I’m sure I can find a hook up to borrow. Also like you, I’ve got the family support. Here are some of my challenges. Maybe you can help answer or give me some advice for this stuff.

1. Help finding my bus

2. Finding a space to work on it

3. I am not a mechanic

4. What is the rough estimate for everything?

Thanks for the inspiration and the reminder that I should be doing what I want.

Gotta do adult things to have kid fun.

Lots of love,

Candice “

1. Help finding my bus

Finding the “right” bus is very important. I recommend spending as much as you can on buying a “good” bus. You want to start off with as good of a bus as you can. What I mean by this, is that you can buy a $500 bus that doesn’t run, has rust, super high mileage. You got yourself a cheap bus, but you will have to spend so much more on repairs, maintenance work, rust removal, so on and so forth. I did not want to spend more than $2-3,000 on a bus, but the bus I got is absolutely perfect. I spent $4,500 on it. Low mileage, one owner, outside already painted blue, great tires, runs without problems. Spend a bit more at the beginning on the bus, then work project by project on the conversion with the remaining money.

As far as finding a bus, I searched all through out Craigslist in neighboring cities and states. I was living in Seattle at the time, where I met Candice, and the buses I found up there had a lot of rust and water damage. I started looking in California, Nevada, Arizona. The dryer desert climates. I found my bus in Long Beach, California through an online bus listing website, randomly finding it on google under “buy used school bus”. Check out Ebay Motors, local newspaper ads, and so forth. There are also auction websites, where really nice, new buses can be bought for $1,000. Some of those buses have only recently been taken out of service from the School Districts. A bus for $2,000 might be anywhere from 1985-1995, depending on the mileage. I don’t know if I would consider buying a bus that doesn’t run when you buy it, you never know if it simply needs a new battery, or there is a more serious issue. I recommend taking a mechanic friend with you, or ask the sales person if you could have a local garage take a look before you buy it. High mileage is not necessary an issue, as most of the diesel motors in these buses can go for more than 500,000 miles if taken care of. And the steel/aluminum bodies of the bus will last forever. The bus I bought was the only bus I looked at, and I couldn’t have made a better decision. Some couples I have read about took months to find theirs. In the end, the right bus will find you.

2. Finding a space to work on it

I was fortunate enough to have my parents property available to work on for the conversion. From talking with other Skoolie owners, they did the work on their own property, rented space in a local garage/warehouse, at a friends or families place. Some had to relocate to another spot because of noise violations, or improper use of land – not made for converting a bus for months. My parents and I were always worried about getting complaints from the Home Owners Association, but never heard anything. We talked to the neighbors on all sides of the house and made sure that they were OK with what we were doing, and we respected their quiet times. Drive around your neighborhood and see if you can find someone who would be willing to provide space for you and your build. They might just love the idea and do what they can to help. Or maybe you can arrange some sort of payment as an incentive. There are a LOT of Buses on the road, a LOT of mechanics and a LOT of School Bus drivers. I have been so surprised at the amount of people that simply love these buses and the idea of living in one. Don’t be afraid to reach out to strangers and ask for help and advice. The people I have met is what makes the Bus/Skoolie community so amazing. Everyone is usually very helpful and supportive. Some Skoolie conversions might be slightly ahead of you by a few projects, maybe a bit behind, or maybe working on exactly what you are. I was working on plumbing, and got help from someone about electric. Then a month later, I can help that person with plumbing issues, and they have help me with the electric. Seek out people and ask lots of questions.

3. I am not a mechanic

This is probably the toughest aspect of making Skoolie Life a reality. I was very fortunate to have my dad available for the build. He is an incredible handy man. He believes he can do anything, and just does it. If it doesn’t work, he does it a different way. He just keeps going. Moves to another project. As I mentioned before, ask for help. There is a “Skoolie Converters” group on Facebook. Skoolie.net is a great resource. Also, there are TONS of people on Instagram, like these guys, that you can learn a lot from their pictures and descriptions. Reach out to fellow Bus people and try to learn as much as you can before you start. The beautiful thing about converting a bus is you can do as little, or as much as you want for the conversion.

I’ve seen some people lay down carpet, left over from a local construction job. Another put down the local schools gym wood floor, which was being tossed out. You can remove the metal ceiling and replace it with wood, or you can leave it. You can run as much, or as little electric as you are able. You can work on one project, and move to another, as time and money allows.

I believe there are places that can convert a bus for you. I do not have much information on this. I’m sure it would mostly be available in bigger cities and areas, or places where Tiny Houses are built. A google search for your area might give you some results. I’m sure it would come with a hefty price tag. On the other hand, with the struggles on getting a Skoolie Insured, I was asked if the Bus was professionally converted, so it might be worth the money to spend on someone to convert it if you are otherwise not able to.

4. What is the rough estimate for everything?

There are so many variables in building a Skoolie. What size bus are you looking for? How many miles, how old is it? Do you need solar power, and how much? Do you plan on having plumbing and how much electricity do you need?

I worked on the conversion in Nevada, where my parents live. To be able to register the converted bus as a “Reconstructed Motor Home” with the DMV, they require the Bus to:

  1. Have a place to sleep (I have a full bedroom with queen bed)
  2. Have a way to cook (I only have a hotplate)
  3. Dining area/Place to eat (Dining table with 2 chairs, storage, and converts to bed)
  4. A way to heat/cool yours (I have a $17 fake wood stove heater and window mount A/C)
  5. Toilet and Grey/Black water (Flushing toilet, shower, sink. Combined Grey/Black water tank)

With all that being a requirement, my dad and I made sure that we are able to have both car voltage of 12 for certain things, such as lamps, the water pump, and so forth. We also have standard 120v outlets for household appliances. The bus has a flush-able toilet, but many people are also using compost toilets. Definitely check with your state and the DMV to see what your bus needs to have, so that you can have the Bus re-titled as a motor home. That’s basically the only way that you will find an insurance company to insure you. It also lowers your insurance rates, since RV/motor home rates are very low compared to bus/commercial insurance.

I spent roughly $13,500 on the whole thing. Bus was $4,500. Electric cost around $2,000. The rest was on constructions materials, all the wood, plumbing, nails, screws, silicone, glue, paint, etc etc. Be prepared to spend a lot of time at your local hardware store. Do as much research as possible. Watch a lot of YouTube videos. Go on Pinterest and find ideas on how to do things inexpensively. I took out the ceiling and replaced it with wood, led lights and more insulation. Not taking out the ceiling panels on your bus could save you a lot of money. However, in the long run, I am a huge fan and proponent of taking out the ceiling. There is a very noticable difference in temperature with the added insulation and new wood paneling.

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Living out of a School Bus Tiny Home is all about passion. It takes a special kind of person, and support from friends and family, to be able to make it all work. Get people involved, ask questions. Talk to your neighbors and respect their choices and privacy.

I wish you, as well as all the other Skoolie converters the best of luck!!

Welcome to the Bus Life!

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Check out some of these Skoolies on Instagram. Also check out the hastags #skoolie #busconversion

School of Life Bus

Blue Ridge Mountain Bus

Blue Bus Adventure

Bus Life Adventure

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