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5 Things To Consider When Doing Your Own School Bus Conversion

Alyssa Chartier-profile-image
Alyssa Chartier
December 30, 2022

TL;DR: Converting a school bus into a tiny home? Buckle up for the ride of your life, from finding the right bus to dodging the budget potholes, all while balancing your DIY skills and enlisting help from your trusty (or not-so-trusty) friends!

5 Things To Consider When Doing Your Own School Bus Conversion

Is it hard to convert a school bus? And what do I need to know before converting a Skoolie? If you’re ready for this new adventure, check out the top 5 things to consider first!

Have you ever had thoughts of converting a school bus into your own tiny home? On the surface, it is an exciting idea. But all the information out there can put you into a “paralysis by analysis” situation. From how to insulate to plumbing to heat sources, there are a lot of details out there. Harvest Hosts is here to give you 5 things to consider before you head out to your first Harvest Hosts location with your newly converted RV.

Why Choose A School Bus?

wp-content-uploads-2022-12-2-7.jpg If you want something truly customized for full-time living, a bus might be for you. Choosing a bus is a real undertaking and shouldn’t be taken lightly. So here are some things to consider when trying to decide if the bus life is for you. ****

Buses Are Fully Customizable

Similar to traditional homes, there are different layouts, features, and styles of RVs. But finding one for your style isn’t always possible with what RV manufacturers produce. Picking a school bus to convert into an RV is a great idea for people who want a truly customized RV experience. ****

Buses Offer Plenty of Space

Because the space in a bus is so large—in comparison to vans or C-Class RVs—you’ll find you have a lot of room to work with for the needed features and amenities. If you are a remote worker, you might need a workspace that doesn’t have to be converted everyday. If you like to cook, you might want certain kitchen features. And a bus just gives you more space. ****

Buses Were Built to Last

It's possible for them to be built to last. While most RVs are really only designed to be used a few months of the year, your bus conversion could be designed to be a real dwelling on wheels made to last. ****

Converted Buses Are Cheaper than Buying New RVs

A bus conversion could be converted cheaper than a new RV could be purchased. It’s pretty cheap to buy a used bus, and converting it yourself will definitely save you money. While there are a lot of hidden expenses in the conversion of a bus, it still saves you money in comparison to a newer RV.Some other questions to think through are: What size bus do you want? Are you looking for a full size school bus or a short bus? Where do you want to go? What are the restrictions of getting there?****

Where to Find or Buy a School Bus?

wp-content-uploads-2022-12-3-6.jpgDo you know where you are going to find your bus? From social platforms to local school districts, there are a ton of places to consider when looking for a bus. Finding the right bus for you could take some time. There are websites likeskoolielivin.com that focus 100% on this kind of thing. But here are a few other places to look for a bus to buy.

Facebook Marketplace

Without fail, you could probably hop on Facebook Marketplace and find a bus partially converted. That partially converted bus is both an opportunity and a warning. The opportunity side of it is that you get to take on someone else’s partially done project. Which means some of the work has already been done. The warning side of it is that someone else has already had the dream, and bailed before it was completed. And you can’t be totally sure if the work they were doing was all done correctly.

Local School Districts

If you have an “in” at a local school district, you might have an opportunity to get a well cared for machine. Due to the rigid maintenance requirements by most states, you’ll find that the tires, engine, transmission, and other mechanical parts are under constant monitoring. This is a great way to make sure you get a good foundation on which to build your dream bus conversion.****

Midwest Transit

This isn’t the only online bus retailer, but it seems like a great place to find something in your budget. Midwest Transit Equipmenthas a huge range of buses that allows you to filter everything—including the engine. Plus, they have a chat system that can help you navigate some of the finer details of a bus purchase too. ****

Does Your Budget and Your Dream Align?****

wp-content-uploads-2022-12-4-6.jpgIt is true that a bus can be converted cheaper than buying a new RV, but that isn’t always the case with used ones. If you are willing to purchase an older RV, you could find something cheaper than your dream bus conversion. But then you’d have to live with the reality that you didn’t get exactly what you wanted. Do you have your dream bus written out? Do you have the plans on paper? Do you have those features that you can’t live without? And do you know what they might cost? All of these things are good to consider when choosing a bus to convert. It will help you balance your budget with your dream bus.

Do You Have The Skills? Or Know Someone Who Does?****

One of the best ways to extend your budget is with “sweat equity.” Doing the work yourself will help relieve your budget by about 50% of the cost. Most skilled professionals charge the same in labor as what the materials themselves cost. wp-content-uploads-2022-12-5-5.jpgTake an inventory of your life's circumstances. Do you have the skills to do any part of the build out? If you are in a time crunch, do you have the time to dedicate to converting a bus? Another circumstance is the actual space to work on it. If you are currently an urban dweller, you might not have the room on your property to set up shop for a nine to twelve month project. Also, do you have the tools, or have you calculated the cost of tools into your conversion?If you’ve answered these questions and are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, just stop and think about everyone you know. Do you know anyone that has skills to help? Do you have people in your life that love that you are going on this adventure, or making this change in your life? If so, they could be people of peace in this season of being overwhelmed. Don’t try to be a hero and go at everything alone. People inherently love to help. So let them help you on your journey, and you might inspire them on theirs. ****

What Are the Drawbacks to Consider When Converting a Bus into an RV?****

wp-content-uploads-2022-12-6-5.jpgWith every beautiful bus that has been converted, there are probably 20 that didn’t. And they run into something that stopped them from getting to where they wanted to be. The biggest drawback to converting a bus into an RV is the obstacles you’ll face along the way. But with every amazing bus that does cross the finish line, there are people enjoying the life of freedom by living in their own customized home on wheels. The places you’ll go, the stories you’ll tell, and everything that entails—the joys and the obstacles included—are worth every penny!

Ready to Start Your Skoolie Adventures?

After you’ve read through this article, considered our advice, and thought through the cost… If you still desire the converted bus life, then it’s time to get started. So many people just talk about their dreams. But this is your chance to take real steps to make it happen! And don’t worry, we’ll be with you every step of the way. If you need more advice about bus conversions, RV life, where to boondock, and the best campgrounds to visit, check out the blog at HarvestHosts.com. And if you’re looking for places to stay, Harvest Hosts has tons of unique locations for you to visit for just one low payment each year. With 4,000+ Harvest Hosts locations across North America, any Harvest Hosts Member can enjoy and discover beautiful wineries and breweries, farms, museums, golf courses, and so much more!Now that you know you can count on us to help… What are you waiting for?

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 5,657 small businesses across North America with no camping fees. Boondock at farms, wineries, breweries, attractions, and other one-of-a-kind destinations throughout North America, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that a safe place to stay is always nearby!
Alyssa Chartier-profile-image
Alyssa Chartier
Airstreamer, Camper, Cat Parent, Social Media Marketer