Are you in the market for a bus to convert into a skoolie? If so, you're in luck! In this blog post, we will provide you with a guide on how to buy a bus and convert it into the perfect home on wheels. We'll also provide you with some tips on what to look for when buying a bus, as well as some resources that can help you along the way.
Step One: Consider Your Needs
There are several things to consider when you're looking for a bus to convert into a skoolie. First, you need to decide what size bus you need (or the number of windows). This will depend on how many people you plan on living with—if it's just you, you can probably get away with a smaller bus, while a family of 4 may need a 50-footer. Second, you need to think about what kind of features you want in your skoolie. Do you need a home office? Do you want a bathroom or will you use nearby facilities? Will you need a full kitchen or a simple hotplate? Once you've considered these factors, you're ready to start looking for your bus!
Step Two: Look Into Engine/Transmission Combos
When buying a bus, it's important to consider the engine and transmission combo. You want a reliable engine that won't break down on you during your travels, as well as a transmission that can handle steep hills and rough terrain. It's also worth looking into what kind of fuel the engine takes—diesel is usually more efficient for long-distance travel, but if you plan on mostly staying in one location or doing short trips, a gas engine may be more cost-effective.
Step Three: Find Available Buses for Sale
Now that you know what kind of bus you're looking for, it's time to start searching! There are two main places to look for buses that you can convert into skoolies: online and offline.
Buying a Bus Offline
Check with Local School Districts
A great place to start your search is with your local school district. Oftentimes, when a school district gets new buses, they'll sell their old ones. This is usually your best bet in terms of finding a bus that's in good condition and isn't going to cost an arm and a leg. You can also check with school bus brokers or online classifieds; just be sure to inspect the bus carefully before making a purchase!
Look for Private Sellers
Another option is to look for private sellers. Some great places to begin your search are eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. This can be hit or miss, but if you're lucky, you might find someone who's decided to convert their own bus but has since changed their mind. Once again, be sure to inspect the bus thoroughly before buying—you don't want any nasty surprises down the road!
Buying a Bus Online
If you're looking for buses online, there are quite a few websites that specialize in selling them.When buying a bus online, be sure to ask the seller plenty of questions and request multiple photos so that you know exactly what you're getting. Also, be sure to factor in the cost of shipping when considering your budget.
Check Online Marketplaces
One option is to check online marketplaces like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist. You can also search for specialized websites or Facebook groups that sell buses.
Another option is to check for government auctions, where you may be able to find retired school buses or other types of buses at a lower cost. Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully before bidding on a bus. Two popular government auction websites are GovDeals.com and PublicSurplus.com. Note: these are auctions, and the winning bidder will likely end up paying much more than the initial listing price. Don't get your hopes up!
Consider Conversion Companies
Another option is to purchase a bus from a conversion company. These companies take buses and convert them into skoolies, so they often have a wide selection to choose from. However, keep in mind that buying from a conversion company may be more expensive than buying and converting the bus yourself.
Questions to Ask Bus Sellers
No matter where you decide to buy your bus, be sure to ask the seller the following questions:
How old is the bus and how many miles does it have?
Has the engine been well maintained? Can you provide service records?
Is there any rust or damage on the exterior or interior of the bus?
Are there any mechanical issues?
Where is the bus titled and is it titled as a bus or RV?
By asking these questions and doing thorough research, you can make sure that you find the perfect bus to turn into your dream skoolie.
Step Three: Drive it Home
Once you've found the perfect bus and purchased it, it's time to bring it home to bring your new baby home. Unfortunately, this step is trickier said than done. Here's why: buses registered as buses need to be driven by someone with a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). This means that, unless you have your CDL, you'll legally need to hire a CDL driver or temporarily register the bus as an RV in order to drive it home.
There are different ways to go about this process, and it ultimately depends on the laws in your state and the seller's willingness to cooperate. Be sure to do plenty of research and consult with experts or professionals in the skoolie community before making any decisions about driving your bus home.
Many new bus buyers will either drive the bus home with temporary plates and cross their fingers they don't get pulled over, while others will have their bus delivered to them or hire a CDL driver to bring their bus to them. The choice is yours.
Step Four: Plan Your Layout
Once you've found and purchased your bus, the real fun begins—it's time to plan out your layout! This can be a challenging but rewarding process, so do plenty of research and ask for advice from experienced skoolie owners in skoolie forums or Facebook groups.
Some things to keep in mind while planning: Consider how much space you need and where you want certain features, like beds or storage. Tip: the more storage you can add, the less it will feel like you're living in a bus. It's also important to think about electricity and plumbing—how will you power your electronics and appliances? And what kind of water system will you use? Maybe most importantly, don't forget about insulation—this is crucial for keeping your skoolie warm in colder climates.
Step Five: Convert Your Bus Into a Home
Once you've found your perfect bus and planned your layout, it's time to start the conversion process! This can be a daunting task, but there are plenty of resources available to help you.
Change the Exterior of Your Bus
Not only is it fun to customize the exterior of your skoolie, but it's also a legal requirement. In many US states, it is illegal to keep the "school bus" markings on the exterior of your converted bus. You'll need to paint over the yellow and remove any signage, badging, or flashing lights that could imply that the bus is used for transporting people.
Gut Your Bus
The first step in converting a school bus into a skoolie is to gut and demo the interior. This involves removing all of the old seats and any other unnecessary fixtures or materials. It's often easier to do this before insulating, as it can be difficult to reach certain areas once insulation has been added. You'll need lots of tools for this process, including a grinder, crowbar, paint scrapers, and more.
Consider Thermal Bridging and Insulation
Thermal bridging is when heat is transferred through a surface, such as the metal skin of your bus. In order to keep your skoolie warm (and dry!), it's important to minimize thermal bridging by strategically insulating the walls, ceiling, and floor.
When it comes to insulation, it's important to keep your goals in mind. Do you plan to follow the warm weather or are you interested in spending a winter in Vermont? Do you plan to spend a summer in Texas or the Florida Keys? These questions will determine how much insulation your bus will need. Insulate the walls, ceiling, and floor for temperature control and soundproofing. There are several different options for insulation materials, such as foam board, wool, or spray foam insulation.
Add Electricity, Plumbing, and More
Once you've added insulation and finished the demo process, it's time to start adding the features that will make your skoolie feel like a true home. This includes wiring for electricity, installing plumbing for running water, adding a propane tank for cooking and heating water, and more. If you aren't experienced with these tasks, it's important to do plenty of research or hire professionals to help with the installation process.
Frame Your Bus
Once the basic structures are in place, it's time to build out the interior layout according to your plan. This can include adding walls, floors, and ceilings, as well as installing features like beds, storage units, bathrooms, kitchens, and seating areas. For a fully customized layout, consider using reclaimed materials or upcycled furniture to add your own unique touch.
Now that all of the major tasks are completed, it's time to add those finishing touches that will make your skoolie feel like home. This can include decorating with art, plants, and textiles; adding personal storage solutions; and outfitting your kitchen and bathroom. Don't forget to add any necessary safety features, like fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke alarms.
Opportunities are endless! But keep in mind that certain features- like rooftop decks or wood burning stoves- may violate any insurance policies. Be sure to do your research before you commit to any major changes, and consider consulting a professional.
Step Six: Register Your Bus as an RV or Motorhome
To legally drive and live in your skoolie, you'll need to register it as an RV or motorhome with your state's department of motor vehicles. This typically involves filling out paperwork, providing proof of ownership, passing a vehicle inspection, and paying registration fees, but it varies by state. Many skoolie owners register their buses through Vermont DMV, as Vermont does not require you to live in the state to register your vehicle, nor do they require proof of conversion. Regardless of where you register, it's important to check the specific requirements for registering a skoolie in your area.
Step Seven: Get Insured
In addition to registering your skoolie, it's important to also get insurance coverage. This protects you and your vehicle in the event of accidents or damages. RV insurance is typically the best option for skoolies, as it will cover both the bus itself and any personal belongings inside. When shopping for insurance, be sure to disclose that your vehicle is a converted bus, as this may affect your premiums and coverage options.
Step Eight: Hit the Road
Congrats—your bus is now converted into a beautiful tiny home and street-legal! Time to hit the open road and enjoy the freedom and adventure that skoolie living offers. Don't forget to document your travels and share them with friends, family, and the skoolie community.
There are plenty of places to find buses that you can convert into skoolies—it just takes a little bit of creativity and perseverance. With the tips in this blog post, we're confident that you'll be able to find the perfect bus for your needs in no time at all! Happy hunting!