Are you looking for a tiny home on a shoestring budget? Maybe you’d like to hit the road and explore the country on your own terms? If the answer is yes, you might consider buying an old school bus. There are hundreds of people across the United States who are buying retired school buses, or “skoolies,” and turning them into homes.
Bus conversions are popular because they’re inexpensive and easy to do. All you need is a little imagination and some basic building skills. School buses are also a durable option. Made of tougher stuff than their commercial counterparts, they have steel frames, solid floors, and diesel engines that can last for more than a million miles. If you look after it, your bus may remain roadworthy for much longer than many would think.
HOW MUCH WILL A SCHOOL BUS COST?
Depending on the age, condition, and location of the bus, a 72-seater might have a starting price of $3,000. This will give you 200 square feet of living space – roughly the same size as a New York studio apartment!
But there are a few things to consider before you take the plunge. One of them is size. School buses can be short, mid-size, and full-size. Think about what your space requirements are and how many people will be using it. While you might want more legroom, bigger isn’t always better. A longer bus can be difficult to handle, particularly on freeways or winding roads.
One thing you should always do is organize an inspection. And make sure that it’s thorough! Look for any widespread rusting or wear. Take a look at the maintenance records. Check the engine and transmission type. These things will determine the lifespan of the bus and any maintenance issues you might encounter. There’s nothing worse than breaking down in the middle of nowhere because you didn’t do your homework.
WHAT WILL THE CONVERSION COST?
This can depend on the size of the conversion. If you build a full kitchen and bathroom, it could be anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000. On the other hand, if you salvage used materials, you could dramatically cut your costs while reducing landfill and giving your mobile home a one-of-a-kind feel. Make sure the materials are cleaned thoroughly and are free of asbestos, lead, or other materials that are hazardous or cause allergies.
Before you get started, you’ll need standard building materials, like insulation board, plywood, flooring, and trim. For the plumbing and electricals you can use recreational vehicle (RV) or marine products. These are specifically designed for small spaces, and professional installers can do the hard work for you. But not all buses require a full conversion. If you’re happy to forgo a kitchen or bathroom, a converted 34-foot school bus might cost just $10,000.
WHY SHOULD I CHOOSE A SCHOOL BUS AS MY TINY HOME?
Because it’s proven to work. People were converting buses into homes long before the tiny house movement took off. Hippies from the ‘60s and ‘70s took to the road in converted buses. It was a great way to live simply and cheaply. While this trend died down for a while, it’s now back, and many tiny home enthusiasts are choosing buses as their preferred tiny house on wheels (THOW).
It’s more affordable. You might be looking for a tiny home because you don’t have a choice. Or because you want to retire or live off the grid. Either way, a bus conversion is cheaper than buying or building a traditional tiny house. Moreover, your conversion can be full or partial, depending on your needs and preferences, and you can do all the work yourself. More importantly, you don’t need to spend big. As long as you find a strong frame and shell, even a cheap bus can be converted into a tiny home.
You’ll get a lot of space and customization options. Whether you need a bachelor pad or a family home, a weekend camper or a holiday rental, the options for your bus conversion are endless. Most tiny homes are built from scratch and it can take a while to get them on the road, but a bus gives you a ready-built frame to work with. You don’t have to waste time on drafting or planning. The hard work has been done. All you need to do is decide what customizations you’d like.
Buses are safer. A traditional THOW is made out of lumber and sits on a trailer, which makes it less stable. It can also sustain damage while you’re driving, particularly if the road is bumpy or you have an accident. Skoolies don’t have this problem however you should consider the materials used in old buses that may contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Buses are built to high safety standards that minimize injury to its passengers. If a school bus is involved in a road accident, it would withstand the impact in a way that a traditional tiny house never could.
So what are you waiting for? Check out your nearest bus dealership or local classifieds. Your tiny dream home could be just around the corner.