If you want to build a house on wheels on a budget, you may want to consider renovating an old yellow school bus.
All over the country, people are converting old school buses, the kind you might remember riding to school, into customized motor homes known as skoolies.
This post will get you started on the school bus conversion process, as well as inspire you with some of my favorite school bus conversions.
What are the Different Sizes of School Buses?
School buses are available in 3 main sizes. A short bus at 20-25ft, a midsize bus at 25-35ft, or a full-size at 35-45ft. There will be a compromise between spaciousness and drivability.
Before you begin searching for a bus, decide what size and type would be best for you.
What Engine Does a School Bus Have?
You should also be aware of the types of engines and transmissions since they can affect the maintenance, longevity, and performance of the bus.
On the advice we have received and learned from our research, DT engines are the most reliable and longest lasting. CAT engines can be great, but they are very expensive to repair. Cummins engines, though reliable, are under powered, and the T series engine is known to break down most often.
How Much Does a School Bus Cost?
The cost of retired school buses varies by location and the age and condition of each bus, but as a general guide, a typical 72-seater that’s 34 feet long should cost around $3,000 and up.
A bus this size will give you 200 square feet of living space.
How to Buy a Bus to Convert
Review the maintenance history of the bus before you purchase it or bid on it. Inspect the bus both inside and out.
Check for rust on the body, the undercarriage, and the floor inside.
Finding rust spots is to be expected, but excessive rust could be more trouble than it’s worth.
Where to find used buses:
- Local classifieds such as Craigslist
- Online auction sites like eBay
- Bus dealerships such as Midwest Transit Equipment
How Much Does it Cost to Convert a School Bus?
An average school bus conversion cost will be between $10,000 and $30,000, depending on the features and fittings you opt for. You can reduce costs significantly if you are able to do a lot of the work yourself and can salvage and repurpose building materials.
Are you sure a school bus is the right conversion vehicle for you? Click here to read our guide on finding the best van for a camper conversion.
8 Beautiful School Bus Conversions for Inspiration
Little Gus The Bus
Canadian Ben and Marie from France converted this unique little school bus themselves, and it oozes stylish design and picturesque features.
The pair travel from place to place, following work and opportunities where they find them.
They completed this conversion in only around four months in the summer of 2018, doing all the work by themselves, taking inspiration from other DIY conversions they found online.
For a team that started without much of a planned layout, they finished up with a very impressive little home on wheels. The kitchen cabinets and little wood stove really give this place a homely feel.
The Midwest Wanderers
Luke, Rachel and their daughter have been living in the converted school bus now for several years. Travelling the US.
One unique thing about this conversion is the raised roof, which really makes it feel a lot more like a home than a bus.
All in, they estimate they spent $30,000 on this school bus conversion. Which I’m sure would have been a lot more had they not done the work themselves. See more on this skoolie conversion here.
Nicole and Charlie spent 9 months converting this 2004 Thomas HDX school bus into a home.
I really love the kitchen with the large butcher block counter.
The bus is powered with 1050 watts of solar panels, and 400 amp-hours of lithium batteries.
Take a look at their bus conversion video below:
Since We Woke Up – Oliver
This amazing renovated skoolie is complete with a dreamy bathtub and rooftop deck. Having watched a documentary on Netflix, Tawny and Mike decided to downsize from their five bedroom home into a 40 foot skoolie. The couple sold their house, bought and renovated an old school bus, then moved in and started traveling.
Thanks to the solar system, fresh and gray water tanks, and a Nature’s Head composting toilet, Mike and Tawny’s skoolie can be run completely off-grid.
Robbie and Priscilla spent about 1.5 years converting their 1998 Thomas School Bus into their dream tiny home.
Quartz countertops and a pull-out pantry are included in the kitchen, as well as a farmhouse sink. In addition to a full-size refrigerator, they picked a range with a full-size oven for large family dinners.
There is a real sleek apartment feel to this beautiful conversion.
Lucy and Glen from the UK purchased this International CE300 school bus and set about converting it over the 2020 lockdown.
A total of £50,000 was invested in transforming it into a comfortable home, which included tearing up flooring, removing rust, adding insulation, adding diesel heating, and installing an inverter and batteries. After renovations, it was worth £65,000.