In order to justify buying a bus to renovate, first we had to evaluate the other possibilities.
Following the van dwelling community is what initially got me interested in conversion vehicles.
There is no shortage of used vans to buy online for cheap, unless you want a Volkswagen. Volkswagen Vans, the classic four-wheeled refrigerator, are highly sought after for conversions. If you are flexible on van type, many roomier and better-looking alternatives exist.
Outside of German engineered Twinkiemobiles, total project costs look affordable1. However, even the largest vans look a little cramped for one person, much less two.
A huge plus of van dwelling is the ability to stay incognito, and park just about anywhere. No worries about HOA’s or citations when visiting friends, parking in the city, or passing out “free” candy.
Like used vans, there are a ton of transit buses available for sale locally. Unlike used vans, these come in larger sizes that could accommodate two people fairly comfortably.
The downside of these is the fiberglass body. Over time the fiberglass will leak and bend with hardware mounted to it. Think of the transit bus like a Segway; fantastic for guided tours off Groupon, but potentially life threatening and unfit for unpaved roads.
Speaking of Segways, this too, is a segue. A segue transitioning us to short buses.
The shorty (shawty, if you will) is a great option for solo travelers or couples bunking together. It has all the appeal of a transit bus, with the sturdy build and safety guidelines of a skoolie. The metal frame is not just safer (the safest vehicles on the road, in fact), but much easier for construction. You can drill directly into the side of these puppies without compromising the structure.
Somewhat paradoxically, these are more expensive than most full-size school buses. The funds saved on furnishing less space will likely be spent up front purchasing the shawty.
If you haven’t looked at RV’s recently, you should check out these mamma jammas. If your typical skoolie were Jello brand pudding, an RV would be Crème Brulee from that one French sounding place you can’t pronounce. A RV theoretically has all of the perks of a completed skoolie without much hassle: plumbing, electric, and gas are already integrated. The floor plan is already laid out to maximize space. Plus, it comes painted with a bitchin’ styrofoam cup decal on the side. You just buy it and waltz your happy ass in with a few travel bags and hit the road, retirement style.
However, that is one huge hypothetical. Buying a new RV will cost you an arm and a leg, and maybe a few more appendages2. There are used models available for reasonable prices, but that comes with a ton of unknowns on its condition. Plumbing/electric/gas could be faulty and need repairing. The predefined interior restricts options for customization, and most RV bodies are fiberglass- further reducing your ability to mount hardware. And all of this assumes the pieces under the hood is running smoothly.
This could be a fantastic option for people who want to do more research up front to purchase one used, with less effort spent on the build. Alternatively, you could ask the help to remove your monocle, empty your trust fund, and purchase one new.
Travel Trailer + Towing Vehicle
A travel trailer has quite a few perks. You can park the trailer, and still have a vehicle to run errands in. They are relatively cheap, especially if you already own a vehicle with towing capabilities. Most importantly, without an engine that could lead to costly repairs, there is less risk up front.
A trailer isn’t without downsides, however. With a separate cab for driving from living, being on the road is more of a cramped car experience than a motorhome. Like an RV, the possibilities for customizing the space are more limited.
Plus, Walmart doesn’t allow trailers to set up camp in their parking lot, which as everyone knows, is 80% of the reason to even get a RV3.
If grueling manual labor, research, and DIY projects are your thing; you can’t beat a bus. As mentioned before, they are extremely safe. Building plumbing and electrical systems from scratch will force us to know them intimately, making repairs easier. The conversion is more affordable, as you can choose exactly where to splurge and where to save money.
If done well, the end result should have the space and amenities of an RV, customized to your exact specifications. If done poorly, your budget will explode with unforeseen expenses and leave you on the side of the road wondering where it all went wrong, as you sob into your dirty hobo hands. Win win!
In the end, the most important choice you can make is to hit the road. Once that is decided, regardless of what vehicle you choose, the rest will fall into place with a little persistence. Bring on the sobbing.
- I frequently saw builds done with $3k-$8k, excluding labor.
- Base model RV’s start around 100k, and the price rises quickly from there.
- Walmart encourages RV’ers to stay overnight. They provide free security in exchange for your business/dignity