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Old 04-14-2012, 12:08 PM   #1
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How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

Hi, just found skoolie and was really amazed at how many fantastic bus conversion projects are represented here. I spotted a school bus conversion while in California and was wondering how difficult is it to convert one into a motorhome?

Here's a picture of the one I saw: http://www.active-rver.com/school-bus-conversions.html
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Old 04-15-2012, 12:46 PM   #2
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Re: How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

My friend:
the ONLY thing you are going to find here are school bus conversions. Start looking at the different ones. Have fun!.
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Old 04-15-2012, 01:08 PM   #3
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Re: How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

Since I'm only on my first bus,(and early in the process to boot!) this answer is probably not worth very much... so;
You can make it as hard or easy as you wish, each conversion is a unique creative process. For me, the goal is to build something super cool for as close to $15.00 as possible, this forces me to be resourceful and be able to change direction as needed to meet that goal. I guess I don't see conversion as "difficultly", as much as opportunity and challenge.

Have fun with it!
Allen
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Old 04-15-2012, 01:30 PM   #4
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Re: How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

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Originally Posted by atcc77
Since I'm only on my first bus,(and early in the process to boot!) this answer is probably not worth very much... so;
You can make it as hard or easy as you wish, each conversion is a unique creative process. For me, the goal is to build something super cool for as close to $15.00 as possible, this forces me to be resourceful and be able to change direction as needed to meet that goal. I guess I don't see conversion as "difficultly", as much as opportunity and challenge.

Have fun with it!
Allen
You are not going very far on a $15.00 budget...
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Old 04-15-2012, 03:06 PM   #5
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Re: How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

We are shooting for a $5000 budget not including the cost of the shell for a full-time residence. I believe we will make it according to my continually updated spreadsheet. I will let you all know hopefully by the end of summer. That does not include the cost of a washer & gas dryer or the 18" dishwasher. I don't need to have those installed in order to call the bus "finished".

As for how difficult.... we used to remodel houses, build custom cabinets & countertops, installed cabinets for decades, ran two cabinet shops, owned one cabinet shop, install ceramic tile, Kitchen & Bath Designer. So for us, converting is very simple... coming up with the cash is more difficult. Plus we have to stealth convert since we are currently living in the bus in a campground.
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Old 04-15-2012, 05:54 PM   #6
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Re: How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

As others have said, you can make it as difficult or easy as you wish.

Things to ask yourself...
What are your long-term goals? Do you want a full-time residence; which equals full-blown electricity, plumbing, and furniture? Or do you want a 'tin tent'; which equals a dry place to sleep and store your stuff while camping? One involves a LOT of planning and various specialized skills. The other requires a little planning and some creative construction.

Can you afford a bus? I'm not just talking about buying one. I'm talking about having a reliable, legal place to park it, or afford to pay for a parking lot space. Then there is insurance, maintenance, and let's not forget about fuel! The build portion can be paid for over time. But the background costs can eat away at you pretty quick if you don't budget for them.

Are you physically up to the job? Can you physically handle moving several sheets of heavy plywood and lumber into the bus? Are your knees or back up to the constant bending and up-&-down you'll be doing? There are ways around physical limitations (leverage is your friend ), but be mindful if you're already hurting.

Do you have friends that can help? Personally, I'm on my own and am finding the tasks I set for each build session are taking me three times longer than expected . Only having one set of hands to hold something in place while screwing it into the wall can be frustrating. Having to stop what you're doing because the tool you need is just out of reach (or outside where you left it ) is also very frustrating. And the aforementioned sheets of plywood are very heavy. I find that I must pace myself and work slow, but steady. Every day I do something on the bus. Even if it's just cleaning up my mess from the day before.

No matter what you plan to do, plan to have FUN . You'll get what you put into it. And in the end you'll have a cool vehicle and loads of experience doing something few ever try.
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Old 04-16-2012, 10:14 AM   #7
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Re: How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

I'd like to find one of those mini school buses and convert it into a motorhome. I am not sure I am up to the task though.
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Old 05-03-2012, 10:50 AM   #8
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Re: How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

I'm also fairly early in the conversion process but here are a few things I've learned:

Neighbors and the local government can be a problem - Check with your home owners association and city hall before bringing a big, yellow school bus home. Several bus owners on this forum have had to move their busses off their property because of zoning or HOA issues. I had to extend my driveway in order to legally park my shuttle bus at home.

Insurance can be difficult to find - Most conventional carriers (allstate, progressive, gieco, etc.) won't insure a bus conversion at all. GMAC is the go-to insurance company for bus conversions but they'll usually only give you liability coverage. GMAC liability-only insurance for my E-450 based shuttle bus is $230/6 months. Full coverage wasn't an option.

Repairs are expensive - These are heavy duty vehicles and parts can be expensive and difficult to find. Most schoolies and shuttle busses that come on the market are being sold because they have exceeded some arbitrary service life (either in years or miles driven) or because they are in need of lots of repairs. However, if you shop carefully you can find good, low-to-medium mileage vehicles but budget for repairs. Diesels, in particular take A LOT of oil, coolant and trans fluid; often triple what a passenger car takes, and the vehicle you get will likely need a good going over right away. The cost of 6 big tires and a brake job will make your eyes pop. If you can do the repairs and maintenance yourself the cost goes way down but the price is still considerable.

Everything takes way longer than you imagine - Seems like everything I want to do requires three trips to the parts store or home center. Parts need to be ordered. Rain, snow and heat will slow you down. Family stuff intrudes. Motivation comes and goes. Make your best estimate then double it.

Everything is more expensive than you planned - It's fairly easy to estimate the big stuff, but the little stuff (fasteners, adhesive, insulation, lumber) really adds up. I say again, make your best estimate then double it.

Towing can be a problem - Big vehicles need big tow trucks. AAA and Good Sam both have RV towing programs that are generally well rated. If you're going to be traveling a lot, calling an 800 number is way easier than trying to find the nearest tow truck out in BFE.

With all that said, if you step into the schoolie world with your eyes open it can be very rewarding. You're taking the proverbial sows ear and making it into a silk purse. That, to me, is very attractive. You'll also never have the feeling there's nothing to do.
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Old 05-03-2012, 11:03 AM   #9
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Re: How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Active-RVer
I'd like to find one of those mini school buses and convert it into a motorhome. I am not sure I am up to the task though.
i had no idea how to build a rv when i built the first one... that didn't matter... i learned as i went... from that i learned that i could build my own garage, and house, etc. Back 35 yrs ago there was little information how to do it. However, i knew i could build one from a school bus, as my dad built one in 1950 from a 1935 chevy school bus that we traveled half way around the usa.

you have things like the bus bulletin boards, and books like the bus conversion bible that you can purchase... and good tools that you can use nowdays..
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Old 05-03-2012, 01:02 PM   #10
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Re: How difficult is it to convert a school bus?

Folks with little or no building skills have been converting Skoolies (and other vehicles) into rolling homes ever since the first ones rolled off the line. With your background, you should have a good headstart. As stated previously...just decide going in what your goals are, how simple or complex a path you want to go down...and jump in. And stay flexible. As you progress, you'll find it is as much a process of discovery as it is planning. Have fun.
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