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Old 02-01-2015, 10:05 PM   #1
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Be honest - was it worth it?

So we've just gotten our bus, nothing even done to her yet, but we've received our first real bit of criticism about wanting to reno a bus and move into it as our house whilst we look for land to homestead on. While the negative reaction was something that didn't surprise me, I'm curious about everyone's overall feelings about the experience of turning your rig into a camper or your home. How long did it take? What did it ultimately end up costing you? Would you do it again, given the choice to do so? What was the most surprising thing that happened while doing the work? Do you live in it full-time, part-time, or just vacation in it?

We're undaunted - we knew we'd face some critics - but it has me curious about the highs and lows of turning a bus into a skoolie. Thanks for any insight.
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Old 02-01-2015, 10:15 PM   #2
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Most people think its cool. Some are jerks but theyre usually the materialistic types anyhow. Or just have no imagination.
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Old 02-01-2015, 10:17 PM   #3
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most of the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, or at least fair-to-middling. the person being negative is someone with a history of being negative. so no real surprise there, lol
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Old 02-01-2015, 10:29 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by true View Post
So we've just gotten our bus, nothing even done to her yet, but we've received our first real bit of criticism about wanting to reno a bus and move into it as our house whilst we look for land to homestead on. While the negative reaction was something that didn't surprise me, I'm curious about everyone's overall feelings about the experience of turning your rig into a camper or your home. How long did it take? What did it ultimately end up costing you? Would you do it again, given the choice to do so? What was the most surprising thing that happened while doing the work? Do you live in it full-time, part-time, or just vacation in it?

We're undaunted - we knew we'd face some critics - but it has me curious about the highs and lows of turning a bus into a skoolie. Thanks for any insight.

So we just got our bus this week... and I stopped in the RV place to look on the clearance shelves for a cooktop. I told the sales guy that we bought a bus and were just starting to convert it... man, he ranted about how it will cost more than a decent RV... and it would cause so many headaches... and some parks wouldn't let us in... blah blah blah...

The three reasons I got the bus:
#1. I love building things... and I've never redone a bus. It's something the whole family can get excited about and do together.
#2. My wife did a bunch of research on RV safety... and bottom line is that they suck for traveling safely. My four kiddos are precious and if we are driving across the country... I want to keep them safe. School busses are WAY safer than Class C's or Class A's.
and
#3. It's just plain old f'ing cool.

Point is, we all have our reasons.

If you want the most "bang for your buck..." buy a late model Class A... or better yet, just stay home and save your money... or even better put your money in treasury bonds... WAIT THAT'S BORING! Traveling is just an experience... and building a skoolie is an experience as well. For me, building it is one of the most fun parts of the gig. Sounds like you as well. We will see you on the road soon.
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Old 02-01-2015, 10:47 PM   #5
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it is plain old f'ing cool. what was kind of funny about our conversation was her assertion that one shouldn't borrow money for dreams, to save for it first (we jumped on our bus pretty quick so it didn't get snatched out from under us, so my dad agreed to loan us three grand til our tax return comes in next month). i asked if she would have the same issue if we took out a mortgage, to which she responded that you make money on a house. yeah, some do...and some end up underwater, wanting to move out of a place that's worth less than they owe. i'll take a bus, thanks very much
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Old 02-02-2015, 10:37 AM   #6
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...you make money on a house.
Do people still really think this?

I haven't done serious math on it, but this statement never made much sense to me.

Buy a house for (very low end) $120,000. Sell it in 15 years for $150,000. Woohoo! $30,000 profit!! EXCEPT that with inflation that $120,000 that was paid 15 years prior is realistically worth closer to $160,000 in the present day. Add in maintenance, upgrades, building supplies, insurance, etc and it seems there is little real profit. A house is an ok way to sit on money and have a place to live (of course), but - unless you're a professional contractor - it ain't a money making venture. Otherwise, if you just so happen to own a house in what becomes a boom-town, you might get real lucky.

I occasionally read articles posted by Garth Turner. He's a financial advisor who rents because he can put that home-owning money into investments that actually deliver dividends greater than the inflation rate. Renting means there are no additional maintenance bills.

All this said, I do plan on owning my own house. But it's going to be modest and built by me, friends and a few professionals for electrical and such. And I won't ever expect to sell it for a profit. I plan to live well and eventually die in it


On to the original question now! My skoolie project has absolutely been worth it. Sure, it's taken 2 more years than anticipated to get to where I currently am. Sure, certain things have been more expensive than anticipated. Overall, though, it's been a fantastic hobby with real, practical results. I enjoy building and tweaking it and developing new skills throughout the process. There are many worse things I could be doing with my time.

For those who don't enjoy scraping, painting, welding, building, puzzling, cussing, bleeding: walk away. For the price, you'll be better off with a converted van, or late 90s rv.
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Old 02-02-2015, 10:49 AM   #7
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My block house on a third of an acre cost me 46k. bought it outright.
You CAN make money on a house, but not doing it the "American way".
You're right about buses being a rewarding endeavor. I can think of way worse things to spend time and money on.
I could list them but we all can imagine many things.
I also think you hit the nail on the head with that last part too. If one really doesn't enjoy learning and hard work its probably a much better idea to buy prefab. I see so many "conversion started" buses for sale out there...
Some people buy a bus then ask questions. I don't think that's a good idea. figure out the legalities and practicalities of it before, or one can end up with lots of headaches and expenses. Buses definitely aren't for everyone.
But I think more people would be happier if they tried something like this.
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Old 02-02-2015, 02:54 PM   #8
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Was it worth it? Yes. But it's not finished... yet. Okay, it will never be finished. I will remodel until I take my last breath. My goal is to find a place that I like and buy a little bit of land to park the bus on (old mobile home lot) that already has electric, water & sewer on it. I've got to help my daughter convert a bus for herself and we need a place to do it at. Until then, I will live in my mobile apartment.
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Old 02-02-2015, 04:09 PM   #9
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Safety was my main point, as well. Seeing simply the cage that holds the fuel tank under my bus is pretty freakin' awesome! A train would have to him me to even touch it!

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Old 02-02-2015, 04:37 PM   #10
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i hate to admit it, but we're kinda in the "buy a bus, then ask questions" category, haha. The right bus came along, and we pounced before the next guy (we saw it on a tuesday, fell in love, and learned that a buyer who'd bought buses from these people before was gonna buy it that thursday if he liked it. nothing ventured, nothing gained).

we're very much people who want to do for ourselves what we can. i'm married to a guy who very much enjoys creating things with his own two hands, and learning new solutions to problems. we've got the bus, we're gonna tear out the seats, and then we're gonna read and learn (and read and learn, and read and learn) before we do too much else. it sounds like we're in good company, in wanting to find land to settle down on and hand-build our own house. the bus seemed like a great way to have a house already on hand wherever we eventually end up. this is less about traveling (though we want to do some of that, just not full-time - we've got three little girls) and more about having a house wherever we are. if it sits for a few months before we even do anything major, so be it. we're on a long timeline
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Old 02-02-2015, 04:45 PM   #11
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One thing I'd heartily recommend is getting it really stripped down. The ceilings, side panels, the floor...
To me thats the bare minimum. Some go way further.
Its way more work, but anything worth doin, worth doin right.
Just my 2 cents on that. I just spent a lot of time gutting mine. Getting ready to start doing some paint and body work if I can decide whether or not I'm going to mess with the raising of the roof.
I think you folks will be fine. I just try to be real with people about the actual PITA stuff involved with the bus thing. I had the worst time with my first one and ended up losing the bus. This time around I was ready.
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Old 02-02-2015, 04:49 PM   #12
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I have had 100% positive comments from everyone who has seen it. In fact I have a TV station coming this week to film it! I am expecting it will take 4 months weekend and evening work and cost 15000 ($25000)
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Old 02-02-2015, 04:57 PM   #13
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I have had 100% positive comments from everyone who has seen it. In fact I have a TV station coming this week to film it! I am expecting it will take 4 months weekend and evening work and cost 15000 ($25000)
Your American bus must get a lot of attention over there.
I'd imagine parking to be quite a nightmare!
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Old 02-02-2015, 05:02 PM   #14
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Your American bus must get a lot of attention over there.
I'd imagine parking to be quite a nightmare!
Probably as bad as trying to hide(and fix) a double decker here
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Old 02-02-2015, 06:52 PM   #15
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as it worth it? I thinks so, will I do it again? maybe.Most people loved it a couldn't believe how nice it looks. We could of gotten a nice class A motor home and yes it would nice to have a smooth ride and a bit more room but, our bus is better built, no leaking roof or soft floor, motor is easy to work on(dog nose) it can go anywhere and not worry about road conditions lots of pos stuff. Down side is there are a few parks that won't let you in, but thats ok with us.
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Old 02-02-2015, 07:00 PM   #16
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I just jumped in head-first just under a month ago. Bought an old paratransit bus and proceeded to start gutting it down to the bare frame. It was more of a PITA than I had ever imagined (I'm guessing that gutting a school bus might have been easier), but now that I've gotten rid of most of the rust and started priming I'm finally starting to feel good about this.

I actually got laughed at by a few people right after I bought the bus. People still ask me "so how's the bus coming along?" in a semi-mocking tone, and are shocked that I plan on living in the thing. I've questioned myself a lot because I really did just jump in and decide I'd rely on my handiness, creativity, and stubbornness to get me through. Fortunately I've got some really supportive friends who are totally stoked on my project and have been helping out. That's been the real key for me.

By the end of this year I should debt-free on account of no longer paying rent, and I will have built my own home by the age of 28. I'll be able to take all of my friends on awesome adventures and will forge the kind of memories that most people will envy.

In the short term it's miserable and stressful. When I move out of my place in a few weeks I'll be living like a vagabond until I get the furniture built and this thing looks more like a real home (then I'll be a classy vagabond!). But there's no question that it'll be worth it in the end.
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Old 02-03-2015, 02:00 PM   #17
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How long did it take?
18 months, most weekday evenings and weekends.

Quote:
What did it ultimately end up costing you?
About $25k, including the bus purchase ($2k)

Quote:
Would you do it again, given the choice to do so?
Yes. Not saying I will do it again...but if I could go back in time to winter 2004 SeanF and give him advice, I'd say "Dooo iiiit."

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What was the most surprising thing that happened while doing the work?
The amount of physical and mental effort required to do a quality conversion cannot be overstated.

Quote:
Do you live in it full-time, part-time, or just vacation in it?
Lived in it full time from 2006 through 2012, moving seasonally throughout the southwestern US. Spent 2009-2010 living on a friend's property for cheap while I worked & saved money, then took off for 10 months riding a motorcycle around the world.

When I met my current wonderful GF on Match.com, she said that my bus conversion put me way ahead of the other candidates.

So yeah, it's been worth it.

I still have it, parked in storage. Need to sell it.
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Old 02-03-2015, 03:02 PM   #18
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$25K for a completed conversion?!? What did you use, carbon fibers, tungsten and titanium?!? I'm planning on $5K max, with the genny being the most expensive at $1K max....of course as budget go, I'm flexible ;)

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Old 02-03-2015, 04:36 PM   #19
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Different strokes for different folks.
What amazes me about this site is that so many "wealthy" people are doing the school bus thing.
If I had their kind of money, it would be MCI or Prevost all the way. Variety is the spice of life, though!
Looks like we have similar budgets, Skoolie Noobie...
My buddy who came from michigan in his school bus converted in himself, lives in it and only spent 4k including the bus. I wouldn't wanna live in his, but everyone has their ideas of what they "need".
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Old 02-03-2015, 04:40 PM   #20
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Oh I'm not knocking Sean's budget one bit! If I could, I would, too! and make it rain, up in heah!

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