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Old 06-02-2016, 09:34 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Dapplecreek View Post
Well, you folks have already given a pretty uniform and complete answer. Hard for the original poster to hear, but good to get a straight answer early.


But since we're talking about resale and recouping costs, how 'bout my case? I want to:
  • Buy a decent bus in VA (2001 or so, conventional, DT466, Allison 2050, airbrakes, full records, no rust, just out of service, probably for ~ $3500);
  • Remove the seats;
  • Pressure wash, spot sand and Rustoleum it;
  • Build rudimentary RV elements for retitling and the trip;
  • Retitle it;
  • Load it with all of our belongings (it will be a live-in moving van for two weeks);
  • Drive it across country; and
  • Sell it when I get to my new home.
I'll be relocating to Idaho, halfway up the west state line, a bit more than an hour out of Spokane.

Think I could get $3500 or $4K with the seats out, some paint, and an RV title, and a successful shakedown cruise across the country?
Check with the VA DMV (see link below). I don't think Virginia will retitle it as an RV. The link shows the 3 categories for retitling, of which I think a skoolie would fall under the "Specially Constructed Vehicle" category. I would just register it as a private vehicle, use it to move as you stated, and then resell it once you get where you're going. You don't need a CDL to drive it if it's a private bus. Let us know if you find out anything different from VA DMV, but I have been looking into it for some time and, unless it's originally titled as an RV from the factory, Virginia will not retitle it as an RV.


Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
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Old 06-02-2016, 09:58 PM   #12
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Also, the fun part is doing it yourself.. with the pros and cons...
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Old 06-02-2016, 10:49 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by dgorila1 View Post
Check with the VA DMV ... [looks like] unless it's originally titled as an RV from the factory, Virginia will not retitle it as an RV.
I don't wish to cross you, of course, and I have yet to do this, but I discovered information which appears different from your experience.

Based on some calls to the Virginia DMV Branding Work Center, I learned the following:

This would be a reconstructed vehicle, involving the removal of important parts and the addition of others to make it a different type (here, a Motor Home- I misspoke calling it an RV). It would require sending a log of my actions and a copy of my receipts to the Branding Work Center, and after a review they would send out an inspector to verify VIN and such. I would need at least the rudiments of RV equipment, but per the Branding lady they care about legality of the parts (=am I working a chop shop) rather than evaluating how sumptuous are my accommodations.

When you next call the DMV, ask them for the number of the Branding Work Center and talk to the staff there. Two out of two times I've spoken with them, I've dealt with highly intelligent, pleasant, and reasonable people, who gave me straight answers to my questions. These guys are about as far as possible from the bureaucratic reputation many in DMV offices throughout the land have earned. They rock!

But your advice to call it a private vehicle is in the cards as well: they would also be happy to just call it a private bus. The nice man said calling it a private bus instead of a Motor Home wasn't a DMV fight, but rather it would be an Insurance Company fight. It could be that it would be worth the full (OK, 'rustic') RV conversion in order to get insurance. Or maybe I could transfer the title as a private bus, then approach Good Sam for a RV-In-Progress conversion policy? By God's grace I have a couple of years to figure this out.
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Old 06-03-2016, 12:09 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by YMIHere View Post
Hello All!

Anybody who saw my intro knows that I have ZERO experience with this and is scratching their head thinking, "Why the hell is this chick asking if you can make money at this?" Let me explain and then I hope you can answer some questions.

I've recently been let go from my job in Corporate America and I'm pretty happy about that. My intention is to drive for Uber while I work on my pet project - starting a re-entry program for the formerly incarcerated where I teach them entrepreneurship.

One of the ways I'm hoping to support the non-profit is with business ventures. I just had the thought that if I find a couple of guys who are mechanics, electricians (you guys can tell me the skills someone needs to do this right), then maybe I could help a couple of guys get their first one going so they have something in their portfolio to do this on their own.

Here are the questions I have:

1. What is the cost of the AVERAGE school bus conversion? I've seen vids of guys getting cool stuff from the dump (kitchen cabinetry for instance) and I figure I could build relationships with builders, etc. to keep costs down. But I wanted to know how much one could reasonably expect to spend in order to do this so that I can figure out other stuff down the line, such as:

2. How long does it take? Assuming you did this as a full time job - roughly how many hours do you think the average conversion takes? I want to know how long it takes and how much it costs to find out what the potential income for my guys would be. I'm thinking 2 guys with the right skills can get the job done in an efficient amount of time, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

3. What are the most important skills? Auto-mechanic skills I figure would be imperative, but maybe not. Maybe, assuming you got a good bus, that's the least essential skill. The type of thing where you could hire a guy to fix whatever and then the rest is the conversion. But I'm not sure if having those skills ties into other jobs. I've seen threads about lights (exterior I think), batteries, etc. There does seem to be a lot of questions about electrical in general so I figure having someone who got electrician training would be beneficial. Iron work? I see that a lot of this starts with framing with steel. Carpentry? Plumbing? I mean I can clearly see all of these skills are needed, but if you guys are doing these things completely on your own in some cases, then I figure if I have 2 guys with the most important skills then they can cross train to learn the couple of other things that would help.

4. How marketable are these? Those of you who are doing this as a labor of love may not know, but because you all are swapping parts, buying parts etc. I figure you might know just how popular this is so that I could figure out how lucrative it might be. With my non-mechanical skills, I figure I'd be in charge of finding all the stuff needed to do the job, decorating, marketing, and keeping the whole process moving.

This literally occurred to me last night so it's technically a "half-baked" idea. Originally, a lot of the types of businesses I thought of for the guys would have much less overhead and be more service oriented to truly get them started, but because this endeavor would be a team effort, I started to think "Go big or go home."

As a GUESS I figured it might be sold on average for $30K (some more, some less), $10K in parts (if one is thrifty) and 2 months worth of work with 2 guys making it a little over $6K each for 2 months, but this is a GUESS based on nothing. My numbers are likely way off, but I was keeping to round figures.

Anything you can offer would be appreciated. Thanks.
1. There are no average bus prices persay. It is a combination of what is coming to market and demand for that specific bus frame, engine, chassis and overall mechanical state of the bus at purchase. However, you may be able to purchase buses outside the rust belt, strip them and sell them to rustbelt persons. This comes with the inherent risk of people wanting to do it themselves and make money. Your profit would be slim but come from the scrap material value per bus. maybe 100-200 per at max.

2. the time a project takes depends on the persons working on the project. The level of deconstruction and construction planned and the planned use. If you do not remove the floor, side panels or roof, you can immediately begin construction. However, this is a risky venture, if the floor underneath is rusted it will create future issues. let us say however the floor is assumed pristine state. The time then varies depending on construction and intended use. This can vary as some want as little as a bed to some wanting a full on RV. The full on RV takes a far longer time with wiring, plumbing, framing and so on. so it will vary.

3. skills required would range the gambit as well depending on the project. however lets stick with the basic premise of a bus not gutted and just built on top of. For a basic camper you may only need framing and simple ability to measure, cut and hammer in nails (carpentry). However full blown RV's are a whole other matter. You would off the top of my head need to have electrician , carpentry, plumbing (basic), mechanical, and interior design. But in each of those main categories fall quite a few sub categories. but those would be essential.

4. skoolies are currently a niche market, however if the government succeeds in making tiny houses illegal that might change and quite rapidly. On top of that some buses have hard to get parts which make them even less desirable.

I would caution you to convert your bus first and understand everything that has to go into a full blown RV conversion before you decide to make this a business. After which you will understand the normal starting point of most people involved in the skoolie movement/group. In that starting point maybe you will find a good business model.
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Old 06-03-2016, 06:30 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dgorila1 View Post
Check with the VA DMV (see link below). I don't think Virginia will retitle it as an RV. The link shows the 3 categories for retitling, of which I think a skoolie would fall under the "Specially Constructed Vehicle" category. I would just register it as a private vehicle, use it to move as you stated, and then resell it once you get where you're going. You don't need a CDL to drive it if it's a private bus. Let us know if you find out anything different from VA DMV, but I have been looking into it for some time and, unless it's originally titled as an RV from the factory, Virginia will not retitle it as an RV.


Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
i called them , they will retitle as an rv. all you need to do is give them money and wait for an inspector.
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Old 06-03-2016, 09:39 AM   #16
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Virginia
Posts: 446
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dapplecreek View Post
I don't wish to cross you, of course, and I have yet to do this, but I discovered information which appears different from your experience.

Based on some calls to the Virginia DMV Branding Work Center, I learned the following:

This would be a reconstructed vehicle, involving the removal of important parts and the addition of others to make it a different type (here, a Motor Home- I misspoke calling it an RV). It would require sending a log of my actions and a copy of my receipts to the Branding Work Center, and after a review they would send out an inspector to verify VIN and such. I would need at least the rudiments of RV equipment, but per the Branding lady they care about legality of the parts (=am I working a chop shop) rather than evaluating how sumptuous are my accommodations.

When you next call the DMV, ask them for the number of the Branding Work Center and talk to the staff there. Two out of two times I've spoken with them, I've dealt with highly intelligent, pleasant, and reasonable people, who gave me straight answers to my questions. These guys are about as far as possible from the bureaucratic reputation many in DMV offices throughout the land have earned. They rock!

But your advice to call it a private vehicle is in the cards as well: they would also be happy to just call it a private bus. The nice man said calling it a private bus instead of a Motor Home wasn't a DMV fight, but rather it would be an Insurance Company fight. It could be that it would be worth the full (OK, 'rustic') RV conversion in order to get insurance. Or maybe I could transfer the title as a private bus, then approach Good Sam for a RV-In-Progress conversion policy? By God's grace I have a couple of years to figure this out.
Great info Dapple, thanks! Never even heard of the Branding Work Center division of the DMV. Do you have their number handy? I will definitely talk to them. I have been trying to find out who the ultimate authority is in the DMV regarding issues like this. When I talk to the normal branch workers I can never get a clear answer.......basically I think the majority of them just don't know.
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Old 06-03-2016, 11:07 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by megapiment View Post
Also, the fun part is doing it yourself.. with the pros and cons...
hah cons... I see what you did there...
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Old 06-03-2016, 12:01 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ol trunt View Post
I don't think you have a snowball's chance in you know where of making this project fly. IMHO, you should go back to work and, if you wish, make charitable contributions to your favorite cause.
I think OP is trying to "stick it to the MAN!" I like the spirit!

Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyCoyote View Post
You might consider morphing the idea a bit.

One of the problems we have here is ex-cons cant get jobs, cant get credit, and often wind-up living on the street. Not good.

What about training them first in the rudiments of diesel repair, letting them purchase a bus for sweat equity, build it out with recycled/repurposed bits, while they live in it?

Dunno if thats part of your interest or not, but if you are trying to get max mileage from minimum funds, it might be a direction to explore.

Skills + home + stability = potential success.
Perhaps a non-profit centered on building shelters for the "not so lucky"?
You could have your crew of ex-cons work on the skoolies with the pro's in a classroom environment.

Perhaps have local trade schools sponsor the project(s), together with local mechanics, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders...etc...
Involving trade schools or institutions like UTI (uti.edu) might even help your "future workforce" in getting that certificate/degree!

Sponsoring would be crucial for workspace, tools, initial bills, etc...

Once the skoolie is professionally built (even if done on extremely low budget), it could be used by local municipalities for emergency housing in case of disasters, homeless shelters, mobile offices...whatever "city hall" could donate, would help your organization

Just my 2Cs
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Old 06-03-2016, 12:33 PM   #19
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Hmm, I gotta get me some of that rope to smoke

There just isn't a market for the finished "product". I can't imagine any municipality taking the risk of using a home built skoolie for anything but perhaps SWAT team practice.
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Old 06-03-2016, 02:44 PM   #20
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Yeah, I wish there was more opportunity to reuse these vehicles but alas that's not how our society looks at it. It's like FEMA buying thousands of mobile homes for inventory to be ready to respond to a major catastrophe except that when the time comes they find out that half of their inventory is dilapidated and critter-infested because no one was actually maintaining them. Even if we could do something useful like short term emergency housing or ad-hoc offices, it's more likely that the fleet would be neglected and then unusable when called upon... And by no fault of the fleet but the bureaucracy which failed to maintain them.

Now if it were me, I'd look to partner with large churches. Chances are they already have a small fleet of buses that get used infrequently and many even have a maintenance facility to maintain them. A religiously affiliated parolee outreach program could identify suitable candidates and help with things like oversight and support because you cannot turn parolees loose without supervision. The best idea I can think of is an easily adaptable bus interior, being able to switch out maximum seating capacity for an interior with things like portable cooking, bunk beds and such. This allows churches that send groups of church members to national catastrophic events like post-hurricane or tornado to quickly change their passenger bus into a sort of rapid response vehicle. I don't know what kind of red tape this might encounter but I'd like to think that in the face of a catastrophe common sense and humanitarian effort would trump bureaucracy.
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