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Old 08-08-2014, 07:57 PM   #11
Bus Crazy
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Upstate NY (Mohawk Valley)
Posts: 1,094
Re: How far will $1000 get you in a conversion?

I haven't done it, so I can't say for sure, but if you have the time and ability to scrounge for parts rather than buying everything new, you can save a lot.

Some people have torn apart old camping trailers to get all the hardware, plumbing and mechanicals, and then scrapped the hull. I have heard of cases where an old camping trailer, perhaps water damaged, can be had for just taking it away. I should be so lucky. I almost had one lined up, offering to help a now-retired co-worker demolish an old camper. He only wanted to re-use the trailer frame to make a utility trailer. But after retiring, he got a new truck and Travel Trailer, and now he and his wife are home less than 6 months per year. I did get one or two boxes of old "goodies" cleaned out of his basement.

I save old switches, nuts, bolts, boards, and plumbing parts. If I need a particular bolt and can find it in the bolt can, that saves maybe 85 at Home Depot and the $3.60 in gas to get there and back. Multiply that by a dozen or so and it begins to add up. With electrical it is even more. An old radio or appliance headed for the dumpster might have a switch or relay that would be worth $10-$15 new. A good piece of left-over plywood from a shipping container saves at least $20. My tool boxes have better-than-new replacement latches from shipping crates, and one has a handle saved from a 1960's fire truck radio. And new copper pipe is being priced out of existence.

Most of the towns around here have one day per year when the highway departments will pick up large items for disposal. You can cruise the neighborhoods to find old counter tops, cabinets or sinks among the old bicycles, fake wood entertainment centers, arm chairs and the like.

Some people give things away on Freecycle.

To be frugal, you need advance time, storage space, and the ability to visualize re-purposing cast-off or yard sale items. These method will not work if you buy a bus and are in a hurry and need to be full-time in 3 weeks for a new job at the other side of the country.

I'm also shocked by the price increases of everything. Last year's $1000 seems to be this year's $1300.
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Old 08-08-2014, 09:33 PM   #12
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Roswell, NM
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Year: 1986
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Chassis: 40 ft All American FE
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Re: How far will $1000 get you in a conversion?

To get an idea of what your conversion will cost, add it up. You really can't get an idea based on other people's conversion budgets. Too many variables.

Make a fairly comprehensive list of what you want in your conversion. Get specific. Then use the internet to find prices. That will give you a starting point on figuring conversion costs. Using full sized appliances will be cheaper (and safer in some cases) than using RV stuff. It will also allow you to buy used appliances as well at a decent price. Craigslist, flea markets, yard sales, etc will yield stuff that you can repurpose. For actual buying (not for pricing purposes) use as you can often get some really good buys (watch out for shipping charges). Like Redbear said, short time frames will cost you money. Lack of willingness to learn how to repurpose new or used items will also cost you money. Inability/unwillingness to think outside the box to adjust typical building methods will cost you money. Lack of a plan will cost you money.

How far did $1000 get us? Hard to tell. We had moved into the bus before we hit that point. It was little more than a painted partially insulated metal tent with a working toilet, limited running cold water, cooking (owned the full size residential range... love my range so much that we paid storage fees to store it for 4 years and had a small microwave already which has since burned up and been replaced with another $100 microwave not counted in the conversion budget although the used washer & dryer as well as the LP conversion kit is included) and refrigeration (owned the freezer, one refrigerator and bought a used dorm refrigerator for $10 at a yard sale). We had a lot of stuff that we had bought, bartered, repurposed or been given before we started converting. We are almost finished and are up to about $5400. We have splurged a bit on some things and decided to upgrade a little (like using ceramic tile rather than plastic laminate for galley countertops). We added an LP firebox ($369) to put in the fireplace mantle ($0). The flooring that we have finally decided on (and may push back on installing) will run a tad under $400 (I need to refigure the square footage needed). Our proposed budget is $6K. Our goal is to try and stay as close to that amount as possible. We figure we should hit about $8K by the time we are finished due to increasing materials pricing and the upgrades we have decided to do (like the new dishwasher that we plan to buy during the Black Friday Sale in November).
This post is my opinion. It is not intended to influence anyone's judgment nor do I advocate anyone do what I propose.
Fulltime since 2006
The goal of life is living in agreement with nature. Zeno (335BC-264BC)
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Old 08-08-2014, 10:31 PM   #13
Bus Nut
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Colorado
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Year: 1993
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Re: How far will $1000 get you in a conversion?

my first $1000 was 3 batteries and a tank of fuel.
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Old 08-11-2014, 01:58 PM   #14
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Farmington Hills, Mi (Detroit area)
Posts: 1,341
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Eldorado Aerotech 24'
Chassis: Ford E-450 Cutaway Bus
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Re: How far will $1000 get you in a conversion?

A grand won't get you very far unless you plan to be pretty minimalist in the creature comforts. It's amazing how much the incidental stuff like adhesives, fasteners, paint and lumber costs. I made what I thought was a comprehensive cost estimate before beginning our build and ended up nearly doubling it.

The bus mechanicals will likely need some work themselves and that grand could easily melt away before you even get to the conversion.

Here's a link to my cost list:

The Roach Motel
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