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Old 11-12-2018, 09:43 AM   #1
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Join Date: Nov 2018
Location: Boulder, CO
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How much will this cost?

Hello all!

We are looking to begin the process of buying a bus and converting it into our beloved skoolie motorhome. For budgeting purposes, I'm trying to figure out how much the whole process (bus purchase, insurance, registration and building) will cost. NOTE: I understand that the cost will vary depending on what state you live in, what type of bus you buy and how basic or elaborate you are trying to make the skoolie.

THE GOAL of this post is to hear from a variety of you what you spent on the full process from bus purchase to hitting the road. Also, how much would you recommend budgeting for a grand project like this?

(For the record, I spent quite a bit of time surfing forums to see if anyone had asked this already. Couldn't find anything!)

Thanks!
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:21 AM   #2
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Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: Philadelpiha Pennsylvania
Posts: 76
Year: 2007
Coachwork: IC
Chassis: FE Bus
Engine: DT-466 7.6L Turbo Diesel
Rated Cap: 77
My budget is $0. I spent $3500 for a decent running 125,000 mile bus.
I've spent about $500 to service the engine and replace the water pump.
Interior cost nothing to demo. I spent about $500 on tools.
Hammer, punch, magnetic bowl, Drill, Drill bits, Angle Grinder, cut off wheels, Generator, Air compressor, Air wrench, air impact wrench, various air attachments like hose and tire filler, 25mm wrench, 100 piece socket set, Standard and Metric wrench set. [[lots of youtube how to videos]]

You could spend anywhere from a couple thousand to around $30,000 on building out the interior.

Mechanicals I have budgeted are:
Solar: $1000
Kitchen: $1000
Bathroom: $1000
Interior Misc: $1000

Tires and vehicle maintenance are the most expensive part.
Cheap tires are $200-250 each. Michelin or Good year $500/each
and oil changes and filters run around $2-500 a pop.
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Old 11-12-2018, 12:20 PM   #3
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Location: Chattanooga, TN
Posts: 1,026
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Thomas
Engine: CAT 3126
Very build and strategy specific. I would guess that most people on this site spend between $7500 and $35000. I planned to spend $10k and actually spent $25k, and that included getting a lot of components from a wrecked travel trailer I picked up for a few hundred bucks.

All the little things add up. A lot. And it is very hard to adequately see it coming. I probably spent $500 or more on fasters alone. Not even kidding! And that stuff does matter. The right fastener or adhesive or sealant, I paid some tuition into finding out why the details really matter.

How picky are you and how comfortable do you want to be? Also how safe do you want to be?

Itís easy to say that you are ok with a certain inexpensive approach until you see what that actually means day to day.

Sorry. That came off like a rant. It wasnít meant to. I may not have done the project if I could have seen itís real cost in time, money, and medical bills (really), but I am glad I did it.

These projects really are doable, but they are a legit huge can of worms - at least mine was - but Iím sitting in my bus right now as it pours cold rain outside and I am dry, toasty and warm. My bus is one of my favorite places to be.

I was in Chicago last week and before driving home to Chattanooga I did an inspection of the undercarriage by crawling all the way from the back to the front under the bus on my back with a flashlight to make sure everything looked visually good before the drive.

It gave my a chance to reflect on all of the engineering obstacles I had overcome and all of the cold dark nights I spent under there last winter. As I laid on my back reviewing my work, an unexpected and profound sense of pride washed over me. I still see ways I want to improve the bus all the time, and some projects remain unfinished, but the science project paid off.

Iíve now driven all over the country without any significant problems. Last week I put my ten thousandth mile on the bus since completing the main build this May, and it carried my family and dogs safety up the length of the pacific coast highway, to Yosemite, Glacier National Park, and even to Carlsbad Caverns.

I have no regrets. The project took me places both physically and emotionally I never would have gone, and it taught me something new about what I was and was not capable of.

So back to your question of cost, how much does it cost? Who knows, but I would never suggest it as a way to save a bunch of money or to get themselves out of a bad financial/housing situation. My brother just bought a nice used motorhome that was well maintained for $6k. He got a great deal, but they are out there and it is probably a lot more practical solution that a skoolie project if travel or housing for cheap are the main goals.

If you want a project, a skoolie will cost what it costs, but it will pay it back many fold in satisfaction.
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Old 11-12-2018, 01:09 PM   #4
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: in the bus on the road
Posts: 304
Year: 1998
Chassis: amtran
Engine: international md 3060
Rated Cap: 13 ton or so says the tit
Quote:
Originally Posted by CMORGANSKOOL View Post
My budget is $0. I spent $3500 for a decent running 125,000 mile bus.
I've spent about $500 to service the engine and replace the water pump.
Interior cost nothing to demo. I spent about $500 on tools.
Hammer, punch, magnetic bowl, Drill, Drill bits, Angle Grinder, cut off wheels, Generator, Air compressor, Air wrench, air impact wrench, various air attachments like hose and tire filler, 25mm wrench, 100 piece socket set, Standard and Metric wrench set. [[lots of youtube how to videos]]

You could spend anywhere from a couple thousand to around $30,000 on building out the interior.

Mechanicals I have budgeted are:
Solar: $1000
Kitchen: $1000
Bathroom: $1000
Interior Misc: $1000

Tires and vehicle maintenance are the most expensive part.
Cheap tires are $200-250 each. Michelin or Good year $500/each
and oil changes and filters run around $2-500 a pop.
Sounds about right. I bought an international with a dt 466e and an Allison 3060. Id try for something similar or at least a 5 speed. You don't want to run the highway at 55. I paid 2600 for it. Ill defer to mr cmorgan on the other costs. A grand for thesolar Seems a little light tho. I have 5 batteries that cost 450 each. 2 invertors. One for while the bus is running and onefor the invertor. In other words its a hole in the highway for you to throw money into. Worth every minute. And every penny. We have been on the road in it for 3 years now. No home base. Completely of grid. Any time out breaks down the cost begins at a grand. I'm a tattoo artist and we get each new thing for it one at a time. We moved in before it was done. I also pay 1500 a year in insurance. That's a bit much, but we are covered for everything. Well worth it. A single tow can run 2500.00
Anywho, good luck.
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Old 11-12-2018, 03:27 PM   #5
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Decatur, Illinois
Posts: 67
Year: 1992
Rated Cap: 35 kids
1992 Bluebird medium size bus-$1700...conversion (so far) - $15,000....tune up in the spring of 2019-$600....License plates, titles, insurance- $500...total $17,800 ...this cost would probably have been a little less if I had not changed my mind on a couple renovations and a lot more if I would have had someone else do the work. Luckily I was able to do all the work myself with a little assistance from my wife...Changing ideas half way thru added a few hundred dollars to the total and this total includes buying a trailer too...Major expenses included: 3100 watt Generator, 16' trailer, 10k BTU Air conditioner, 12volt/110v refrigerator/freezer, 12" king size memory foam mattress, queen size futon, and 16' motorized awning. I created a somewhat unusual conversion with Hand chairs, mosaic tile, penny covered table/easel, and a lot of other little details...no real regrets though except that I wished the bus was big enough to include a tub/shower, but I guess the shower tent with propane water heater will do....
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Old 11-12-2018, 08:23 PM   #6
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Location: N.C.
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Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david.dgeorge07 View Post



I have no regrets. The project took me places both physically and emotionally I never would have gone, and it taught me something new about what I was and was not capable of.
Very well put, and right on.

I've done a few things outside the normal skoolie box too. With me it hasn't been about the money so much as it's been about figuring out how to make visions into realities, and that jolt you get when you make it happen.

And the pride when you take it for a test run and nothing falls off and maims someone.
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Old 11-14-2018, 03:30 PM   #7
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Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: ...little north of Toronto Ontario
Posts: 536
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Thomsass
Chassis: FreightShaker
Engine: 5.9 Cummins 5 speed
Rated Cap: 2 ATV's and friends
Quote:
Originally Posted by plfking View Post

I've done a few things outside the normal skoolie box too. With me it hasn't been about the money so much as it's been about figuring out how to make visions into realities, and that jolt you get when you make it happen.

And the pride when you take it for a test run and nothing falls off and maims someone.

LMAO....what he said!
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Old 11-14-2018, 05:51 PM   #8
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Greenville,NC
Posts: 35
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: GMC
Engine: GMC/Gasser
Rated Cap: 54
96 BlueBird 47 passenger bus. We have around 14000 in it so far. That includes the purchase price and some big maintenance upgrades like tires and a brake job. We lack now just a hot water heater and the hot water circuit. I am optimistic that we will finish close to 15000. As other people have said the real enjoyment was tackling construction issues thru out the build. It is rewarding to take it out and sit back and enjoy what you created!... Money well spent!
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Old 11-14-2018, 08:19 PM   #9
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Farmington Hills, Mi (Detroit area)
Posts: 1,733
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Eldorado Aerotech 24'
Chassis: Ford E-450 Cutaway Bus
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 19
Ours was finished at 15 grand. Repairs in following years added another 5 to that.
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Old 11-21-2018, 06:18 PM   #10
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Posts: 67
No matter how much it is it will cost less than RV that you buy off a sales lot AND it will be built much better AND be 1000% safer in an accident.
School buses are the safest form of surface transportation on the planet.

Spend money on what you need and not single penny on what you doít need or want.
I have no TV.
I have no awning
I have no oven ( have microwave)
No fancy paint or graphics
.....
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