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Old 11-12-2018, 09:43 AM   #1
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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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Location: Philadelpiha Pennsylvania
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Year: 2007
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Engine: DT-466 7.6L Turbo Diesel
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Old 11-21-2018, 09:51 PM   #11
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In other words its a hole in the highway for you to throw money into.Ē
Haha!! So true!
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Old 11-21-2018, 10:09 PM   #12
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More than you think

Budgeted 12k including bus purchase. Looking at around 15-16k prob before said and done. Itís an 8 window,, so expect more for longer buses. It just adds up. We also donít have plumbing, just electric from solar/generators, and a fridge, using propane camp stove for cooking. Weíre just weekend users also, not full time living in the bus.
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Old 11-21-2018, 11:40 PM   #13
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Because I have a rv my yearly vacations is a whole month instead of about a week.
I built mine for two reasons.
1 to avoid the high cost of motel rooms.
2. I could not afford a RV off a sales lot even if I thought they were acceptable.
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Old 11-22-2018, 03:02 AM   #14
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There is not real concrete amount for what a conversion will cost.

The most expensive single part of the conversion is the bus and getting the bus up to snuff. Since most used school buses are well used it isn't unusual for the school/operator who is selling the bus to put every worn out mismatched tire/wheel on the bus that going out the gate. Even if your bus is sold with decent rubber, if you take more than a couple of years to get the conversion done those good tires will be aging out. In other words, don't pass on a particular bus just because it has worn out tires and don't rush out to replace them right away. Once you get ready to hit the road you want the newest tires possible.

The next most expensive is getting the interior insulated and fitted out with your cabinets and walls.

Appliances, roof A/C units, tanks, furnace, hot water heater, gen set, etc can be purchased as a set in a wrecked RV for a fraction of what the individual items would cost.

A real low budget conversion could be made for under $10K. It would be very minimalist on amenities but the important stuff like running gear and insulation would be done.

Upgrading materials used in the floor coverings, cabinets, walls, and ceiling panels can add several thousand $$$ from the $10K figure.

Installing a solar array with an extensive battery pack with state of the art controllers, a state of the art invertor/convertor/smart charger can easily add an additional $10K.

A high end, single color professionally done paint job can start at $5K and double or triple that amount if you want anything besides something like fleet white.

Raising the roof, adding slides, or making any significant alterations to windows and doors can add thousands of $$$ onto the cost of the conversion.

The beauty of a DIY conversion is you don't need to pay out the whole chunk at one time like you would if you were purchasing a ready to go conversion or an RV.

The final cost of everything is wholly dependent upon purchasing the right bus at the start. Purchasing a low HP slow gear route bus is going to cost a lot more to upgrade to a high HP fast gear trip bus than if you spend the extra $$$ up front.

A rust bucket with great running gear may seem like a real bargain until you start having to deal with repairing the rust damage.

I suppose what I am saying is you need to first determine when you intend to use it (outside ambient temps will dictate how well you need to insulate, whether hot or cold), how you are going to use it (camping or living), who will be using it (a family has different requirements from a couple or a single), how many miles per year you intend to drive it (slow gearing can be tolerated if you only drive a couple thousand miles per year but can be a real aggravation if you are driving that many miles per month), and where you intend to drive it (staying in flyover country doesn't require nearly as much gradability as compared to crossing the Great Divide multiple times).

Good luck and keep us posted as to your progress.
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Old 11-27-2018, 12:48 AM   #15
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Wilma aint cheap

I have to say that if I get away for less than 25k, Ill be doing good. I look for deals and make compromises where I can.

I think the biggest expense is the repair and maintenance on the drive-train. I work in the trucking industry and see so many RV and Skoolie owners that have no idea how to fix the most basic mechanic issues and this turns into major expenses due to the hourly rate shops charge.

My recommendation, as an ex mechanic and truck shop service writer, learn to work on your rig or it will turn this whole experience in to a living hell. Even if you don't do all of the work, if you can do some or at least know what the shops are telling you, this will help mitigate the cost.

If you sink 20k into a skoolie then find out you toasted your engine for some simply issue, it all goes down the drain. Who here knows where all the grease zirks are on their rig and put a grease gun on them every 10k miles or so? Who carries extra fuel filters and checks their air filter regularly to make sure it is fitted properly and not letting dirt in the engine?

Sorry about the rant, I just see it too often and feel so bad when the proverbial cross country trip ends at my shop.

So keep that in mind when planning the build, these are not cheap rigs, just cheap to buy, not cheap to maintain and fix should it all fall apart.
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Old 11-27-2018, 08:52 AM   #16
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I see people all the time that don't have a clue what their getting into and worse have never did any wrenching besides in a toilet. Sad to see someone pour so much into something only to find out it wont perform on the highway or doesn't for long then they have a huge overhaul bill.... You should always know how to do the basics...
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Old 11-27-2018, 09:14 AM   #17
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With my casual approach to bus ownership its easy to get to know the bus before spending money on it lol. Maybe that's why I keep upgrading!
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Old 11-27-2018, 09:30 AM   #18
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to me, it seems that time is thje most importasnt thing.. and the most overlooked.. and what i mean is taking the time to do your homework before embarking..



im sorry if it sounds mean, but the posts i read where someoine has 22 days until their apartment lease expires and they are basically broke and going to live in a skoolie are the ones thayt make me shake my head..



if full timing it takes time to figure out how to make income, buy fuel, where to park, how to make repairs, not to mention determining what it is you want / need in your bus before building it..



the cost is surely part of it.. budgets here vary wildly just like in any segment of society but ultimately the most valuable thing is giving yourself time.. which oftentimes ends up in $$ saved.. in finding the right bus that runs right, installing the things you need.. learningto do the work yourself where you arent pressured..



when you have the time to research and learn. you will find that you can do much more on your bus than you thought you could..

-Christopher
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