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Old 12-21-2014, 01:58 AM   #1
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Newbie wants a Skoolie. Need to be informed

Reposting this in this forum category because I think I got it in the wrong category last time.

(I apologize in advance for all the wordage. I'm just excited and have many questions)

So me and my friends always go on roadtrips, we want to take more but we're limited by the size of our car (we have a lot of friends), which is cramped and uncomfortable, and how far we can go before we have to either turn around or get a hotel. I always toyed with the idea of getting a bus and tearing out the back seats and making it a road trip vehicle but now I think I finally have the resources to do so.

My budget for the bus itself is $4000-$6000 for a bus that sits something around 55-70 people; though I will modify it so it seats up to 10-12 max. My parents will generously be covering half of that as long as I can show them I raised the other half. My God Brother will help me raise that other half, if I can convince him this will be a good investment (So that we're individually raising between $1000 to $1500). Is this a reasonable goal? My finances are stable now, I've got college and bills figured out and just made a call to get me another job (which I have the time for) so I can put all of that money towards a Skoolie. Insurance will probably be split the same way. My parents paying for half and me and my God bro splitting the rest, and repair fees and maintenance will probably be split or alternate between me and my God Bro.

So is that a good price range for a used school bus?

I called up my cousin who modifies and repairs cars, both at home as a hobby and at work, and he has many connections in the field. He said he knows a place where they auction off busses and he can take me there to check it out. He said he also has a paint gun at home and will help me paint it pro bono, and can also cut me deals when it comes to installing pretty much anything. An extra generator, water storage, insulation, etc. etc.

So what are the monthly/yearly costs of owning a bus when it comes to maintenance and repairs? Something that two guys could split if they saved up for it? Also, I've heard about diesel vs. gasoline but what would be best for someone who wants to make many long-distance road trips, maybe even out of state.

And finally, I want to upgrade my skoolie in stages. I'd start by taking out maybe about half the seats, and flipping the other ones around so that they face each other. To cut weight and improve fuel economy. Then I'd tint windows if they aren't tinted, add a rear AC with it's own power supply, make a sleeping area. Then add a shower (I will find a way to fit one). And, if my skoolie survives long enough, install an awesome stereo system and some TVs and other goodies. I've heard that registering a skoolie as an RV is best. In the state of Florida, what's the bare minimum I'd have to do to qualify it as that? I saw the thread where it states what you need in your skoolie for it to count as an RV, is it the same as that? Because with an RV you can use a normal driver's license to drive it in our state. And I haven't bought many vehicles in my life, do I have to register it the second I buy it or can I wait until it fits the RV requirements? That's probably a dumb question...

I have a spot I can keep my skoolie, and with luck I could probably get the parts and people to go to the bus instead of me bringing the bus to them so I don't have to drive it while it's still in bus-form without the proper license. So in that aspect I'm good.

To sum up:

1. Is my bus budget good for the bus size I want? If so, what end of my budget should I expect to find a bus that size in decent condition? Closer to $3000 or $6000?

2. What kind of bus would you recommend for my needs?

3. Gas or diesel for my needs?

4. Yearly/Monthly maintenance cost amount?

5. How much would it cost to do the upgrades I want (A/C, Shower, an extra power source, and eventually stereo, and any other costs I'm currently unaware of)? I'd mostly be outsourcing this to people who are more suited than I to work on these things. Though I might get cut a deal on labor prices. I'm sure that if my cousin vouches for me to his work friends, and they know they're going to get repeat business from me, they could cut labor costs a tad.

6. What limitations are with traveling when it comes to having a Skoolie? I know theme parks always have bus parking but if we wanted to travel to a small city would we have trouble finding close parking (as in parking within reasonable walking distance from the city)? What if we wanted to travel to a big city where you parallel park off the side of the road or pay to park in parking lots? Basically, where can and can't you take a Skoolie?

7. Am I being realistic here? Do you think I could save up for, buy, and modify a school bus in time for summer?
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Old 12-21-2014, 06:20 AM   #2
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First off welcome and to sum up all your questions in one word


YES


Everything is doable as you laid it out, as for FL registration.... Other folks will chime in
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Old 12-21-2014, 09:11 AM   #3
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In Florida, its fairly easy to register. But you will find that you will have to convert the bus first or register it as a commercial vehicle.
No one will insure it until its converted except Progressive- and its commercial insurance.
If you aren't going to do the work yourself, you should buy one already converted that someone else has done all the hard and expensive work on.
If you're outsourcing a lot of the labor it will likely get very expensive.
In time for summer? maybe but I work on mine every day and its going to be pushing it to be done by the summer. I may run out of money.
Where in Florida are you? You could come out and see our bus and get a feel for what all is involved. I've got mine totally gutted now. We are a little north of Apopka.
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Old 12-21-2014, 10:27 AM   #4
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http://orlando.craigslist.org/rvs/4778519999.html
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Old 12-21-2014, 10:53 AM   #5
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Welcome, gl with your hunt. Keep your eye out for a nice cheap 7.3L shuttle bus for me too in your search please. =)
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Old 12-21-2014, 03:21 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
In Florida, its fairly easy to register. But you will find that you will have to convert the bus first or register it as a commercial vehicle.
No one will insure it until its converted except Progressive- and its commercial insurance.
If you aren't going to do the work yourself, you should buy one already converted that someone else has done all the hard and expensive work on.
If you're outsourcing a lot of the labor it will likely get very expensive.
In time for summer? maybe but I work on mine every day and its going to be pushing it to be done by the summer. I may run out of money.
Where in Florida are you? You could come out and see our bus and get a feel for what all is involved. I've got mine totally gutted now. We are a little north of Apopka.
Well I'd do all the interior work. I'm familiar with building stuff from wood and my brother is a welder. It's more installing stuff like plumbing and installing tanks and generators that I'd outsoutsource, or at least get help from an expert. Regardless, I guess I'll save up for the better part of next year if I'm going to have to upgrade it all at once.
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Old 12-21-2014, 03:54 PM   #7
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You can do it all yourself. All it takes is patience and determination. Tools and beer help too.

Gas vs Diesel? Diesel wins hands down. Don't get a gas bus unless you want to spend twice as much on fuel.
To get it titled or insured as an RV, you are going to need a kitchen, a bed, and a bathroom. The insurance company will request photos and will likely send an agent to check it out. You will also likely need to have seating for less than 15 people in order to not need a CDL. My insurance said 9 occupants or less.
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Old 12-21-2014, 04:01 PM   #8
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You can do it all yourself. All it takes is patience and determination. Tools and beer help too.

Gas vs Diesel? Diesel wins hands down. Don't get a gas bus unless you want to spend twice as much on fuel.
To get it titled or insured as an RV, you are going to need a kitchen, a bed, and a bathroom. The insurance company will request photos and will likely send an agent to check it out. You will also likely need to have seating for less than 15 people in order to not need a CDL. My insurance said 9 occupants or less.
You think so? I suppose maybe I could if I pooled my friends in for help... It's just overwhelming for me. I see these progress pics of skoolies and I wouldn't even know where to begin. And then smaller stuff like where to get furniture. Like could I get normal furniture and bolt it down or do I need special furniture? Lots of small things that I still need to learn. As for the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom. How lenient are they on that? Can I put in a mini fridge and a small gas stove in one corner, a sleeping bag and a lamp in the other, and call that my bedroom and kitchen?
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Old 12-21-2014, 04:05 PM   #9
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Welcome, gl with your hunt. Keep your eye out for a nice cheap 7.3L shuttle bus for me too in your search please. =)
Check the Florida/Tampa/Hillsborough surplus and look for their commercial buses. They should have inventory online. I don't remember which but one of those definitely had quite a few shuttle buses. Each for $2500.

One of those, mighta been a different one, also had loooooots of Penske trucks too. I saw them all parked where driving by it. Maybe those could be converted to something too?
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Old 12-21-2014, 04:19 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Snoa View Post
You think so? I suppose maybe I could if I pooled my friends in for help... It's just overwhelming for me. I see these progress pics of skoolies and I wouldn't even know where to begin. And then smaller stuff like where to get furniture. Like could I get normal furniture and bolt it down or do I need special furniture? Lots of small things that I still need to learn. As for the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom. How lenient are they on that? Can I put in a mini fridge and a small gas stove in one corner, a sleeping bag and a lamp in the other, and call that my bedroom and kitchen?
No they will want real "rv-type" conversion work.
Used to be you could have a porta potty and an air mattress.
Now they want to see electrical, cooking, plumbing, and a dedicated sleeping area. Some will only insure it if the work was done by a licensed professional outfit. Progressive and Good Sam will both verify that it is indeed fully converted. They suggest keeping receipts for all work and materials.
Its a bit of a headache dealing with all the stuff involved. But its do-able.
Furniture is up to you... Lots of folks use stuff from Ikea. I'll likely build my own as it really isn't hard to put some benches and a dinette together.
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Old 12-21-2014, 06:45 PM   #11
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You can definitely pull this off on a budget. People regularly throw away (almost) everything you'll need to make this happen. Watch the craigslist free section like a hawk. Consider posting there too, explaining what you're doing and politely asking for help from anyone who might have materials or help for you. Check your local landfill. Talk to contractors and tell them about your project. You can likely get scrap wood, full kitchen tear outs (all the old cabinets when they do a remodel,) appliances, etc.

If you are patient and resourceful, the conversion doesn't need to cost much, especially just to get to the point you can insure it as an rv. And you said you have a place to store it, so you don't even need insurance for a while until its ready to roll.

Doing everything "all at once" is usually the most expensive route. Because instead of waiting for things to pop up at the right price (free) you end up going out to home depot and paying retail. If you can take your time, you'll find most of what you need second hand.

Make sure your friends who plan to enjoy the bus with you actually contribute something to its reality, be it money or time. I'm in a similar age demographic/situation and there are lots of people who will try to free-load off you once all the hard work is done. Beware, just not jaded, people are what they are.
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Old 12-21-2014, 11:37 PM   #12
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No they will want real "rv-type" conversion work.
Used to be you could have a porta potty and an air mattress.
Now they want to see electrical, cooking, plumbing, and a dedicated sleeping area. Some will only insure it if the work was done by a licensed professional outfit. Progressive and Good Sam will both verify that it is indeed fully converted. They suggest keeping receipts for all work and materials.
Its a bit of a headache dealing with all the stuff involved. But its do-able.
Furniture is up to you... Lots of folks use stuff from Ikea. I'll likely build my own as it really isn't hard to put some benches and a dinette together.
Alright. I think I can feel the wheels turning now. I want kitchen and sleeping-related stuff to be space-smart because I would like a lot of the room to go towards entertainment and for it to be as open as a bus can be. So if I had a large mini-fridge and a single element stove with a bed that's either a loft bed or attached to the side of the bus by a hinge and chain so that it can be raised, and be high enough to have a low-sitting couch underneath, would that be good enough for the kitchen and sleeping requirements? And of course a sink too but I think I'd want to have the sink used for both the 'kitchen' and the bathroom.
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Old 12-22-2014, 04:32 AM   #13
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Call any prospective insurance companies and ask them. I'm just relaying to you what Progressive, USAA, and Good Sam told me.
I'm not at all trying to scare or dissuade you. But I LOST my first bus due to not doing all the homework ahead of time.
To me it sounds like you really just want a party bus that can be camped in. I'd not tell the ins folks that. Just use words like "camper" and "motorhome".
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Old 12-22-2014, 09:01 AM   #14
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yes you can use household furniture and bolt/strap it down

biggest downfall is it's normally bigger and plusher which takes up more space

get a bus, strip out seats (save a few right and left hand ones) and play with card board boxes and tape
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Old 12-22-2014, 11:22 AM   #15
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Ya this is definitely a good idea. We did this in my tiny cabin with tape and camp chairs before the walls ever went up just go get a feel for what it would be like living in the space. Drawing it out on paper and actually standing in it aren't even close to the same. The kitchen is the biggest place this helps, as you spend the most amount of time moving around doing things there, so optimizing your workflow really counts.

I've seen people in tiny homes who put shelves/cabinet on the inside of the bathroom door to take advantage of the shower space when not in use. When you want to take a shower you just open the door and close the curtain rod. Put it next to the kitchen and you can open this up for whenever you're cooking.. Might be good for storing things like dishes and anything else not super sensitive to moisture.
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Old 12-22-2014, 06:41 PM   #16
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Call any prospective insurance companies and ask them. I'm just relaying to you what Progressive, USAA, and Good Sam told me.
I'm not at all trying to scare or dissuade you. But I LOST my first bus due to not doing all the homework ahead of time.
To me it sounds like you really just want a party bus that can be camped in. I'd not tell the ins folks that. Just use words like "camper" and "motorhome".
That'd be about right haha. Mainly I just want it to be a comfortable vessel for long roadtrips. Something that doesn't have to make too many stops for anything between point A and point B and can offer more ammenities than something like a shuttlebus could.
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