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Old 09-03-2013, 01:35 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
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Overall total conversion costs?

Hi folks!

Can you help me get a better idea of how much a conversion costs?

I have read that buses bought from dealers often cost 2-3x their otherwise normal value. Does that mean that the full-size buses I see on the 'Florida Church Bus' site are equally over-priced, selling for 7500 to 14900?

My goals are a conversion that preserves the wheelchair lift (I am in a power wheelchair, which weighs about 232 pounds without me in it, including batteries), and that is (eventually) suitable for 2 people. To start with, I'd want at least a full-size bed (queen preferred), a way to sh*t, shower and shave, a way to store/cook food, some place to eat it and then to clean up the remains and wash the stuff I used, and a desk to use my laptop, to surf the Internet or play games if I so desired.

I'd want the conversion to be suited to my needs - Raised toilet seat, grab bars in the shower, lowered kitchen-area sink, etc.

I know that some save cash by getting nice stuff second-hand. I have no sources for this stuff, so at the moment, I am assuming that I would need to buy it all new.

I'm in San Francisco in a very small apartment, with no outdoor space of my own to put a bus to work on, so that would also need to solved, and I'm not sure how, as it is not something that I have ever attempted.

My physical ability to do the actual conversion (for example, to plan the entire conversion, design and build the walls, install a shower/toilet, etc) is rather limited. It's difficult to do these things with cerebral palsy. Mind you, not impossible, but very difficult. I would almost certainly need a lot of help. For some of it, such as planning the conversion, that can be handled by educating myself with this forum, and a pad of paper and a pen, or their virtual equivalents. For the actual build process, that would require physical help.

But before I do any of this, I'm, hoping to get a ballpark estimate of how much cash I'd be spending.

With all these complications, some of you may be wondering why I still want to do this, and why I don't just keep my "very small apartment" and be happy. For a few reasons. One, I want a sense of the freedom to go wherever I want, such as out on national forest land, by a lake, etc. I have some traveling in mind. Two, I would feel pride at the sense of accomplishment in having done as much as I physically could to help build the conversion, which is something that not only have I never done, but also something that former friends of mine have said that I could never do. Three, after all this is done, if I choose to stay in one place or a close area for a while while I enjoy it, it can turn out to be much cheaper than paying over half my income just to rent in San Francisco.
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Old 09-03-2013, 02:16 PM   #2
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Re: Overall total conversion costs?

I don't know what the complete conversion cost will be, because I'm just getting started. As for bus price, from the schools themselves you can get it from $2,100.00 to $4,000.00. That is for a bus only 12 -13 years old. You can get it cheaper for an older bus.

There are many examples here on how to do the conversion on a shoe string, by getting things from a recycle place to Habitat for Humanity.

I live in a small apartment too and talked to a local business owner to rent a space on his parking lot. It took ten tries before I found someone who would let me. Look for people who think out of the box, like tattoo shops or coop grocery store. Iím at the tattoo shop and discovered our coop grocery would have let me park there too.

Good luck.
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Old 09-03-2013, 02:27 PM   #3
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Re: Overall total conversion costs?

My daughter attends an engineering magnet school here and she mentioned our bus to the head of her school. She was very excited about the project and requested updates and information. I suspect that I could probably get some help from the school if I were inclined to ask, (but my bus has seen enough kids ) Anyhow I guess what I'm saying is look to your community for help, I am sure someone, somewhere in SF would love to help with labor on a bus conversion. You might find a school willing to help out with the bus as well. Contact your local Boy Scouts, maybe they have a kid looking for a worthy project to get his Eagle Badge. I wish I had budget info for you, but I do not... I am in early stages and have had a couple financial set-backs, as well as living through the 100* summers here in Texas. We should resume conversion in a few more weeks when temps get down into the more reasonable 90's...lmao. Good luck!!
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Old 09-03-2013, 02:38 PM   #4
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Re: Overall total conversion costs?

you should not have to pay more than say $5k period...keep looking end of school year/new years are best times for recent retires from school system

and if you act soon you could pick up a Crown in Cali...

Few items worth noting...Cali is very evil with "dirty" diesel buses/trucks (exhaust) who knows what the next 2 years will bring


where are you going to park this bus? Cali is very anti live in vehicles(I thought or think)
I take it you live in SF...there has been recent activity buy city to curb "RV" living

As for cost?

my counter tops cost about $5 each for the raw wood...if you "have to have" granite/concrete etc...that adds up!!!

flooring anywhere from $10 for cleaning supplies to a couple $$ per sq foot to imported Italian fossil tiles

so it really means this....what will it cost ME?

start making lists of your wants and needs

good luck...and free labor is hard to come by...friends and food and drink can work to some degree
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Old 09-03-2013, 03:38 PM   #5
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Re: Overall total conversion costs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetBearCub
I have read that buses bought from dealers often cost 2-3x their otherwise normal value. Does that mean that the full-size buses I see on the 'Florida Church Bus' site are equally over-priced, selling for 7500 to 14900?
In my (limited) experience, it seemed every bus that was aggressively marketed to church congregations was also over-priced. One seller commented that the people buying for church groups often don't have a clear idea about what they're doing and what a good deal looks like. Seems that the Lord's money is as good as tax money. *sigh*

We all have our reasons for deciding to do a skoolie conversion; yours sound as good as any. I suppose most of us could summarize as you have: mass-market RV doesn't meet my need/desire X adequately, and I enjoy building stuff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetBearCub
I'd want the conversion to be suited to my needs - Raised toilet seat, grab bars in the shower, lowered kitchen-area sink, etc.

I know that some save cash by getting nice stuff second-hand. I have no sources for this stuff, so at the moment, I am assuming that I would need to buy it all new.
Some of the ADA-spec type stuff that is best suited for your needs could be challenging to find second-hand (the toilet, in particular) and you might want to plan new for that. Even so, a looks-a-lot-like-residential type toilet like the Revolution 320 (which I recently bought for my bus and like quite well) isn't extremely scary on the price. That model happens to accept normal residential elongated seats, so if you have a particular raised seat you like having on top of a regular elongated toilet, it would probably work on this toilet too. Most other stuff such as sink basin, shower stall/tub, refrigerator, will be relatively easy to find second-hand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetBearCub
I'm in San Francisco in a very small apartment, with no outdoor space of my own to put a bus to work on, so that would also need to solved, and I'm not sure how, as it is not something that I have ever attempted.
I don't really have anything nice to say about the Bay area, except perhaps that it's a nice place to go for short visits! Finding a place to park a bus under construction, which is convenient for you and helpers to visit yet also affordable, could prove difficult.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetBearCub
But before I do any of this, I'm, hoping to get a ballpark estimate of how much cash I'd be spending.
That Depends. Cost varies as widely as taste. If "metal box on wheels with operational power train" suits you, then there are buses to be found in the $2000 ballpark for you. If you want to be more selective, for example with the chair lift requirement and maybe the style of lift and its placement on the chassis, that's going to make things harder (increase cost and/or spend more time hunting for a good match). Also consider how California's Clean Diesel requirements may affect your bus. Beyond the cost of the bus itself, here are some of the bigger-ticket items to help draw up your estimates:
  • electrical: generator, power inverter, house batteries[/*:m:36p7ov2b]
  • plumbing: water tanks, water heater, toilet[/*:m:36p7ov2b]
  • cabinetry[/*:m:36p7ov2b]
  • insulation[/*:m:36p7ov2b]
  • bodywork repair, paint[/*:m:36p7ov2b]
You might decide, based on how you want to use the bus, that you don't need some of these and can trim the cost accordingly. Welcome, and enjoy the ride!
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Old 09-03-2013, 05:24 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Re: Overall total conversion costs?

wmkbailey - Thanks for the ballpark bare bus estimates and the creative parking ideas - I hadn't considered those!

Malkieri - Thanks for the ideas on where to turn for community help. I hope you get back on track soon!

bansil - I keep reading on here that Crown buses are quite sought after. Why is that? I can't say that I will be acting soon, but my rough calculations show that if my budget stays on the rails (and I stay away from the temptation of going back to smoking cigarettes - 15 days clean today) that I should have about $7,000 or a hair more by July 2014. More than enough to buy a good bus, and I hope to change over to a MH title, get it insured, etc. Plus of course the requisite full fluid change with synthetics, and filters. Yes, I do live in San Francisco. However, I have no particular attachment to it. I will have to probably come back to Berkeley, where my wheelchair dealer is, to have any warranty or insurance-paid work done on the chair - batteries, tires, etc, In fact many dealers will not touch a chair that they did not sell, so hell, for practically any work. I have seen some RVs parked in the city, though they were classes B and C. No skoolies. My tastes would start out pretty basic. and I could hopefully upgrade later. Basic indoor carpeting for my floor material, basic wood for the countertops, etc. The labor doesn't have to all be free, I am willing to pay for expertise (as I save up for it), but I of course would want to minimize that.

family wagon - FCB did seem like such a ripoff, ah well. I figured that not all the stuff would be easily found secondhand, and I expected to pay for some of it new. heh, who knows, I may secure some help elsewhere in the state or country, and have to buy the bus, get it road-legal, and drive the empty shell to the help, with basic provisions inside. Can you give me a better understanding of how CA's "Clean Diesel" requirements might affect my plans?

Thanks to all who have replied so far!
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Old 09-03-2013, 06:29 PM   #7
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Re: Overall total conversion costs?

1 thing has kinda been nagging at me about the wheelchair lift since I read this, and I finally put my finger on it. I don't think the average bus wheelchair lift was designed for rider operation, they seem to assume a second person for use. I have a lift in my bus (I plan on leaving it for heavy lifting for my business) and it is less than user friendly. In order to operate it, the bus has to be running in neutral with the parking brake engaged. Which simply requires a remote starter, no big deal I would guess. Here's where it gets a bit more complex. The latch for the door to my lift is at about eye level for me so 5' or so off the ground which I would guess would be hard to reach from a seated position. Also the remote control for the lift is wired to the lift and has a little hook to hang it on the door which would be difficult to access from inside and closing the door from inside would be impossible once the lift is up as it fills the space. This also seems silly to even bring up but you may want to look for a lift mounted in the front like some of buses have, as a rear mount like mine means you can't have the bed back there. I know none of this is impossible to work out but I wanted to be sure you have all the info about these lifts before assuming something and getting stuck without a plan and budget. There are some videos of these lifts in operation on youtube if you are curious about them.
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Old 09-03-2013, 06:32 PM   #8
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Re: Overall total conversion costs?

Oh and congrats on quitting smoking I quit last Feb after 22 years of smoking. I have quit many times over the years, but this was the last time. I feel much better than I have in years. It does take a bit to start feeling good, but hang in there it's worth it!! Oh yeah and food tastes better!!
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Old 09-03-2013, 06:51 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Re: Overall total conversion costs?

Malkieri - Yes, I remember those bus lifts from when I was in elementary school. The bus I rode had an aide who operated it (leaving the driver free to drive), but since I can walk (just not well), I can wheel up to the bus, open the lift and front door, start the bus, deploy the lift, go back out and secure my chair on the lift, and go back in, lift up the chair and secure it, then go close the lift door. It seems like a lot of work, and it may be, but thems the breaks when you're disabled sometimes.

I will look for one with a front lift, as I do want my bedroom in the back. If that is not possible in my price range, then I will have to modify the floorplan.

Thanks for the encouragement on staying quit!
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Old 09-03-2013, 07:51 PM   #10
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Re: Overall total conversion costs?

Look at browncrowns pimp azz ride...that is the crowns you have in cali
.
.
All of the lift issues are easy to overcome with alittle cash and a fabricator that has brains and a heart.....mid or front lift would be best.

Do you need any "different" controls?
That "might" a difference...probably not much tho'
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