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Old 09-11-2017, 05:38 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Skoolie vs. motorhome - why should I choose skoolie?

So here's where I am right now.

It'll be a bus to convert, or a motorhome. I'd probably take a mid-size bus, because maneuvering a full-size bus would be troublesome where we intend to take it. On the "motorhome" side, it'd probably be something around 25 feet. (We did a 29-foot diesel class C in 2013 and while I would do it again, that thing was too big for a lot of places where I wanted to go with it.)

I've been hunting around online and found that a mid-size bus weighs in at about 26,000 pounds GVWR. While that isn't empty weight, it's probably not much of a stretch to guess that empty weight would still be over 20,000 pounds and once the conversion is applied, it'd be well over 20,000 pounds. My class C maxed out around 14,000-some pounds.

It seems that decent rust-free motorhomes can be had around here (northeast Ohio) for $5,000 or less. I've seen some in the $2-3K range. They're rust-free because who uses a camper of any kind in weather where there'd be salt on the roads?! If we were to get a bus, to follow the recommendation of other forum members that we splurge on a rust-free bus, we would have to get it from a southern state and that seems like it'd require a long trip and a lot of luck. (We'd have to time the trip to hit at least one substantial auction where we'd be likely to find the kind of bus we want, and then not only would that bus have to prove to be the type we want but we'd also have to win the auction without spending a fortune to do so.)

So to get a decent bus, we'd be looking at probably $3,000 just to buy it... then we'd have to put all of the work into it. It seems to me that few to none of them have underbody storage, and school buses certainly don't have generators. To install a generator on a diesel-powered school bus, I'd either have to go with the gas generator I already have (meaning I'd have to maintain a separate fuel supply for that generator, which brings with it the added issue of the generator shutting off when the fuel runs out in only a few hours... forget trying to sleep through the night with it running if we need A/C) or buy a diesel generator to hook into the main fuel tank (diesel generators are WICKEDLY expensive - several thousand dollars new, and commensurate to their sticker price on the used market - and I imagine that the work to hook it into the tank would be no cheap deal either, since I doubt I'd be able to do that job myself).

It looks like a conversion could easily run up around $10,000 total, and that's for "nothing fancy". Whereas, to buy a motorhome with the same amenities already installed and working, it'd be half that. (It'll be a gas-powered model for sure, but let's play with that - my class C got 11 mpg on diesel and I rarely put it up above 55 mph. How could a bus that weighs several thousand pounds more than that return the same or better mileage? Getting 11 mpg on diesel, I'd be coming out roughly even on fuel cost having something that ran on gasoline and only got 8 mpg.)

I like the idea of being able to customize what goes where on a bus, but the more I think about it, the more I worry about the overall cost and wonder why it seems like it's going to cost more than a comparable motorhome. On top of that, I have to contend with the fact that the maintenance on a bus will be like the maintenance on a heavy-duty commercial truck. Those huge tires probably cost a fortune, you probably can't buy parts off the shelf at Auto Zone, and finding a mechanic to work on it when necessary doesn't strike me as something easily done.

Am I missing something here or have I sized up the situation relatively well? What reasons would you give a total newbie like me for why I should choose a bus to convert, instead of a motorhome?
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:37 PM   #2
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I think $$ wise you are right,.... but if you envision something special, enjoy building your dreams want something a little sturdier and safer then a conventional RV is not an option.

Good luck, J
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:42 PM   #3
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I have a 40' RE with a DT530 engine and Auto Zone had parts for me the next day.

The main reason that I am building is safety. Do a Google search for motorhome accident and you will see why.

Just my 2 cents.

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Old 09-11-2017, 08:00 PM   #4
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alot of people build skoolies for the fasct it can be fully customized to your needs... everyone here is using their busses in different ways... some are living and working in them.. and everyone;s work is different, everyone's living needs are different....

those building motorhomes. also may have different needs.. maybe want a roof-deck, or gafage area for carrying bikes/ race cars, etc, want something more rugged that can handle harsher conditions.. are planning to live/ travel in harsh weather where factory-built motorhomes arent designed for.. so the skoolie is born.

you also arent likely to find Diesel motorhomes for the prices you mention, whereas most of the skoolies are diesels.. and if you are travelling long distances, or in the hills.. diesel can make all the difference in $$ and driveability.. .

there is a lot of work to build a full-fledged motorhome oiut of a school bus.. but you will learn a lot in the process, and feel accomplished that you built something the way you want it to be and fits your needs / wants..

and it may be that a school bus doesnt fit your needs..

-Christopher
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Old 09-11-2017, 08:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
I think $$ wise you are right,.... but if you envision something special, enjoy building your dreams want something a little sturdier and safer then a conventional RV is not an option.

Good luck, J
I envision something special because my wife and I are of unusual dimensions and also because I would like to be able to take a few people along with us occasionally. Though I suppose a motorhome could do that, one would think it'd be a bit easier with a bus that has some of the seats still in it... though that would probably cut into our available space...

I like building, but I'm not certain how much time I will have to get it done. It seems that there are never enough hours in the day as it is. I have so many projects... not sure how "just one more (huge) project" will fit into my schedule.

And I do like safety... I've been a safety nut for my entire life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by T-Bolt View Post
I have a 40' RE with a DT530 engine and Auto Zone had parts for me the next day.

The main reason that I am building is safety. Do a Google search for motorhome accident and you will see why.

Just my 2 cents.

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Perhaps I shall. May it never be said that I'm one of those people who refuses to look at what happens in reality because he's too afraid of having to change his mind or his modus operandi on account thereof.
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Old 09-11-2017, 08:21 PM   #6
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Cadillac Kid, huh? I have a 1972 Calais. I've also owned a 1972 Sedan DeVille (my first car... perished in an accident with a drunk driver) and a 1981 Coupe DeVille (V8-6-4 worked perfectly, got great gas mileage, sold to the local "crazy cat lady" when I had to downsize from six cars to two). The Calais was my "I miss my first car" car.

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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
alot of people build skoolies for the fasct it can be fully customized to your needs... everyone here is using their busses in different ways... some are living and working in them.. and everyone;s work is different, everyone's living needs are different....
My wife and I are traveling musicians. I imagine that it would be a rare trip where we weren't playing some shows along the way... if we play shows, the trip can be mostly (if not entirely) a tax write-off, and on top of that, we really can't afford to just take vacations. We don't make much money doing what we do, and going several days without singing is bad when you're a professional singer.

I'm 6'2", she's 6'3". I'm of relatively average dimensions, she is "pear-shaped", and what a booty it is. (What can I say... we all have our tastes!) The problem with most (if not all) standard motorhomes is that the passageways are not designed for people of uncommon width nor are they designed at all for people of uncommon height. We also have to figure that we have a child on the way in November, so it'll have to accommodate at least a small crib when we're parked, and a car seat when we're rolling.

We envision using it for relatively short trips in the beginning - two weeks or so - but potentially using it for becoming "snowbirds", living in it for 4-5 months out of the year in a southern clime so that we don't have to deal with the snow. We have to be able to park it in nursing home and assisted living home parking lots that have "parking at a premium"... if it weren't for that, I'd be happy to go with a bigger motorhome or a full-size bus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
those building motorhomes. also may have different needs.. maybe want a roof-deck, or gafage area for carrying bikes/ race cars, etc, want something more rugged that can handle harsher conditions.. are planning to live/ travel in harsh weather where factory-built motorhomes arent designed for.. so the skoolie is born.
We'll definitely need A/C and heat, but I don't anticipate using the vehicle in areas that have brutal climates at the times when those climates are brutal. No Texas in the summer, no North Dakota in the winter, etc. It has to be able to handle constant loading and unloading of our equipment.

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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
you also arent likely to find Diesel motorhomes for the prices you mention, whereas most of the skoolies are diesels.. and if you are travelling long distances, or in the hills.. diesel can make all the difference in $$ and driveability.. .
I'm not set on having diesel. I've had two diesel-powered vehicles and there are reasons why I'd be happy not going back to diesel. We will be driving long distances, and perhaps through hills and mountains (but I don't see us going "off the beaten path" in the mountains). Even when I had the diesel, I "babied" it on steep hills because regardless of the engine's output, the transmission has to handle the power and I didn't want to be flogging the transmission. I really don't care if the engine is weak... I drive a Prius for my main mount. I won't win any stoplight challenges with it but I will get 45 miles per gallon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
there is a lot of work to build a full-fledged motorhome oiut of a school bus.. but you will learn a lot in the process, and feel accomplished that you built something the way you want it to be and fits your needs / wants..

and it may be that a school bus doesnt fit your needs..

-Christopher
Part of me is worried about doing that because it'd be all too easy for the vehicle to get wrecked. Okay, so a bus has physics on its side in a collision with a regular car, but any vehicle can get wrecked. The insurance company won't care about how special I made it, when considering whether or not to total it out.

However, you do have a point.

It's just a matter of whether or not that point is worth a few thousand dollars. I'm a tightwad with money, mostly because we don't make much.
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Old 09-11-2017, 09:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
So here's where I am right now.

It'll be a bus to convert, or a motorhome. I'd probably take a mid-size bus, because maneuvering a full-size bus would be troublesome where we intend to take it. On the "motorhome" side, it'd probably be something around 25 feet. (We did a 29-foot diesel class C in 2013 and while I would do it again, that thing was too big for a lot of places where I wanted to go with it.)

I've been hunting around online and found that a mid-size bus weighs in at about 26,000 pounds GVWR. While that isn't empty weight, it's probably not much of a stretch to guess that empty weight would still be over 20,000 pounds and once the conversion is applied, it'd be well over 20,000 pounds. My class C maxed out around 14,000-some pounds.

It seems that decent rust-free motorhomes can be had around here (northeast Ohio) for $5,000 or less. I've seen some in the $2-3K range. They're rust-free because who uses a camper of any kind in weather where there'd be salt on the roads?! If we were to get a bus, to follow the recommendation of other forum members that we splurge on a rust-free bus, we would have to get it from a southern state and that seems like it'd require a long trip and a lot of luck. (We'd have to time the trip to hit at least one substantial auction where we'd be likely to find the kind of bus we want, and then not only would that bus have to prove to be the type we want but we'd also have to win the auction without spending a fortune to do so.)

So to get a decent bus, we'd be looking at probably $3,000 just to buy it... then we'd have to put all of the work into it. It seems to me that few to none of them have underbody storage, and school buses certainly don't have generators. To install a generator on a diesel-powered school bus, I'd either have to go with the gas generator I already have (meaning I'd have to maintain a separate fuel supply for that generator, which brings with it the added issue of the generator shutting off when the fuel runs out in only a few hours... forget trying to sleep through the night with it running if we need A/C) or buy a diesel generator to hook into the main fuel tank (diesel generators are WICKEDLY expensive - several thousand dollars new, and commensurate to their sticker price on the used market - and I imagine that the work to hook it into the tank would be no cheap deal either, since I doubt I'd be able to do that job myself).

It looks like a conversion could easily run up around $10,000 total, and that's for "nothing fancy". Whereas, to buy a motorhome with the same amenities already installed and working, it'd be half that. (It'll be a gas-powered model for sure, but let's play with that - my class C got 11 mpg on diesel and I rarely put it up above 55 mph. How could a bus that weighs several thousand pounds more than that return the same or better mileage? Getting 11 mpg on diesel, I'd be coming out roughly even on fuel cost having something that ran on gasoline and only got 8 mpg.)

I like the idea of being able to customize what goes where on a bus, but the more I think about it, the more I worry about the overall cost and wonder why it seems like it's going to cost more than a comparable motorhome. On top of that, I have to contend with the fact that the maintenance on a bus will be like the maintenance on a heavy-duty commercial truck. Those huge tires probably cost a fortune, you probably can't buy parts off the shelf at Auto Zone, and finding a mechanic to work on it when necessary doesn't strike me as something easily done.

Am I missing something here or have I sized up the situation relatively well? What reasons would you give a total newbie like me for why I should choose a bus to convert, instead of a motorhome?
Time spent on a conversion is free and priceless and makes your life better.
A used commercial bulit motorhome has a shelf life of about 12 yrs and lenders consider a hose failure behind a wall nothing they want to do with.
Tires are about #300.00 each plus mount and balance some times.
I have a 5.9 Diesel and i get maybe 16 mpg at 61 mph.
Class C stuff means nothing with a Class A Motorhome in MISSOURI. I have air brakes also.
Not very mechanical? Have a lot of money and a lot of time to spend in a motel while they order parts and fix it.

The best i can say is that i spent the night at La Quinta in Paris Tex last Sunday night. A LA Quita might fit you the best.
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Old 09-12-2017, 07:18 AM   #8
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Join Date: May 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
Cadillac Kid, huh? I have a 1972 Calais. I've also owned a 1972 Sedan DeVille (my first car... perished in an accident with a drunk driver) and a 1981 Coupe DeVille (V8-6-4 worked perfectly, got great gas mileage, sold to the local "crazy cat lady" when I had to downsize from six cars to two). The Calais was my "I miss my first car" car.



My wife and I are traveling musicians. I imagine that it would be a rare trip where we weren't playing some shows along the way... if we play shows, the trip can be mostly (if not entirely) a tax write-off, and on top of that, we really can't afford to just take vacations. We don't make much money doing what we do, and going several days without singing is bad when you're a professional singer.

I'm 6'2", she's 6'3". I'm of relatively average dimensions, she is "pear-shaped", and what a booty it is. (What can I say... we all have our tastes!) The problem with most (if not all) standard motorhomes is that the passageways are not designed for people of uncommon width nor are they designed at all for people of uncommon height. We also have to figure that we have a child on the way in November, so it'll have to accommodate at least a small crib when we're parked, and a car seat when we're rolling.

We envision using it for relatively short trips in the beginning - two weeks or so - but potentially using it for becoming "snowbirds", living in it for 4-5 months out of the year in a southern clime so that we don't have to deal with the snow. We have to be able to park it in nursing home and assisted living home parking lots that have "parking at a premium"... if it weren't for that, I'd be happy to go with a bigger motorhome or a full-size bus.



We'll definitely need A/C and heat, but I don't anticipate using the vehicle in areas that have brutal climates at the times when those climates are brutal. No Texas in the summer, no North Dakota in the winter, etc. It has to be able to handle constant loading and unloading of our equipment.



I'm not set on having diesel. I've had two diesel-powered vehicles and there are reasons why I'd be happy not going back to diesel. We will be driving long distances, and perhaps through hills and mountains (but I don't see us going "off the beaten path" in the mountains). Even when I had the diesel, I "babied" it on steep hills because regardless of the engine's output, the transmission has to handle the power and I didn't want to be flogging the transmission. I really don't care if the engine is weak... I drive a Prius for my main mount. I won't win any stoplight challenges with it but I will get 45 miles per gallon.



Part of me is worried about doing that because it'd be all too easy for the vehicle to get wrecked. Okay, so a bus has physics on its side in a collision with a regular car, but any vehicle can get wrecked. The insurance company won't care about how special I made it, when considering whether or not to total it out.

However, you do have a point.

It's just a matter of whether or not that point is worth a few thousand dollars. I'm a tightwad with money, mostly because we don't make much.


NICE!! you had some kickass rides.. ive had a bunch of cadis over the years.. i used to buy them, build them , dfrive them, get tired of them quick so id sell and get another.. I did a HotRod cadi (81 fleetwood where i sold the fully functional 8-6-4 powerplant {after I rebuilt its ECM} for good $$).. then dropped a BUILT 425 in it.. and ran it with cadillac Multi-point EFI so the dash displays and all worked like factory.. fun car!! that one Perished against the side of a Semi (driver dropped his joint and blew a stop sign trying to find it... no joke..). I walked away with just a lot of glass down my pants!..

76 eldo ragtop, 78, fleetwood, 79 eldo, 84 seville, several mid 80s and earely 90s C-body platforms were others.. yeah so cool to meet another cadi dude!!!! kickass!!!

one note - if you are going to try and write off the bus miles or fuel / maint, etc then it must become commercial if its at all part of the business.. if its simply your personal vehicle then you habe some lee-way, but you cant say have a show out of it and write it off on your taxes.. but you can say its my "car" that I drove from place to place in..

I run into this as one of my Busses is a Mobile software / hardware DEV lab... its a "Hobby lab".. I "play" with my network servers and VoIP equipment.. oh and my home automation stuff, computerized Xmas lights lab.. and raspberry PI projects too.. theres a good mix of personal hobbies going on in there that its easy to show its not a "business bus".. however like a personal car being used for work trips i can write the miles off on it.. no different than when I drive my chevy malibu to a customer site.. however if I were to run or demo a live system out of the bus then it becomes a commercial entity used for profit as a business tool..

when that happens it then requires FULL commercial registration, CDL driver license, commercial insurance.. US DOT Number sunbject to the guidelines of professional drivers... log-books, inspections, etc... just like bands that travel in their fancy Prevosts from show to show... their busses are integral to their business.. and often in the company name..

you can Insure your bus just like you can a motorhome.. i carry declared value insurance, full coverage on both of my busses... I have the receipts for the pieces and parts i have bought, the paint jobs, the new tires, the custom A/C parts, etc.. so if one gets destroyed i can make a really good case toward getting a reasonable payout.. no that doesnt help with the labor but it is an option... no different than smashing a classic cadillac.. a risk comes with driving those as well..

2 years went into that 81 Fleetwood and in a split second it was nothing more than mangled plastic, metal, smoke, steam, and shattered glass along US-23... hit that truck so hard it shattered my sunroof panel and broke the 2 front side windows.. but what it DIDNT destroy was my knowledge.. some of my BEST ECM hacking came out of that project.. (if you have followed my redByrd thread in the short bus conversions section you can see where thats come in handy).. the insurance and the trucking company paid out Well on that.. that crash also lead to me finding and scoring a smokin deal on a 76 eldo ragtop.. it ended up being a true Bicentennial and the guy had no clue...

why do i have a bus? im not a camper in the least... at night my bus is parked at the nearest Hampton inn.. nevertheless if i were to ever try Motor-Home style camping then part for me is the 'Big-Riggin' feel of a school bus.. frankly i was a Bus geek all through junior high and high school.. so to me that big steering wheel, whining tires, growling diesel and wide turns are a total Buzz for me... I drove a "glamper" for my 2 friends back n forth to florida and back each year for 10 years... it was a 2004 Prevost Conversion they had custom built... that thing was a beast yet of course refined as they get... super quiet with a seat that had more buttons than a computer keyboard, cameras, parking sensors, you name it.. that bus had it.. but somehow i get a bigger grin on my face when I jump in the seat of one of my School busses.. so for me if i ever build a camper its dar nsure gonna be a school bus!
-Christopher
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Old 09-12-2017, 08:59 AM   #9
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One thing to consider is that most motorhomes are built to be used a few weekends out of the year. They have shiny surfaces, but when you really start using them on a daily basis, you discover all kinds of shortcomings.

I bought an RV and lived in it for just shy of two years. During that time, I had multiple issues with stuff that simply wore out due to continued use. My experience is that the fittings and parts in those things aren't built to last - plumbing, electrical systems, doors, hinges, lights, etc. If you just want a rig to camp in a couple weeks out of the year, then you are way ahead financially to buy a used motorhome. If you want something to live out of for a sustained period of time that will stand up to continued use, or you have particular interests (cold weather use, safety, layouts, etc), then a conversion job becomes more attractive.
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Old 09-12-2017, 09:38 AM   #10
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Quote:
Skoolie vs. motorhome - why should I choose skoolie?
You don't choose skoolie life- skoolie life chooses YOU !

I didn't put much thought process into my bus purchase: bought it and got it home. Got it running good, get it looking good. I try not to overthink things.

It's a lot of work- it has turned into a bit of a compulsion. I have things around the house I have to do, but my mistress beckons. Real lot of work, but I enjoy working.

Old motorhomes are susceptible to leaking- look for mushy floors or dots of mold.
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