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Old 05-26-2016, 09:33 PM   #1
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Is our budget doable or even realistic?

Hello all! After much lurking on this forum my husband and I started looking seriously into conversions and have even looked at a couple buses in the area, particularly a nice '91 International (72 seater?), DT360 that we can't stop thinking about.

We are in our mid-20s and are tired of throwing many thousands into the wind for rent. We move often, yet we want a place to call our own, many rentals in don't allow dogs, etc etc, so we feel like this is a good alternative living situation until we are settled ~5 years. We have savings to do this project, but the budget would be tight and I'm worried it will be a black hole of unforeseen expenses. We are looking in the ~$6-7k range.

Although that may not seem like much to some of y'all, we have a talented family who are willing to help not just with labor but also materials: carpenters, furniture builders, mechanics, etc.

Thus I am asking you honest people of skoolie, is this a realistic venture? Or are we being hopeless romantics?
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Old 05-26-2016, 10:00 PM   #2
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You've got to buy your bus, do any repairs needed then paint it before you even start building the creature comforts.

Obviously, the more work you can do yourselves the cheaper it will be, but the little stuff adds up fast.

Another big consideration is where you'll park it. For full-time living you'll need water and electrical hookups as well as some kind of sewage removal. You can't just park anywhere. Parking at a campground can be quite expensive.

I did all my own work (except for a couple of suspension repairs), bought used and scratch & dent appliances and scrounged a lot of my materials but our conversion cost $15K. Click the link below and scroll down 8 messages for a list of our expenses.

http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f27/th...l-7156-34.html
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Old 05-27-2016, 06:28 AM   #3
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I think that a tiered structure to your project might be wise: first, you buy a bus and make it legal (some states require a full paint job, others just spray paint over the 'school bus' and removal of the stop sign). Remove the seats and throw down an old rug, a cooler, a bucket with sawdust and kitty litter (OK, and a shower curtain for privacy) and some sleeping bags, and you're done with Tier 1. Do the mechanical tweaks as needed for Tier 2, while keeping an eye on Craigslist for upgrades. Tier 3 might be building a deck for the bed and a counter for your Coleman stove. And so on.

Some states require only your say-so that it is an RV now; others require three out of four working systems (water, sewage, cooking, sleeping) - reregister it as soon as you can.

Disclaimer: I read a lot and think a lot, but I haven't done any of this yet. Might be good advice, might not. Listen to others who have been down the road...
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Old 05-27-2016, 07:10 AM   #4
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I think that a tiered structure to your project might be wise: first, you buy a bus and make it legal (some states require a full paint job, others just spray paint over the 'school bus' and removal of the stop sign). Remove the seats and throw down an old rug, a cooler, a bucket with sawdust and kitty litter (OK, and a shower curtain for privacy) and some sleeping bags, and you're done with Tier 1. Do the mechanical tweaks as needed for Tier 2, while keeping an eye on Craigslist for upgrades. Tier 3 might be building a deck for the bed and a counter for your Coleman stove. And so on.

Some states require only your say-so that it is an RV now; others require three out of four working systems (water, sewage, cooking, sleeping) - reregister it as soon as you can.

Disclaimer: I read a lot and think a lot, but I haven't done any of this yet. Might be good advice, might not. Listen to others who have been down the road...

I'm on the same page as Dapple. When I finally buy a bus I'll be doing it exactly as he says. Stage 1 is to get it road worthy and legal, then remove all the seats so I can use it as a steel "tent" for camping. I'll then build each area as I get the time, money and supplies but will be able to use it throughout the build for trips. But if you have all the money up front you can certainly build it all out at once. Whatever works best for you.
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Old 05-27-2016, 08:52 AM   #5
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as a skoolie owner, i think its a cool goal and doable. i know people that have claimed their's cost that much or less. like the others, im way past your mark.

if you've got a place to park it while living in it you're in good shape.

good luck!
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Old 05-27-2016, 09:39 AM   #6
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We are building our bus for the same reasons you are. We started with a 10k budget and we're pretty close to being on budget for the build. Solar will put us a couple thousand over, but ~12k for a converted bus that can boondock for weeks at a time... I think you're on the right track.
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Old 05-27-2016, 10:14 AM   #7
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You can totaly make your budgett doable. Just depends on what luxurious you HAVE TO HAVE.
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Old 05-27-2016, 02:45 PM   #8
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Depending upon how much you have to pay for your bus and what sort of creature comforts you have to have your budget may or may not be doable.

One way in which to reduce your cost of conversion is to purchase a travel trailer or motorhome for cheap (there are a lot of used ones out there for under $1K). Tanks, appliances, furnace, hot water heater, etc. can eat up a budget very quickly.

The most important thing you have to do is purchase the best bus possible. If you have to get into any engine or transmission repairs or regearing so you can go highway speeds can cost $5K+ at one stop.

Spending a little more to get the better bus is $$$$$$ saved down the road.

Good luck!
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Old 05-27-2016, 03:08 PM   #9
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is the 6-7k for just the bus purchase? or a total?
either way i think there are, as written about in this thread, other factors to consider.
have to know what you want the bus to be when its done. ipaid 5k for R1, have close to 15k total in the bus now, and am within 5k of completely done. started with a 20k budget. but that wasnt cash in hand 20k. it was for sure in tiers. legal and mechanical, make sure you can drive it and it will drive. then build it.
realistically remember that even 1 h2o tank can be 3-500 $ and that is just one of the few essential pieces of the puzzle. dont get disheartened , just decide what in life is worth having the freedom of a house on wheels (no taxes). sell whatever you deem not for the cause, behave, patient, and youll be surprised what the universe drops in your lap. i started in Nov and my wife said theres no way youll have enough $ and time to get it done by june 1 and here we are.

i do/am, paint, certified welder, plumb , electric, master carpenter, fabricator and inventor, er, er , er... though. so it for sure has to factor in with whatever your comfortable skill sets are.
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Old 05-27-2016, 04:47 PM   #10
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Mid 20's here. I came into my bus project with a similar mindset. The more time I put into it the less I care about how much money I'm pouring into it. My current estimate to finish the bus for my "liveable but not complete" tier is about 10-14k. Without first hand experience building similar things like this, I think it's safe to assume a similar budget, however the time it takes to get there will probably be enough time for you to extend your budget. 6-7k will get you to a reasonable start, assuming you have tools/arn't expecting that to fall into your budget. Also worth noting, that I got my bus for 1700 and in towing and repairs I have spent about 4k.

But the little things really add up, example:
I still haven't done electricity for my bus but I got myself a "pure sinewave inverter/charger" by magnum- a respectable american company. That cost me 750. Then I got myself a trimetric battery monitor for about $130. Then I impulse bought a inverter remote panel and a smart battery connector which cost a little under $300 total. My batteries I got for free out of a broken pallet jack, but the 4 new flooded batteries I eventually plan to upgrade to will cost me about $4-500.

My 3 dual pane windows I got for a total of $220, the metal I plan to skin the bus with is going to cost another $250, the flooring will probably cost another $250.

My ramble is all over the place but to conclude: don't worry about the budget as much as affording to do your next few steps. If you buy cheap crap such as laminate flooring, expect to replace it soon which will waste time and money. I think of my bus as an education for my next bus and the future. I expect to use these skills I'm learning for the rest of my life. When I think about what a year of college cost me, my bus is a steal!
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Old 05-27-2016, 04:51 PM   #11
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Wow, thank you everyone for the thoughtful replies!

Yes, we have a place to park it during conversion, complete with hookups if we chose to stay. However, in the town we'd love to eventually check out, no idea where we would park except state parks 2 weeks at a time.

Also that is a great idea- to salvage parts off of an RV!

Yeah that is what worried me the most- one thing could go wrong with the moving parts and it could be the rest of our savings.

http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f11/mo...00-a-9810.html

This is actually the bus we are looking at. Asking $4500 and it has new(er) tires, 3 brand new batteries, and 152xxx miles. Seems like a good deal but we're scared to make the leap.
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Old 05-27-2016, 06:32 PM   #12
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Mechanical everything (I presume), 6'6" ceiling height, does 65-70 easily, and a decent paint job already? Those are pretty desirable features. And are those air conditioners in the ceiling?

Has the person selling it done much to it? (As in, seats/floor/insulation?)
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Old 05-27-2016, 07:42 PM   #13
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Mechanical everything (I presume), 6'6" ceiling height, does 65-70 easily, and a decent paint job already? Those are pretty desirable features. And are those air conditioners in the ceiling?

Has the person selling it done much to it? (As in, seats/floor/insulation?)
Yes, that is what we thought too! It started up fine, lights work, and she says the A/C works too. But she hasn't done anything to it, she decided to build a tiny house on her property instead. :/
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Old 05-28-2016, 03:40 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by beachhousebus View Post
Hello all! After much lurking on this forum my husband and I started looking seriously into conversions and have even looked at a couple buses in the area, particularly a nice '91 International (72 seater?), DT360 that we can't stop thinking about.

We are in our mid-20s and are tired of throwing many thousands into the wind for rent. We move often, yet we want a place to call our own, many rentals in don't allow dogs, etc etc, so we feel like this is a good alternative living situation until we are settled ~5 years. We have savings to do this project, but the budget would be tight and I'm worried it will be a black hole of unforeseen expenses. We are looking in the ~$6-7k range.

Although that may not seem like much to some of y'all, we have a talented family who are willing to help not just with labor but also materials: carpenters, furniture builders, mechanics, etc.

Thus I am asking you honest people of skoolie, is this a realistic venture? Or are we being hopeless romantics?
I will give you my costs at where i am at right now no BS, just upfront real prices.

I spent $4k on a 30ft IC CE 2003 skoolie(that included taxes, registration, NO plates)
I have spent about $300 on tools, as i already had most of what is needed already. I assume most of your friends will have a lot of what you'll need. Make sure you have an angle grinder or 2.

I have spent close to $200 on assorted grinding angle disks and other assorted items.

I am still in tear down phase of the bus, i just started to expose my metal floor and have found rust. (i suggest you pull the flooring too). I have found rot in the floor and will have to remove the sections over both wheel wells. I expect that to cost me about $100-200, maybe more

Then another $100 to rust convert and paint the floor.

my skoolie is in good running conditions with no issues. so i didn't need anything fixed as of yet. i was lucky and had a mechanic friend who works on semi's check mine out.

Assuming i can scavenge scrap 2x1's for a floating floor with . it will cost me about $150 in insulation $175 in sub-flooring 1 board being marine grand(shower and bathroom area).

the insulation for the roof and side i suspect will cost me $350-400 more based on my measurements

that will be a total of about $5,400 before i add any framing, before i add any appliances, before adding any electrical, before any solar or battery banks, a generator, plumbing, heating/cooling, or a finished floor. those items can range depending on what you can get for free, what you can scavenge from CL, and a lot of other things. If you want all brand new items add at least another $5k. that's not including a sizable "well F, that just broke" fund. And if you plan to tow a more economical car behind your skoolie, that will be another $500-2,000 for the tow kit and instillation.

the real question is this:
Do you want somewhere you can live comfortably for the next 3-5 years, or do you want to live somewhere in which its ok, but not great and you have most of what you need. one will feel like your camping and one will feel like home.

It really depends on your tastes in the end, but my guess is unless those friends and family are super awesome. You will not be able to get by on $6-7k and have everything you want. However, i think you could get to everything But solar, battery bank and composting toilet. I suspect my cost will be between $8-10k by the end of it all. with everything i plan to have for myself and my travel companion(s).

So here is what i suggest, make a list if everything you want, EVERYTHING, all the bells and whistles and price that out. after your shell shock is over, then make a second sheet and see what you can and cannot live without. segment each phase of the build and estimate costs. remember your not only investing money but a sizable amount of time as well. Also be willing to accept the fact that for the most part it will be just you and your partner doing all the work. This isn't to scare you or anything but its to be straight forward an honest. I notice not a lot of people put prices up on any skoolie sites. so i figure this would give you an idea what a project skoolie could cost.
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Old 05-28-2016, 06:27 AM   #15
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DANG! $200 on Grinding discs?? Are they diamond??
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Old 05-28-2016, 06:51 AM   #16
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DANG! $200 on Grinding discs?? Are they diamond??
They wear out pretty frequently in my experience
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Old 05-28-2016, 07:07 AM   #17
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that what i was wondering. or did they come with grinder?
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Old 05-28-2016, 07:10 AM   #18
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They wear out pretty frequently in my experience
I've had the same disc on my angle grinder for two bus ceilings and two full seat removals. Its a $3 disc.
Not trying to flame or start an argument or anything, but yall are doing something drastically wrong if you need anywhere near $200 in discs.
See my thread- ALL those rivets and seats.... One disc. I did have to buy a few abrasive paint removing discs for the tar under the roof.
Of course, your mileage will vary.
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Old 05-28-2016, 07:23 AM   #19
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So I'm guessing that goes to show that the right tool is worth its weight in gold! I guess I won't be putting my dremel to work on this project!
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Old 05-28-2016, 08:32 AM   #20
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So I'm guessing that goes to show that the right tool is worth its weight in gold! I guess I won't be putting my dremel to work on this project!
I've been using the same angle grinder since my first bus back in 03' or 04'. Its a semi-cheap Hitachi.
I have a local friend here who was using their angle to get the seats out. He said they kept going through discs. Turned out he wasn't using it at an angle but was grinding with the flat part of the disc!
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