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Old 07-23-2019, 12:54 AM   #1
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I turned to the dark side. . .and got a Winnebago.

Soo. . .for a variety of reasons, I've put my skoolie ambitions on hold in favor of purchasing an existing rig/conversion. I'm starting this thread to explain why I ended up going this route, and to document my experiences for future skoolie folk (and for the time when I DO convert a bus.) This is gonna be a long post, and I don't expect people to read all of it - but this is an honest record of my thoughts/purchase process.

I've been a member on here on and off for. . .4-5 years now. I've wanted to do a bus build since I was in college. So I've been reading and researching, and to some extent planning, for a few years.

One of the main reasons that I decided to buy a rig rather the build is time. Around March, I decided I'd had enough of my job, I'd been working really hard and there weren't going to be any good chances to move forward. I'm seriously considering graduate school starting next fall - a big jump back into a busy schedule. So I thought about quitting my job, finding something part-time, a couple days a week, and traveling the rest of the time. If I could hit the road August - October, I'd be really happy. After that, I could find a new job. ( Worse comes to worse, I could find a local retail job for the holiday season.)

Like a lot of things, that didn't work out - but in an interesting way. My job decided that there are some things I'm used to doing that are hard to teach, so they offered me a contract position, doing what I used to do, for slightly less money, but for fewer hours as well. I figured that would last maybe a month. . . turns out, it lasted almost 3. I'll be done the first or second week of August. (I'm taking the "extra" money I'm making now, and earmarking it for my health care payments, and expenses on the road while I travel later. Now I don't feel guilty about being unemployed for 3 months.)

I looked at my first serious Skoolie candidate in early May, but it didn't really pan out. I started seriously looking and thinking about converting, insurance, painting, storage, etc. (I can fit a shortie in my driveway, to work on it for a weekend. . .but I can't keep it there all week. It takes up my entire driveway, and we need the driveway to put our normal cars in. Plus there might be a code issue with a bus...)

So through June I kept looking, and found a really nice (but slightly expensive) bus in Florida. (I'm in Massachusetts.) I started making plans, looked at flights, and thought about it some more. Right now, I'm single. . so I'm going to be doing most of this by myself. I can get some help here and there (like removing the seats), but I started to think about the fact that to come anywhere close to my target, I'd be doing this by myself, in the middle of summer, two or three days at a time. . .for two or three months solid. It would basically be a second job. And I'm just not up for it right now. I'm looking to do this traveling because I want to visit these places, not really because I'm looking to make a statement, or idealistic reasons. I want to go places, and being self-contained seems like the cheapest and most flexible way to do it. I would LOVE to roll up in something custom that everyone would immediately know was mine - but that's not the point right now.

I'm looking to be able to do two things with a camping rig

#1 - I wanted to be able to sleep 2 people (in bunks), possibly a third, cook basic meals (grill, fridge, microwave), have a sink, and a bathroom with a toilet (an actual room, not a bucket with a curtain). I want to be able to road trip in the 500-mile and under range give or take - hit the road Friday, spend Saturday-Sunday at my destination, drive back on Monday.

#2 - Day trip with 3 - 5 people. Air conditioning. Be able to head North into the mountains, state parks, have 4 comfy captains chairs, a toilet if needed, and a fridge and microwave for snacks. I wan to be able to stop wherever looks interesting - so short length was important. 20-25 feet or so - a full-size shorty would be ideal.

Its a lot to ask for what's essentially an 8x17 rectangle. I'm not quite sure how to fit the bunks, and the chairs, and the bathroom, and the kitchen into that space. I'm still not sure if I could. I don't want furniture that makes a lousy couch and a lousy bed. Short skoolies like that are REALLY hard to find. There's a ton of threads about it.

So, short version, I'm planning to hit the road in a few weeks, and I just don't have the time or energy to do my own build to meet my timeline. I took a look at some builds for sale, but nothing really peaked my interest, or met my budget. (I saw a few things I liked, but they were honestly worth more then I could afford.) So I set my budget, and took a look at what was out there for sale.

In two weeks, I found a lot of spam, scams, and motorhomes that didn't really exist. I waited too long to email one person (and came in about the 20th person who was interested in buying it), then I lucked out browsing Craigslist on a monday at work. An email was sent, and I was the first one to schedule a showing. I saw it on Sunday, like it, and put a deposit on it.
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Old 07-23-2019, 01:07 AM   #2
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I hope the purchase pans out for you. One aspect of this site that is overlooked a little is the ability to get candid feedback even for non-skoolie rigs. It is also cool that you felt comfortable weighing your options and choosing one that fits your needs as they are right now, be it a skoolie or not.
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Old 07-23-2019, 01:40 AM   #3
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I was about to go that direction if insurance was a problem. I thought get an old one and do what I wanted to it. I’m glad I got my skoolie project though! I saw this RV at a storage yard. I’m told they turned it into a barbecue concession.
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Old 07-23-2019, 02:05 AM   #4
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I ended up with a 2003 Winnebago Minnie, 40,000 miles, Chevy G3500 chassis, Gas V8. 22 feet bumper to bumper. I paid a little over $12,000 for it. From the research I did, I think it's a fair price. The condition is pretty good, and the mileage is low. The roof is good, and the previous owner fixed a few small things on it. I had a budget of around $10k if I was going to do a bus build. (At least, that was for version 1.0. Version 2.0 would include some solar, and more refined systems to come later.)




























So how does it stack up to some of the "usual" complaints about factory-built units?


The outside isn't perfect. It looks like it had a close encounter with a tree branch on the drivers side. (I don't have pictures of that right now.) Whatever it was, it was patched and sealed, there's just a few "dull" spots in the paint. You can see that EVERY window and access hatch has been re-sealed since it left the factory. (Good that it was done, not great that it needed it.) The bed over the cab also had a section on the drivers side where the panel delaminated and it started to leak. The previous owner bought a new aluminum sheet, and fully replace it (rather then patching it.) Its dry, but I need to patch one or two little areas inside, where the wood got wet and the interior trim delaminated. One or two of the access hatches need the latches oiled, and the key slots need a bit of attention. One pops open, one of them doesn't want to open at all. Otherwise, aside from a few of the decals on the outside peeling, it's in decent shape.



The layout on the interior is really nice. I think they actually did a really good job with the layout and the use of space. I like the kitchen being in the back, and having linoleum as the first thing you find when you come inside. If I need to pop inside to use the bathroom, I'm not tracking dirt on the carpet. The toilet isn't IN the shower. (Not a wet bath.) It's not a huge shower, but I fit inside, and don't have to duck. The couch is big enough for 3 people, and the dinette comfortably seats 2. (Add in the driver/passenger seats of the van, and I can road trip with SEVEN people in this thing.) I'm a big guy, and I fit at the dinette just fine. (I didn't try and convert it to a bed. . .that's going to be interesting to see if it works/is comfortable at all.) The area over the cab is actually quite large - I was surprised how much room is up there. (It's an odd space, but one I really wish Skoolies came with. I'm sure someone could build one, but I don't have the fab skills to make something like that.)

The driving characteristics of the rig seemed pretty good on the test drive. Drove around locally for 10-15 minutes, and did 10-15 minutes on the highway. It was surprisingly quiet - no creaks or squeaks from the chassis/suspension, or the body/cabinetry. (One or two of the bottom curtain rods under the windows dried out / are loose and were banging around a bit, but that was it.)

I need to explore a few more things about the coach - I realized that I'm not sure if it has a house battery or not. . . .It appears in the literature for the year, one was optional - and I don't know if this has one or not. The lights worked, the water worked, I got caught up with everything else and totally forgot about it. I wouldn't be too upset if I ended up getting a Yetti Goal Zero battery and solar kit that just sat on the floor under the dinette (especially because I could use it at home, or anywhere else I needed some portable power.) We'll see how it turns out.

I think that's it for now - I'm waiting to finish the paperwork on the sale to get it titled and insured so I can drive it around, and poke around a bit more to see just what I bought.
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Old 07-23-2019, 02:15 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danjo View Post
I was about to go that direction if insurance was a problem. I thought get an old one and do what I wanted to it. I’m glad I got my skoolie project though! I saw this RV at a storage yard. I’m told they turned it into a barbecue concession.
When I started looking, I decided that my main criteria was the size. I'd have considered older, mechanically sound rigs if they were cheap enough. (To save a couple grand, I'd paint cabinets and get the couch re-upholstered. As long as it wasn't totally covered in shag carpet and/or tacky wallpaper.)

The one advantage I saw to buying a slightly newer one is that at the moment, my travel plans are 3 months long. There's a good chance this will be back on the market next spring/summer. While I'm spending more upfront, I'm hoping I'll be able to get the equity back when the time comes to sell. If (ahem, when) I do a skoolie, I'd want to keep it for more then 3-6 months.

(Also, in 2-3 weeks of looking, I'll admit, this one came up first. That was a large part of it. It was getting close to my traveling deadline.)
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Old 07-23-2019, 05:34 AM   #6
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Good for you Mark!! I think this is a brilliant starting point. There is a lot to learn about this lifestyle and an RV makes that learning curve a lot easier. Not just riq/equipment but also how you use it. After some period of time, you will know exactly what you need and maybe even want you want in a Skoolie build - should you decide to go that direction. Congrats!!
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Old 07-23-2019, 05:35 AM   #7
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A Minnie Winnie. Actually a good place to start. Enjoy it for what it is, and when you build your own skoolie you will have a better idea of features you like or do not like.
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Old 07-23-2019, 07:51 AM   #8
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Mark, this is awesome for a lot of reasons..



**sorry if some of mny response may rub people in the wrong way**


1. rather than be one of the many here who start out saying "I want to travel" and then end up with a bus in pieces rotting away in their yard, you are going to be travelling.. that is your goal and you are doing it!! that kicks ass!


2. it takes a lot of work to build out a bus or any vehicle for that matter.. being an "old" hot-rodder ive spent a lot of time on builds... converting a bus requires a lot of different skills.. and most surely time as well to do it "right"... of course everyone;s "right" is different.. its sad how mamy have come to this site and built for years now and still havent travelled a mile... maybe thats in their original plans and these beautioful builds that take years will surely be magnificent to travel in once they are done... however they arent travelling now...



3. I have a lot of various skills and tools, from being able to put together engines/ drivetrains. suspensions, and the like to also beinfg able to build out electrical, plumbning, walls, and the like.. im comfortable workling with lots of materials and tools.. But I myself will likely never build a Skoolie... when I get to the point I want to travel self contained I will buy a motorhome.. (yes all you can flame the crap out of me if you choose)...


dont get me wrong i love school busses... after all i own 3.. but im a bus enthusiast.. they took the place of "hot rods" when I got bored with hotrods... I road trip the country in my busses.. but when it comes down to it, i want a real bed, toilet, shower to sleep or weather those crazy hot or cold days..



I am used to a standard middle class lifestyle in a city... my home has Central air, good heat, modern kitchen, flush toilets, and comfy furniture.. for me to toss an air mattress on the floor of a bus and go out on the road works for a night or two.. where im in a rest area or walmart parking lot with a battery bank powering an AC and i run into said store to buy snacks and Pee yeah that wont work for me if I were on Long road trips...



Refined skoolie builds exist.. I saw a few last weekend that are coming along beautifully... and they take years to make.. or Lots of dedicated hours... yeah i would go do what mark did in a heartbeat.. buy a motorhome and see the sights... I could build a skoolie.. but ti give it the civilized feel would cost more in time and effort than going and buying a camper..



minimal builds work well for those that have always been the type to be outdoorsy.. the type who have found joy in tent camping, roughing it, being one with wilderness already, where the idea of Pooping in a bucket is no big deal because you probably already did it in a bag dozens of times while camping.. or on the ground in the woods..



but how will a bunch of city-dwellers who decide to ditch the modern flat for a minimal bus end up? some will be happier and many more will be like "holy cvrap this sucks"..



my post on engine-driven A/C says something ... i had 2 more people contact me about "help im dying in my driver seat".. because they didnt think through the whole process..





what the websites and TV shows also dont do a very good job of conveying is that skills need to be either known, learned, or hired... that all can take time and money...




yeah mark!!! go see the country!! you rock!! and that little rig looks great!! type A cut-aways also generally can be worked on in many places if a breakdown should occur.. its a van. you can buy oparts for it at autozone



-Christopher
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Old 07-23-2019, 08:09 AM   #9
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Seconded! Well said, and no ️, here!
There is a lot to be said for immediate gratification.
You're ready, outta the box, to hit the road in a semblance of comfort.
As has been previously pointed out; this is a dandy opportunity to find what works for you, and whatever doesn't, you now have the perfect chance to figure out how to better tailor make a Skoolie build.
Happy Trails!
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Old 07-23-2019, 08:40 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
Mark, this is awesome for a lot of reasons..



**sorry if some of mny response may rub people in the wrong way**


1. rather than be one of the many here who start out saying "I want to travel" and then end up with a bus in pieces rotting away in their yard, you are going to be travelling.. that is your goal and you are doing it!! that kicks ass!


2. it takes a lot of work to build out a bus or any vehicle for that matter.. being an "old" hot-rodder ive spent a lot of time on builds... converting a bus requires a lot of different skills.. and most surely time as well to do it "right"... of course everyone;s "right" is different.. its sad how mamy have come to this site and built for years now and still havent travelled a mile... maybe thats in their original plans and these beautioful builds that take years will surely be magnificent to travel in once they are done... however they arent travelling now...



3. I have a lot of various skills and tools, from being able to put together engines/ drivetrains. suspensions, and the like to also beinfg able to build out electrical, plumbning, walls, and the like.. im comfortable workling with lots of materials and tools.. But I myself will likely never build a Skoolie... when I get to the point I want to travel self contained I will buy a motorhome.. (yes all you can flame the crap out of me if you choose)...


dont get me wrong i love school busses... after all i own 3.. but im a bus enthusiast.. they took the place of "hot rods" when I got bored with hotrods... I road trip the country in my busses.. but when it comes down to it, i want a real bed, toilet, shower to sleep or weather those crazy hot or cold days..



I am used to a standard middle class lifestyle in a city... my home has Central air, good heat, modern kitchen, flush toilets, and comfy furniture.. for me to toss an air mattress on the floor of a bus and go out on the road works for a night or two.. where im in a rest area or walmart parking lot with a battery bank powering an AC and i run into said store to buy snacks and Pee yeah that wont work for me if I were on Long road trips...



Refined skoolie builds exist.. I saw a few last weekend that are coming along beautifully... and they take years to make.. or Lots of dedicated hours... yeah i would go do what mark did in a heartbeat.. buy a motorhome and see the sights... I could build a skoolie.. but ti give it the civilized feel would cost more in time and effort than going and buying a camper..



minimal builds work well for those that have always been the type to be outdoorsy.. the type who have found joy in tent camping, roughing it, being one with wilderness already, where the idea of Pooping in a bucket is no big deal because you probably already did it in a bag dozens of times while camping.. or on the ground in the woods..



but how will a bunch of city-dwellers who decide to ditch the modern flat for a minimal bus end up? some will be happier and many more will be like "holy cvrap this sucks"..



my post on engine-driven A/C says something ... i had 2 more people contact me about "help im dying in my driver seat".. because they didnt think through the whole process..





what the websites and TV shows also dont do a very good job of conveying is that skills need to be either known, learned, or hired... that all can take time and money...




yeah mark!!! go see the country!! you rock!! and that little rig looks great!! type A cut-aways also generally can be worked on in many places if a breakdown should occur.. its a van. you can buy oparts for it at autozone



-Christopher
Some GREAT points you bring up, man!
#1 is the big one.

Enjoy the motorhome!!!
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