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Old 09-25-2016, 02:00 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 1
Average cost?

Hello I'm a new member here and very interested in converting a school bus I'm curious to know if any one out there has tracked the expenses of their conversions. ( including the price for the bus) i know it's tough question to answer given all the different options that can go into a conversion, but I'm just wondering about a rough ballpark figure for a basic conversion.

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Old 09-25-2016, 02:15 PM   #2
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Join Date: May 2015
Location: Oklahoma aka "God's blind spot"
Posts: 2,446
Year: 1989
Coachwork: 1853FC International/Navistar
Chassis: 35' Retired Air Force Ambulance
Engine: DT466, MT643
Rated Cap: 6 souls and a driver
I bought mine for $5,000, hope to not go over $5,000 to convert. It's highly doubtful I will, as in repurposing an enormous amount of stuff.

Craigslist has been very kind to me!
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Old 09-25-2016, 02:52 PM   #3
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Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 938
Chassis: GMC or Chevrolet, I hope
Engine: gasser probably
I decided to buy something between 2-3k. Paid 2.3k at an online auction for mine. Will try to keep it under 5k build.

Im building a camper not an RV. So it will be cheap.

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Old 09-25-2016, 02:58 PM   #4
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Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Birmingham Al
Posts: 602
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Fully livable and comfortable Redneck Conversion:

Bus = $3,000
= $300
Electrical(switched AC/DC)
Cooling (no AC, simple, roof-mounted Fantastic Fan)
= $270
Heating (simple, portable Buddy Heater)
= $200
Walls, counter, sink, stove, shower/tub/toilet, bed, etc.
Custom Paint job
Entry level (200watts)
= $600
Awesome level (600 watts, 2 batteries, awesome controller)
= +$1100

If my math is right, less than $7k before repairs?

my conversion beginnings here:
My Skoolie Story on YouTube
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Old 09-25-2016, 06:39 PM   #5
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Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Dowdy Lakes, Colorado
Posts: 1,444
Year: 1989
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf-T-Liner ER
Engine: 3208 CAT/MT643 tranny
Rated Cap: 87
Bus - $2K
Window blanks (custom made) - $1200
Genset - $650
A/C unit - $500
Fridge - $750
Washer - $600
Dryer - $600
rewire - $650
New Tires - $2500
New Captains Chairs - $40
Chest Freezer - $150
New passenger side mirror set up - $200
Paint to prevent rusting - $60
New Heater Hose to re-route below floor boards - $180
New 50 amp connection cable - $100
Webasto Heater - $2500
I'm sure there's more............

So we have at least $13K or so in Heavy Fuel and the building is just beginning. We have insulation, 2X4s, T&G flooring/wall/ceiling electrical outlets, plumbing, 12v pumps, and some other things to get as we start to build.

I figure that plus a nice paint job will put us between $20K to $25K when we're done. But when we're done she'll be one classy lady!

Now mind you, we're looking to full-time with her, no weekends or campouts and then go back home because she is our home.

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Old 09-25-2016, 09:40 PM   #6
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Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Utah
Posts: 266
Year: 1990
Coachwork: BB
Chassis: TC2000
Engine: Cummins
Rated Cap: 25.999K
I paid 2500 for my bus, and I bet I will only be into the 'conversion' another 1500 or so. Mind you, this is a steel tent, nothing fancy. Something that hauls the bikes, has a basic kitchen, heat, water, and a place to sleep....
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Old 10-02-2016, 03:54 PM   #7
Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: chicago, il
Posts: 220
Year: 2003
Chassis: IC CE
Engine: T444
i spend 4k out the door for a 30 ft bus, if you are asking the conversion cost...well that all depends on you. you can spend as little as the price of the bus and look to get everything for free, which will take a long time or you could go crazy and in excess and easily spend 50k. For me im looking at about 15k without any re-purposing but not top of the line anything.
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Old 10-02-2016, 05:18 PM   #8
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Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Music City USA
Posts: 737
Year: 2005
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freightliner
Engine: Detroit MBE906
Rated Cap: 72
I have a couple I'm looking at.... the 2005 Thomas I have listed in my profile is $7500, or I'm also looking at a 2004 International CE that's $4800. I've budgeted around $12k for everything to get it minimally useable for fulltiming, with the rest coming in as I can afford it.
My bus - Jasmine - External Build Website - YouTube Channel - TN/KY Meetup Group
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Old 06-24-2017, 02:59 AM   #9
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Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: So Ill
Posts: 267
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freightliner
Engine: Cummins 5.9 Allison AT545
Rated Cap: 71
Hope you don't mind me chiming in on an old thread. I'm currently trying to sell my car and apparently no one around here can afford a fair price, so I've started offering deal price, just now, and I've been looking at my budget and wondering how much wiggle room I really have, and it might be more than I was giving, but mostly because everyone has a "double your budget" motto here, and I tried to allow for that wisdom, but I may have to just deal with slowing down a bit but starting sooner at the same time. prolly a better deal.

I'm hoping to spend 2-3k on the bus itself, up to 2k on insulation and interior, (which accounts for 2 DIY spray foam kits on ebay, recommended here, by SuperDave?, and some rigid foam after that, as well as ceiling panels. I've gotten a cheap bit of floor for free recently, so I'll use that until I can upgrade later.) up to 2k on plumbing, which might be less if I can find something cheaper than what I was accounting for. So:

2-3k - bus
2k - insulation and interior
2k - plumbing
for top total of 7k.

This doesn't yet account for the electrical system I hoped to start with, but I've decided to start with shore power and work my way up. Wire the sockets and stuff first, shore power, add solar panels, battery bank, inverter/converter, charge controller, ect. later. Important to do this right.

The rest I can probably make fine do with cheap and plundered parts. I've already got 3 kitchen sinks to choose from, but no bathroom sink unfortunately. Hmm, do we have a thread where people can offer trades on stuff here? I'll go check. Anyway, there's the budget I'm working with to start on. I initially was allowing for up to 12k but LOL guess not.
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Old 06-24-2017, 05:36 AM   #10
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Location: Oregon/Philippines
Posts: 1,660
By careful scrounging I built my last two busses (both RE) for around 6k in parts, with the initial cost around 3 k for each bus. Thomas was 2800, transit w/ detroit I traded a 2k jeep for it.

This does not count the 100 trips or so to the hardware, ads in craigslist for people parting out trailers, trips to habitat for humanity thrift store, automotive swap meets like the portland, salem, canby etc, and so forth. Therefore, If one is to consider costs one also has to consider all the side trips and the vast amount of time to get what you need if you dont wish to spend the 20k for new stuff.
Jesus Christ... Conversion in progress.
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Old 06-24-2017, 05:56 AM   #11
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Location: hills of sw virginia
Posts: 889
Year: 1996
Chassis: thomas
Engine: 8.3 cummins
Rated Cap: 11 window
you can do it cheaper than that but will take more time finding a deal on all the stuff you need. i had a 2 month plan and im going on two years but i have changed my plans several times for the better. planing and doing things in the right order will save you money also. there is a learning curve with everything we do in life, enjoy the trip.
living in a bus down by the river.
my build pics
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Old 06-24-2017, 07:29 AM   #12
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Location: Maine
Posts: 38
I am really broke right now, so it will be a long while before I can affford to buy a bus and convert it. However, I do know that my process and budget will have to include preliminary preparations, such as some sort of basic auto mechanics course (because I know less than nothing and want to understand how an engine works, what to look for when I'm ready to shop for a bus, and how to handle minor problems) and driving lessons. My budget will also need to cover the cost of renting a space in which to work on the conversion because I live in a city apartment and don't have a garage.
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Old 06-24-2017, 08:08 AM   #13
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Location: Colorado
Posts: 2,362
Year: 1993
Coachwork: bluebird
Engine: 5.9 Cummins, Allison AT1545
Rated Cap: 2
$4k for the bus, $20k+ in accessories. no solar or inverter yet, that's sure to be another $5k.

i easily spend $4k/ year on fuel, repairs, parts.... just to keep it running.

i've owned it since 2011, finished converting in 2015, still spending money. did you see my other current thread about replacing a fan clutch, water pump, alternator, thermostat.......

the purchase price is only the beginning

its not cheaper than buying a finished rv. its more expensive.

the things that cost the most, are the things i spent the least amount of money on.
Turfmobile Build Thread
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Old 06-24-2017, 02:06 PM   #14
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 18,850
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
while I think its possible to do a skoolie on a shoestring budget, alot depends on how much you are willing to and then re-do later.. and how comfortable you want to be / how much time is spent travelling vs parked..

if its a casual RV that you want to have for summer road trips, hunting outings, fishing camp, etc.. then the idea of building a minimal but not necessarily energy efficient / off-grid skoolie works better.. ie for a few weeks out of a year its feasible to buy gasoline to run a generator for A/C vs expensive solar.. ie twice the propane so you can heat with minimal insulation isnt a big deal.. a mechanical breakdown isnt the end of the world.. it can be dragged home and sit for mnths if needbe..

put in a cheap floor now then you can take the bus apart later for that nicer floor if time and $$ allows when its a weekend RV..

going about full-timing is different, esp if your nomadic lifestyle is you liveliehood.. you depend on travelling where the work is.. a broken engine all the sudden threatens your income... so its imperative to learn mechanics, buy a bus that is very solid.. (or pout some $$ and time into the mechanicals before you convert)..

when full-timing its a LOT tougher to re-gut your bus after you have left your hoime-base and made the bus your home-base.. using harsh chemicals for insulation , painting, etc needs to be done when you arent already living in it... obviously this increases upfront costs as this scenerio looks more towards doing things tight the first time as oppose to "right now"...

monthly outlay of costs varies greatly with the lifestyle you maintain... 6-8 MPG adds up quickly if you must travel in your bus alot for your liveliehood. propane. generator fuel, etc if you are the type that doesnt want to live like the 1800s.. (you want thiunbgs like heat / AC, modern liughts, internet etc..) all can cost just as much as it does living in an apartment.. however obviously you are much free-er when living in a skoolie to rtelocate, travel to where work is, etc..

for reference the Used RV market is pretty low right now.. buying a used RV can easily be more cost effective than building a skoolie.. esp for those building shorties.. (class C RV's go for pretty reasonably.. even brand new..). however building your skoolie, you get a much more robust and stout vehicle, as well as the ability to build exactly what you want into it... nothing less and nothing more... along with much more capability for those into off-gridding.. no commercial RV's really come with any serious solar or wind capabilities like can be built into a skoolie.. nor a wood / pellet stove either..

as for costs.. for those who just plan to have a bus and park it in one spot.. unless you own your land, its not necesarily cheaper than living in an apartment... for instance an acquaintence of mine went through this recently.. he has driven and ridden in my busses and thought wow!! get a longer bus, convert it, live in it and ditch the apartment rent...

till it came along to find and secure parking that allows residency, fuel to drive, fuel for heat / cool, laundry, water, insurance, mobile internet.. turns out if he simply moved 35 miles west of the city proper he found low-cost but nice rentals.. .. some are newer / efficient, and the costs were very similar if not a little better overall.. he doesnt own it but he is comfortable..and can consider a skoolie for a weekend RV.. that he can build next to his rental house.. a beater corolla to get to work, and he cut his monthly cost more than 1/2 of what it did to live in a nice apt downtown... his goal was to cut costs by 35-40%.. so dont always look at just a skoolie to cut living costs..

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Old 06-24-2017, 04:01 PM   #15
Bus Nut
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Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: North carolina
Posts: 651
Year: 1986
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford
Engine: Detroit 8.2
Rated Cap: 60 bodies
Paid 2800$ for my bus and built the interior from my work.
I do commercial construction and there is a lot of waste to be had if you can get it and know how to work with it.
I am around 4000$ in a usable camping bus that works for my family.
No ac yet we use fans but my wife and I have been tent camping since we met and my children have been in scouts/camping since they were 6. So a bus with soft beds running water and electricity is a big upgrade from a tent and even if I had ac they would still be out at the fire pit making sure it stays lit.
So we have a glorified camper? I want to add ac but haven't salvaged one that would be right for my application YET but am looking at making a mini split unit I just saved from the dumpster? Trying to get the controllers Monday.
Good luck
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Old 06-24-2017, 04:16 PM   #16
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 6,409
Coachwork: 97 Bluebird TC1000 5.9
You can build cheap, but you've got to be clever and imaginative to make it work. It's going to be a kind of abstract/random interior, but it's about what works for your immediate needs.

I also have a glorified camping bus, but I insulated heavily with the thought of being more comfortable in the winter months after the first cold feet winter. That insulation also makes a significant difference during hot weather. I have about $6k in this build over a two year period starting in October 2015, not counting my GPS, which includes a new set of premium tires. My bus isn't pretty, but it's functional.
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Old 06-25-2017, 12:08 AM   #17
Bus Nut
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Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: So Ill
Posts: 267
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freightliner
Engine: Cummins 5.9 Allison AT545
Rated Cap: 71
I know I didn't mention that I factored that in, but I did, yes, side trips could cost a lot in gas, which is why I'll stay as local as possible, we seem to have a lot of spare crap lying around in this town, and my grandma told me about a surplus place not far from here that we should definitely check out.
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