North Carolina School Bus Surplus System
Originally Posted by Jimi257
Greetings everybody from Charleston, SC. I'm looking to possibly get into skoolie ownership very soon. It's just me & my wife (and our 2 small dogs.) My wife & I have been discussing our plans to build a tiny house over the past 2+ years. I've worked selling doors & windows for a big box retailer for 8+ years--so the resources that I was to have at my disposal (discounts, dibs on clearance & damaged merchandise, etc.) were ideal. With our latest apartment lease up in about 3 months, discussions ramped up significantly. Our lives had gotten to a fairly happy, healthy, & sane place. Things had been improving--until my job decided to let me go....about 3 weeks ago. I'll spare the details, but it I assume that I was making too much money for a person in my position and the new boss decided to remove me because....whatever.
So, as I scrape myself off the highway and carry on, I face the impending conclusion of our time in this apartment, we've (pretty much) settled on a plan. I met a guy during my time in home improvement retail who was converting a school bus to live in while he built his tiny house (with a foundation). The wife & I recently went to an open house at his place & he's doing great. The house is awesome and he still has the skoolie. The wife loved it all and we are definitely ready. Our first 2 years in Charleston were in a 200 square foot apartment, so we know we can live small. We were inspired by his success and want to do the same thing. I have the "free time" suddenly to do the necessary work and I will soon have cash (401k.) We are going to do this.
So, I'm looking for a skoolie that we can move into. I'm fine with doing renovations, so is my wife. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty--we have old cars and scooters and I do the work on those where I can...but I'm not an expert mechanic. And that's pretty much where I'm at.
If anyone has any leads on buses (preferably within a couple hundred miles of Charleston) that's super cool. If anyone has useful advice for someone in my shoes, I'm open to any constructive feedback. This is a strange time in my life, but, if we can do this well, it can be not just a rebound, but a whole new direction for us. Mahalo!
South Carolina owns all of their buses, and are currently running buses older than my 99mvp and with over 100k miles more on em.
Call, leave clear and detailed voice mails, and wait a few days. Lol... it takes em a minute to return a phone call sometimes. This is the closest reliable place for bus' and listings that I have found. You'll probably eventually be put in touch with Wayne at the garage in Charlotte, he's good people.
note: the "paperclip" means the bus has 'notes' which is usually some sort of repair issue.
I recommend trying to learn about diesel engines, and find a solid runner. If you plan on towing a trailer full of heavy ****, or a car, through mountains, you'll need to make sure the engine/tranny combo you pick up can handle it.
as for bus conversions... The simpler and cheaper it is, the faster you'll get going. Make a list of the things you MUST have... ie: Shower, Toilet, bed, heat/air, sink, fresh water, hot water, power requirements.
A bus build can be as simple as a few cots, camping gear, totes, some reused kitchen parts, a composting toilet (search youtube for how that works), and a camp stove and/or induction burner. 5 gallon food container on gravity feed for water. Couple that with either a tiny solar setup or some extension cords and you could be living out of a bus fairly cheap and fast.
If you want something nice and finished... well, it's a LOT of work.... always more than you think. I think after watching these forums for over 6 years and seeing what people come up with, it's most of the time somewhere in the middle. Just depends on your needs, and what you're willing to sacrifice. Focus on getting the main components designed and installed. I, like many other people here, use google (or now Trimble) sketchup. it's free, easy, and makes it easy to render appliances, beds, etc, just to see if it'll fit and if the layout you chose is do-able.
For me, most of my components are chosen by
a)does it fit (in the bus, through the door)
b)can i afford it or is it readily available
c)is it necessary and does it follow the guiding principals of "living smaller"
EG: If you want a full size fridge, I suggest having your ceiling height at 68"+ as close to the window as you can get it. Most full size are some 30"+ deep, then you gotta swing open a 30" wide door... that won't work in most buses. But if you get a taller side, you could get a french door fridge, have full size and still open, but since all major american refrigerators are all made to a standard, the main box is always the same set of roughly 3 or 4 different sizes, and they're almost all over 65" tall (which is about the limit of the roof curve on my bus. The exception here is apartment fridges. Having said that, it's hard to find a bus with a tall ceiling. SO, if i want a full size refrigerator, i have to bust out the cut off wheel, cut out the ceiling, and make a square cut out so the fridge can slide back in. This wouldn't be so bad, except that the frame ridges are only roughly 28" apart. So i'd not only have to cut out a notch, i'd have to re-weld the frame around it. Many people here do lifts. They'll cut their entire bus up and lift the roof, then re-weld/re-bolt and re-rivet sheet metal and tubing etc to make it taller.
So, don't feel overwhelmed, just start. The best place to start is here. There's lot's of experienced builders here as well as people like me who just try to figure it out as we go along. I suggest you take some serious time to look at other forums and builds... and leave yourself twice as much time as you estimate it will take. And don't forget to have fun. :-p