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Old 09-27-2020, 06:10 PM   #1
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My son and I just bought a shuttle bus to transform into a tiny home for him to live in at college in 2021. I must be crazy!!
We bought a 1995 Ford E 350 shuttle bus that seats 19 or 20.
First things first,I want to have the engine removed. WHY? Because I don't want to pay for license plates and insurance for a 20 year old to drive it! Also because we will move it to school and it will just sit there for two years. Finally because I don't want him to have to drive it every so often to keep the engine in good running order nor do we want the expense of keeping up the engine and other parts.

When our son graduates after two years, he will have it moved to wherever he finds his first job and then it will just sit again.
Give me your opinions on this please!

Yes, it has exterior rust. (that's a four letter word, ya know!) Mostly around the emergency door on back and the steps. Everything we've looked has rust. We live in central Illinois where it snows and ices and they use salt, what else can we expect? I know the rust needs to be cut out and replaced with good metal and it needs to be treated so that surface rust is stopped from growing.
Suggestions? Is this something we can do ourselves or do we need a welder to do it for us?

The biggest bonus to this bus over everything else we looked at...camper, trailer, buses, you name it... is that interior height is enough so we don't have to raise the roof for our son who is over 6' to stand up straight inside.

We are debating how to insulate. I say insulate from outside and add wood and metal to cover insulation. Chris wants it to still look like a bus and insulate from the inside.
Opinions? Experiences you've had?

Our final plan is to have solar panels on a stand on the ground, rather than on the bus itself; gutters over windows for rain water catch; composting toilet, all so he can stay off grid and avoid utility payments.
I've done enough research so far to have an inch of knowledge about each step of this process when I need about 100 yards of information but I'm excited to get started on this journey with our son.
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Old 09-27-2020, 06:15 PM   #2
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First things first,I want to have the engine removed. WHY? Because I don't want to pay for license plates and insurance for a 20 year old to drive it! Also because we will move it to school and it will just sit there for two years. Finally because I don't want him to have to drive it every so often to keep the engine in good running order nor do we want the expense of keeping up the engine and other parts.
Most municipalities and such require license plates on any vehicle, whether it is being driven or not. Otherwise it is considered abandoned and will be ticketed and or towed. Many such municipalities also have laws against living in vehicles, and you also have busybodies that will drop a dime on anyone for anything. Just my $0.02.

Registrations can be deactivated for the purposes of working around this with certain states, but I am not sure if it will help in that situation.
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Old 09-27-2020, 06:18 PM   #3
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Insulating outside is a pretty dubious plan. You'd have to fabricate basically a second outer metal skin and make sure it's watertight, and work out how all of this stuff on the outside would be attached to the original outside. That much sheet metal would be pretty expensive.

If your rust situation is really bad (and there's no real doubt that it is, given where you are) you will probably need to be welding in order to repair it properly. Check out my build thread for an example of dealing with this sort of thing, and if it makes you sell your bus I won't be offended.

Edit: I didn't notice the bit about removing the engine until I read Cheese's response. I feel like the only real advantage of a bus as something to build a house inside of is its mobility; otherwise it's just a leaky metal shed with a too-low ceiling.

But if you do go ahead with this, I wouldn't waste any time or money on any significant rust remediation. Just make sure you stop up all the leaks (which will mainly be through the windows and the lights in the rear) and then build your subfloor on top of whatever the floor is right now. As long as you don't have any more leaking, the floor will stay in whatever shape it's in for far longer than your son is likely to live in it.
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Old 09-27-2020, 06:29 PM   #4
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..because we will move it to school and it will just sit there for two years.
Most important question to answer is where "there" will be? In the dorm parking lot? At Granpa's farm?
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Old 09-27-2020, 06:31 PM   #5
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do you guys have land to park it on?

I have to ask, why a bus and not a camper trailer?


depending on where college is how do you plan to heat / cool with just solar? if its in a cold weather climate will he just bundle up inside or is there a plan for obtaining fuel of some sort for heat?


a plan for the grey water and liquids from the shower and his urine catch can from the toilet.. how to dispose of the solids from the compost toilet?
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Old 09-27-2020, 08:08 PM   #6
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5th wheel camper would be likely, better suited.

Do you and your son have carpentry skills, plumbing, electrical to go along with it?
Removing the engine would not be wise for a couple of reasons:
No easy way to move it if it needs to be moved for any reason at school. Unless you have a tow choice already to go.
Lowers the resale value, if it somehow becomes a burden to hold onto.
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Old 09-27-2020, 10:52 PM   #7
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Oh we know we will need some license plates but deactivated is cheaper than driveable. Mostly it’s insurance costs.
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Old 09-27-2020, 10:53 PM   #8
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Right now the plan is to buy land out of city limits.
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Old 09-27-2020, 11:00 PM   #9
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Why a bus instead of the many other options? It has to be mobile to build it at home and then get it to school in southern Indiana. Also mobile doesn’t incur property tax on residence only on the land itself. Insurance for a 20-22 year old to drive anything is ridiculously high but to drive a bus is beyond the outer limits of any budget. Plus he won’t be moving it except once from home to school and then from school to his first job. Already got a quote to tow it to school for $400. We did look at trailers to build on and campers and horse trailers. All the campers walls were so flimsy; too flimsy to add studs and insulation we thought. And the idea of a bus was “cool”, cooler than a camper or trailer with a wooden box built on it. The horse trailers in our price range all sold before we could even look at them. Yes I’ve thought of resale value. Right now I am still debating the whole engine thing.
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Old 09-27-2020, 11:05 PM   #10
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Plan for now for heat is a box built outside one or more windows, made from greenhouse materials. Open window and it allows heat inside. Use solar power fans to pull heat out of the box into the bus. We will build this soon so we can test it thru this winter as we work on the bus. If that’s not enough heat we will explore other ideas that run off solar panels or a micro mini wood stove.
I do have carpentry skills. Not much electrical skill and Zero plumbing. Our handyman friend will help when he can and I will probably hire professionals to inspect whatever work we do ourselves.
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Old 09-28-2020, 07:17 AM   #11
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Plan for now for heat is a box built outside one or more windows, made from greenhouse materials. Open window and it allows heat inside. Use solar power fans to pull heat out of the box into the bus. We will build this soon so we can test it thru this winter as we work on the bus.
This is novel, to say the least. It definitely will not heat your bus in winter.

A wood stove will work, though. A diesel air heater (which can be had for well under $200) would also be an excellent choice.
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Old 09-28-2020, 07:44 AM   #12
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definitely not enough sun angle in southern indiana to get much heat through the december-january timeframe.. not to mention the endless number of cloudy days the midwest gets.



im assuming you have land?
wood stove is a great idea until the fire goes out on a 0 degree day when said kid is at school all day.. come home to frozen everything..



diesel air heaters do work good and can be set up to be automatic..


at some point though you end up spending more $$ to try and be cheap than if you just rent a room someplace that has heat and toilets and shower and a kitchen.... esp in indiana.. cost of living isnt high there..



now if said bus is related to the kid;s studies.. ie he is going to school for an engineering career in sustainable and green energy then the bus becomes integral and a great teaching experience..



-Christopher
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Old 09-28-2020, 11:20 AM   #13
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Sounds like a traditional 'tiny house' plan, building on a trailer.
Can also get a box truck or a semi-trailer, they have high ceilings.
You better buy the land and see what that is going to cost before building a tiny house and THEN find a place to put it. Research Indiana laws on RVs.

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Old 10-11-2020, 02:02 AM   #14
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bus tiny house

it sounds like this would end up costing a lot more than just doing what everyone else does. rent an apartment and share with roommates. what do they cost there? $500 a month? it would be $12000 or so for two years and then no worries about maintaining a non standard living arrangement. the cost of this is the cost of moving a bus, which is usually a few dollars a mile the cost of buying and selling land to put it on, utilities permits, solar, roadway, removing engine, and build out of bus. most people on this site are building buses to be mobile and the safety of using a school bus chassis on the roads. many spend $10s of thousands either in hiring it out or the value of their time in putting it together. like another said if this is directly related to his major and a project he will do in spite of economics then go for it. if it is just to save money it would be better to focus on learning and dont get distracted trying to make it all work when homework is due or finals are coming and the heater isn't working.
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Old 10-11-2020, 04:43 AM   #15
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Being a former OTR trucker that still has their CDL, I had actually thought about doing something like this, making an apartment on wheels out of a 53-foot reefer, and buy a day-cab single-axle to move it when necessary. The nice thing would be the built-in auxiliary climate control (reefers can be set from -10 to 85) and they're already pretty well insulated with what amounts to central air (the unit supplies air through a chute along the ceiling). I'm sure some provisions could be added for auxiliary power to be run off of the same engine, as these are usually small 2 or 4-cylinder diesels. I do NOT, however, recommend trying to pull one of these with a fifth-wheel one-ton pickup.

However, there is the question of whether a given locality will poke their nose where it doesn't belong. Indiana being specifically mentioned here, I can say that most Hoosiers probably couldn't care less about what their neighbor does as long as it's not creating a real problem. I just don't see NIMBYism being a problem in that part of the country. Not that I'm from there, so don't take this as gospel. But I have seen quite a bit of loosey-goosey vibe driving in parts of Indiana. Just my observations. I guess it really depends on where you are.

BUT, keep in mind that a high-profile vehicle like that is highly susceptible to high winds, and even loaded semis have been known to get blown over. A semi trailer built into a tiny house is likely not going to be heavy enough to resist the force of high winds. I have a nickname for Indiana - Windiana. And yes, I have seen high winds in parts of it. Not quite as bad as Wyoming, but enough to concern me with such a project. If you have enough of a windbreak of trees nearby on the property you have in mind to park it, it may not be a problem -- just something to keep in mind. Otherwise, the dimensions are perfect -- most semi trailers are 110" from floor to ceiling, and the DOT limit of 102" wide (likely 100" wall-to-wall on the inside).

An alternative to this might be a low-belly moving van trailer, they have even more interior height and being lower to the ground, might be less susceptible to high winds. You could even build in a one-level subfloor to sit over top of battery banks, black / grey tanks, etc. I've not seen one that was well-insulated or climate-controlled from the factory, however.
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Old 10-11-2020, 10:03 AM   #16
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If the bus won't be drivable how will he get water to it and more importantly how will he dump his black tank?
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Old 10-11-2020, 10:11 AM   #17
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If the bus won't be drivable how will he get water to it and more importantly how will he dump his black tank?
those will both add costs that make this less economical compared to renting a room. they either need a septic system for grey or black water and they need a well on the property. or they need to hire someone to empty the tanks which tend to freeze in the winter.
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Old 10-11-2020, 11:26 AM   #18
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it sounds like this would end up costing a lot more than just doing what everyone else does. rent an apartment and share with roommates. what do they cost there? $500 a month? it would be $12000 or so for two years and then no worries about maintaining a non standard living arrangement. the cost of this is the cost of moving a bus, which is usually a few dollars a mile the cost of buying and selling land to put it on, utilities permits, solar, roadway, removing engine, and build out of bus. most people on this site are building buses to be mobile and the safety of using a school bus chassis on the roads. many spend $10s of thousands either in hiring it out or the value of their time in putting it together. like another said if this is directly related to his major and a project he will do in spite of economics then go for it. if it is just to save money it would be better to focus on learning and don't get distracted trying to make it all work when homework is due or finals are coming and the heater isn't working.
I've been thinking this while reading every post here. Rent a room or share rent on a house or apartment would be much easier and cheaper in the long run. Chances of find a parking space anywhere near the school is going to be slim and none (without major rental expense), so how does he get back and forth from home?
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Old 10-11-2020, 08:32 PM   #19
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I doubt the original poster is even considering a bus. Hasn't posted on her own thread since it started. Moved on to better things like getting her son a dorm room....
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Old 10-11-2020, 08:40 PM   #20
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I doubt the original poster is even considering a bus. Hasn't posted on her own thread since it started. Moved on to better things like getting her son a dorm room....
Actually, they have... Post #5
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