How to Convert a School Bus Into an Affordable Tiny House

  • 01 of 07

    Bus Conversion: a DIY Skoolie

    A dreamy cottage styled skoolie built by Jeremy and Mira Thompson

    If you're looking to build a tiny primary home or an RV on the cheap, you may want to consider hacking an old yellow school bus.

    People across the country are converting student transports like the ones you remember riding to school, into custom motorhomes aptly called skoolies.

    Retired school buses are relatively inexpensive to buy, and if you have basic home building skills, they're fairly easy to trick out with all the comforts of home.

    They're also solidly built. With proper maintenance, used school buses in good condition can remain roadworthy for a very long time. In fact, their diesel engines can last beyond one million miles. Another good to know, unlike shuttle and commercial buses, which have bodies made of composite panels, all school buses have sturdy steel frames and floors, except for models manufactured by Lion Bus.

    The following shares tips and resources for anyone considering a DIY bus conversion. 

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  • 02 of 07

    How Much Does a School Bus Cost?

    1999 school bus skoolie

    How much does a retired school bus cost?

    The good news, most are usually priced to move school. A standard 72-seater that's 34-feet long starts at around $3,000. It has enough room to create 200 square feet of livable space.

    William Bailey purchased a 72-seater at a local auction. His 1999 Thomas Saf-T-Liner school bus cost $2,605.

    Before submitting a bid, he exercised due diligence that uncovered the vehicle's history. Not only did the bus have the best maintenance records compared to the others being auctioned, but it also had only 140,000 miles.

    It took Bailey two years to finish his skoolie conversion. Now he lives in his bus full time. 

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  • 03 of 07

    How to Purchase a Bus for Conversion

    A bus ready for conversion
    On The Road

    Where can you buy a used school bus?

    • Bus dealerships: One of the largest in the U.S. is Midwest Transit Equipment. You can search what's in stock on their website.
    • Online auctions: Public Surplus and eBay usually have plenty of listings.
    • Local Classifieds: Craigslist is a good place to start.

    Before sealing the deal, follow Bailey's lead and review the vehicle's maintenance records. Getting up to speed on both engine and transmission types is also a winning idea that helps separate the wheat from the chaff.

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  • 04 of 07

    How Much Does a Bus Conversion Cost?

    A beautiful school bus conversion

    The cost to DIY a skoolie with all the home comforts including a working kitchen and bathroom is around $30,000. However, repurposing building materials and lots of sweat equity can significantly reduce that amount.

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  • 05 of 07

    How to Purchase a Partially Converted Skoolie

    Julie and Andrew Puckett created this very livable skoolie

    Julie and Andrew Puckett bought a partially converted skoolie. It reduced the amount of back-breaking demo work they had to do, for example, removing dozens of bus seats, so they could start with the fun stuff: remodeling and decorating.

    Partial conversions are usually sold as campers that lack bathrooms and or kitchens.

    A partially converted 34-foot school bus costs around $10,000.
    You can find skoolies like these for sale on the following sites:

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  • 06 of 07

    Where Can You Find Bus Conversion Tiny House Plans?

    Bus conversion
    Lior Danzig

    Here's where you can find bus conversion building plans, tutorials, and advice.

    • It's a forum for skoolie enthusiasts and DIY builders. Hands down, it is the most comprehensive site for bus conversion information. 
    • A good source for basic bus conversion tutorials and skoolie décor projects.
    • This site details one family's bus conversion in daily posts that include video tutorials and thoughtful lessons learned.
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  • 07 of 07

    Learn More About the Skoolie Lifestyle

    skoolie lifestyle
    On the Road

    Converting a school bus into a comfortable home takes some planning. But you can learn from the best. The following bloggers share what you need to know about living full-time in a skoolie: