If you like the idea of ditching your mortgage or rent to live full-time in a custom-built RV fully equipped with survival gear to live off the grid, you are not alone. However, compared to purchasing manufactured RVs that are poorly built, it’s much better to create your own mobile dwelling. Rather it’s a custom coach bus like mine or a skoolie, repurposing a decommissioned bus into a motorhome gives the owner the creativity and freedom to travel. Such a project certainly represents a challenge but if you have good DIY skills, it is possible to create the vehicle of your dreams.
My name is Malcolm McCrae (@pollinationstationartbus). I’m the founder of Convertyourbus.com. I’m also an artist, author and social entrepreneur. My wife and I live full time in our 1980 MCI Coach Bus that we converted ourselves. I’ve been an explorer and in love with busses for over 20 years. I’ve owned several commercial vehicles including vans, box trucks and busses. My first bus was a MCI 6 that I purchased on eBay in 2000. Me and some friends converted it and traveled around the US. It was my first introduction to the world of bus building. It was also the first time I felt freedom while on the road and I’ve been a bus nut ever since. After spending 3 years of saving, designing, and building our new bus Pollination Station Art Bus, I decided to share the bus building techniques and knowledge I’ve learned with the world. That’s why I wrote these 6 tips on converting a bus into an RV.
Here are 6 tips to help you convert a bus into an RV:
1. Consider the size of the bus - We suggest you consider the following when deciding the size of the bus that you want to purchase for RV conversion:
● Short School bus/Shuttle Buses - These range from 20-25 ft and come with 4-6 windows. Short buses are suited for people who want the freedom to go and park and don’t mind sacrificing some features of larger RVs.
● Mid-sized School bus - These range from 25-35 ft and come with 7-9 windows. Mid sized are ideal for people who want some added space and more features.
● Full-sized School bus- These range from 40-42 ft and come with 10+ windows. Full sized are preferable for those who want to get creative with the floor plans and enjoy a variety of features such as a fridge, kitchen counter space, freezer space, closet space, separate shower and toilet room, a large sized bed, and more.
● Coach Bus - These range from 30-45 ft and comes with 7-14 windows. These Full-sized coaches are built to take long trips across the country. They are equipped with large luggage bays for storage. Great for large families or individuals that want to build a creative custom bus with a lot of features. These buses are rated to run over 1 million miles and are the preferred busses in the commercial coach industry. Companies like greyhound have been using them for years to transport people since the 40’s.
2. Create a budget for RV conversion - It’s necessary to create an RV conversion budget to ensure you can track your spendings and don’t go overboard on spending. An RV conversion budget must include the cost of the following:
● Heating/Cooling systems
● Building materials
● RV Refrigerator/Stove
● Exterior plan
3. Compare the factors that affect the bus price - The cost of a retired school bus can range anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000 since it depends on a lot of factors such as the model type, model year, size, engine, the amount of rust, number of miles, life remaining on the tires, mechanical problems, and more.
We recommend you opt for a school bus priced between $2,500 to $6,000 to avoid getting ripped off and ensure you don’t have to deal with the issues of rusted construction.
4. Make sure to check for rust everywhere - Whatever you do, make sure you don’t purchase a bus that has been affected by automobile-eating rust. Unlike cosmetic rust that can be treated and doesn't do much harm, automobile-eating rust grows underneath the layers of paint and proves to be deadly to the vehicle. Avoid any vehicle that shows signs of paint chipping, bubbles that look like cyst bumps, holes, and flaking rust.
5. Draw and tape out RV floor plans - Get in the habit of drawing RV floor plans since it would help you to decide the size of the bus that you want to purchase and become more creative, which is always a good sign when designing the interior of your motorhome. Also, ensure you tape out the floor plans on a computer, iPad, or at least a piece of paper to learn about the correct dimensions and space required to house all the items inside your custom-built RV.
6. Apply for RV insurance - It is difficult to get insurance for a custom-built RV unless the conversion is at least 80% complete. Plus, you need to register it as a motorhome. If you want insurance for buying a school bus to convert into an RV, you might be able to get insurance for the value of the vehicle itself if you claim to use it as a storage unit on your property. Finally, when you get all the DMV requirements sorted, you can apply for insurance. Each state differs when licensing and insuring.
I hope these tips help you along your bus building journey!