Are you considering life on the road by picking up an old bus – whether it be a rock solid school bus (Transition Bus) or tourist couch? People are converting these beasts which they call ‘Skoolies’ into awesome tiny homes on wheels.
Retired buses (especially school buses) are fairly inexpensive, and if you have or are willing to tackle the basic building skills to kit out your bus, you will save thousands. Most school buses are built with robust steel frames and floors, unlike shuttle buses and some other commercial bus brands which use alternative composite materials. With continued maintenance upkeep, used buses in good and even better condition can remain legally roadworthy for many years to come.
While the fun part is looking at what’s available, you need to think about the size and style of the bus for your everyday needs. Buses come in three main shapes – short, mid-size, and full-size. While the full-sized buses offer more living space, they are longer and can be trickier to drive and manoeuvre around tight corners, parking, and reversing. Before proceeding, make a list of what you want to include in your mobile home and how much room each item will take up. Then you are ready to check out some different sized buses around your area, or alternatively get the measurements of different bus types online to measure out and mock up a floor plan and note the height as well – this will help in planning where everything will fit. As a guide, a standard seventy two seater bus that is thirty four feet long has roughly two hundred square feet of liveable space.
Where to Find and Purchase a Bus ready for Tiny House Conversion
Do your due diligence before bidding on or purchasing a Bus. This includes having access to the vehicle’s maintenance records, being able to inspect the bus both inside and out, looking for rust, damage, and wear and tear on the body, on the floor of the bus, under the bonnet, and most importantly the undercarriage or chassis. The odd surface rust spot is fine, but rust holes or more widespread corrosion could be a deal breaker. Do some research on the type of engine and transmission types used so you have an idea of any common issues and which buses last longer. It’s a good idea to take a mechanic with you (if you don’t know enough about what goes on under the bonnet) so he or she can inspect the engine and take it for a test drive with you to get a gauge of any work that may need to be done. If the Bus is interstate, then you could perhaps organize for a mechanic in that state to act on your behalf and provide you with a comprehensive check by email – or even talk to them by phone. This can also work in your favor if there are some things to do, so you have some issues to bargain the price with if you and the mechanic still think it’s a good buy. Depending on the price, if you get a really cheap bus, you can expect issues to fix, so weigh up the overall value after recognizing and pricing any work that needs to be done with the purchase price.
Perhaps you like the idea of buying a partially converted ‘Skoolie’ Bus Conversion. Depending how much has already been done, it usually means most, if not all of the back breaking demolition work inside has been done for you. It may even have plumbing installed, insulation board installed, or could be partially furnished or kitted out with a toilet or first fix kitchen. It may also come with existing plans which you could follow or adapt to your liking, and it may come with added extras from plywood for the floors to basins and curtains, so it’s worth checking these options out as well. It may save time and money in the long run. Quite often, people have either run out of money doing it up, or have lost interest, so you could pick up a bargain. Check out the ‘Buses For Sale’ website link below.
There are many different online websites around the world, including Bus Dealerships, Online Auctions, and Local Classifieds. Here are a few I’ve found when looking to buy a used bus:-
Craigslist – search in your local area
Tiny House Bus Conversion Plans and Tutorials
If you like to troll through the internet for a wealth of information and online resources such as building plans, tutorials, and plenty of free advice, check out these websites:-
If you want a book, then check out ‘Bus Conversion Floor Plans’. It gives you more than fifty plans and drawings from various professional and individual bus converters.