10 Things We Wish Have Known/Done Before Committing To Our School Bus Conversion Project

You may have bought your school bus, and even started your conversion already. However, it may not be too late to incorporate some key points that have helped us keep going on with our school bus conversion. There are two very important pointers… one is time, and the other is money. Both are limited, and both can be wasted very easy.

1. Know your budget. Know that you will most likely go over-budget. But if you do, make it count! Be real with yourself, your situation, and the options available out there. *Research*, and… prepare yourself to pay commercial truck prices for almost everything (broken windshield, a fault in the fuel injection system, a commercial truck towing truck, storage for your bus, tires, etc.). Know how skillful you are, and budget to hire people to complete tasks you can’t complete on your own.

2. Know your time frame. Related to the previous point, the less time available for completing your build, the most likely you are to spend more money. Being on a hurry, and lack of research will always empty your wallet faster than anything else!

3. Know your needs. For this, you need to reprogram your brain, and redefine what is a “need” versus a “want”, versus a “like”. Go back down to your bare essentials, and add up to your skoolie concept as your finances and space allows you to.

4. Know the type of buses available. There are many bus types, all with advantages and disadvantages. Short, medium and large bodies. Size will determine your living space, storage space, weight carrying capabilities, parking availability, ease of city driving, etc. Front, cab-over, middle and rear engines will determine the amount of noise while in transit, how complicated will it be to service it, and some times, your floor plan distribution. Flat nose versus dog nose will play in aesthetics and general public acceptance (including campgrounds!!)

5. Know your local laws, requirements, and restrictions.
From title, insurance and registration, to where can you park your skoolie will be determined by Federal, State & County laws. Be aware of street signs, and do a walk-around inspection for marks or notes (from neighbors, or police), and avoid confrontations. There’s always somewhere, elsewhere where to park.

6. Know your resources. Shore power, running water, bathroom, lunch, a source of heat if you are working on a cold climate, tools, time, money, people that will help you free of charge, people you need to hire for tasks you can’t complete… As well, know where are your local sources for materials and parts, and research prices (including shipping & handling costs if you buy through the internet). These, and many more could delay your build, and eat up your finances. For us, the greatest of limitations has been lack of shore power to plug power tools into. But there are work-arounds like cordless power tools, and 6 big batteries… and someone who can weld that can meet us where we have the bus parked at.

7. Know as many busnuts as possible. “Yaaaayyyy!!! More busnuts!!!”, usually is our expression when we get to meet other busnuts. Every skoolie busnut has an unvaluable wealth of knowledge due to their experience while building their skoolie. The more you connect with, the more knowledgeable you will become! Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are only a few social media platforms where you can find tens of them!!

8. Share your ideas! The more (and early) you share your concepts and ideas with other busnuts, the more you will be able to readjust, an redesign your build. You want others to catch your mistakes, even before you make them irreversible or difficult to reverse. This will save you time, money, effort, and sometimes even tears of frustration.

9. Know the difference between good versus bad criticism. Very simple! He/She who criticize without providing a possible better alternative within your envisioned concept, is only criticizing. Listen to the voice of the experienced, and research what they have to say. Din’t just accept criticism, try to understand where it is coming from. However, know yourself, and know what can you withstand in order to get the result you want! In our case, we chose to have clear skylights, which was applauded by many, and good/bad criticized by others. It may become a solar oven, but we love the view, and the how the rain hits it. That’s our “only window” (clear window) to the outside, because we applied privacy film on all of our windows! So, we are more than ok with the decision!

10. Keep a record. Keep a log of everything you spend on the bus, including places and dates! Being organized and strict in your finances will help you achieve more with less.

BONUS: K.I.S.S. your bus conversion project (Keep It Stupid Simple). When you start complicating the concept, and the idea, the medium becomes complicated, and the process becomes complicated. Build your bus as simple as you can, knowing, and trying to fulfill your needs!

*As a last minute addition brought to our attention by our dear friend, and veteran fellow busnut Steve LaFontaine, INSURANCE!!! Yes, insurance is the most talked about topic in the skoolie forums since forever!! Mostly because a school bus has a high center of gravity, and usually inexperienced busnuts do not understand how adding weight (like water tanks) affect it, rolling over in even moderate off ramps exits, raising liability for the insurance companies. For the latest real life updates about skoolie insurance, please join us at the Facebook group Skoolie (https://www.facebook.com/groups/skoolie/) There are tons of great information waiting for you over there!

Thank you for reading!! We hope you enjoyed it, and can take some of the tips with you!! Please share with others that may benefit of it too!

We invite you to follow not only our progress while converting our bus into our home, but our progress and life experiences while downsizing and simplifying our life together. Feel free to Contact Us with all your comments, questions, and future posts suggestions!

Mike & Lala @ La Casita… Bus!

9 thoughts on “10 Things We Wish Have Known/Done Before Committing To Our School Bus Conversion Project

  1. Great post! We found every turn where we saved big money, we paid big on time. Mainly on our lumber (all pallet wood) and our paint job. Our build will be done this week, can’t wait to see what being on the road with the bus teaches us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yaaaayyyy!!! More busnuts!!! We love every time we connect with a skoolie busnut!!

      Yes, repurposing is one of the money savers. We love thrift stores, Restore Habitat For Humanity stores, Craigslist and Facebook local “online yard sales” groups!!

      Please, do provide a link to your conversion progress page! We would love to follow your build!! 🙂


  2. Dumb question…..I am in the market for a small school bus but dont know how the insurance works. How do I get it home after purchase but before it’s converted? Do I just tell the insurance company it’s a conversion? I plan on having a composting toilet and a fridge but right now have no plans for running water. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Jill!

      I would call an independent insurance agent/agency, and request them a temporary insurance pass (I think they last 3 days) for a non-commercial (personal) passenger bus.

      However, you must also research your state & county’s parking laws. If you are to park the bus on a stree, on your driveway, backyard, or land, you may / may not need regular insurance. So be prepared for it!

      Some insurance providers offer temporary insurance for bus conversions, which include a limited amount of mileage and time to complete your conversion (I believe is 6 months to a a year).

      So, you see, there is a lot more depth to the answer of your question than you may think. However, research will guide you through it, and you will always find people like us willing to help as much as they can!


    • My boyfriend and I converted a short bus and got it retitled in Virginia, got Progressive and hit the road. they cancelled our insurance after a month with no reason and now we have ONE option, if they approve us and its very expensive. Be careful, you should find out if someone will insure you before purchasing the bus. One company told us they insure long buses but not short ones.


      • You just said it, right there! And we couldn’t agree more! People should research, and base their decisions on hard evidence and written information. Everything anyone offer should have its counterpart written. “There’s no free lunch”. There are terms and conditions in every contract. And people should learn about them before commiting to any project. That is the purpose of us sharing our experiences with the world! Thank you for your contribution!

        Liked by 1 person

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