The school-bus-converted-into-a-home trend was once all the rage among hippies and free spirits before losing traction.
But the trend is on the rise again, as more and more people are choosing to live a minimalist lifestyle and give up the security of a house for a life on the open road. Whether homeowners want to downsize, travel the countryside, reconnect with their family, or live off the grid, a tiny home on wheels satisfies all of these needs and then some.
And what better way to do it than in the spacious interior of a school bus?
School buses that are renovated into livable spaces are affectionately known as “skoolies” to those who live in them. School buses can become skoolies once they are retired, decommissioned, and purchased by innovative DIYers with time and money to transform the bus into their dream home. When it comes to converting a school bus into a tiny home, read on to discover the pros and cons to help you decide if a skoolie is right for you.
Pro: Lower Upfront Costs
While a conventional tiny home could cost around $65,000 or more to build, the purchase of your basic school bus structure may cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to buy used, depending on size, mileage, and condition. Of course, you’ll want to factor in the demolition and renovations, but smaller buses typically mean fewer materials and less time needed to install them. Because your walls, floor, and ceiling are already set up for you, half the work is already done! Plus, it’s more economical and environmentally friendly to recycle used buses instead of purchasing new.
Pro: High Safety Standards
School buses are built to meet incredibly high safety standards for their primary purpose: to keep kids safe. And because most school buses are retired after about 100,000 miles, it’s not too hard to find one in prime shape to repurpose. They are sturdier than your average recreational vehicle and made to withstand extreme weather conditions.
Pro: More Space Than a Conventional Tiny Home
An average tiny home will have between 100 and 200 square feet. Assuming a 40-foot length by about a 7.5-foot width, a skoolie has an average of 300 square feet of space for homeowners to set up a full bedroom, lounge area, kitchen, and bathroom, if they so choose. And, as an added bonus, since homeowners are creating the layout from a newly demolished interior, they have the flexibility to draw their own plans as they see fit to create their unique space.
Pro: Living More With Less
Many people are attracted to the concept of living a higher quality of life by abandoning daily stressors and downsizing their home. The tiny living movement has surfaced among spouses hoping to reconnect and families wanting to spend more time together. It’s a huge undertaking to build a skoolie, but having loved ones involved in the process makes it a bit easier and so much more rewarding and fun.
Con: Requires Significant Demolition
Even purchasing a retired school bus that is in good condition comes with significant construction needs. From pulling out the seats to checking for rust, a school bus requires quite a bit of elbow grease before it can be transformed into a true living space. You can decrease the amount of demo needed by scouting out a bus in good condition before you buy it. Be wary of rusty spots that seem to be chipping away at the metal, which will lead to holes and costly repairs; as well as dried out and peeling rubber in the window caulking and other areas.
Con: Driving and Parking Challenges
It is not likely that you will need a special license to drive your skoolie (so long as you aren’t hauling a full load of kids to and from school daily). However, you should check with your state to confirm whether this is the case and to find out if there are opportunities in your area to gain practice with driving a bus. They can be cumbersome for individuals who are not used to the dimensions of driving a bus, particularly the mechanics and making turns. But it’s manageable with practice, especially if you only plan to take your skoolie out for a spin every once in a while.
Parking, on the other hand, will require some advance planning. If you are road-tripping and need short-term, temporary parking, large centers like Walmart or truck stops will often allow overnight parking. For long-term parking, an RV park or motorhome lot with amenities may be your best bet.
Con: Renovations Can Be Cumbersome
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this will be a one-month project. Some skoolie owners report their bus conversion process taking between six months and a full two years to complete. Gutting and hauling the materials is only the first step before you begin ordering the new interior features and creating the home of your dreams. It can feel a bit intimidating at first, but with time and careful planning you will be all set to “break ground” on this new and exciting project.
Choose Your Adventure
From the installation of skylights to the custom floor plan, a skoolie is the perfect place to plan your next adventure. With your very own customized tiny home on wheels, you’ll have the best of both worlds when it comes to stationary living and the possibilities for road trips. Enjoy a groovy lifestyle in your new skoolie!
Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.