RVs vs Skoolies – Part II

Recreational Vehicle or School Bus Conversion…Continued

Like I mentioned in our previous post I was pretty well set on a Class A motorhome when we started thinking about going mobile. But we started running into school bus conversions (affectionately called Skoolies) as an alternative. Some of them were dreamy and some were…terrible. But as with anything there are pros and cons so let’s dive right in.

Skoolie Pros:

+ Customization. The options are endless. We can make an old school bus have exactly what we need or want in a space. We would be putting in everything so every choice is ours-the materials, colors, fabrics, layout, every appliance, every single little thing would be tailored to our needs and wants. And that’s pretty awesome.

+ We would know exactly what parts went in, where, and how they were hooked up. Because we’d put everything in ourselves. We could choose where things go to make future access easiest for us.

+ Upgradeability. I made that word up. But because nothing would be built in already it makes it way easier to pull stuff out and swap it out as our needs or budget change.

+ Natural Light. School buses basically have a window at every seat making for windows down each side of the bus. That is SO much light which for me is a huge bonus. I love natural light and love having an abundance of windows. It’s easier to block light out than to get extra light in.

+ Price. It would be cheaper, all things considered, to buy an old school bus and renovate it than it would be to buy even a semi-nice used RV. Plus, once the biggest and most needed systems are in place (bathroom, solar, basic kitchen stuff) we could take our time filling out the rest of the bus as funds became available.

+ Diesel Engines. School buses come standard with diesel engines. RVs have diesels too but gas engines are the most common. Diesels can take a beating in mileage before they start to break down. Of course, diesel is more expensive so that’s a trade off.

+ Safety. This is a huge pro for school buses. They are made to protect children and are solid. The basically have a metal cage that runs the length of the bus so that in the event of a roll over the bus isn’t crushed. Seriously, look up construction videos of RVs and of school buses. There’s a huge difference.

Skoolie Cons:

– Not Move-In Ready. Not even a little bit. It would have to be gutted and filled in which leads to the next con…

– Tons of Work. It would be a LOT of work to convert a school bus. Like so much work it hurts a little to even think about it. It would have to be built from the floor up. And because it would be funky dimensions the use of pre-built stuff would be limited. The is easily the biggest negative and most off-putting thing about a school bus conversion especially because we want to live in whatever we get full-time so it needs to have plumbing and electricity and the basic comforts of home.

– Lack of under storage. RVs almost always have storage compartments below. School buses do but it’s not nearly as common. We would really need one with storage underneath to house our water tanks and other bulky equipment. Along with this is the lack of slide outs. Slide outs give RVs a huge boost in usable space when they’re parked. If we wanted that extra space we’d have to cut a side out and figure out how to build a working slide out and…that ain’t going to happen which means that the Skoolie will usually have less living space than a RV of a comparable length.

– Lack of levelers. Levelers keep RVs level when parked even on difficult surfaces. School buses don’t have them but there are some things, like fridges, that need to be mostly level in order to function properly. We would have to install our own or park on really flat ground all the time (yeah right…) or risk certain dying because they can’t work right. Just another cost to keep in mind.

– Costs could easily get out of hand. This is a problem with any renovation. The expenses just keep piling up if you aren’t really careful and don’t have a strict budget.

– Insurance. Skoolies kind of fall into a grey area and it can make it problematic to get insurance for one. We haven’t seriously looked into this aspect so we’ll report back as we know more but we’ve heard that generally an inspection has to be done and that different insurance companies have different requirements for what constitutes a recreational vehicle.

– Legality of getting a school bus home. In most places it is illegal to drive a bus that is painted school bus yellow that is not affiliated with a school or church. Plus, if it’s a bus for more than 14 passengers you generally need a CDL license. Of course, all of this varies place to place and that information is proving to be surprisingly difficult to find. We still haven’t figured out what’s legal or not in our own area.


Whew, that was a lot of pros and cons. If you missed our pros and cons of RVs check out our previous post RV Pros and Cons. Next comes the big decision…to skoolie or not to skoolie.

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