HOWTO live in a schoolbus

Over at Instructables, user Zim started a series on how to live in a schoolbus. The first installment is about how to get the bus, make it road legal, and gut it for interior construction. Zim also links to Skoolie, an interesting online community devoted to school bus conversion. From Instructables:
A few years back, I got tired of living the American Dream and struggling to keep up with a horrendous mortgage and rising credit card debt. I know there's really only two ways to balance a budget, spend less or earn more, and I didn't see a huge wage increase in the future. Also, I have always been interested in unusual homes and can't pass a two or three hundred square foot enclosure without wondering what interesting living space could be made there. Less space, less stuff, less consumed, less owed. It sounded like where I wanted to be.

Then, I got a call from a buddy that purchased a pair of used school buses from the Texas A&M surplus property auction. He knew I had been interested in one and was willing to hold on to it until I could head out to pick it up. I got myself to College Station, spent a few days changing fluids, ripping out the seats and doing general preventative maintenance. Then, for about $1400 for the bus and another $600 in diesel (probably twice that, now), I headed back to Florida with the beast. Two years later, I've got a fully functional, comfortable, clean living space for about $12,000 and my monthly housing and utility costs are less than $400/month.

While my expenses have been drastically reduced and I am finally moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle, this probably isn't for everyone. For a single guy that wants to do something about waste and consumption, however, I can't think of a better place. Maybe something like this won't get you to move into a bus, but if it gets you to think about alternatives, then I'm glad I could share.
Re-use a Schoolbus for Cheap Housing (Instructables)


  1. Back in the 70s, my parents had a hippie friend who lived in a school bus. The one vivid memory I have of this dude is that he would come to our house to use the washing machine because the coin laundry never got the clothes very clean, and his young son would get diaper rash because of it. Weird what one remembers.

  2. A friend of mine lives in a school bus, too. She keeps it parked and is gardening on the land it’s set on. Don’t know much more in the way of details, but she’s living the permaculture life pretty effectively.

    And you’d be amazed about how much floor space a bus offers once those bench seats are removed.

  3. I already am! I had very similar thoughts about debt, and living spaces. So in January I bought myself a 1987 Crown Supercoach. Crowns are the Cadillacs of school busses as any bus nerd will tell you. I am currently typing this comment from inside my bus!

  4. I went to undergrad school at A&M. Gig em Aggies! I don’t reccomend living in a bus as an alternative to housing though if you have a family. The lady in Houston that drowned all of her kids in a bathtub lived in a converted bus for a while. I would say it’s kinda like a motorcycle. Good for one and not for long periods of time.

  5. One of my earliest memories was checking out one of my parents’ friend’s converted school bus and thinking, “This is so cool. I’m totally living in one of these one day.” I fear that rising fuel costs and the fact that I can’t park something that size within 15 miles of where I live puts the idea just out of reach.

  6. There is someone in Canberra, Australia who lives in a yellow school bus painted with the words “Mandalay” and a mural.

    The bus is parked in a public car park (not a caravan park, it is a temporary car park for commuters, shoppers etc.)

    Apparently the bus is illegally connected to electricity, and uses the nearby public toilets.

    Someone told me once that the local government used to try and make the person in the bus move on, but it was more trouble than it was worth, so eventually the local government shrugged and gave up.

    It has been there since at least 2003.

  7. My wife, son and I share a four bedroom 2000 sqft house with my mother and we don’t spend more than $400 a month for utilities/property tax. My car’s in a garage and all my junk is stored safely in the rafters. Switching to a bus would be a step down for us.

  8. I’ve often fantasized of living out of a van to save money in rent and utilities. I would join a gym so I could use the showers in the morning, use the laundromat to wash my clothes, and mostly hang out at the library or visit public places in the evenings, keep a PO Box for the mail.
    This is however, not a really good way to attract women probably.

  9. Sure, as long as he can park it on someone’s land for free and use someone else’s sewage and water and electrical hook-ups, yeah, right, it’s a great way to live and so very very cheap.
    As in mooching.
    And let’s not forget insurance and he has to drive it around some because leaving it parked isn’t good for the engine–add gas money. Wow, that $400.00 is increasing right before my eyes!

  10. I converted a bus a few years ago, see . I highly recommend it for any Maker thinking of buying an RV. You’ll get a much tougher vehicle for a fraction of the price. Mine cost $2K and I but another $4K into it.

  11. I had a friend that did this a few years ago — his marriage was falling apart, he was clinically depressed, and he just didn’t give a fuck about a lot of things. He bought a used bus for $1200, moved it to an RV park, and gutted it. He got as far as creating a dining/sleeping space and a kitchen area, and proceeded to live in it for a year or so. He had plans for a shower/bathroom area in the rear, but once he made it through the initial build-up, he never followed through with making it completely self-contained. My recollections of hanging out with him in the bus were that it was drafty, poorly insulated, and depressing. Still, as emergency shelters go, it was fine, and it did keep him dry. With a little more effort and follow-through it could have been very cool. Unfortunately, it was also a magnet for both vandalism and police attention; it stuck out a lot, as one might imagine. One thing I learned from watching him was that if you live in a converted school bus, you’d better develop a pretty thick skin, because a lot of people are going to mess with you.

  12. I’ve always wanted to do this with a double-decker tour bus (the ones common for group tours in Europe). With the master bedroom in the top front, kids bunks in the top back, library in the bottom back, etc.

  13. What would be cool about a bus as a home is that it can move. But who can afford the gas these days? Those things must be fuel pigs. Better a small car and a teardrop trailer!

  14. I was in until he said “$400.” I live in a big house with one room mate and am paying $425. I guess it just depends on what part of the country you live in. $400 isn’t that great around here.

    Choices: Live in a van down by the river or move someplace cheap.

    Also, how do you bring girls home to a bus?

  15. I briefly lived in a VW Westfalia in Berkeley in the late 90’s in an area populated with a wide variety of “temporary and permanent nomads.” The folks who lived in buses always seemed the creepiest and most cultish of the the various breeds of folks I ran into.

  16. Eep, where would all my books go? My studio? I’ll keep my big ole house, even if we are just renting. That said, as a second little ‘get away’ living area, I think a bus would be rather cool.

  17. I have vague memories of a children’s book about a family that lived in a schoolbus. I remember reading it/having it read to me in the mid 80s. Does anybody else remember this book? It’s driving me crazy that I can’t remember the title.

    Ever since I read it, I dreamed of living in a school bus. The square footage is actually bigger than a lot of studio apartments around here (Helsinki). As other have mentioned, I think the biggest problem would be finding a place to park it.

  18. Watch/Read “Into the Wild” for a lesson in how NOT to live in a schoolbus. To summarize, don’t eat poisonous berries in the Alaskan wilderness with no way of getting home. Very sad.

  19. Another bus converter here. I just got back from Burning Man in my BlueBird TC2000(turbo diesel flatnose transit style bus), we got 8.15 mpg for the 3700 mile round trip(including the 8 hours of mostly idling/gridlock getting on & off playa). We took six people and camping gear/bikes for another 5 and the fuel split was about what airfare would have been, but we were able to camp in a much higher level of comfort.

    Looking at the weight of the bus, and comparing to my daily driver if it was efficient per pound, it would get 50+ mpg.

    Von Slatt is deadon, this type of bus makes a bomb proof RV. Not sure I would really want to live in it full time, but if we ever evacuated for a hurricane I know which vehicle I am going to take.


  20. Hmm. The last HOWTO was about getting rid of your murder victims. The one before that about building your own nuclear bomb. Now HOWTO live in a schoolbus…

    …because you’re a mass murderer on the run from the law?

    See? It’s like I said. Sinister.

  21. A large number of solar cells can fit on the roof of a bus.

    Bus sits around for months before you move on.

    A large number of batteries could fit under the floor.

    Convert the bus to electric power – it’s unusual, but not inconceivable to do.

    Free fuel and free traveling, if you stick to short, hundred mile or so hops. More range if you can hook up to the grid. And with so much room, not too hard to mount a generator somewhere for emergency power.


    I am readign through your bus files now.

    It’s s lovely job.

    The thing for me is I would liove to live like this, but it is the intolerance of others and their constant need to get up in peoples faces for doign soemthing different that puts me off.

    Hell i walked down the street in Glasgow wearing a hat that was not a baseball cap and had 3 different people offer to break my teeth.

    So living in a bus in the UK is a non starter.

  23. If I sit in my car with the air-condt off, it gets to be too hot after about 5 minutes. How much insulation will need to be added to the roof so that the people inside are not cooked like omelets?

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