Short bus conversions have become extremely popular in America over the last decade or so. The iconic skoolies bring back childhood memories and make for an excellent up-cycling project for those who want to live the van life in an extra-charming, robust vehicle.
Short buses are cheap to buy, so they’re a great option for the budget-conscious DIYer. The low purchase price also helps aspiring van lifers who would rather hire a company to carry out the conversion, to cut down costs.
Short school buses are generally just over 20ft long, with five or six side windows. They’re between 72 and 92 inches wide and offer 6 feet or more of standing headroom inside. The interior space is quite roomy and rectangular, which means you can design a very space-efficient floor plan.
Some short bus conversions aren’t just practical and tough, they’re stunning tiny homes with all the comforts you need.
Ready to get inspired?
We’ve picked ten amazing short bus conversions you have to see, whether you’re planning to renovate a skoolie soon, or you just love to peek inside other people’s tiny homes on the road.
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1. Matt and Christa’s “Cecilia” Short Bus Conversion
Matt and Christa got married a few months ago and immediately took off on their short bus conversion Cecilia. Cecilia The Bus only cost $3,000 to buy and $10,000 to renovate. She’s now Matt and Christa’s only home.
Inside, there’s a kitchen and couch near the door, while the toilet is at the back, next to the platform bed.
Matt and Christa opted for a huge kitchen in their short bus conversion with tons of countertop space, a fridge and a stove. The couch is also a slide-out bed for guests.
The storage under the platform bed is accessible if you lift the mattress. In the bathroom, there’s a Porta Potty and a shower.
Outside, at the rear of the skoolie, there’s a back deck where they can store their bikes and an outdoor kitchen counter. The roof features a deck where they can sit and relax and three solar panels to generate electricity.
You can find out more about Cecilia The Short Bus and her owners on their Instagram account.
2. Heather and Nick’s “Vicaribus” short bus conversion
Heather and Nick live on their 1998 Thomas Vista short school bus camper conversion with their dog Miles and travel around the USA full-time.
Vicaribus took a long year to convert into an RV, but it was definitely worth it.
The exterior is predominantly white, while the interior is colorful and bright. Inside, there’s a kitchen, a dinette that turns into a couch, an office desk, a toilet and a platform bed.
The couch is formed of three units, one of which can be taken out to create a total of three seats around the table. The kitchen features a gas stove, a refrigerator and a sink.
The toilet is a wet bath with a Nature’s Head composting toilet. On the roof, there’s a patio deck and two big solar panels that provide the RV with electricity.
You can follow the Vicaribus adventures on YouTube and on Heather and Nick’s blog.
3. Brad’s ex-shuttle bus skoolie conversion
Brad lives on his Ford E450 short bus RV conversion on his own, so his design for the interior is slightly different from usual. Brad lives a nomadic lifestyle on the road and works while traveling.
He painted his short bus conversion’s exterior white. Inside, he opted for a desk space where he can work on his laptop, a bench couch, a huge kitchen spanning both sides of the bus, and a platform bed.
The desk is big enough to host a laptop, keyboard and mouse. At the back of the short bus RV, there’s a platform bed with storage drawers underneath. There’s also a hidden toilet, but no shower.
You can follow Brad’s adventures on his Instagram account.
4. Ryan and Stephanie’s short bus conversion
When Stephanie and Ryan got married in 2012, they decided not to settle down and start a family, but to go traveling instead. First, they spent years living and working in Asia, then they decided to swap the expat life abroad for the van life in America.
They purchased a 2006 Ford E350 Super Duty, and converted it into a DIY RV with the help of their families. Their RV used to be an airport shuttle bus and the renovation process took five weeks.
Inside, they have a kitchen, a drop-down table bed, a couch bed, and a Porta-Potty camping toilet. The kitchen has a camping stove and a top-loading refrigerator.
While their short bus conversion looks gorgeous, they kept things simple, so living onboard still feels like camping. They have to make up their bed every night, don’t have a fixed toilet or shower and spend most of their time outdoors.
Stephanie and Ryan share their bus life adventures on their YouTube channel, Instagram account and blog.
5. Jon and Amy’s Angry Pickle
Jon and Amy bought a charming 2001 Ford E450 Blue Bird Micro Bus and converted it into a short bus conversion for going on their off-grid adventures.
The exterior is painted in army-green. Inside, there’s a couch that doubles as a slide-out bed, a kitchenette, a platform bed and a composting toilet.
The kitchen features a beautiful wooden countertop and a vintage tap. There’s also a microwave and a mini fridge. The storage under the platform bed can be accessed from both inside and outside the bus, which is very handy. The solar panels are attached to the roof.
You can follow Jon and Amy’s bus life adventures on YouTube.
6. Aaron and Cat’s Stu The Bus Short Bus Conversion
Aaron and Cat set off on an epic road trip in 2018 and they’re still going. They bought and converted a 2005 Ford E450 Super Duty for a total of $13,000. They DIY’d everything, with the help of their parents.
The interior is in a teal and white color scheme and features a couch, a kitchen, a toilet and a platform bed. One of the cleverest features is the kitchen sink. The tap swivels out of the window to become an outdoor shower.
There’s also a bathroom with a Nature’s Head composting toilet.
Aaron and Cat built a roof deck that can be accessed from inside the van through the hatch. On top, there are bikes, a spare tire and plenty of space for stargazing or sunbathing.
You can find out more about Aaron, Cat and Stu on Instagram and their YouTube channel.
6. Meg and Levi’s short bus conversion
Meg and Levi live on their 24ft short bus conversion with their dog Kiwi. They went for a rustic look inside and out, with lots of wood, even on the exterior.
Their bus has a kitchen, dinette, toilet and a platform bed. The soft furnishing is so cool, it makes the interior Instagram-perfect.
You can check out Meg and Levi’s short bus RV conversion on their Instagram account.
7. Alyssa and Dan’s Lucky Bus
Alyssa and Dan have been living on the road since March 2019 on Lucky Bus, a 22ft long Ford E450 7.3L. They set off on their bus RV to travel the USA and both work remotely from their laptops.
Lucky Bus has been refurbished by 84 Lumber, following the design Alyssa and Dan dreamed up. The outside has been completely repainted in pastel color tones. The interior offers 100sqft of living space and features a kitchen, a sofa, a platform bed and a bathroom.
The kitchen features a huge worktop, a refrigerator and a storable electric cooker. Dan and Alyssa opted for using a foldable camping table they can use both inside and outdoors.
For the bathroom, they went for a wet bath and a Nature’s Head composting toilet. There are solar panels on the roof, so they can go off-grid.
Alyssa and Dan document their bus life adventures on their YouTube channel, Instagram account and blog.
Isaac and Julia’s Skooliana Short Bus Conversion
Isaac and Julia’s skoolie is equal parts cozy and modern. You’d never guess they had never built anything before getting their hands on this 2003 Ford E450. The couple decided to move onto a bus to save on their bills.
It took Isaac and Julia a year to refit the bus from scratch, DIY. You can spot Skooliana from afar, thanks to the unique exterior design, which features a vinyl black pine forest.
Inside, there’s a couch, kitchen and platform bed. If they need the bathroom, they drive up to a Walmart and if they want to shower, they go to the gym.
The kitchen has a stove with an oven, a slide-out refrigerator and a sink. Our favorite feature is the counter, which looks like a big slab of raw wood dipped in epoxy resin. With no bathroom inside, there’s plenty of storage space for both food and clothes.
You can follow Isaac and Julia’s travels on their YouTube channel and Instagram account.
8. Alexa and Kyle’s Sturdy Barb Short Bus Camper
Alexa and Kyle travel around North America on their short bus, a 2001 Chevrolet Express 3500. They quit their jobs, converted the skoolie into a DIY RV and set off on a new adventure with their cat Trippy.
The dark blue and white exterior gives it an old school feel. The roof features a deck to sit on and two huge solar panels that can take them off-grid anytime they want.
Inside, they’ve opted for a simple design with two couches facing each other that turn into a bed, a small kitchen and a bathroom with a composting toilet.
Conclusion on Short Bus Conversions
Well, what a round-up! We can’t decide which one is our favorite – they’re all amazing. We hope these short bus conversions can give you some good ideas for your own project, or help you fuel your van life dream.