Want To Live In A School Bus? Here Are 8 Upsides & Downsides You Need To Know

For some nomadic spirits, the idea of living out of a converted school bus sounds fantastic. You can live wherever you want, visit new places…

Short bus conversion

For some nomadic spirits, the idea of living out of a converted school bus sounds fantastic. You can live wherever you want, visit new places every day, and meet other like-minded people who share your interests.

However, before you take the plunge into skoolie life, you should be aware of the pros and cons. For example, did you know some campgrounds don’t accept skoolies? 

If you didn’t, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll tell you eight big reasons to say ‘yes’ to skoolie life and eight reasons that might make you think twice!

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more info.

8 Upsides To Living In A Skoolie

short bus conversion
Photo credit: @hedgersabroad

Let’s start with the upsides of living out of a skoolie–a decommissioned bus converted into a home on wheels. 

Generally speaking, living out of a school bus is great. It offers a way in for those dreaming of van life and makes it easier for full-time nomads to find the perfect work/life balance.

Here are the 8 best things about living in a school bus.

1. Skoolies Have Lots Of Room

Short bus conversion
Photo credit: @doritann

One of the best things about skoolies is how much more room you have. Some camper vans and RVs feel restrictive, uncomfortable, and claustrophobic. 

This can make things much harder and less enjoyable, especially if you work on the road. In a skoolie, you have much more room to move about, work, sleep, and live.

Most skoolies also have a higher roof so you can stand up straight. That’s always a bonus!

2. Plenty Of Natural Light

short bus conversion
Photo courtesy of @sundancebus

We’ve traveled in converted school buses and vans, and the difference in natural light is significant. We find the lack of natural light in most camper vans disappointing.

On the other hand, we love how much natural light comes into a skoolie. Most skoolie have larger windows, so lots of natural light gets in.

Skoolies featuring a sunroof let in even more light. This natural light is nicer to work in and helps keep me in a good mood.

3. Improved Safety Ratings

short bus conversion
photo credit: @hedgersabroad

Vehicles used to transport the public are held to firm safety ratings. This makes sense since they’re designed to carry precious cargo and withstand most road hazards.

Therefore, most skoolies are more reliable and safer than RVs or camper vans. You can expect reliable motors, more robust ladder frames, and reinforced bodies. 

You may be surprised to know RVs are held to standards closer to housing than vehicles. Buses are much sturdier, and you lose fewer benefits when converting them into a skoolie.

4. More Durability

Photo Credit: Clinton Harris

Linking nicely to the upside above, buses and other vehicles used for public transportation are subject to regular maintenance and local laws while in service. This includes things like tire changes, oil changes, and engine maintenance. 

When a school bus has been retired and is ready to be converted into a skoolie, you can be more confident it will last. Regular maintenance will help prolong its lifespan despite the potentially high mileage.

5. Design A Home You Love 

Photo Credit: Meg O’Neill

One of the things we love most about skoolie conversions is the ability to make it your own. Almost all the details in your skoolie relate to your personality and tastes. 

Some converted school buses have full kitchens, while others might have a larger lounge area. There are even rig owners who fit a bathtub in their skoolie. 

Being able to create your dream home on wheels to complement your passions isn’t a luxury everyone is lucky enough to experience, so make the most of it!

6. Repurposed Items

Photo Credit: @treehousebus

Converting a school bus into a home allows you to reuse items and reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills. You can give things a new life by simply using your creativity and watching helpful YouTube videos.

For example, bathroom vanities can have a second life as kitchen sinks/counters, bunk beds can be converted into sleeping platforms, and crates/boxes can be recycled and used to give you skoolie more character. 

7. Lower Cost

Shuttle bus conversion
Photo credit: @treehousebus

Despite the significant size difference, skoolies are often less expensive to purchase and build than conversion vans. This is one of their biggest draws.

Making savings upfront will give you a bigger budget for adding customizations and upgrades to your skoolie build. This is also a nice bonus when you consider rising fuel costs.

8. Skoolies Come In All Shapes And Sizes

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

One of the best things about investing in a skoolie is your variety of options when picking the correct size. From a mini-skoolie to a 40-foot beast, skoolies come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

A more comprehensive range of school buses means a more extensive variety of choices for your dream build. When picking the right school bus, think about your needs, travel requirements, and where you’ll be driving.

8 Drawbacks To Living In A Skoolie

Photo Credit: @girlwithabus

Now that we’ve shown you all the positives of living on a school bus, let’s look at some downsides. As versatile and exciting as school bus living is, it has problems. 

Here are 8 of the most important downsides you need to consider.

1. Complicated Electrical Systems

Photo Credit: Clinton Harris

If you’re new to school bus living, one of the hardest things you might face is understanding how the electrical systems work. Due to the safety features, skoolies often come with a complicated network of electrical systems.

Buses are often built in quite creative ways, so it can take a lot of work for beginners and even average mechanics to learn how everything is put together and how it all works. 

2. Skoolies Aren’t Always Allowed

Photo Credit: Camille Attell

Sadly, not every campground accepts Skoolies. Many campgrounds only accept RVs that are less than ten years old. 

Campgrounds don’t restrict skoolie access just because of age. Some campgrounds also ban school buses and other large vehicles because they simply don’t fit the park’s aesthetic. 

Skoolies are sometimes not allowed at RV parks because of stigmas about the people who choose to live in them. But there’s also the very real chance that your skoolie simply won’t fit into the spaces.

3. Rust 

Short bus conversion
Photo courtesy of @sundancebus

Like with any vehicle, you must consider rust when choosing a school bus that will last. Despite the regular maintenance performed on most skoolies, most school buses are retired from places with high humidity or where de-icing salts are used in winter.

Moisture trapped inside a skoolie can lead to rusted floor panels, walls, and mold. Over time, this rust can cause structural and mechanical damage/failures. 

With this in mind, we recommend having a school bus looked at by a mechanic before making a purchase.

4. Breakdowns Do Happen

Photo Credit: Yetibus

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what type of vehicle you buy; breakdowns can happen. Skoolies are no different, so you have to be prepared for anything.

As with most vehicles, parts and repairs can be expensive. Finding someone to perform the necessary maintenance can also be challenging.

Learning how to identify and fix minor problems yourself could save you money and hassle on the road.

5. Insurance Can Be Hard To Find

Photo Credit: @mikeandaims

You’ll be surprised by how hard it is to find insurance for your Skoolie. Most insurance companies see DIY builds as a risk, especially in terms of fires. 

Many skoolie conversions incorporate wood-burning fireplaces to keep the living space warm. It’s hard to tell how much these upgrades compromise the overall safety of a skoolie. 

Therefore, a lot of insurance companies will only offer liability insurance.

6. Financing A School Bus Is Challenging

Image Credit: Depositphotos.

You probably won’t find a ready-to-go skoolie in a used RV lot. As a result, you’ll likely be left buying a used bus and completing the build yourself or a finished skoolie from a private seller. 

Either way, getting finance for your vehicle can be challenging. Most banks will only grant loans on vehicles ten years old or newer. The problem is most school districts use their buses for at least ten years. 

See the issue?

Of course, you then have to factor in the total costs of your project. It’s not uncommon for complete skoolies to cost between $20,000 and $40,000, if not more, and most banks won’t issue a personal loan for amounts over $10,000.

7. Skoolie Have A Low MPG

Photo Credit: @nomad_brad_503

One time a skoolie owner may feel envious of an RVer is at the fuel pump, where a Sprinter could get twice the MPGs. Skoolies suffer from a low MPG.

Whether your rig is gasoline or diesel-powered, fuel costs can be prohibitive, depending on your travel distance. Depending on the size and weight of your rig, skoolies can get approximately 8 to 12 miles per gallon—similar to an RV.

8. A Stigma Surrounds Skoolies

Photo Credit: Clinton Harris

Since the 1960s, skoolies have been associated with American counterculture, an anti-establishment political movement and cultural phenomenon. In all truth, most people you’ll come across are perfectly pleasant, but sadly, some people still associate converted buses with troublemaking. 

Unfortunately, you might attract negative attention from various people on your skoolie travels. This could come from law enforcement, van lifers, and questionable members of the public.

So what do you think about Skoolie living now? Do you still want to take the plunge and live out of a school bus? Or is there still much for you to learn before taking the following steps?

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Photo Credit: AT Overland Summit

One of the best reasons to go RVing is to explore the wilderness in ways you can’t do with regular camping gear. However, if you’re buying a motorhome, most models are a bit too large and cumbersome to go off-grid or “overlanding.”

Fortunately, if you have a pickup truck, you can get the full RV experience without buying a separate vehicle. Instead, you can choose one of the best pop-up truck campers. These lightweight truck campers allow you to live comfortably while traveling as lean as possible. So, let’s dive in and see what the best pop-up truck campers have to offer.

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Photo Credit: Winnebago

Are you dreaming of an off-road campervan to venture onto less-traveled trails for some tranquility, hiking, or perhaps mountain biking? We’re passionate about our 4×4 Sprinter van and have curated a selection of top-notch off-road vans and vehicles to help bring your overlanding aspirations to life.

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