I have traveled in pretty much any kind of vehicle you can imagine from a Toyota Prius, SUVs and even a vintage RV. But when it comes to full time travel I want to make sure I have the perfect vehicle as a base for my new home. After a ton of research and living in some pretty rough conditions at times.. I ultimately decided to choose a skoolie for full time travel over an RV!
The Cost of a Skoolie Vs. RV
There were several factors that went into my decision for a new vehicle. First off I was on a tighter budget than some. When researching I found out that the average “Class C RV costs are lower than A and B, ranging from $35,000 to $50,000.” According to Cruise America‘s article for “How Much Does An RV Cost?” And Class A and B RVs can be upwards of $100,000 and more to purchase.
Then I started looking into how much a school bus would cost, and they are much cheaper! Now, of course a empty school bus is going to cost much more in the long run to make it a livable home. Where as an RV already has the floor plan built out and appliances installed. But still, the cost is so low for a school bus. It will still be so much cheaper to build out the skoolie than to get an RV just because it’s prebuilt.
You can get a good condition school bus at an auction or from a private seller for about $2,000-10,000. Depending on several factors like size, age, model, condition, etc… But you need to know a little bit about what you’re looking for to make sure a price isn’t too good to be true. There are some factors that could make or break a good deal on a school bus.
The RV Floor Plan Vs. Custom Floor Plans
Having already lived in an RV I was accustomed to the basic floor plans that they came with. And I wasn’t pleased with what they offered to say the least. It seemed like every RV was the same kind of layout. You walk in and there’s a small dinette that turns into a bed that’s the size for a small child. And then you have the “kitchen” area that has a small counter. And that cuts into the walkway that’s for a tiny kitchen sink. After that, you have you bathroom and bedroom. All the RV’s were just cookie cutter examples of each other. I wanted home that was unique and the floor plan was something that I came up with. to fit my specific lifestyle and needs.
With a school bus conversion I have the freedom to make a floor plan that’s built for me. Now, this does come with the need of knowing how to build a home and the parts within it. But luckily I have the skills and tools needed to build a tiny home out of a school bus. But simply having a custom design for myself was a big plus to choosing a skoolie over an RV.
Check the Tires!
If you’re looking for a medium to large size bus, for example. Then you want to make sure the condition of the tires is good. You don’t want to mess with tires with any vehicle that’s that big and heavy. Check the DOT date on the side (in the United States) to make sure they are not older than 5 years old. Most all of the busses sold at auctions don’t have brand new tires on them. And most of the time the tires will at least be a couple of years old. If the tires are no good, you can expect to spend around $3,000 on new ones for a bus with 22.5 inch rims.
With new tires and some mechanical work, plus the build cost to make it livable. A bus conversion can be quite costly, but it can still be affordable compared to a newer RV. That’s why I chose a skoolie for full time living. I purchased my skoolie (and another one later on..) from online certified listings like Craigslist and OfferUp. My first Skoolie was a 1989 short diesel chevy cut away van and my second one was a 1999 35 foot International DT466e. I ended up having to upgrade to the bigger bus because the short one was too small.
Bring a Mechanic When You Buy
Of course, it’s not just the tires that could be costly in the long run. These larger busses are usually well maintained by their school districts their whole lives. So, the mechanical side of things is usually in good order. But it’s always a good idea to have a mechanic come with you to check out any vehicle before you purchase it. And make sure the mechanic knows the type of engine and specs before you hire them. A gas engine mechanic could have no idea about how a Diesel engine works.
Frame Build and Quality
While some of the brand new RVs have a ton of safety features. They weren’t anywhere close to my budget for a build. I would have had to have an older RV if I were to go that route. But these RVs and many newer ones are built cheaply. There are many reasons for this like high material costs. By using lighter and cheaper materials they help keep weight down. This helps get better fuel mileage and can increase their profit margin too.
Many RVs are not built for strength, especially in the case of a rollover. But all school busses are built to shelter our community’s children almost every day. Therefore these vehicles are built like tanks. Their structure is durable and do not seem as likely to injure someone inside, in the case of a major accident. Of course, this is just speculation and really just for my own peace of mind. I’ve seen many RV crashes during my time traveling across the country. And if an RV flips, they get crushed to nothing.
The interior quality of RVs is just as cheap as their outer quality.. The cabinets and walls are thin and cheaply made. The appliances are expensive and not the quality of home appliances that I could have in a skoolie build from the beginning. If I had gotten an RV I would have spent a lot of money. Just by upgrading all of the interior appliances and building supplies. And that’s just a waste, I could just get what I want from the get go. When I purchase materials for my own skoolie build.
Conclusion of Why I Ultimately Chose a Skoolie for Full Time Travel
An RV could be a good option for many travelers that want to live on the road full time. But for me and my situation I feel like a school bus conversion was the best choice I could have made. Although when I did end up purchasing a school bus to convert, I ended up having to upgrade to a bigger bus. I was just too tall for the little bus I originally bought. And I also ended up getting a dog, and I needed more space for her olive with me as I travel full time.
I liked the idea of having a school bus over an RV as well as having more freedom to make a home that was built for me. Having custom appliances and more control over how everything functioned as well as how it looked was a huge plus for me. I have previously lived in an RV while I traveled full time and it was nice. But after a while on the road I felt like the RV was built more for part time living. The quality of the parts and materials of RVs was just not meant for full time living (especially with a pet!). While it could be perfectly fine for a lot of travelers, RV’s just aren’t for me. And that’s why I chose a skoolie for full time travel instead of an RV.