A skoolie, or converted school bus, has been an icon of American road life for many years, since the age of flower power and old school hippies. But living in a school bus has taken the leap into the 21st century.
Gone are the days of a makeshift interior and a bright, hand-painted exterior; skoolies are now apartments on wheels that can make anyone jealous.
The pull to live in a school bus is very tempting, but it does come with some downsides. Today we’re going to explore the pros and cons of living in a skoolie, to help you make an informed decision if you’re thinking about starting this adventure.
We’re also going to dive into a few of our favourite conversions.
Featured Image Credit: 2 Cool 4 Skool Bus
Why Would You Want To Live In A Skoolie?
Travel With Your Home
For those who have never thought about living alternatively, dreaming of living in an old school bus may seem very odd. But this is an absolute dream for many people. Skoolie life has many advantages, the biggest one, as with any RV is that you can travel, and still have your home with you.
Being able to travel and visit amazing locations is such an incredible experience. Doing so with all of your home comforts is even more special.
More Space Than A Van
Travelling with your home is true for any RV, but on a school bus, you have much more room to spread out. A bus is large enough to match the size of many small apartments.
The interior layout can even be split into separate rooms, giving you and whoever you’re travelling with a bit more privacy.
The ample space that a school bus provides means that you don’t need to miss out on any luxuries, or day to day essentials that you would have in a house.
You can still have a full kitchen, with oven, big sink and a fridge/freezer; a separate bathroom and luxuries such as a big TV or wood-burning stove.
Some people that choose to live in a skoolie do so without planning to ever travel in it. If you have access to a good, permanent parking spot, then living in a bus full time can be a great way to own your home.
It’s tricky to get your foot on the property ladder with house prices rising, so living in a bus is a fantastic alternative.
Buying and converting a bus is a significant financial commitment, but you don’t need as much as you would for a deposit on a house. While a skoolie makes a great permanent home, it can also be a good stepping stone before you buy your first ‘brick and mortar’ home.
Once you’ve moved into your bus, saving money is much easier as your bills and outgoings are minimal.
Good For Families
One other reason that is common for choosing a skoolie is if you plan to travel with kids in tow. The extra space allows room for the additional beds and gives more space for parents to have some privacy.
Lots of couples that have previously travelled together in a smaller van choose to progress to a skoolie once children make an appearance.
A Blank Canvas
Most people who aspire to live in a skoolie plan to complete, or at least have a hand in designing, the interior conversion themselves. This is a fun process that allows you to build your future home exactly as you’d like it.
The freedom means you can create your dream home and include all of the aspects that you like in your house.
The Downside of Skoolie Life
As with most choices, there come some negative points when choosing skoolie life.
Any form of alternative living is bundled with a few hurdles, these don’t have to be deal-breakers, but they are things you may have to work with when living in a bus.
Difficult To Drive and Park
If you plan on travelling in your skoolie, then you’re going to have to be able to drive it. A bus is much bigger than a regular car, so getting used to driving it will be a process.
You may find the size restricts the places you can visit as some roads might be too narrow, or not in a good enough condition to drive down. There is simply no way to make a school bus a 4×4!
Parking can also be an issue; most car parks and even many campgrounds are not made to accommodate school busses. If you’re aiming to travel, you don’t want to miss out on locations just because your vehicle isn’t suitable.
This is especially true if you plan on leaving the USA with your skoolie.
Different Driving Licence Needed
To drive a school bus legally requires a separate driving licence. This means you’re going to have to find time for some lessons and pay for a test before you even purchase a bus.
While this isn’t a huge deal, it’s something you need to work out before you start looking at buying a vehicle. You don’t want to find the perfect bus but have no way to get it home!
You’re not going to buy a brand new school bus to convert, skoolies that graduate to tiny homes will have been around for years.
Usually, they’re sold on for a reason. You will want to ensure your vehicle is mechanically and structurally sounds before setting off on your road-trip or even starting your conversion. You don’t want to sink money into the interior only to find your bus breaks down on your first trip.
The upkeep of a skoolie could end up being pretty pricey. Not only are they older vehicles, but they need to be repaired by a specialist mechanic. This could also be an issue if you break down a long way from home.
As they are older vehicles, a skoolie isn’t exactly good for the environment. You can indeed offset your footprint by using solar power for the interior, but there is no getting around that busses are gas-guzzling machines.
This is also bad news for your bank account; you’ll find yourself stopping at the gas station more regularly than you’re used to.
More Expensive Than A Camper
While buying a second-hand school bus may not be more expensive than purchasing a bare sprinter van, they are more costly to convert. More space means more materials need to go into the build.
Most conversions are going to cost at least $10,000 — even if you do it yourself — and could go beyond $40,000.
Once built, they are also more expensive to run compared to a smaller RV thanks to the amount of gas they use and the specialist repairs requires if you encounter any problems.
Best Skoolie Conversions
There’s a lot to consider before driving into skoolie life, but there is once fact that you simply can’t deny: they make beautiful homes. Here are my three favourite skoolie conversions to inspire your school bus dream.
1. Paved To Pines, The Cabin
The Cabin is a professional conversion by Canadian company Paved to Pines. This skoolie conversion is my all-time favourite build; it makes fantastic use of the space available while keeping a stylish design throughout.
The different shades of green throughout, combined with the use of wood for the walls, creates a natural feel, echoing the landscapes you could travel to. Plenty of windows flood the space with natural light, while soft LED lighting gives the bus a golden glow.
The Cabin would make the perfect skoolie home and Paved to Pines are worth checking out if you’re looking for a professional conversion.
2. One Wild Ride Bus
One Wild Ride Bus is an excellent example of how good a skoolie can look when you choose to complete the conversion yourself. This bus is stunning, the warm, deep colours work well together and give a homely feel to the interior.
There is more than enough room in this skoolie for the two owners to stretch out, and even to entertain guests. From the colour scheme to the layout, there is a lot of inspiration to be taken form this conversion.
3. The Hanzian Bus
My last bus to give you a bit of inspiration is The Hanzian Bus. This skoolie is definitely worth checking out if you’re thinking about moving into a bus with kids in tow. Owners Ian and Hannah make this space work for both them and their two babies.
Their clever layout makes enough room for everybody and ensures that it doesn’t feel cramped inside. I also love the white and turquoise colour scheme of this bus; it’s bold and fun while remaining stylish.
Living in a skoolie isn’t for everybody, and hopefully, this article has given you some points to consider before purchasing a bus. I love a school bus conversion, and paired with a little plot of land think they make perfect first homes.