7 Reasons You Should Avoid a Skoolie Bus Conversion

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A couple by their skoolie bus.

Skoolie bus conversions are trending and Instagram-worthy. But should you avoid them? We look at seven reasons you may want to think twice about starting a bus conversion. 

Keep reading to learn what it takes to build a bus into a home on wheels. You may be surprised. We take an in-depth look and get honest about the costs involved. 

What Is a Skoolie RV?

A skoolie is a school bus renovated to be an RV. Buses you can use vary and include all sizes of school buses, shuttle buses, and others.

A skoolie can have a bathroom, kitchen, living area, and other amenities and features. Those who convert a bus often equip it with solar power, a unique exterior paint job, and more.

The front of a blue skoolie bus with a custom door parked on a dirt road.

How Long Does a Skoolie Conversion Take? 

The amount of time it takes to complete a Skoolie conversion depends on many factors. DIY builds can take a month to a year, depending on how much time you devote to the project.

If you can work on the build full time, you can likely finish it within 16 to 20 weeks. And if you hire a professional for the conversion, they may have it move-in ready within one to three months. 

How Much Does the Average Skoolie Conversion Cost?

The cost of a skoolie conversion will depend on the size of the bus and how many features you want to implement. On average, owners spend between $20,000 to $30,000 on the build. 

On top of that, you also have to purchase the bus. You can find a used bus anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000. Used buses that have been in a fleet are typically well-maintained and often come with maintenance records. This is a good sign, but we highly recommend having a used bus inspected before purchasing it.

Keep in Mind: Still debating if RV life is for you or not? Before hitting the road, check out these 10 Signs That You Will Not Make It as a Full-Time RVer

7 Reasons You Should Avoid a Skoolie Bus Conversion

So is a skoolie worth it? Maybe. Let’s look at seven reasons you may want to avoid a bus conversion.

A yellow skoolie bus in front of a house on a tree lined street.

1. Unexpected Expenses

Converting a bus into an RV may look budget-friendly on paper, but the unexpected expenses may surprise you. Items like wood, nails, batteries, flooring, and appliances can add up quickly.

And no matter how much you plan, things don’t always go smoothly, and you’ll need extra supplies or repairs. In addition, you may find it difficult and expensive to find parts for the chassis or engine on older buses. 

2. Poor Gas Mileage

A skoolie will have poor gas mileage. A minibus conversion may have better fuel efficiency than a large diesel pusher. However, it’s still going to be a gas-guzzler.

You can plan on getting between 6 to 12 mpg, depending on the size and weight of your build. Be conscious of how much cargo you have to improve the gas mileage. Keeping down the weight can improve fuel efficiency.  

3. Difficult to License and Insure

Registering and insuring a skoolie as an RV is the best for good rates and coverage. But it can be challenging to do. While rules differ from state to state, you’ll need to prove that the bus is no longer used for commercial business to license it as an RV

And insurance companies may take some convincing to cover the bus as an RV, especially if it’s a DIY conversion. They may have concerns about safety standards if a professional doesn’t do the work. So do your research before moving forward with the build to ensure you’re getting the coverage you need.

Keep in Mind: Thinking about getting new tires? Before purchasing, check out this Ultimate RV Tires Buyers Guide

4. Not All Campgrounds Allow Skoolies

Not all campgrounds and RV parks think Skoolies are as cool as you do. Many only allow RVs that are 10 years old or newer, and they want the camping unit to live up to their standards. Some require it to have a RVIA certification showing it meets the minimum standards and regulations of the industry.

You won’t find a skoolie choice in the “type of camping unit” section on many campground online reservation forms. If you’re unsure whether a campground will allow a bus conversion, call ahead and be prepared to send them photos of your new rig.

A skoolie bus conversion parked on a dirt road between a stream and a mountain.

5. Potential Mechanical Issues

Most people who convert buses into RVs purchase a used one. A used bus has a lot of wear and tear, even if it’s not visible. So you’ll likely have more repairs. And depending on the bus you buy, you may need a specialty mechanic to fix problems.

Plus, parts and labor can be expensive and sometimes challenging to find. Do your research before purchasing a bus and determine if there’s a mechanic in your area that can work on it. 

6. It’s a Huge Undertaking

Instagram makes bus conversions look easy and beautiful. Well, they can be beautiful, but it’s a huge undertaking. For starters, you’ll need to remove the seats and perhaps add or remove windows.

These are labor-intensive jobs. Then add in all the plumbing, electrical, tanks, insulation, and every other component. You’ll be building an RV from scratch.  

A skoolie bus at an RV park.

7. Getting Weight Distribution Right

Weight distribution is a major factor for safety, leveling, and fuel economy. Designing a skoolie can be fun, but weight distribution is vital.

Think through and test the layout of the bus before the actual build. Determine where the holding tanks and appliances should go according to how much they weigh. And decide where you may have storage compartments and other areas that will carry a lot of weight. 

Is Building a Skoolie Worth It?

Building a Skoolie is a lot of work. If you’re handy and aren’t afraid to take on a challenge, it can be a worthwhile way to get a customized RV. Or you could have a professional build it out.

So for the personalization alone, a Skoolie is worth it. But if any of the reasons we listed don’t sit right with you, it’s probably not worth it. 

Are you going to build a skoolie? We would love to hear about your plans. Leave a comment below.

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