Guide To Buying and Living in a Skoolie

Nevada school bus
©Shutterstock.com

The tiny house craze is not only economical it also getting more and more creative as to what to use for the vessel itself. Whether it is for recreational, rental or off-the-grid living purposes there are definitely options with these innovative spaces. 

Read: 3 Easy Tips to Turn Your Credit Woes into Wows

A skoolie presents an ideal opportunity for someone who is looking to acquire a tiny home without building it from scratch. 

What Is a Skoolie? 

A skoolie is a school bus that is converted into a livable home. This version of upcycling and repurposing is renovation at its best as typically the school buses being converted are no longer in use otherwise, and would be considered junk.

Converting a School Bus Into a Tiny Home

There are multiple options when converting a school bus into a livable tiny home but in general, these steps are always taken:

  • Remove the seating: Taking out the rows of seating creates a more spacious and open layout.
  • Replace the flooring and ceiling: A simple swap of the traditional bus flooring and ceiling materials can help improve not only the look of the interior but also the feel of it.
  • Raise the roof: The option to either raise the roof, lower the floor or both will elevate the standard 6-foot height of the bus and make it feel less cramped.
  • Add insulation: Climate control always helps make a space feel more comfortable and like a cozy home. Insulation options can include but are not limited to spray foam, polyiso rigid board, mineral wool and sheep wool.
  • Separate into rooms: You can leave your skoolie with an open layout, but depending on how many people will be living there it may be better for privacy to create separate spaces. To do so you will need to consult with your designer and plumber to frame out such areas as a separate kitchen space or bathroom to figure out where to add potable water tanks, water heaters, gas plumbing and other needs within your blueprint.
  • Electricity: Most skoolies can be friendly to an off-the-grid lifestyle by wiring all of your electrical needs through a solar panel.
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How Much Does a School Bus Cost? 

The cost of the used school bus you purchase to convert to a tiny home will vary depending on such factors as its condition and how many miles it has on it. For example, a used school bus in decent condition that has between 80,000 to 180,000 miles on it, could range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. This is only the original investment and does not take into account the renovation costs. Though it would take away from the intention to upcycle, you would also have the option to buy a new school bus which could set you back upwards of $50,000.

How Much Will a Skoolie Conversion Cost?

On average, converting a used school bus into a skoolie can run between $5,000 to $30,000. How much work you intend to put into your skoolie as well as the quality of materials you plan on adding will directly correlate to the overall cost of the conversion. If you are able to do a lot of the renovations your self this would save you a lot of money, but if not you’ll have to hire outside contractors which adds to the budget.

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Skoolie Conversion Layout Options 

Before any renovations, a standard school bus is roughly 90 inches wide and the length can range between 30 feet to 45 feet. These dimensions offer a plethora of playable space configurations. Common room options to consider include:

  • Master back bedroom
  • Kitchenette galley 
  • Seating lounge or living room area
  • Bathroom and shower area
  • Extra sleeping spaces such as murphy bunk beds
  • Storage areas and wardrobes

Final Take 

Living in a tiny home, especially one you have to renovate yourself can be a commitment. When considering how much a skoolie will cost you, you need to factor in both the original cost of the used school bus plus the conversion and renovation costs.

Factors To Consider

  • Know how much renovation for the conversion you can do yourself and what you will need to outsource.
  • A used school bus in decent condition that has between 80,000 to 180,000 miles on it could range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.
  • On average, converting a used school bus into a skoolie can cost between $8,000 to $40,000.

Setting a budget and pricing things out beforehand will save you a lot of time and headaches down the line. The original investment in upcycling and repurposing a school bus can be a lot of money, but when compared to buying a new house or apartment, this could be one of the cheaper options.

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FAQ

  • What does skoolie mean?
    • A skoolie is a school bus that is converted into a livable home. Typically this is done by purchasing a used school bus and upcycling it.
  • Is a skoolie cheaper than an RV?
    • This would be a case-by-case assessment depending on the condition and mileage of either vehicle. RVs could be more expensive upfront but would have less conversion costs. However, if you are doing your own renovations to convert a school bus into a skoolie this could be the cheaper route.
  • Is a skoolie a Class A RV?
    • No skoolies are not a Class A RV. Though in most states skoolies are considered recreational vehicles, drivable skoolies are not considered Class A, B or C.
  • How much money do you need to build a skoolie?
    • When considering how much a skoolie will cost you, you need to factor in both the original cost of the used school bus plus the conversion and renovation costs.
      • A used school bus in decent condition that has between 80,000 to 180,000 miles on it, could range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.
      • Depending on how much of the work you can do yourself, on average, converting a used school bus into a skoolie can run between $5,000 to $30,000.
    • With those figures in mind, building a skoolie could cost anywhere from $8,000 to $40,000. This is a lot of money, but when compared to buying a new house or apartment, this could be one of the cheaper options.

Data is accurate as of Dec. 22, 2022, and is subject to change.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

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About the Author

Caitlyn Moorhead has written content for a variety of businesses and publications. After graduating from Central Michigan University cum laude, she moved to New York City where she wrote columns, articles and plays for several years before relocating to Austin, Texas in the fall of 2020.
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