Top Tips on Buying a Used School Bus for Conversions

School districts tend to retire their buses around the nine-year mark, so they’re usually in excellent preowned condition. More buyers are converting them for a multitude of purposes: mobile businesses, food trucks, party buses, and tiny homes on wheels known as Skoolies. But don’t just buy on impulse; use these top tips on buying a used school bus for conversion.

Video Overview

Strategize Size

Whatever your needs, you’d better be sure that this school bus can accommodate them. Take measurements of what you need to get in there—kitchen, sleeping quarters, bathroom, storage—and talk to someone who’s worked on a conversion before. There might be important details you don’t know about. For instance, if you’re looking at a dog-nose bus, you should know that the engine is located up front and can be loud inside the cabin. Conversely, a flat-front bus might have an engine in the back that takes up valuable space.

Be Realistic About Price

It’s not hard to get a great deal on a preowned bus. Just be suspicious of prices that are too low, and work with an established dealer with a good reputation. If you’re handy and plan to do many of the renovations yourself, you shouldn’t be too shocked by the costs. But at even a basic level, you can expect to pay between $20,000 and $30,000 for professionals to outfit the bus with electricity, plumbing, and major design elements. Bigger buses will incur higher costs, but you can always cut down on that a bit by recycling materials. Budget for the remodeling beforehand so that you’ll have a good idea of what you’re in for.

Don’t Forget Maintenance

Ask to look at maintenance records so that you know if you’ll have to catch up on repairs before you can drive anywhere in the bus. A preowned bus that’s inexpensive upfront could surprise you with service costs if you’re not a natural mechanic. The top tips on buying a used school bus for conversion include a checklist for a thorough inspection—preferably by a pro.

  • Mileage
  • Drivetrain
  • Frame
  • Rust
  • Strange engine noises
  • Tire wear
  • Floor firmness
  • HVAC system
  • Brakes
  • Accident history

Converting a used school bus is rewarding in many ways. You’re helping the planet by upcycling a retired vehicle instead of buying a new one. You can indulge your inner desire by crafting the bus to your vision. And you’ll have access to an on-the-go lifestyle. Take the time to find the best bus for you, and then you can begin the adventure.

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