Since the 1960s old school buses have been converted into mobile living quarters. While the school bus conversions of the 1960s were strictly the domain of flower power hippies, todays school bus conversions range from primitive to sublime.
But there are pros and cons to using a school bus as a framework for a tiny house…
PROS of School Bus Conversion Tiny Houses
- Built like a tank – School bus safety has been an issue since the 1940s. Engineers have over engineered the structural integrity of school buses to the point that they are virtually indestructible. A bus chassis and frame can likely withstand the weight of anything you’d want to throw into a tiny house.
- Inexpensive – You can pick up a decommissioned school bus for next to nothing. You can buy them at auctions, online sites like eBay and craigslist as well as from salvage companies. Nearly every town and county in the United States has school buses so they are plentiful and good deals can be found if you do your homework.
- Good Mechanicals – Most school buses are built using truck components (e.g. large diesel engines, heavy truck chassis, dually rear wheels and commercial-grade transmission and gear boxes) and are built to last. Most school buses are kept on a routine maintenance schedule and are in good mechanical shape. Because of the fact that these vehicles are built of truck components, it’s easy to find people who can work on them (note: I said easy, but not necessarily cheap).
- Great Ideas Abound – There are lots of sources for conversion ideas for school buses. Entire websites have been dedicated to tracking bus conversions and tracking bus ideas. You can find lots of beautiful photos of school bus conversions on Pinterest and Instagram too.
Cons of School Bus Conversions
- Configuration – A bus is designed to be a bus. There are very few things you can do to change the looks or configuration of a school bus (safely anyway). You are limited in size, dimension and configuration to the size of the bus; so building options may be limited.
- Windows Everwhere! – School buses have windows in the entire front, back and all down the sides. This is great because it can add lots of light, but it can make privacy difficult. You can deal with this by blacking out the windows or putting in shades or heavy drapes. But these can diminish the aesthetics of the exterior…and about those aesthetics…
- A School Bus Looks Like a School Bus – You can paint it. You can tint the windows. You can draw flowers on it. You can put on chrome hubcaps. No matter what you do, it’s going to look like a school bus. Big, bulky and boxy. There’s really no way to “fung shui” one of these bad boys!
- Difficult to insure – Bus conversions are notoriously difficult to insure. They are one of the more difficult types of tiny houses to find an insurance provider for. At a minimum, you may be required to have inspections and certifications in order to insure one of these bad boys!
- Tough to keep comfortable – School buses are all windows and as such insulating and keeping them a comfortable temperature can be a challenge. You can add stoves and marine heaters, but these can consume a lot of power if you don’t go to extra lengths to insulate your bus.
- Expensive to Fix – Just know that if you’re buying a school bus that is well maintained, most have still been well used and seen a lot of miles. Repairs can be expensive because everything on a bus is super heavy duty. So when you budget be sure to factor in the potential cost of mechanical repairs.
If you’re looking for an expensive platform for a tiny house, a school bus has potential. But keep in mind that there can be drawbacks to using a bus. But making an informed decision, planning ahead and doing your homework can go a long way towards achieving your tiny house bus dream.