RV Bus Conversions – Yes, Old Buses Do Make Comfortable RVs!

rv-bus-motorhome-by-Nutch-Bicer.jpg On our last RV outing, we found ourselves in the middle of a small group of rather unique RVs.  We saw lots of homemade RVs constructed from old buses.

Though some were modest in design, others were a bit over the top, and yet others were as well laid out and well constructed as any professionally built rig on the road.

My interest in self-built motorhomes began when I was a teenager.  My father converted a 1955 Ford school bus into a motorhome for our family of 7.  He was a cabinet maker by trade, which provided the skills necessary to create a woodworking masterpiece.  His bus motorhome conversion was done entirely in black walnut.  The interior was phenomenal!

Converting a bus into an RV is a challenging project — whether you’re starting with a retired Greyhound coach or a school bus that’s been turned out to pasture.  Both can make excellent RVs, though generally the finished product will dictate the type of RVing you’ll be able to do.  So, you will want to choose your bus accordingly.

 

Go Anywhere… NOT

Greyhound buses require blacktop roads.

They quickly become helpless when faced with country back roads which are rarely maintained.

So it might be more difficult to get to your favorite fishing hole in a Greyhound RV bus conversion.

On the other hand, school buses are just about indestructible.  Heading down rough trails is what they did for years to pick up children living in rural neighborhoods and deliver them to school.


Appearance & Acceptance Issues

While a converted school bus can be just as elaborate and well done as any coach on the road, they’re still classified as less than desirable by some RV campgrounds.

Many of the larger RV resorts prefer a more standard style of RV.  As a result, those who pull up in converted school buses are often turned away.

Likewise, it’s not uncommon to find places that restrict RVs that are more than 10 years in age.  (I’ve seen this most often in the southwest regions of the country.)

A converted Greyhound bus, on the other hand, provides a comfortable ride with soft suspension, along with the added quietness that comes with having a rear engine.  Since the appearance of a Greyhound bus conversion more closely matches today’s luxury coaches, they are much more readily accepted just about anywhere they go.

 

Cost To Do The Conversion

Building an RV based on any type of bus is an expensive enough project that serious thought should be devoted to choosing your base vehicle.

The best advice would be to purchase the very best bus you can possibly afford.

School buses can be found for as little as $1,000.  However, be warned.  You may find these low-cost vehicles seriously corroded or badly in need of a mechanical overhaul.  Both are expensive problems that may sideline your project before it even gets started.  The same goes for highway coaches.  Cheap is not always the best option.

bus-motorhome-conversion.jpg

 

 

Shopping For A Bus To Convert Into An RV

Your best bet is to find a bus with an available maintenance history.  You want to have proof that such things as brakes, transmissions, etc. have been serviced or replaced recently.  This will help greatly in your decision-making process.

The reason?  Breakdowns will be very expensive.  The corner gas station wrecker can’t help you.  A heavy haul specialist will have to come and rescue you when you’re stalled along the road.  The cost for this can be in the very high hundreds of dollars for even a minor problem that requires towing.  Even changing a flat tire is beyond the capabilities of most individuals.


Find Buses To Convert

When you start shopping for a bus, forget about local sources.  Now’s the time to do some serious research on the Internet.

There a number of  locations nationwide that sell used school buses.  There are also companies that specialize in used motorcoaches specifically with the purpose of converting them into RVs.

The only thing similar between the 2 is the word “bus: and the fact that they were constructed to transport people.  Structurally and mechanically speaking, they are 2 completely different animals.

rv-bus-conversion.jpg

 

 

Before You Begin Your RV Bus Conversion

Building your own coach from a bus can be a very satisfying and rewarding experience.

When it’s done, no one will know better than you how it’s put together.  This also makes repairs easier, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer.

Here are a few tips before you decide to begin your RV bus conversion:

  1. Choose wisely between a school bus platform and a highway coach platform.  They both have good and bad points.
  2. Buy the newest, best-maintained bus you can find within your budget.
  3. Maintenance records are like the Bible for your RV bus conversion.  The more you know about the bus you’re starting with, the easier your decision will be.
  4. Take lots of time planning a layout that will best suit your needs.
  5. Do the highest quality of workmanship you can.  Your RV bus conversion will be a sizable investment that, at some point in time, will be sold.  The higher the quality, the better the return.
  6. Fuel is going to be expensive in an RV bus.  You can expect to get between
    6 to 8 miles per gallon.
  7. Check with your local authorities first.  Buses under construction in the backyard are something that many urban areas will not tolerate.  Check your local ordinances.
  8. Buying the bus is only a small part of the expense for your project.  A good RV bus conversion can cost as much as a late model Class A motorhome.

 

More About RV Bus Conversions

There are many resources on the Internet that can help you succeed

Curtis Carper

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs -- including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you've got a good idea of who I am.

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  • Darryl

    Great article with loads of good info as i am doing up a 1985 nissan ud ex school bus .keep up the good work

  • Darryl

    Great article with loads of good info as i am doing up a 1985 nissan ud ex school bus .keep up the good work

  • Cribcat

    Nice, I have a ’73 Chevy that I’m converting. The video gave me inspiration and a bit of motivation to proceed with vigor…Thanks

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if any body has converted a bus into a fifthwheeler .Im interested in doing this to my 1970 comair bedford We love living in it but would like some more room and reckon this is one way of doing just that.Id rather drive a towing wagon that is smaller and ie a ford 350 or simalar. check back later friends

  • Mary Jo Kennedy

    I want to install a metal track to hang my woven poly shade fabric from the side above double doors of my G-20 Chevy high top fiberglass conversion van.  Is there a special method I should use to drill 5 or 7 holes for screws to hold the track.

    Thank you for any help.

    Mary Jo Kennedy
    Virginia Beach,  Va

    • Curtis

      Mary Jo, My only concern would be rust and water infiltration.  Both issues can be solved by putting a small dab of silicone caulking over the head of each screw when you’re done installing the track.  You only need a thin coat of silicone so remember neatness counts.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6AEERW3WCY4WQEWLOUZ4Q6JNG4 William

    I have an opportunity to buy a 1968 Prevost conversion bus that I was going to re-sell for scrap. I’m not looking to restore it due to it’s condition but was wondering if it would be worth buying as an investment for parts since there’s not many of these left. Do you know of any particular web sites where I could advertise these vintage parts where people needing them could find them.

    • Curtis

      William, I did a quick scanning around and didn’t come up with anything.  My opinion doesn’t mean much but I think the market for parts would be pretty small.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6AEERW3WCY4WQEWLOUZ4Q6JNG4 William

        That had been my conclusion also but my daddy always said seeking a second opinion from those in the day to day business or living the life was a much wiser way of making a decision rather than just reading something out of a book. Thanks for the input.

  • Jcv308

    what type of generator are you using to operate the ac power.

    • Curtis

      Jcv308, There are a wide variety of generators available that will do the job.  Your choice should be tailored to what you plan to run with it.  If all you want is to recharge batteries, operate some lights, and maybe run a power tool or two any cheap, noisy generator will do the job.  If you plan on running computers, or expensive electronics I’d recommend an inverter generator because it puts out a cleaner sign wave and is less likely to damage your equipment.  Generally these are more expensive but they are much quieter as well.

  • Greg

    ive had a bus company with 3 different smaller buses. I’ve recently split from my wife and sold two of the three and am thinking of converting a 2000 bluebird csre (8.3 cummins diesel pusher). It has a washroom so a good start and runs very well. What do you think, should I pull the trigger – I’d like to make it fairly self sufficient – and build with recycled goods

    • Curtis

      Greg, Only you can make that decision. Crunch the numbers carefully, take an honest assessment of your construction abilities, and make your decision based on reasonable expectations. Some will say you’re crazy, others will think it a way cool project!! You have to do what makes you happy!

  • PPC

    has any ever seen a converted doubledecker bus? My family and I are truly considering this, but only after I have finished nursing school. We are unable to locate info for conversions in the USA. We have seen plenty on DD buses in Europe.

    • Curtis

      PPC, Double decker buses are fairly rare in the U.S. alone never mind one converted to an RV. Those I could find on the internet are in Europe.

  • Drive Me Crazy Family Adventur

    Hi Curtis,

    Thank you for the wonderful tips. We have been trying to decide between a converted bus and a Class A for some time. You have really opened my eyes to the pros and cons of traveling with them. I don’t know that I even considered if we would be turned away from a park with a converted school bus or not being able to run off the beaten path with a greyhound conversion. While I am still just as torn as ever, I have a few new things to consider on my every-growing list of pros and cons!

    Thank you again for your insight. It is greatly appreciated,

    Johnny
    Drive Me Crazy Family Adventure
    http://www.DriveMeCrazyFamilyAdventure.com

  • streisy

    Female cancer, just lost my dog to cancer I’m wanting to spend my days traveling i can’t afford a nice camper, i could get my treatment, live in it get my strength up. Take off. AAA would not cover s bus correct? Does anyone know of a rv, conversion for sale

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.siebert.98 Mike Siebert

    Good article, luckily I have a proper school bus conversion that looks like a highway bus, I have not been turned away at any campground and won twice in local car shows. It has 7 feet of interior height thanks to an 8 inch roof-lift in 1975 during a remodel when my bus was handed down from Father to son (The Previous owners).

    • Curtis

      Mike, It looks as nice as any highway coach I’ve seen…Real nice bus!