Updated: Dec 25, 2020
Since we got our bus a few weeks ago a lot of people have reached out to us, asking where and how and what to look for, and to tell us they’ve always wanted to do something similar. First, Neither of us are a mechanic nor professional bus converters so this is all just our opinion.
What to look for: We have been talking about converting a bus for a long time- longer than we’ve had kids. The original plan was to get a short bus or van with bus body and convert it into an ultra-small living situation. This plan would have likely been more sparse in terms of luxuries, but much faster and easier. Since we have two kids now, we decided we needed something larger in order to live on it permanently/semi-permanently. The thought of driving around a full-size bus at almost 50ft in length seemed too daunting but we definitely needed more room than a shorty. We decided to look for something in the middle, not too big, not too small. We looked around a lot of platforms for a few months and found that eBay was expensive, craigslist lacked stock, and Facebook market had what seemed like decent busses for reasonable prices.
Some other criteria were that the bus had to be tall. Since most school buses are made to transport children, most school buses have rather low ceilings. We wanted a higher ceiling (although a roof raise is interesting but too much work right now). The bus had to have a turbodiesel engine with automatic transmission. We were originally looking for a flat nose bus with a rear-mounted engine but they are very difficult to find in a midsize. After about 4 weeks of seriously looking we found what looked like the perfect bus for us. The bus was in upstate New York so after a few calls back and forth with the seller, we packed the kids in the car with a big bag of snacks and started on the 6-hour drive up. When we finally found the bus the kids jumped out of the car and started running laps around the bus shouting with glee to be free of their car seats. The bus looked like it was in good shape, but then again it was the first bus we had ever tried to buy. The tires looked good, it started right up and idled smoothly- there was some rust but we live in the northeast, everything is rusty. We took it for a test drive, signed some papers, and started driving home.
Driving a bus for the first time through the Adirondacks is taxing at best. We took it slow (like we had a choice up the hills) and tried not to ride the brakes down the hills. Traffic piled up behind me and we tried to pull over to let them pass but none would because we were driving a school bus (duh). By the time we got to the busses parking spot, we had done about 14 hours of driving and we were all exhausted, to say the least.
Since digging into the bus some we’ve found a whole lot more rust. We’ve wire-brushed and ground and rust converted and patch all sorts of oxidation damnations. (seriously, so much rust dust)!! Stay tuned for more Bus updates as we aim to finish by the end of July.