Tips & Guides

School Bus Conversion and Other Brilliant RV Conversion Ideas8 min read

school bus conversion

10 Vehicle to RV Restorations and Conversions

The cost for a Class A land yacht or even a simple travel trailer can be anywhere from $15,000 to $80,000 with the value depreciating the second you drive off of the lot. These standard, mass produced and generically decorated RV’s are functional and reliable, but they lack the personal flair and unique weirdness most of us strive for in our everyday mobile lives. With the same amount of money, or often for even less capital, you can convert the unfathomable (the school bus conversion) into the very real, very funky, very you RV!  Share your best conversion photos in the comments section!

Restoration and Conversion Tips

Check out our list of 10 RV’s that started life as something else for some quirky land yacht inspiration. Before embarking on your own RV conversion, always be sure to have a game plan. Investigate your ‘Something Else’ to be sure it’s not a junk heap but is a functional and sturdy specimen. Have an idea of how much square footage you want to work with. Keep in mind, the bigger the rig, the bigger the budget. Make a meticulous floor plan, set a budget and stick to it, take your time, and make your dream home a reality!

1. School Bus Conversion (Skoolie)

The most common is the old yellow school bus conversion, as known as a skoolie. There are tons of floor plans available online for these widespread rigs. You can often find a school bus on eBay for $2,000 to $4,000 in fair enough condition, ready to be gutted, cleaned up, and remodeled. Renovation budgets to convert to a skoolie range anywhere from a few thousand up to $40,000. If your budget is on the lower end of the spectrum be particular when picking out the right bus for you, you don’t want to be putting your remodel money into maintenance and basic structural issues. Below are two examples of a gorgeous, minimal, and cozy school bus conversion!

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2. City Bus Conversion

Just as a regular school bus conversion seems like an obvious choice, so does a city bus. These naturally wide and tall ceilinged buses afford spacious renovation room with an airy open feel. Their wide-open windows create a ton of natural light you might not normally be able to achieve in a run of the mill RV.

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3. Ambulance Conversion

If you can get past your fear of ghosts, remodeling an ambulance into an expedition grade RV has some pretty great perks. This particular vehicle, a 1997 Ford E-350 Super Duty Ambulance, was purchased for $9,500 with an additional $9,500 give or take put into the remodel. The owner, Bruce Baldwin, decided to remodel an ambulance after breaking three flimsy travel trailers while off-roading. If you’re looking for an intense and durable machine, fitted with the right tires ambulances boast a solid design and make for a great 4X4 expedition grade RV!

Ambulance Conversion 1

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4. Chevy Viking Short School Bus Conversion

A 1959 Chevy Viking Short school bus conversion? Maybe not the most common of  Frankenstein type RV restorations, but quite possibly one of the most beautiful. If you happen to come across one of these retro short buses with reasonably sound structure and little deterioration, it would definitely be worth while to overhaul. This particular remodel was handled by Winkelman Architecture firm, and seats 12 comfortably with the couches converting to 2 beds accompanied by proper plumbing complete with a sink and bathroom.

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5. Shipping Container Conversion

Shipping containers are becoming more and more commonly used for things other than containing shipments. On beloved Rainey Street in Austin, TX I was first introduced to the versatility of shipping containers at Container Bar, America’s first shipping container bar, comprised of 7 shipping containers. The selling price of a standard 20-foot shipping container is about $2,000, which sounds reasonable but when you calculate the added cost of amenities, getting the canister on a trailer, and all of the little-hidden expenses, shipping containers can add up. If you do your research beforehand, you’ll find these somewhat costly mobile homes are a great way to recycle an abundant resource!

Shipping Container Conversion 1

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6. U-Haul Conversion

It seems only logical that the vehicle we use to move our belongings from one place to the next could also be a viable space to convert into a home on wheels. One man did just that, from blueprints to 35 foot-once-U-haul turned-RV complete with a large slide out, bathroom, bedroom, and solar panels to top it off. So next time instead of moving your stuff from A to B, skip the B, install a few amenities, and set up camp in a U-Haul.

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7. Greyhound Bus Conversion

Another mode of public transportation perfect for renovating into an RV! This particular bus took just around 6 years to complete and a small fortune of over $100,000, but I think we can all agree that a custom project the magnitude of this one is well worth it when considering the people it brought together and the end result. The interior is luxurious and it’s hard to fathom it was ever anything but an RV!

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8. Horse Trailer Conversion

We’re not horsing around when we say this 16-foot horse trailer is the epitome of minimalist style and living. From the Southeast Asian style shower-toilet combo to the Murphy bed, fold-up table, and tiny kitchen, this 80 sq. ft trailer is comprised of recycled materials and minimal adornments. The hideaway features allow for this exceptionally small space to work on several levels. The same space is used for sleeping on a king size bed, dining for four, and watching a 26” pop out TV.

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9. Fire Truck Conversion

Who hasn’t wanted to be a fire fighter at one point or another in their lives?  Maybe you won’t drop your current career to become a fire extinguishing hero, but you can at least pretend in an RV converted from a vintage fire truck! This fine example comes clad with a gorgeous awning large enough to enclose an entire outdoor room, polished off with pop out counter tops. The interior features luscious dark patterned wall paper and standard homey amenities.

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10. Rolling Barge Conversion

Who doesn’t want a multi-purpose land to water house on wheels? These kids had the genius idea of putting an 8.5’ cab over camper on to a floating dock complete with a trailer hitch for a multi functioning home with a deck… or dock depending on your scenery. Not technically an RV, but by our standards, this rolling barge concept is cool enough to give it a try!

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about all of the wacky ideas out there for ideas like a school bus conversion!

Have an interesting conversion of your own? Share it with us by commenting below!

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