One of the most popular conversations around a skoolie campfire is about the conversion. Every single person who has ever done a DIY conversion has agreed that the build took so much longer than they anticipated.
Every stage of the skoolie project has a formula to how long it will take. If you anticipate taking the seats out will take four to five hours, then multiply that by 3.5 and you will have a better estimate of how long it takes.
That is said partly in jest, but there is so much truth to it. We laugh at ourselves all the time when working on a skoolie project because it goes so much slower than we thought it would.
It always gets done and we do a pretty darn good job, but it never goes as smoothly and quickly as we think it should.
For this blog, we are going to take a hard and realistic look at how much time a skoolie conversion takes.
Managing Expectations While Converting A School Bus
Being realistic, steady, and focused is the best way to keep your expectations in check while converting a school bus.
Do NOT do what we do. As the saying goes, “Do as I say, not as I do”. We tend to plan a skoolie project and set an expectation of how long we believe it will take us to complete it.
It usually looks something like starting an overhead cabinet in the morning and thinking we will be done sometime in the afternoon. Then we can start another skoolie project the same day.
More times than not, we are at the end of the day and we are just letting the stain or paint dry still on the wood.
Our expectations are much more ambitious than our skills.
Be realistic with your ambitions and be patient. Know that it is going to get done, but like most of us, this is your first rodeo. Your skoolie project skills will develope the more your build and learn.
How Long Does It Take To Convert A Bus?
For most people who are working on their build at least thirty hours per week, you can realistically complete your build in 4-6 months.
Now, with that being said, it all depends on how particular you are with you build and how much you put into.
If you are planning on doing a roof raise, you may want to set that completion date back a month or two.
It also depends on how much time you have available to commit to your build as well as how skilled you are at the many different applications required to complete a skoolie project.
If you have someone who is building with you, in most instances, you can cut that time by a ⅓ or even ½. Conversely though, you may need to add time to your build finish date.
Some people do not work as well with others as they would by themselves. So, that is something to consider as well.
Regardless of how long it takes to convert a bus to completion, the most important thing is to just keep going!
Skoolie Conversion Timeline
We have founf that through completing two DIY conversions together and now starting a third one, the best approach to setting a skoolie conversion timeline and completing it is to remember a few things.
Set Small Goals
One of the things that helped us from getting too overwhelmed at the enormity of a skoolie project was to set small goals.
Sometimes that means, just installing the fresh water tank instead of setting a goal for completing the entire plumbing project.
The classic proverb of how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
By the way, we in no way shape, or form condone the eating of elephants. That’s a horrible thing to do.
Stay Flexible and Don’t Sweat the Petty Stuff
There is a saying I used to love to joke around with. “Don’t sweat the petty stuff, pet the sweaty stuff.”
It still makes me laugh to this day. Now, we will find out who is actually reading these blog posts completely. Leave us a comment below if you just read that.
On that note, if you just read that, my apologies, sometimes the 8th-grade humor just has to escape in one form or another.
Seriously though, when you miss a deadline, don’t let it derail you. Keep going and push through it until that project has been completed. Then, reassess and set new timeline goals.
How Much Does A Skoolie Conversion Cost?
The final dollar amount of a skoolie conversion cost all depends on what you choose to spend. There is no set formula for what a skoolie project costs. It’s not that simple and thank goodness for that.
A skoolie project is such a unique and individualistic venture that putting a specific dollar amount on one is illogical.
We can tell you that the average skoolie conversion cost is somewhere in the range of $20,000 to $35,000 depending on the elements and materials used in your build.
Know this however, you can spend as little as a couple of thousand dollars on your entire conversion if you are prepared to live and travel in a very basic skoolie build.
With a minimalist type of skoolie, there would be no tear-out and you are living in a bus with factory insulation. You should not expect any built-in cooling or heating sources and your cooking would be done with something like a Coleman camp stove.
We have met lots of people with these kinds of builds and honestly, we kind of envy the simplistic ideology of that lifestyle.
Is It Hard To Convert A School Bus?
We are not going to sugarcoat this. Yes, it is hard to convert a school bus. Tearing out the seats and floors is one of the toughest jobs of a skoolie project.
There are certain skills that most of us do not possess. Electrical knowledge, plumbing basics, solar installation. These are all skoolie projects that require a hyper-focused detail of attention that leave little to zero room for error.
Even the smallest error with these installations could spell disaster for your skoolie and even injury or death for you and others.
Not trying to be all dramatic about it, just being real. Watching Youtube videos and reading “how-to” forums will get you where you want to go for the most part.
It’s prudent though to have an expert or someone with in-depth knowledge to give these projects a look over to ensure they are safe and properly installed.
Then there is all of the carpentry, planning, and handling of power tools. Dangerous power tools that can cut off fingers and other appendages if you aren’t very careful or properly dressed.
Don had a piece of metal shrapnel that flew into his eye during our first conversion that required minor surgery to remove. He had on safety goggles to boot!
Skoolie conversions are no joke man. When you stick to it and see it to completion, there aren’t too many experiences and feelings as great as sitting back and looking proudly at your accomplishment though.
Are Skoolies Worth It?
Skoolies are worth it if you are up for the difference in the lifestyle they offer. Living and traveling in a skoolie is as much a mindset as it is a physical endeavor.
There are so many challenges and proverbial mountains to climb that are enough to stress the hell out of an ordinary person.
That being said though, through perseverance and resolve, when those challenges and mountains of challenges are overcome, it is there that you grow as a person.
This is one of our bad days during our second DIY conversion.
We have changed so much mentally since setting out in our Thomas HDX back in December of 2019.
This is a story of why we love living and traveling in a skoolie so much. Ask us if we think a skoolie is worth it? Read this and you will know how much we love the lifestyle!
Yes, we have had some life-changing moments living tiny, but we have grown in ways we never would have had we not taken on this adventure.
Are skoolies worth it?
A resounding, Hell Yes!
How Much Should I Pay For A Skoolie?
You should do lots and lots of homework before considering making an offer on a skoolie. There are plenty of resources from Facebook groups to Skoolie Forums to ask and talk to others before purchasing a bus.
There is no set price for what anyone should pay for a skoolie. That being said, we hate to hear people who have paid $10,000 or more for a skoolie only to find out someone else paid $5,000 for the same bus a few states away.
There are two ways to buy a skoolie.
A school bus that still has all of the school bus seats, floor, walls, and
ceiling is an unconverted school bus. This is the least expensive way
to purchase a skoolie.
You have to complete all of the work yourself or hire someone else to
do it for you, but the base price you pay for the bus is going to be
lower than if it was already built out.
Understand that an unconverted bus is going to require taking the
seats, floors, and discarded metal somewhere like a dump or metal
Also, plan on spending anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 in
materials to build your skoolie. Do not underestimate all of the time
and labor required to complete the build.
Purchasing a skoolie that has already been converted is going to cost
you are much more than an unconverted bus, but, it is already built
and ready to live and travel in.
We have noticed converted buses are selling for anywhere from
$25,000 up to more than $65,000. While that may seem like a lot of
money, especially on the higher end, understand that most people
are spending $20,000 to $30,000 for the conversion materials alone.
This would not include the labor involved in the installation of all of
the materials. Understanding you are going to be spending a majority
of that money anyway on materials is not a bad deal.
School Bus Conversion Companies
There are lots of builders across the country. Finding someone to do a roof raise, build a solar system array, run some plumbing or build some cabinets and furniture is pretty easy to find.
Word of mouth in our skoolie community goes a long way as far as workmanship and reputation.
With that being said, we only recommend builders who we know and are confident of their workmanship and quality.
There are two companies we would recommend for any kind of skoolie project conversions.
Colorado Custom CoachWorks
In the heart of Denver set in front of the Flat Irons front range is a skoolie conversion company that will do complete conversions or partial conversions. Colorado Custom Coachworks has been completing conversions since 2017.
Give them a call or drop them an email for a consultation if you are in the Rocky Mountain Area.
Skoolie Homestead Community – Brett Niehaus
Bret is co-owner with his wife, Renee, of the original Skoolie Homestead Community. While the homestead is intended for those who want to rent space while completing their DIY skoolie project, Brett is available for partial conversions as well as consultations.
Having someone who knows skoolie builds inside and out is an asset you can not put a price on. Actually, you can put a price on it because it will cost you, but it is worth every cent to have a knowledgeable mentor while building your bus.
Wrap Up – How Long Does A Skoolie Conversion Take
How long does a skoolie conversion take? As you can see, it takes as long as you make it take. No timetable or project can be as subjective as a DIY school bus conversion.
Embrace the flexibility of building your own tiny house on wheels. If you work a full-time job, then your evening and weekend hobbies are likely going to be building a skoolie for next year or more.
Don’t put any more pressure on yourself than is needed to get it done in a specific amount of time.
Goals are good, but understand that this is probably the biggest most physical project you have ever taken on, so be easy on yourself when you discover it takes much longer than you want or imagined it would.
Stay at it and keep going! The end result is so sweet!
We would love to know how long it took you to convert your skoolie. We’d love to see your completed skoolie!
Leave us a comment or reach out to us so we can feature you in our Skoolie People on our Community page!
We look forward to connecting with you!