Is it legal to live in a skoolie? We hear it all of the time. People who want to live and travel in a skoolie, but just aren’t sure if they are legally allowed to. People continuously ask the same question, “Is it legal to live in a skoolie?”
Well, that answer to “Is it legal to live in a skoolie?” can be complicated depending on what state you live in. On top of that, it boils down to what city or county you live in and the ordinances that have been put in place to control or curb “homelessness”.
We get very upset when someone is labeled “homeless” just because they live and travel in a skoolie, van, or RV. Granted some people may be doing so out of circumstances, but most of us are doing so out of a deliberate choice and an international lifestyle.
We prefer to use the term, “houseless” instead of homeless.
We are going to address some of the most common questions and misconceptions about the legality of living in a converted school bus.
With that being said, we would be amiss if we did not point out that we are not lawyers and in no way should any of the information on this blog post or this website be considered or interpreted as legal advice.
We strongly encourage you to do your due diligence by gathering the applicable information with your local and state laws regarding full-time living in anything other than a conventional home, apartment, or condominium.
Is it Legal To Live In A Skoolie Full Time?
This is the United States of America! We can do whatever the hell we want right? Yes, a little satirical humor there. Problem is, it’s not funny.
So, yes, you can live in a skoolie full time.
Is it legal?
The first thing we did when we purchased our first skoolie back in 2018 was to get it back to Florida and get it registered as an RV.
Can you live in an RV full-time?
You damn right you can.
Again though, check with your local and state laws and ordinances. Just because you can it is legal to live in a skoolie while you are traveling around the country, doesn't mean it is legal to live in a skoolie while it is parked in your parent's back yard. A school bus that has been registered and titled as an RV, doesn’t necessarily mean you can park and live it in where ever you want.
For Florida, specifically, Brevard County, Florida, we were required three things to show before changing our title and registration from a commercial vehicle to an RV.
1. A way to cook food.
We satisfied this goal by putting a Coleman two-burner stove inside of our bus.
Voila, we have a kitchen now. Very raw and basic, but it satisfied the
legal requirement of being able to prepare food.
2. A Place to Sleep
Easy solution. An air mattress is a simple and quick solution to that requirement.
3. A place to use the bathroom.
A bucket and a toilet seat. Instant bathroom!
Understand that the above three steps required to change your skoolie title from commercial to RV apply to Brevard County, Florida.
Your city, county, or state may have different requirements. Suffice it to say, we can not explain each state's and county's requirements across the country. I mean, we could, we just do not have all of the data to share it right now.
Satisfy the state or county's requirements for registering your school bus into a motorhome and it should be legal to live in a skoolie.
Where Is It Legal To Live In A Skoolie?
It is legal to live in a skoolie where ever it is safe and legal to do so as a camper or RV.
We strongly recommend that you register and title your skoolie as an RV. When you purchase it in the form of a school bus, the title is likely going to show it as a commercial vehicle.
By having your skoolie titled as an RV, it is for recreational use and thereby, you can use it however you deem worthy. In other words, it would be legal to live in a skoolie if it is titled as a motorhome.
Of course, you still have to abide by laws where ever you are. If you are passing through a city or town that prohibits sleeping in your vehicle on the street, then we would not recommend “stealth” camping on the side of a street, road, or in a neighborhood.
However, you are very capable and within your rights to stay in a campground, RV park, BLM land, or dispersed camping in any state or national park.
So, when it all boils down, it is legal to live in a skoolie where ever it is legal to live in an RV.
If your skoolie looks like a movie prop straight out of a Cheech & Chong movie from the ’70s or ’80s, then you may be getting a knock on your door in the middle of the night or you just may not be welcomed to stay in many RV parks. So, regardless of whether or not it is legal to live in a skoolie in any particular area, try not to draw any unnecessary negative energy.
Is It Legal To Live In A Skoolie On My Land?
Whether or not it is legal to live in a skoolie on your own land depends upon the deed, HOA, and or POA restrictions, and what type of county or city ordinances may be in place.
If your plans are to purchase some land, or you already own some land, and you intend on living in your skoolie while parked, then it would definitely behoove you to check with the powers to be that would govern such a scenario.
We chose to purchase land in Arizona and Maine because those states are very loose and liberal in what we can use our land for.
Off-Grid Friendly States
Perhaps you are interested in purchasing some land so you can park your skoolie? Some of the friendliest “off-grid” states for parking and living in your skoolie on your own land are:
As with everything, all decisions you make may inadvertently affect your and your family, always practice due diligence and make your decisions from the information you gather from authoritative sources.
How Much Does It Cost To Live In A Skoolie?
One of the biggest misunderstandings about skoolie life is how much it costs to live in a skoolie. Regardless if it is legal to live in a skoolie if you can't afford to do so, what is the point?
It is true that many people choose skoolie life because they feel it is much less expensive than owning or renting a house, apartment or condominium.
While that may be true in certain parts of the country or for certain specific circumstances, skoolie life can be almost or just s expensive as a traditional bricks-and-sticks lifestyle.
Without going too deep into specifics, because each individual's budget, lifestyle, and perspective of “expensive” is very different and subjective, we will look at some of the more generic costs of skoolie living.
The Bus & The Conversion
Purchasing a bus and converting it to a tiny house on wheels is relatively inexpensive when compared to purchasing a house.
While the average house in the United States costs almost $400,000, most people can get a solid running and mechanically sound school bus for less than $10,000.
The expense of the conversion is completely up to your budget, desires, and needs for a rolling tiny home.
You can spend as little or as much as you want. So, really, this part of the skoolie expense equation is so subjective, it is pointless to attempt to explain, advise or describe how expensive it is.
For our first build, we spent in the neighborhood $25,000 on our conversion. We spent $4,500 on the skoolie itself.
So, after all, was said and done and we were on the road, we invested around $30,000 for our skoolie home.
Our second build was a van, and we ended up spending about the same amount, although the van itself was $15,000 and we spent another $20,000 on the conversion.
Our third conversion, which is another skoolie, remains to be seen. Once we have completed that build, we will let you know what we ended up investing in it.
Traveling in a skoolie is where most people miss the boat as far as budgeting and understanding just how expensive living in a skoolie and traveling full time can be.
There are many aspects of full-time travel that can add up quickly, but the biggest expense by far is the cost of fuel.
It doesn’t matter if you are riding on a diesel or gas engine, you are going to be dropping some bills on fuel.
With diesel at almost $4,00/gallon and figure your skoolie may get at best 10mpg, it is going to cost you $240 to fill up a 60-gallon fuel tank. With $240 dollars worth of fuel, it may get you 600 miles. If you are lucky!
More realistically, you are only going to get about 400-500 miles on that tank of gas. This is not considering going over some Rocky Mountain passes either.
So, suffice it to say, fuel costs are a real consideration unless you are going to be spending time in one spot for a few weeks at a time.
If you aren’t planning on moving around the country a whole lot and only plan on going on trips once in a while, then living statically may be more of a budget-friendly skoolie lifestyle for you.
The thing about staying put in one spot for a while is you either need to have your own land or you probably will be paying some rent to park your bus.
National Parks, State Parks, and County or City parks can get rather expensive quickly. While National and State parks are typically around $30 and up a night, city and county parks tend to be a little less expensive at $15 to $30/per night.
Either way, you are going to be spending $450 to $900 a month to camp in a park.
If you are thinking about boondocking on BLM or Dispersed camping land, then just know that your skoolie build expense has to incorporate a respectful solar array and water supply.
Take a look at this article on what a solar array will cost you alone. Mind you, this is not a beefy solar array, but a minimal solar setup.
The bottom line is this, skoolie life can be expensive if you want it or allow it to be. It’s all relative though. What we may consider expensive, others may balk at.
Be prepared and educate yourself realistically on what your skoolie life looks like financially. The only surprise you want to experience when living and traveling in your skoolie is how much more awesome and epic it is than you imagined.
Why Would You Live In A School Bus?
The better question here is why wouldn’t you live on a school bus? At least, that is how we see it.
There are so many reasons why so many people from so many backgrounds have chosen to live in a school bus or better known in the community as a skoolie.
Why We Love Living In A Bus
For us, we knew we did not want to continue living in a house, in a neighborhood, shopping at the same stores, eating in the same restaurants, and seeing the same people around town for the next 30 or so years after our kids were grown and off doing their own things.
Try to imagine being anchored to one geographical location. Living the same monotonous and programmed lifestyle you had been indoctrinated to believe is the “right and acceptable” lifestyle responsible adults lived.
We had begun to de-program our brains a few years already in the making, so, for us, it only made sense to break the chains and do something radical and free according to society's parameters.
Our goal was to experience so many different sub-cultures within the United States. Spending a few days in a Norweigan fishing community on Wisconsin's peninsula.
Having lunch at a Polish Deli shop in Chicago. Learning about true Native American history from some of the several Nations spread across the country.
There are so many landscapes and different topography to experience and be in utter amazement over!
We love living in the high desert of Arizona one weekend and then enjoy views of the pacific ocean the next. By the end of the month, we may be in Napa Valley or a quaint Rocky Mountain ski resort town.
For us, it is all about being able to do what we want and go where we want. Now that Canada has opened its borders to us here in the U.S. again, we are looking forward to traveling and experiencing the Great White North soon!
There is a true sense of freedom while living and traveling in a converted school bus. It’s not the freedom you would think of when casually talking about skoolie life.
It is more of mental freedom. It is a state of mind or breakthrough of the mind. We have talked to so many people who feel liberated mentally from following societal norms that have been in place now for decades.
Being able to move about, travel, and live anywhere you want is freedom. We can not ever imagine living without that feeling and experience.
This past summer we traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the Skoolie U.P. gathering. We planned on being in Michigan for maybe a couple of weeks.
We loved it up in Northern Michigan so much, we stayed for over a month.
That is Freedom!
That is living life on your own terms. Not being dictated by some corporate suit or a supervisor with less education, leadership, and experience than yourself.
We don't even acknowledge “vacation time”, “sick time”, or “personal time” off of work. We decide when, where and how long we go where we want to go.
Why Do You Want To Live In A Skoolie
It doesn’t really matter why we or anyone else wants to travel and live in a skoolie. The real question we should all be asking ourselves is, “Why do I want to live in a skoolie?”
So, why do you want to live in a skoolie?
We want to know!
We want to hear your story and your “why”.
In fact, we would like to showcase, highlight, and feature you right here on the Skoolie Project Skoolie Community Page.
Click the link above and fill out the short survey. Include your Bus name, social channels, and an email so we can send you a link when we have posted.
We look forward to connecting with you and hearing your skoolie story!
Registration, Insurance, Licensing Your Skoolie
Here in the United States, we are bound by laws, regulations, ordinances, and a plethora of rules.
To drive on public roads, we must adhere to our individual states' mandates on doing so legally. Otherwise, we run the risk of being fined or having our property taken from us.
Without going too deep down that rabbit hole, let’s all agree that our skoolie must be insured and registered. That is one of the requirements when pondering the question, “Is it legal to live in a skoolie?”
We have already talked about registering and titling your skoolie. You can either keep it titled as a commercial vehicle or have it titled as an RV. If you do not title it as an RV, it is likely not legal to live in your skoolie. The designation of it being a motorhome gives you the unequivocal rights to sleep and travel in it as that is the purpose of a recreational vehicle.
No Special Drivers license is required if your skoolie is titled as an RV. Most states do not differentiate between a private passenger vehicle and an RV.
Crazy, I know, but that is just how it goes if your vehicle is titled and registered as an RV. There should be an asterisk for this. No special license is required to drive an RV, as long as it is not over a specific weight.
Always check with your state DMV for all legal requirements regarding any driver's license endorsements to legally operate your skoolie on public roads. This would include whether or not it is legal to live in a skoolie.
Your RV or Skoolie insurance is going to be significantly less expensive than if it is titled as a commercial bus.
Chances are, with your skoolie registered as a commercial vehicle, not only is the insurance company going to rate your risk as a commercial vehicle (much more expensive than private/pleasure use) but you will not be entitled to coverages to protect your skoolie from accidents, thefts, roadside assistance or acts of God.
If your skoolie is registered as an RV, then you can get RV coverages such as collision and comprehensive, roadside or towing service, Uninsured Motorist, and Total Loss or Replacement coverage.
There is a good article on skoolie insurance here. Give it a read. It is a bit comprehensive but should answer any questions you may have.
Is It Legal To Live In A Skoolie That Is Yellow?
We like to yield the common sense rule here when it comes to leaving your school bus yellow. Some states allow you to leave it yellow. Some other states strictly prohibit you from keeping the National School Bus yellow color.
In many states, your bus can be yellow. However, you must remove the decals of the school district it belonged to. You must also remove the flashing “stop” lights and the stop sign on the sides.
Basically, no one wants anyone to confuse your skoolie with a legitimate school bus for underage children.
With that being said, I know there are some states that prohibit the yellow and black color on a bus. The colors alone could confuse parents and children. There are some bad people in this world. They might try and use a school bus as a means of human trafficking.
In those cases, it is not legal to live in a skoolie unless you paint your school bus a different color.
Here are some states that do and do not allow your bus to remain yellow.
States that DO NOT allow you to keep your skoolie yellow:
If you keep your school bus yellow in those states it is not legal to live in a skoolie. Just paint it a different color and you are good to go.
States that DO ALLOW you to keep your skoolie yellow:
New Mexico *
* unless the bus is painted a different color than that prescribed by the state board for school buses, diagonal black stripes must be painted on the rear of the bus. The stripes shall be at least three feet long, four inches wide, and shall be spaced not more than ten inches apart.
It is legal to live in a skoolie in those states regardless of the color of your bus.
We will update the lists as that information becomes available to us.
It is best to do your due diligence for the state that you plan on titling and registering your skoolie. Look it up on your state's DMV website, or call and speak to someone at your local DMV and inquire.
Some laws or local policies may have changed within the state where you live since this post was written. Stay up to date to ensure that it is legal to live in a skoolie where you are going to be.
What States Is It Legal To Live In A Skoolie?
While it is not legal to live in a skoolie in all 50 states, there are a few where it is allowed.
These are the states where it is legal to live in a skoolie on your private land.
- South Dakota
- New York
Wrap up – Is It Legal To Live In A Skoolie
It isn’t just about buying a retired school bus and calling it a skoolie and then living happily ever after. That would be sweet!
Skoolie life throws us some hoops we all have to jump through from time to time. We would much rather jump through those hoops than the hoops that are involved in living a “normal” life.
So, all in all, it is quite legal to live in a skoolie all the live-long day. Especially if you are traveling full-time and constantly on the move.
It is no different than a retired couple living and traveling full time in their fifth wheel, Class A coach, or pull-behind camper trailer.
Traveling and living in a skoolie has been such an amazing experience for us, we really can’t imagine living any other way. Who knows what the future holds, but for now, we are full-time and loving the skoolie life! It is legal to live in a skoolie, for us at least. Chances are, it is legal to live in a skoolie for you too!
We would love to hear about your skoolie life experience and connect with you. In fact, if you would like to be a part of our Skoolie People Community page, we would love to feature you and your skoolie!
Connect with us through the link in that last paragraph, and we look forward to meeting you!