13 Worst Skoolie Conversion Mistakes
What are the worst skoolie conversion mistakes committed? They say life imitates itself sometimes.
After raising six kids, we could effectively write a book on “How To Raise Six Children without becoming an Alcoholic”. But alas, hindsight is 20/20 they say. Tell that to any of our six children.
When it comes to a skoolie conversion, the worst skoolie conversion mistakes tend to end up being the most costly mistakes.
Some mistakes are good to make. After all, the best method of learning is usually by making mistakes. If we know something doesn’t work, thy objective is to not repeat it.
We don’t see how it would be possibly logical for anyone in the history of skoolie conversions to have not made their fair share of mistakes. It is almost like a badge of honor amongst the skoolie community.
So, let’s get down and dirty and talk about the 13 worst skoolie conversion mistakes we wish we would never make.
1. Not Being Mentally Prepared
Most of these skoolie conversion mistakes are in no particular order. In fact, we purposely put them in a random order intentionally. All of them with the exception of one. The most critical of all skoolie conversion mistakes.
You can call it what you like. Many people have different names and descriptions for it, but it all boils down to the one common denominator.
Some people like to refer to it as having the proper mindset. Having the right attitude. It’s all about the energy and perspective you bring to the conversion table.
If you are not on your mental “A game”, you are setting yourself up for defeat. Most of us do not have a cheerleader rooting for you and cheering you on.
In fact, most of us when we made the decision to escape the 9-5 neighbor indoctrinated machine to a life of freedom and adventure had our closest friends and relatives questioning our mental stableness.
Converting a school bus is hard! It is hard and it is expensive! Not preparing yourself for these realities can make converting your school bus into a tiny house on wheels paralyzing.
Find a circle of friends who will cheer you on and support you and your dreams instead of the life they think you should be living. Most of the time, they want the same thing but are too afraid to get out there and do it.
2. Under Budgeting
Just a few moments ago we mentioned that skoolie conversions are expensive. One of the biggest skoolie conversion mistakes people make is not properly budgeting for their build and their life once the build is finally completed.
We have friends who have completed their build in 6 months. We also have friends who have taken a few years to complete their build.
There is no right or wrong timeline.
However, just be aware of the amount of money it costs to convert a school bus into a functioning, comfortable, and safe tiny house on wheels.
Plan out what you want your skoolie to look like once it is completed and then work backward on a budgeting spreadsheet.
Take your build one section at a time and conservatively estimate as closely as you can what you have to spend and what your plans are going to cost.
The best surprises when converting a skoolie are no surprises.
3. Too Much Storage Space
What? Yes, you just read that correctly. That is not a typo on our part. Too much storage space is one of the biggest yet unrecognizable skoolie conversion mistakes.
Your skoolie, regardless of whether it is a diesel pusher, dognose, short wheelbase, 45 footers, or 19 footers, has a GVWR. That stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. It also has a GAWR, which means Gross Axle Weight Rating.
In other words, your school bus is built and designed to carry only so much weight. If you exceed that weight, then physics will start to wreak havoc on your school bus. Think of engine and transmission failure. Suspension and drivetrain repairs and replacement.
It can get really ugly, really fast if your skoolie is too heavy.
The more storage you build into your skoolie, the more stuff you are going to carry. It is human nature. People love their stuff. We are constantly wanting more stuff!
Oh sure, you will get rid of stuff, purge things you don’t or haven’t used in months, but we always end up collecting more stuff.
In our current build, we have vowed not to add underbelly storage or unnecessary overhead cabinets. We don’t want to be heavy and carry around 💩 we just don’t need.
It’s a tough temptation to overcome, but trust us, when your school bus goes from 10 to 12 mpg down to 6 mpg because you are too heavy, you have a storage problem.
4. Going Cheap on Wiring for Electrical
5. Poor or No Insulation
We have talked about this before in a post on Skoolie Insulation. These school buses were not designed, built, and insulated to be lived in.
They were designed, built, and insulated for children to ride from home to school in less than an hour.
Having the improper R-Value and thickness of insulation is a skoolie conversion mistake you do not want to wish on anyone, especially yourself.
There are times when it is going to be much colder than you anticipated. Cooling off is much easier than warming up. You can put a wet rag on your wrists and neck if you get too hot.
If you are too cold, your body temp starts to drop. If your temperature gets to 95F or 35C you are experiencing hypothermia. This is a life-threatening condition.
Do not make this skoolie conversion mistake so many people make because they do not think they should re-insulate their ceiling or walls.
6. No Heat Source for Cold Climates
We really didn’t think we would be in below-freezing temperatures in October when we visited Colorado. Hell, even Wisconsin in late September and October was getting down into the ’30s a few nights.
Naively, we really thought we had a grasp on following comfortable temperatures while traveling in our skoolie.
One of the biggest skoolie conversion mistakes people, including us, make is not properly preparing for colder climates. Blankets and covers can only do so much.
Having an alternate or secondary source of heat is smart and safe!
7. No Insurance or Inadequate Insurance
Can not stress this enough. Get proper and adequate insurance coverage for you and your skoolie. Having a policy you know is based on misrepresentation is a recipe for financial disaster.
We were having a discussion on insurance with a van lifer and another skoolie owner just the other day at the Skoolie Swarm. They had no idea what coverages they had or what they covered in the event of a loss.
All they knew was that they had “insurance” and that was good enough for them. Being legal by having an insurance policy does not equate to protecting your financial assets in the event of a loss.
Read this post we wrote on insurance, A Complete Guide To Skoolie Insurance 2022, and then read this one we wrote on our lifestyle blog, NatnDonintheWild.
There is a lot of valuable insurance information that makes things clear and understandable.
8. Unaware of Skoolie Living & Traveling Expenses
It’s a hard reality when you are on the road and a road trip that used to cost you $60 to $100 in fuel now costs you $240 to $400.
Tolls are now much more expensive than if you were traveling in a van or car and parking is nowhere as simple anymore either.
Finding water to fill up your freshwater tank is not always free. Be prepared to pay for water occasionally.
Everything is more expensive on the road when traveling in a skoolie, RV, or any other DIY vehicle, that isn’t a van.
Many people have the misconception and fantastical misinformation that skoolie life is not expensive.
Just because you do not have a mortgage, rent, or utility bills any longer, doesn’t mean those expenses are replaced with other costs.
9. Going Cheap on Fans and Construction Materials
It’s totally understandable when you are watching your budget and seeing the dollars hemorrhaging out of your bank account to want to cut corners.
What we offer for you when you are experiencing these moments is this. Stop and reflect on what your build and the particular project are going to look like when it is completed.
What will it be like if you cut corners and what will it be like if you do it “right” the first time?
It may cost more and take more time, but in the end, you want to be happy and satisfied with all parts of your skoolie project.
Skoolie life is hard enough on its own, there is no need to create problems down the road by cutting corners or going cheap on parts and items while you are building.
Fans are a big part of skoolie life. Even if you have a mini-split air conditioner, window unit, or some other type of air conditioner, fans are a skoolie owner's best friend.
Go cheap, and you are going to sweat, be frustrated and end up replacing that fan sooner than you want.
The same thing applies to construction materials.
As expensive as lumber and plywood are these days, it is totally understandable to be tempted to go for a cheaper grade of wood.
We have made that mistake before!
We decided to go with OSB plywood with our first skoolie project floor. It didn’t take us long to realize that OSB wood is a pain in the ass. We quickly pulled that out and replaced it with some pine plywood.
Do not be afraid to change things once they are “completed”. If it is going to make for a better build and you happier in the long-term, then change it or slow down and do it right the first time.
10. Afraid To Ask For Help
Are you an expert at plumbing, electrical, carpentry, solar? If not, do not be afraid or too proud to ask for help or advice occasionally. It isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s actually an exhibition of confidence and wisdom.
Asking for someone’s help is not asking them to do something for you. It is more like a collaboration. If someone has more knowledge or experience than you in a particular area, look at it as an opportunity to learn.
The skoolie community is a great wealth of knowledge. It’s a resource we would be wise to tap into once in a while. There are some really good Facebook groups and forums for getting ideas and information from.
Knowing who, where, and when to ask for help can get you over humps and brain-blocks. The idea is to keep moving forward and tapping into your inner resolve to get that build completed.
11. Having Other People Complete Your Build
There are lots of people who will gladly accept your hard-earned money to build your skoolie. The sad or funny thing about that is, they are usually no more capable of building your skoolie than you are.
We know some of them personally. We know that it is overwhelming and intimidating at times to take on a project you have no experience at.
YouTube and skoolie groups and forums are your best friends in these situations. By buckling down and being determined to do it yourself, you will reap the benefits down the road.
Knowing your systems and understanding how they work will save you lots of time, anxiety, and money when something needs an adjustment, repair, or replacement down the road.
12. Not Removing and Cleaning Up Rust
Rust on a school bus or any vehicle for that matter is like cancer. It will not stop until it has consumed all of the metal it can. You can not wish rust away.
If left alone for long enough, you are creating bigger problems for yourself or someone else who is unfortunate enough to buy your skoolie should you choose to sell it.
13. Not Replacing the School Bus Floor
Your school bus floor may look like it is in great shape! We have seen it too many times. The bus has no visible signs of rust or leaks. It is the unicorn of all buses.
Until you remove the rubber floor and old plywood underneath it.
Once that plywood is removed, it looks like a Louisiana swamp deep in Cajun Country. Dark, wet, and things you can not nor would you want to identify.
We thought our first bus was a gem. Seemed very clean! Until we removed the floor. Fortunately for us, there was not that much rust. Mosty surface rust, but it was a nasty-ass floor.
We were glad to have removed the plywood just to clean all the goop and nastiness that was between the plywood and the metal floor of the bus.
Maybe nasty, gross, goopy 💩 doesn’t bother you. Maybe you’re not worried about rusty holes to the underside of your bus floor. If not, more power to you.
Just don’t sell that bus to an innocent person who might not be so laxidazial as you are about those types of things.
What Skoolie Conversion Mistakes Are Unforgivable?
All of these skoolie conversion mistakes are bad in their own rights. I mean, we have made our fair share of mistakes, but there are some with more dire consequences than others. Some we are guilty of, some we are not.
We have made mistakes that aren’t even mentioned here, but those are for a different blog post down the road.
In our educated and experienced opinion, there are the three worst unforgivable mistakes when converting a school bus.
Improper or No Insurance
Insurance is only valuable when you need it. If you have misrepresented your insurance company just get a policy for registration and legal purposes.
When you do not understand the coverages your agent has sold to you, you are not prepared for the worst scenario.
If the worst-case scenario does become a reality for you, and you do not have proper insurance coverage to protect your financial interest in your skoolie, you may find yourself without a skoolie and no money to replace it.
Not Removing The School Bus Floor
We have seen and heard this way too many times. Your school bus floor looks great! No rips, holes, wear marks or stains. You think you have the unicorn of all school buses.
You decide not to remove the school bus floor to avoid all of the labor and costs to replace the wood with insulation, new plywood, and a finished floor.
Remember, a school bus floor has NO insulation under it all. It is plywood on top of metal covered with a rubber mat.
If you think your floor is not without mold, rot, and rust, we have some swampland in Arizona we’d like to talk to you about buying.
Having Other People Complete Your Build
Taking on a skoolie project for the average person can be paralyzingly intimidating. There are so many aspects of a school bus conversion that are beyond most of our general knowledge.
FOr some people, the natural and logical solution to a DIY skoolie project is to have someone else complete the build for them. Sure, it is going to cost a lot more money than to do it yourself.
But, the build will get done, probably quicker than it you were to do it yourself, and you eliminate the stress and anxiety of trying to do something you have no idea or business doing in the first place.
Here is the problem with that mentality.
Once the build is complete, you are going to be clueless when it comes to any issues or problems with any of your systems. If you were to have done the DIY build yourself, you would be intimately knowledgeable about all of the systems of your skoolie.
If something goes wrong, you are the expert who built it and best equipped to identify and resolve any issues.
Wrap Up To 13 Skoolie Conversion Mistakes
We are all guilty of committing our fair share of skoolie conversion mistakes. It is something you should plan for unless you have completed hundreds of conversions yourself.
Even with multiple builds under your belt, there are still going to be mistakes and plenty of them. For those who are on your first school bus conversion, let that sit as reassurance, you are going to make it!
The 13 skoolie conversion mistakes we have talked about today are not just foddering for a blog post. These are mistakes that have come to create real problems for people and their tiny house on wheels time and time again.
Learn from your own mistakes and keep going forward. Also, learn from our mistakes and save yourself some heartache, tons of money, lots of time, and more frustration than you need to deal with.
If you are ever in a bind and need a different perspective on a part of your build or while out on the road, we are always available for an idea or two based on our own experiences.
We look forward to connecting with you!