Before you decide to purchase a skoolie, there are so many variables to consider when deciding on what type of tiny home is the best for you. This is the saga of why we decided to purchase a skoolie. It was an arduous process, but we came to the same decision and never looked back!
It was back in 2016 that Nat and I started to think and talk about what we wanted to do after the kids were out of the house and on their own. We were still a few years away from being empty nesters, but we knew how quickly time flies and we wanted to be ahead of the game, so to speak.
Did we want to stay on the Island? Did we want to keep the status quo of working for others, or working for ourselves but confined to dealing with the local people we had been around, for most, if not all of our lives?
The idea of staying where we had lived for so long was so suffocating to us, it would start to create anxiety in our brains! One thing was for sure, we had to get out and start living our best life for ourselves and each other while we still had the propensity, energy, and desire to do so.
We Thought About Building A Tiny House
It started with the idea of living in a tiny house somewhere. The idea of minimizing and living tiny was very appealing to us both. It felt liberating just talking about it.
The more and more we talked and thought about it, the more we liked the idea. We started researching tiny homes and looking up videos, pictures, floorplans, and any information we could find online.
There wasn’t as much information about living tiny on YouTube back in 2016 as you might think there would be. The more information we educated ourselves about tiny living, specifically, in a tiny home, the more this broadened and opened our minds to other ideas and possibilities of living tiny.
Before too long, we had abandoned the idea of living in a tiny home. Not because we changed our minds about tiny living or minimalistic living, but because of the variables associated with tiny house living, specifically here in Florida.
Not to go into too much detail, but we knew we did not want to purchase a vehicle big enough to pull the tiny home all over the place. A large enough SUV or pick-up truck meant a car loan and maintenance on a vehicle we would realistically be replacing in 5-7 years again.
We didn’t like the idea of a tiny home sitting on a plot of land for years to come and being “anchored” geographically. We wanted and were very attracted to the idea of off-grid living and how free and untethered that would make us feel. Living in a tiny home or any other structure here in Florida and most states would not allow for that.
We Thought About Buying An RV
So, that got us thinking about RV life and traveling. We had both realized and discussed that individually, we had both seen more of the world outside of the United States than we had experienced and traveled within the U.S.
There was a ton of stuff we would like to see and experience before our bones and joints were all seized up and before dementia would prohibit us from remembering anything cool and interesting we would experience.
We immediately thought of a couple of our friends who had tried living and traveling in a smaller RV a couple of years prior. Their experience was a very positive one. They loved the minimalist lifestyle of living in an RV on the road. We kept thinking back to when they were living that lifestyle and thought to ourselves, “how cool is that?”. We just weren’t there mentally yet.
My background in insurance gave me a very realistic and clear picture of just how poorly most motorhomes are built. Some, are very well-built. The ones that are built well are priced at well over 6 figures.
As appealing as living and traveling around the Americas in a luxury motorhome was, the idea of a “mortgage” on a motorhome was equally as not.
So, purchasing and traveling in an RV would not be for us after all. The search for the perfect tiny house on wheels would continue.
We Almost Bought A Van
Nat had the awesome idea of converting a van into a tiny home. Small, easy to drive, stealthy and easy, and low on maintenance costs.
The thought and idea of living in a tiny little van were suffocating to me. I really could not imagine being happy and excited about living in a van.
So no, we would not buy a van for our nomadic adventures.
We Considered Buying an MCI or Van Hool
Before we decided to buy a skoolie, I came up with the great idea of converting an MCI or Van Hool type of bus. Think rock-star tour bus or Grey-Hound passenger bus. We could still purchase one for a reasonable price and pay cash for it and then have a kick-ass-looking motorhome to cruise around the country in.
Well, this idea was not as appealing to Nat as it was to me. Thus, our search for the perfect tiny house on wheels saga continued.
We Decided To Purchase A Skoolie
We stumbled, and when I say “we”, I mean Nat, upon a “skoolie”. I had never heard of the word, Skoolie” much less given any thought to the idea to purchase a skoolie or much less living in a skoolie.
What is a skoolie you ask? For those who may not know, a “skoolie” is a school bus that has been converted into an Rv or tiny house on wheels. It doesn’t matter if it is a dog-nose skoolie, a flat-nose skoolie, or a “shorty”. If it was a school bus and it is now a tiny house on wheels, it’s a skoolie.
I wasn’t attracted to the idea to purchase a skoolie at all! Since my enthusiasm was not paralleled to Nat’s we started to explore other options but in that same realm of thought. We talked about converting a van into a tiny house on wheels and traveling. As cool and minimalist as it seemed, for me, that much of an extreme of living space reduction was way too much for me to embrace.
Nat loved that idea of a van conversion though! She still favored the idea to purchase a skoolie though.
A Skoolie It Is!
Since Nat initially wanted to convert a van and I wanted to convert and ginormous bus, we finally came to a compromise and we decided to purchase a skoolie. Specifically, a Thomas mid-sized school bus that had “Rosco mirrors” on the front, which is what a lot of Van Hool coaches have, so it has that tour bus or coach-bus look to it.
A diesel pusher with a Mercedes/Detroit engine and an Allison transmission. Oh, and it had to be a retired handicapped bus. The reason it had to be a handicapped bus was that we really liked the size of the wheelchair lift door on one side of the bus while the opposite side still had an emergency side door.
Our thought was, to open both doors and we would have a great cross-breeze going through our skoolie. That was the ideal bus for us. There wasn't another bus model we would consider to purchase a skoolie. We loved everything about the size, power train, look and feel of it. All we had to do was find it.
When you are searching to purchase a skoolie and convert it to a tiny house on wheels, there is no national database for retired school buses for sale. You have to hunt and search for all kinds of mini databases. To say it is difficult to purchase a skoolie when you have narrowed it down to very specific criteria would be an understatement.
Long story short, we, and when I say “we”, I really mean Nat, found our bus in Virginia. Ruckersville, Virginia to be precise. She found a school bus for sale on eBay. Through that eBay listing, she found out the person, or business, listing it had many more busses for sale as well. Our anticipation and excitement to purchase a skoolie grew quickly.
Long story short, we drove up there, purchased her, and drove her back to Florida to begin our Skoolie life journey after a “brief” stop at my cousins in Altamahaw, North Carolina.
We Got Our Skoolie!
Did I mention that as we are driving up to Virginia, Hurricane Francis was barrelling down on the coast of North Carolina only a few days away?
We were so excited to purchase a skoolie, we didn’t even care! Our thoughts were, we would get up there, purchase a skoolie and be back in Central Florida before it ever made landfall.
Well….that didn’t quite work out how we thought it would!
We Didn't Get Our Bus
We made it up to my cousin’s property in North Carolina. My cousins and I were as close as cousins can get growing up. We were like best friends more than relatives.
We spent the night at my cousin's and planned on heading up to M&M Salvage in Ruckersville, Va. early the next morning to purchase a skoolie. As a bonus, one of my cousins, Little Gene, was about as close to a diesel engine expert as I could ever hope for.
That boy had been tearing apart and putting together diesel engines since we were both kids. He was more than happy to ride up with us and check this bus out to make sure we were getting a good engine and transmission.
We made it to M&M Salvage and it was like reaching Mecca for retired school busses. There were rows and rows of Thomas, BlueBird, International, Freightliner, and even some buses we weren’t familiar with. This is a great place to purchase a skoolie if you are ever in the market for one.
I have to mention though, amongst all of the busses on the hillsides, there were just as many cows roaming between those busses too. Apparently, the cow's home and pasture were the same as the buses.
No worries though, just watch where you step and everything would be fine! Did I mention the pissed-off geese? Well, yes, there were some geese who were very annoyed at our presence. They got used to us though.
We Found Our Bus!
The bus we had picked out looked great, ran great, and sounded great! What wasn’t so great though were the tires. They were old, dry-rotted, and were re-treads.
Before we decided to purchase a skoolie, we asked them to replace the tires with some off of another bus. Roger, the manager would not agree to this. There was another bus with brand new-looking “virgin” tires. It would cost them nothing to swap the tires out.
They had previously told us over the phone, when we first inquired about the bus, that swapping tires out would be no problem. Well, I was pissed and refused to purchase the bus with the shitty tires and we left.
We drove 3 and a half hours back to my cousin's farm in North Carolina. There wasn't much conversation in the car on the way back to Altamahaw. I was bluffing them though. Thinking they would change their minds to sell this bus they had been holding on to for about a year now.
The problem is, before we set out to purchase a skoolie, I didn't let Nat know I was willing to walk away from the sale as a negotiating tactic in order to get the new tires. She thought the deal was just over.
When we got back to my cousins, by the way, not much was said between anyone on the home, Nat was not happy. She wanted that damn bus, and now thinking we aren’t going to purchase a skoolie, we wasted our time and money on this trip.
I assured her we would still purchase a skoolie. Either the one with the crappy tires but really wanted them to swap the old tires out with the new ones, or a different one. Our plan was to head back up there the next day, but call them and see if they would reconsider switching those tires.
We Tried Again To Purchase A Skoolie
The next morning, we headed back to Ruckersville, Virginia. Nat, myself, and Little Gene. After stopping at Shak’s Quick Stop for a pack of Marlboros and a Mountain Dew for Little Gene, we were on our way. Oh, we also had Bandit and Kona with us too. After all, it was going to be their tiny home on wheels as well!
I called M&M Salvage and spoke with Roger. Well, let’s just say, he agreed to our request and we would get the new “virgin” tires on our bus! Our goal to purchase a skoolie was back on track!
When we got there, Little Gene helped them change the tires to get us in and out a little quicker. As a bonus, I talked Roger into throwing a couple of replacement mirrors into the deal since the ones on our bus were cracked and broken!
We drove Caroline, and when I saw “we” I really mean Little Gene, back to Altamahaw, North Carolina to our cousin’s farm.
Needless to say, we were very happy to have our bus and were itching to start converting it to our tiny house on wheels! Our quest to purchase a skoolie was complete! Now, the dirty work lay ahead of us.
Once you purchase a skoolie, you are going to want to insure it. Read all about Skoolie Insurance here.
Wrap Up To The Best Decision Is To Purchase A Skoolie
We did it! We decided to purchase a skoolie and we bought our bus! Can't wait to get her named and gutted so we could start building her out! The only problem there was Hurricane Florence was already upon us, so we would have to camp out at our cousin's farm in North Carolina until the storm would pass.
What would we do over the next few days while riding this storm out?
Stay tuned to see what we did with our bus before we headed south to take her home to Florida.