Why a Skoolie?
Before I can answer why we decided to go with a skoolie I must first answer why we decided to go tiny.
Why Go Tiny?
We purchased our first home in 2006. Everyone was saying “why are you renting, you should buy. Anyone who wants a mortgage is getting one, why are you renting?” So we followed the crowd. Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past 8 years, you know how that worked out.
We weren’t part of the crowd who bought more home than they could afford. We were pre-qualified for $125K and we financed $89K. I was smart enough to know we shouldn’t go out and get as big a house as we could qualify for. I wanted to make sure we were smart about it so I made sure we bought small and smart. None-the-less the economy hit, we lost our jobs and we eventually lost our house. Needless to say we’re not too keen on getting another mortgage so some bank can sell our loan to a servicer who doesn’t care just like they did last time. \What ever happened to the old style banks who made and serviced their own loans for the life of the mortgage?
We aren’t struggling to pay our bills but we’re not getting ahead, and I’m not willing to settle for that. One of my favorite books is Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. One of the points he makes in his book which has always stuck with me is that one of the biggest differences between the rich and the poor is this: Poor people have a habit of saying “I can’t afford that”, thus giving them an excuse to dismiss the idea and move on while rich people are in the habit of saying “How can I afford that”. Asking yourself how you can make something happen instead of giving yourself an excuse not to do it is like issuing yourself a challenge. It makes you think. It makes you analyze your situation. So I’m trying to make something happen instead of just sitting here taking what life throws my way.
It seems to me that part of the American dream is this thing where each generation wants better for their children than they had. It sounds nice, but somehow it’s gotten twisted into this idea that everyone has to have bigger houses, fancier cars and more stuff instead of just being happier. It just doesn’t make sense. The house we’re currently in has a 200sqft master bedroom… WHY? You sleep, make love and change clothes in there… why does it need to be so big? It’s wasted space.
The tiny house concept is based on being content with less by having more time and money to do what makes you happy. We love to travel, we love to go camping and we love spending time with friends and family. But we can’t afford to do those things because we have to work to pay bills. I enjoy my work immensely, and I don’t foresee a future where I don’t work, but I would like to have the option of working less.
So Why a Skoolie?
Years ago we went camping at our favorite spot in Cherokee National Forrest called Citico Creek. There were these two old timers who had an old school bus they had converted into a camper. I instantly fell in love with the idea, though I figured it would have to come at a time when I had the “extra” money to do it… like extra money is something that actually exists.
Since we decided to do this I’ve been researching non-stop. I discovered the term “Skoolie” and the website skoolie.net which is a wonderful resource for anyone considering taking on this task. I also discovered the Skoolie Converters facebook group, which has got to be one of the most active and well run facebook groups I’ve ever come across. Everyone there is so helpful. They’re constantly posting new ideas and answering questions for newbies like me. If you have a question about converting a school bus, you will get an answer from these folks and it will come quickly, you will not be left in the dark. I definitely recommend joining that group if you’re even considering a school bus conversion.
It seems that anyone considering a school bus conversion gets asked “so why don’t you just buy a ready-made RV?” Here’s what I learned in my research.
Because of their intended “cargo”, school buses are required by law to hold their shape in the event of a roll-over. If you’ve ever seen an RV after a roll over accident you probably couldn’t recognize it. A school bus on the other hand still looks like a school bus. You just can’t beat that kind of safety.
A school bus is essentially a semi truck with a different body. The chassis and drive-train are intended to go for half a million miles or more with little trouble. An RV on the other hand, often share drive-trains with consumer grade pickup trucks. Hardly the kind of reliability I want to build a home out of.
There’s also the fact that municipalities govern how long a bus can be used to haul children. I’ve been told that the limitation is currently 15 years here in Knox County. What this means is that school buses are required to be retired long before their drive-trains are worn out. Most of the parts that are worn are things you wouldn’t want in a RV anyway, namely school bus seats.
I’ve been inside a number of RV’s and it seems to me that all but the most expensive ones seem kind of cheap. They’re nice enough, but the fact is that they are made by companies who are in business to make money. That means they’re going to use the cheapest methods and materials they can get by with. Most of the RV’s I’ve been in have paper thin walls and cheap feeling furniture. I just cannot imagine they’d hold up to full time living, and by the looks of the used RV market on craigslist I’d say I’m right. Anything in my price range has been used and abused.
There are a lot of Skoolie Converters who’ve bought and remodeled their school buses for well under $20K, and I’m hoping to keep mine to about $15K. We’ve found a few folks who’ve done some excellent conversions. We’d be extraordinarily happy if ours comes out as nice as theirs. Check these out:
That’s it for tonight, look for more tomorrow!