Join us as we embark on a shuttle bus camper conversion. This fun transformation project will take place in the evening and on weekends.
We spend a lot of time discussing our future recreation vehicles each day when we are out walking around the neighborhood for exercise. The features of an RV that we dream about depend on our circumstances. Currently, we are settled into life in Central Illinois with one of us employed full-time outside the home and a teenager in school. That means that we spend most of our lives here so we only use an RV to camp and vacation. Once we are retired, our RV will be used most of the time so it will have different needs than we currently have.
In our 30 years of marriage, we have owned five RVs. Four of them have been pop up campers. Pop-up trailers are great because they are affordable, lightweight, and easy to tow, and they are small enough to park in a garage. Our most recent pop-up was in great shape and looked good after Diana remodeled it, but boredom and other feelings due to personal distancing have left us with too much time on our hands. So, we have decided to build our own RV.
Shuttle Bus Camper Conversion Project
We love tiny homes and camper vans so we decided to combine both concepts into a bus conversion. School bus conversions, otherwise known as Skoolies, are popular. A regular size school bus is larger than we want and a mini school bus is just too small. Therefore, we settled on a shuttle bus.
After watching numerous YouTube videos on shuttle bus, school bus, and camper van conversions, we decided that we want a vehicle that has a rear wheelchair lift door. This allows us to put our bed up on a platform and have access to a storage garage underneath. Our other requirement is hinged emergency exit windows. Hinged windows allow us to prop windows open for ventilation.
The process for securing a used shuttle bus took a few weeks. We needed to sell our pop-up camper and secure insurance. Purchasing a commercial vehicle requires unique insurance, so we had to call around. We ended up finding Kelly Newsome, who is an insurance agent specializing in Skoolies, to obtain our policy so that we could legally get the bus home. Please reach out to us if you need Kelly’s contact information. She can find a policy for whichever state you live in even though she is based in Florida.
We Bought a Shuttle Bus to Convert
Therefore, here is our shuttle bus. It is a 2009 Chevrolet Express cutaway 3500 6.6 L Duramax Diesel with an Allison Transmission with a TurtleTop shell. Since most buses are used until they get high miles, we decided to focus on a diesel engine because it will last much longer than a gasser. The engine runs great on this vehicle. The air conditioners work well too.
The removal of the wheelchair lift was a condition of our purchase. That would have been very difficult for us to remove on our own. We have already removed the six bench seats, which were heavy on their own but Eric managed to do most of the work.
We obtained the bus this week, and we only have rough plans for what we are going to do with it at this point. Our priority is sleeping and eating, so we will plan the layout around those.
Custom RV Layout
A regular queen size mattress will be on a platform in the back. The driver’s side of the vehicle will have a storage cabinet, a sofa that makes into a bed for our daughter, and a passenger seat with a seatbelt. The storage cabinet will house a porta-potty. A kitchen counter will run from the entry stairs to the edge of the bed along the other side of the bus. Here is our initial layout design.
We are going to have to configure a navigator’s seat for Diana. This will likely be right in the middle next to the driver seat and either it will pivot so that it can face the living area or fold up out of the way when we are camped.
We will be adding 30 amp electricity and all the required electrical surrounding that. We will likely go with a simple sink setup with removable freshwater and grey water tanks. For refrigeration, we will start out with using our electric cooler, which can be plugged into a lighter while driving.
We do not plan on adding solar because this vehicle will be used much like a regular motorhome in a campground on weekends and vacations. We are not opposed to adding solar in the future if needed.
Our Bus Conversion Budget
At first, we set a budget of $10,000 for this project. We soon realized that a quality shuttle bus would take up a lot of that amount so we increased the budget to $12,500. The bus, tax, title, and plates were half that amount. We are feeling confident that we can stay within our revised shuttle bus camper conversion budget. We feel that the remaining 6k is a reasonable amount for the build-out. I hope that if we go over budget, it is not by very much.
Follow Along on Our Progress
We will be posting about our shuttle bus conversion on our social media channels. Day-to-day updates will appear on our stories on Instagram, Facebook, and SnapChat. You will also find posts in our feed on those channels as well as on YouTube.
What should we name our bus?
We want to give our bus a proper name, and we are open to suggestions. It could be a person’s name such as Bertha or a fun name like the S’more Mobile. Those are both suggestions from friends, but neither is grabbing us at this point.
We hope that you are excited about our undertaking and will follow along on this bus project. While camping has been deemed as a safe activity, we are hoping that things might be closer to normal next summer and that we can camp in groups, meet you and camp together, and give tours of our completed project.