Our School Bus is For Sale!
We’re sad to let it go, but it has served its purpose very well and we’re excited to pass it along to a new owner – it’s built to last and will be an excellent rig for someone to use for years to come. It has been tried and tested and has had zero issues, but it’s still in like-new condition.
Our build plan focused on maximizing function, spaciousness, and storage, while keeping materials as light weight as possible. We also focused on building everything to be rattle-resistant – we previously owned an RV and it seemed like every bump in the road rattled things until they eventually fell apart. We tackled this problem by using vibration-resistant screws and sufficient amounts of high-quality adhesives.
Another major thing we focused on early in the build was waterproofing the bus. One of our biggest fears was building out the inside just to have the roof leak. We spent close to a month in the beginning of the build checking for leaks and taking extra precaution to seal any areas that were even remotely suspect. The roof and windows on the bus are water-tight and have stood up very well to the past couple of Tahoe winters.
For finish materials, we used bamboo plywood for the floor and cabinets – it’s pricey but it is very durable for its weight which allowed us to use thinner, lighter plywood. For trim and accent walls we used Japanese Shu Sugi Ban – professionally burned and stained Japanese Cypress. The kitchen countertop and dining table are a laminated melamine material. Again, a this is a durable material that is much lighter than most countertops. We wanted this rig to fly up and over mountain passes with ease, which it does!
We bought the bus from a well-known mechanic/bus dealer in Phoenix that a friend recommended. It’s a 2005 Chevy Express 3500 with a gas V8 engine that has 87,XXX miles on it. This engine is plenty powerful for long road trips and has a reputation for being reliable and long lasting. In the two years we have owned it we have had zero mechanical issues. The bus spent the first part of its life as a Head Start bus on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico.
The bus is 22 feet long, so it is relatively easy to drive and fits in a regular parking space. The interior living space is very roomy once you are inside, and the ceiling is just over 6 feet tall. We installed a single passenger seat belt into the dinette for safe traveling with friends or as a couple.
The only major part of our bus build that we hired out was the exterior paint. We hired a local painter to spray the entire exterior white – we decided to leave the windows the original yellow color to give them a trimmed look. We get a lot of compliments for this idea!
After we gutted the bus and ensured every surface was completely waterproof, we attached wood framing members to the metal frame of the bus using construction adhesive and special-ordered vibration resistant screws.
While a lot of DIY builders use 2x4s to frame buses, we feel this is excessively heavy. We used smaller framing materials and attached a few heavier items like cabinets all the way through into the steel frame of the bus. Smaller framing members also maximized floor to ceiling height which was very important to us.
In between framing members, we used three types of insulation material in the bus. For the floor we used Foamular rigid insulation because of its compression strength. This allowed us to maximize insulation square footage in the floor while maintaining a firm floor.
In the ceiling we used sheep’s wool from a local company as a healthier, more environmentally friendly, and hypoallergenic alternative to fiberglass. Many built-out school buses are left with the original ceiling which is a huge mistake in our opinion. Original insulation materials are vastly inferior and this also means the builder was never able to properly check for ceiling leaks. In the walls we used a combination of spray foam and sheep’s wool.
In the back of the bus, underneath the bed in a wood enclosure we installed a 100aH lithium battery that has plenty of storage for powering all included appliances in an off-grid setting. We built the battery system so that the house battery is charged by the engine while driving, by the solar panel, or when plugged in. These options make it easy to keep the battery topped off and have kept us charged for days on end of boondocking.
We also added an inverter so that additional 120-volt devices can be used while the bus is off-grid.
The interior ceiling has 10 can lights broken into separate groups of 6 and 4. This way you can turn on 4, 6, or 10 lights depending on your lighting needs.
Switches are at the front door and by the bed so you don’t have to leave the bed to turn the lights on or off.
An additional reading light by the bed has several brightness settings and a red light for discrete, minimal lighting.
Outside above the front door we added a super bright LED porch light that can also be turned off or on by the front door or from bed. It is very effective at lighting your outdoor space when out in the wilderness.
This plumbing system was designed for both off and on-grid use and was made to be used in below-freezing conditions.
Water comes into the bus into a 45-gallon fresh water tank or can be connected straight to city water. An electric pump provides continuous pressure when off-grid using the tank.
A propane water heater provides instant, unlimited hot water to the kitchen sink and shower.
The kitchen sink faucet can even be rotated 180 degrees out through a window to be used as a hot outdoor shower!
The kitchen sink and shower both drain directly out of the bus – there are no grey water tanks. While this can be inconvenient in some situations, we did not want to deal with tanks that could potentially freeze. We opted to use an independent gray water tank that rolls under the drain pipes when we want it at campgrounds, etc. We’d be happy to install a grey water tank for a new owner if that is preferred.
Heating and Ventilation
We added a Propex propane forced air furnace under the bed that can be used off-grid and is controlled by a thermostat at the foot of the bed. The temperature can be set in increments and it provides plenty of heat on cold nights. We added a Maxxair fan into the still functioning emergency escape hatch. The fan can blow in or out, and you can still use the escape hatch in the event of an emergency or to access the roof.
We opted to use a chest-style refrigerator/freezer because they are much more efficient for off-grid use, and are divided into two parts that can be used as a fridge/freezer, fridge/fridge, or freezer/freezer. It slides out from under the dining bench seat.
The kitchen stove top is a simple setup with two propane burners, one slightly larger than the other.
A multitude of cabinets provide enclosed storage throughout the bus. They are secured with push-twist-and-lock latches that prevent doors from opening while driving. We even added sneaky cabinet space in the toe kick of the kitchen cabinets by your feet, as well as in a tall, narrow cabinet behind the driver’s seat that provides even more storage.
We call the area under the bed in the back of the bus “the garage”. We glued down marine carpet and there is a large space for sliding gear, bins, etc. underneath the bed. The entire floor underneath the carpeting has been waterproofed in the event of an accidental spill down there.
The kitchen cabinets have pneumatic lifts so doors lift up and stay out of the way while accessing storage.
This bus is loaded with plenty of enclosed storage areas for shoes, leveling blocks, trinkets, etc.
We have several sets of window covers/curtains for the bus. One set is designed for privacy/insulation and the other set we put on the inside of those so it looks nice inside the bus.
We added 4 security cameras to the bus which are all visible on a monitor that is at the head of the bed. We love the ability to turn on the monitor and see outside of the bus without having to open any curtains or doors. This system also records video footage so if the bus were broken into, video footage is recorded into a locked, hidden DVR box.
We also added an extremely loud alarm system that operates from a key fob. With the push of a button the alarm sounds off just above the front passenger door.
One of our favorite features is the guest bed -the dining table area easily converts into a comfortable bed for a single guest! We just had these cushions made by a local seamstress.
In the front of the bus, we installed a backup camera for the driver, and the original loudspeaker radio still works! Just push the button and talk, and your voice comes out on a speaker above the passenger door outside of the bus for plenty of fun!
We also added two new speakers for music while driving. We put them into the electrical cabinet above the driver so that whatever you’re listening to sounds great for both the driver and the passenger.
If you’re interested in our bus but would like to change something, we are open to the idea of negotiating additional work. This could include something like adding additional solar panels and/or batteries, adding exterior racks/mounts, gray water tanks, etc. If you’re interested in buying our bus please leave us a message using the contact us form on this website. Thanks!