Tiny Visions specializes in locating school buses that are best candidates for tiny home conversions. Tiny Visions also manages a transportation Company and sells retired school buses if they are replaced. Once a bus is found, it's time to get you on the schedule with the talented folks at Chrome Yellow. From turn key to conversions to preparatory services offered for the DIYselfers, the sky is the limit at Chrome Yellow (click link to see their conversion work).
"What is Tiny Visions?"
"Is Bus Life for Me?"
As positive as the skoolie movement is, bus life is not for everyone. If you are the kind of person who gets frustrated with curveballs, I wouldn't recommend school buses. As safe as school buses are, they are just as unpredictable. You will have problems and your bus won't always perform the way you expect it to. I personally love overcoming a challenge and getting the better hand of a bus issue. You'll find that all used buses have "personality" or "quirks" you will encounter different issues. Be ready for them and embrace it, you'll be better off for it!
"What Mistakes did You Make?
If I could do it all over again I would change several things about my conversion. 1) Roof Raise (I think a 16" lift is the key to creating a spacious feel) 2) Spray foam insulation (Temperature changes in a bus are significant) 3) Full kitchen (you need more space than you think) 4) Full bathroom (I thought I'd be alone, but I have plenty of guests to come visit)
The true cost of conversions are much higher than expected. Most people get excited when they hear that a young family has created a Tiny Home for under $30,000. That's a chewable number so we get inspired. But what we aren't considering is the cost of labor not included in the figure as most bus homes are created by the owner. Custom conversions take a significant amount of time - about 900 man hours (especially if you want to do this right, which you do!). If you have the land to store it and the tools to do the work yourself than you can build a conversion affordably. But if you are hiring a team of professionals to create a custom conversion it's possible to see clients invest $75,000 to $90,000 in their dream.
"Costs of Converting?"
What type of School bus is best?
Here are the kinds of buses you'll find while you search. All offer pros and cons:
Conventional: (Engine outside and in front like a dump truck). Loss of interior space. Harder turning. Maintenance access is the easiest. 2 interior wheel wells.
Pusher: (Engine in the rear flat nose bus): Quietest operation. Easy turning radius. Maximum interior space. Maintenance access is adequate. 4 interior wheel wells.
Dog House: (Engine in front next to driver, flat nose bus): Loud operation but can monitor engine functions easily. Easy turning radius. Maintenance access is most difficult. Maximum interior space. 4 interior wheel wells.
The answer everyone hates: "it depends." Most used school buses you find will have around 200,000 miles. That's because most public school districts discard school buses around 180,000 miles. Now just because you hear the phrase "diesel engine" that doesn't mean your bus is getting 1,000,000 miles like tractor trailers. Buses have medium/light duty diesel engines and wear down faster than a Semi Truck. The most I've seen on a single engine is 360,000 miles, but I've read about 400,000- 500,000 miles. It all depends on the maintenance and care. In my five years experience as a driver the most common issue of engines dying is lack of coolant or oil (please don't be victim of this: CHECK YOUR FLUIDS ALWAYS) With used buses it's common that a line cracks and drops your fluid. Don't let a minor occurrence turn into a ruined engine. Build a relationship with your vehicle and monitor crucial functions.
"How many more miles can I expect out of my school bus?"
Yes and no. In the beginning, before your conversion, the bus is still a 26,000lb vehicle capable of carrying passengers. On the road, legally you must have a CDL. The circumstances quickly change when you remove the seats and proceed to convert your title. You have the ability to reclassify the title to "Motorhome" if you follow the necessary procedures and documentation to prove to the State you are converting. Once you submit the documents and reclassify your title you will no longer be required to carry a CDL to drive your new home :) Email me for me details about this.
"Do I need a Commercial Driver's License to Drive a School Bus?"
I do prefer the DT466 Mechanical Engine. The transmission I usually look for is the MT - 643. A beefier transmission more suitable for highway speeds. This is the combination that is equipped on my bus and I couldn't be happier. I do like Catepillar engines as well, I do think they are a good motor, but just more expensive to maintain. But you get what you pay for.
Watch for these combinations:
Engines: 1) DT 466 2) Cummins 8.3 L
Transmissions: 1) MT - 643 2) MD 3060
"What's your favorite combination of Engine and Transmission Model?"
You'll begin a relationship with someone who is going through the same thing as you are. I won't have all the answers, but I can figure out where to get those answers. As a fleet manager for a party bus company and a school bus company in Commerce City, I can help you find the best prices for rubber, the best places for parts and filters, and quickly diagnose problems you may have. By no means am I a diesel mechanic, but I've seen enough to know about certain symptoms your bus may experience. I am experienced with changing filters and fluids and have a knack at problem solving when it comes to electrical wiring. I also do carry my CDL Class B so if you need a bus delivered, or emission tested, I can help you legally transport your vehicle. I'm excited to build a grassroots community of adventurists with "skoolies" as it takes a certain breed of people to begin a bus conversion. I cannot guarantee an immediate response at all times since I work a full time job, but you will always receive advice and a response.