Friday, October 3, 2014

What? Are you NUTS????

This is the question many of my friends asked when I first mentioned moving into a school bus as a place to live.

It didn't start out like that though. I'd heard somebody was wanting to interview me for a position in Charlotte, North Carolina. As it was a temporary position, I figured I'd maybe get a camper (caravan) or a motor home of some sort.

Investigations revealed that campers (caravans) second hand are a pretty dodgy proposition and at the price I wanted to pay $3K were just scrap on wheels. Similarly any of the motorhomes at the same kind of price range are scrap on wheels.

Scouring Craigslist came up with a whole load of dodgy-looking propositions. Indeed I want to have a look at one but turned around before I got there because the area was seriously dodgy. Once I see bars over windows, I know it's not an area that I want to be around.

A site in New York was selling used busses in great condition for $4,000 but wanted $1,800 to deliver. Going up to collect it would have been $400 on a flight plus local accommodation plus 1,000 miles of driving at 8mpg and $3.75 per gallon.

I've looked long and hard at what's available and even been inside a 25 foot motorhome. That was nice enough but at $15K was ludicrously expensive. At that kind of price I'd be better off paying rent and just moving house every now and again.

I went through all the options - converting a box trailer into a camper, buying a ready made camper, buying a motor home, buying a bus and converting it etc. The problems seem to be...
  • Motorhomes are either cheap and badly broken or they're too expensive.
  • Box trailer - very good idea but my Xterra can't pull them as they're too heavy. I'm not about to give up my Xterra either.
  • Camper - the economical ones are badly broken and the expensive ones are too expensive. Again, I get the towing problem.
  • Most motorhomes can't pull my Xterra since it has to go on a trailer.
Problems abound. Then I heard about school busses. Now that sounds much more promising. Thus I've been hunting school busses. The problems don't end there though. As with the motor homes, the suspiciously cheap busses are to be avoided. The whole thing seems fraught. The cheapest prices are on Craigslist and the most expensive on eBay.

Google streetview has become a wonderful asset. Several busses that have been already turned into motorhomes have been featured on Craigslist and checking the address on Google satellite view and street view has shown that they've been used as chicken coops and a whole load of other things. Basically a total lack of care which means I'd get all the problems.

Facebook has had a few trailers and motorhomes on offer. Usually they come with the alert "no title" which means that like as not they're stolen property. No title is not worth the risk to me.

The actual conversion from a bus to a home is not that hard nor that expensive. Indeed there's one on offer that has been pretty much converted. All that needs to be done is to add some much-needed insulation. That was a Craigslist advert though so we'll see if it was genuine. From experience of Craigslist adverts, it's always best to be prepared for the worst.

Youtube has been my inspiration for conversions of school busses into motorhomes. There's just so much information there that it's just been a wonderful asset. My own conversion is going to follow the lines of several conversions but in my own unique way.

Rather than replacing the windows that I don't need, I'll simply paint over them. Paint is cheap. The bus will be insulated and partitioned. There will not be any air conditioning other than fans and windows. It's too hard on battery power. There will be solar panels providing power to deep cycle batteries and there will be an inverter supplying power to various electrical appliances that need 110v - for example the microwave, the fridge, the kettle, steamer, slow cooker etc. Lighting will be 12v LED. The toilet will be a version of an earth closet in order that less water need be carried and used. The shower will have an electric pump and electric heater. Water will be supplied from portable 20 gallon jerry cans that can be easily replaced. Waste water will go into a drum under the bus or onto the ground since it's not going to be polluted water.

Somebody reckoned you can sell bus seats. I've seen them on Craigslist for $60, $40 and $20 which indicates to me that they're probably not resalable. More than likely just something to have to take to the dump or advertise on freecycle.

Anyway, it's all ideas right now until I have a physical bus in my hands. I did check on licensing and apparently under SC rules, I can drive anything as long as it's not for profit. Now that's useful. The plan will be to get an A license at some point so that I can drive to some of the more interesting places to take photos.

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