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converting a bus

Basic Tips for Converting a Bus to an RV

Converting a bus to an RV makes for a fun (if a little big) DIY project. Generally speaking, used buses are more affordable than used RVs, especially if you employ the right tricks. What are some basic tips for converting a bus to an RV? Let’s take a closer look.

Can You Really “Convert” a Bus to an RV?

Before we discuss conversion tips, let’s talk about the differences between live-in buses and RVs. By definition, a recreational vehicle (RV) is simply a motor vehicle designed for both living and traveling. Technically speaking, any vehicle intended for living purposes falls under this umbrella term.

That said, most people picture a certain type of vehicle when they hear the term “RV.” Although bus conversions count as recreational vehicles, there are some differences between bus homes and RVs. For instance, conventional RVs are designed from the beginning for both living and traveling. Buses, on the other hand, are designed only for travel. Typically, buses sport a heavier steel frame, making them a little less lightweight on the road and a little more suited for short distances. However, standard bus framing also makes them sturdier and more durable than the standard RV. This makes buses excellent candidates for non-traditional RV conversions.

If you plan on converting a bus to an RV or tiny home, just remember that there will be some differences between the two. In particular, plumbing and electricity require some extra thought and effort.

Simple Steps to Begin Your Bus Conversion

If you plan to DIY your entire bus conversion, you will obviously need to research each specific building step. However, it is always a good idea to know what you’re getting yourself into before embarking on a new project. Always look at the bigger picture, and make plenty of plans. The following are 9 simple tips for converting a bus to an RV.

Gut the bus.

Before you begin developing your floor plan, clean the slate. Remove all of the seats, flooring, extra bolts, etc. Measure the empty space and get a good visual of the area you will be working with. Generally, creativity flows smoother with a blank page in sight.

Make a plan. 

With your now-empty bus in view, begin forming a plan. Ask yourself questions. What will you be using your bus for? Who will be traveling in it? How much plumbing is required? Will you need electricity? What climate will you primarily stay in? Visualizing your traveling (or living) experience helps you know exactly what your bus requires.

Sketch, sketch, sketch.

Even if you can’t draw very well, sketch your vision. Make more than one sketch. Allow yourself plenty of creative liberty, because you probably won’t get it right on the first try. Test different floor plans. Do you want a fold-out bed? Where is the best place for a bathroom? How much counter space does your kitchen need? Ask friends and family for their ideas, or take to the internet for success stories from others.

Utilize every inch. 

Buses offer limited space, so don’t let any of it go to waste. A plan rarely goes perfectly, so you might have to adjust a few areas later (stay flexible). However, try to be smart and specific about where you place things.

For instance, if you plan on building a pantry shelf for the kitchen, base your shelf heights off of real foods. Measure cereal boxes, cans, etc. so you don’t get stuck with worthless space later. 

Take your time with the groundwork.

A good foundation plays an important role in every building project, so don’t rush your groundwork. Lay your flooring carefully. Take your time when framing. It might not be the most exciting part of your bus conversion, but you’ll be grateful you took your time later.

Insulation is key.

Bus doors and windows tend to leak, so make sure you install seals. Insulating the walls, floor, and ceiling also cuts down on the need for heat or air conditioning down the road.

Cut down on belongings.

RV life (or bus conversion life) is based on a simple living style. Sort through your belongings and try to keep a minimalist mindset. Only keep necessities, and eliminate as much clutter as possible. When designing your bus RV, try not to over-furnish or over-build. Sometimes, a little elbow room means more than an extra couch.

Don’t skimp on storage space.

Install storage areas everywhere possible. Under the bed, behind seats, up on walls, etc. make for great storage areas. Again, it’s all about utilizing every spare inch (in a non-cluttered manner).

Take advantage of the bus exterior.

RVs are designed for both indoor and outdoor use, and your bus should be no different. Invest in exterior accessories to make your RV or bus comfortable and efficient, even on long trips.

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