How Much Does a Bus Conversion Cost in 2022?

Typical Range:

$9,500 - $70,500

Find out how much your project will cost.

Cost data is based on research by HomeAdvisor.

Updated December 16, 2022

Written by HomeAdvisor.

The average cost of a bus conversion is $30,000. Budget-savvy DIYers may be able to renovate a bus for as little as $17,900 while large-scale skoolie conversions cost as much as $79,250.

That high end represents full-size bus transformations with upscale appliances and fixtures—and all work handled by professional contractors. Most people should expect costs on the lower end of the spectrum. In fact, it’s possible to reduce your bus conversion costs to lower than $18,000 by using second-hand materials, DIYing when possible, and choosing a smaller bus.

Average Cost to Convert a Bus

Average Cost High Cost Low Cost
$30,000 $79,250 $17,900

Bus Conversion Cost Breakdown

So how much does it cost to renovate a bus? Several factors can impact your overall skoolie conversion cost, including the bus itself, demolition, repairs, construction, electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling, appliances, furniture, and decor.

The table below shows how much a bus conversion costs in each of the main cost categories. Your costs may vary depending on the quality of materials and who’s doing the labor.

And remember: Bus conversions can be ongoing projects. Tackle what you need to get the bus moving and providing adequate shelter, then focus on upgrades over time.

Bus Conversion Cost Categories Typical Cost Range
Vehicle $6,550 – $36,200
Demolition $1,000 – $4,000
Repairs $1,000 – $5,000
Construction $2,400 – $11,800
Electrical $800 – $4,000
Plumbing $1,600 – $6,350
Appliances $2,300 – $5,400
Furniture $1,250 – $4,500
Decor $1,000 – $2,000


The most important—and biggest expense—to consider when calculating the cost of a bus conversion is the cost of the school bus (sometimes called a “skoolie” once renovated) itself. In addition to the price of the bus, you’ll need to factor in taxes, registration, and maintenance (an annual cost).


School buses generally range in size from 20 to 40 feet in length. The shorter the bus, the more affordable it is. The conditions of a bus can also vary dramatically.

For a moderately sized bus in decent condition, you’ll spend around $10,000, but you can spend as little as $5,000 for a short bus in need of repairs or as much as $30,000 for a full-size bus that may already have some of the renovation work done.

Pro tip: Be cautious about low-priced buses, as they may need major repairs. Have a trusted mechanic inspect a bus before purchasing.


In most states, when you buy a vehicle, you’ll be responsible for paying taxes on the purchase, either to the seller or when you register it. Assuming a 10% tax rate, you’ll pay $1,000 in taxes when you buy a $10,000 school bus.


Just as with any other vehicle, you must register and title your school bus conversion to legally drive it. The cost of this service will depend on your local rates, but you can generally expect to pay $50 to $200 per year.

Annual Maintenance

Like with a car, you’ll need to pay for annual maintenance, including oil changes and tire rotations. Some years, you may need to tackle larger maintenance milestones or unexpected repair work.

In general, budget between $1,000 and $3,000 for repairs—in your first year of ownership and beyond.


Once you’ve purchased a school bus, you’ll start your renovation work by completely gutting the interior. Demolishing an interior can be fun, but it’s hard work—so you may want to skip the DIY and hire a demolition professional.


In most cases, you’ll remove everything from the inside until there are bare walls and floors. The bulk of this process involves removing seating, but you may also spend time removing old flooring, handlebars, and other unnecessary accessories.

A demolition can be physically exhausting. If you can’t do it on your own, a demolition service may run the same rate as the cost of demolishing the interior of a home: $2 to $7 per square foot.

While this cost will vary depending on local labor rates and the size of your bus, budget between $1,000 and $3,500 for demolition.

Garbage Removal

Once you’ve got everything out of your school bus, contact a local junk removal service to haul away any waste. How much you’ll pay depends on how much needs to go, but a good estimate is $100 to $500.


If your school bus has rust or mechanical issues, you’ll need to hire an auto body specialist or mechanic to make necessary fixes.

The most common issues you’ll find with the body of a bus are rust and dents. Repairs can cost between $75 and $2,000, depending on the severity of the problem and the size of your bus.

Mechanical issues, like trouble with the engine, transmission, or electrical system, can be costly to repair. For example, replacing an entire diesel transmission can cost as much as $20,000.

Unless you have extensive experience working on cars, trucks, or buses, you should defer mechanical repairs to an expert.

So how much should you budget for bus repairs? It can vary widely, but setting aside $1,000 to $5,000 for repairs is a good strategy. By spending more on a higher-quality bus, you’ll avoid higher repair costs. But if you purchase an affordable but run-down bus, expect to pay on the higher end of the range.


After you’ve demolished the school bus interior and gotten the bus in proper operating condition, it’s time to reimagine the interior with flooring and walls.


In most cases, you’ll want to add new flooring to your school bus conversion. Depending on the materials you choose and assuming you install the floor yourself, the cost of new flooring ranges between $3 and $22 per square foot, including the cost of a local flooring installer.

With bus flooring space ranging between 150 and 300 square feet, expect to spend from $450 to $6,600 on new flooring.


School buses generally have no insulation whatsoever. You'll need to install insulation to make school bus RV living more comfortable.

If you tackle the job yourself, you’ll generally pay $0.50 to $3.65 per square foot based on the quality of the insulation. If you hire a pro, you can add $0.25 to $0.50 per square foot for installation costs.

Though this can vary, it’s a good idea to budget between $150 and $1,200 for insulation—anticipate the low end for small buses and the high end for larger buses.


Installing walls in an RV conversion isn’t the same as installing them in a house. You need materials that are flexible enough to withstand movements as you drive. One of the most common (and affordable) materials for RV walls is recycled lumber.

Depending on the size of your project and any finishing touches you may add, you can expect to pay $300 to $1,000 for new walls. Hire a carpenter who has worked on a bus conversion before if you’re unsure how to build the walls.

Counters and Cabinets

If you’ll use your bus as your primary living space, you’ll want functional storage, as well as food prep space. In general, set aside:

  • $500–$1,000 for countertops.

  • $1,000–$2,000 for cabinets.

Keep costs low by opting for stock cabinets and basic countertops. Use our guides for the average kitchen cabinet cost and countertop cost to find ways to keep prices down.


You should always hire an electrician to handle electrical wiring, as the work can be dangerous and complicated. Electricians charge $50 to $100 per hour and can run new wiring, install outlets, install your generator, and even set up solar panels.


Outfitting your bus with wiring and outlets can cost anywhere between $500 and $1,000, depending on the size of the bus and extent of the project. The earlier you contact an electrician, the easier the job will be.


You may choose a portable or standby generator if you plan any off-the-grid living.

There are no installation costs for portable generators because they’re standalone devices. The cost for the generator itself is generally $300 to $1,200, depending on the size and model.

If you opt for a standby generator (also known as a partial or whole-house generator, depending on their size), you’ll need to spring for the cost of the generator ($2,000 to $20,000) and the cost of installation ($400 to $9,500). Note that due to the relatively small size of a school bus conversion compared to a house, you’ll likely pay on the lower ends of these price ranges.


The cost of installing solar panels on a house ranges from $18,000 to $34,400; because a converted school bus is so much smaller, you’ll pay a fraction of that for the wiring and solar panels.

You’ll also need a power bank to store the energy your panels produce. Battery prices vary depending on brand, model, and size, but you can expect to pay $1,100 to $2,000 on average for a power bank setup.

Because this is less common for most conversions—and can easily be done down the line—we have not included this cost in our overall bus conversion cost range.


In general, plumbers charge $45 to $200 per hour. You can probably find a professional who is willing to charge a flat rate for a smaller project such as this—usually a full-day rate to complete the work ($360 to $1,600). The work will involve installing fixtures, setting up your water storage and filtration, and setting up your propane tank.


Most RV toilets are self-contained devices, which means they require regular emptying by hand. Due to their simple design, they can cost as little as $125, though some composting models can cost $900 to $1,600.


Sinks in the bathroom and kitchen areas generally run $150 to $450 each. This includes the cabinet, the countertop, the bowl, and the faucet.


It’s usually not practical space-wise to install a tub in an RV, so you’ll most likely choose a shower. These stalls range from $400 to $1,000 based on size and material.

Water Storage and Filtration

Like with an RV, you’ll want to invest in a water tank and filtration system. Depending on the size and quality, you’ll spend between $300 and $500 for your system, though you may pay more for a larger tank and system (for a larger bus). This is notably more affordable than the cost of installing a home water filtration system, which averages more than $2,000.


If you also intend to have propane in your school bus conversion (generally to run kitchen appliances and heat water), plan to pay a professional plumber $250 to $750 to run new fuel lines.

Heating and Cooling

Depending on where you intend to travel, you may not need heating and/or cooling appliances.

RV air conditioners generally cost $200 to $1,000, mostly dependent on the size of the unit. You can expect to pay on the higher side if you purchase an AC with a heat strip or heat pump.

As for standalone heating, you can choose from a variety of options, with the most popular including heating blankets ($30 to $75), wood stoves ($100 to $900), and propane heaters ($75 to $400). All told, expect to spend between $500 and $1,000 on heating.


When outfitting your tiny house on wheels with creature comforts like appliances, you’ll generally turn to miniature versions to accommodate the area’s smaller size.


RV refrigerators typically run from $800 to $1,850, depending on their size. If you’d like to save money, you can also opt for a mini-fridge; you can find smaller, 2.0-cubic foot models for as little as $99 and larger, 4.0 to 4.9-cubic foot units for $240 to $410.


RV stoves are smaller than those you’ll find in a house, and generally cost $500 to $900. They commonly run off propane.

Water Heater

The average cost for an RV water heater (which you’d also use in a camper or school bus conversion) is $800 to $1,000. The most common options include small, 10-gallon heaters and tankless heaters.

Washer and Dryer

If you’d like to install a washer and dryer in your converted school bus, your best bet is a stacked unit. Combining a washer and dryer in a single appliance, these units are top picks for apartment living, but they’re also just the right size for smaller applications, like RVs. The average price range for a stacked washer and dryer is $900 to $1,700.

Pro tip: You can cut your bus conversion costs by skipping the washer and dryer and just using public laundromats or laundry facilities at campsites.


Furniture is generally the finishing touch that transforms a space from somewhere you can live to somewhere you want to live. The sky (or rather, the size of your vehicle!) is the limit when it comes to deciding what furniture you’ll bring into your school bus conversion, but the essentials typically include a bed and seating areas.


Your sleeping area can be as simple or as elegant as you please. Depending on your budget and how much space with which you have to work, you can even invest in traditional bedding options like bed frames and king-size mattresses.

The most affordable bed options are floor mattresses, which can be as simple as thick mats or padded cushions. You can generally expect to pay $100 to $250 for these styles. On the other side of the spectrum are traditional bed and mattress combos, which range from $350 to $1,500 based on size and quality.


Loveseats and futons are popular seating options for RVs due to their smaller footprint, and you’ll also want basic chairs (or benches) for a table. Depending on the brand, size, and materials, expect to pay $125 to $550 per piece. In total, budget between $1,000 and $1,500 on seating.


RV tables are specially designed to mount to the floor of your vehicle for safety and stability. The typical price range for these accessories is $150 to $1,500, primarily based on size and material.


You’ll complete your school bus conversion by injecting your sense of style through your decor choices.


While most local interior painters may be used to working on houses, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding one willing to take on your school bus conversion. Unless you have an especially complicated setup with many obstructions, the cost of painting the interior of an RV should be similar to other types of painting jobs.

When hiring a professional, you could pay $2 to $6 per square foot. Some painters may also quote you a flat fee based on their hourly rate of $20 to $50 per hour.

If you want to paint yourself, budget $15 to $30 per gallon of paint and $100 to $200 for other necessary tools, like brushes, rollers, sandpaper, and tape.


Some lighting options you might consider for your school bus RV include pendant lights, track lighting, recessed lighting, and domes. The fixtures themselves generally cost $100 to $225, depending on style and material. Installation is generally an easy-enough DIY project if you have some experience.

If you don’t have the experience to hang lighting or don’t have the time, you can hire a local electrician. Generally, the cost of light fixture installation ranges between $150 and $1,000.

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Things to Consider When Converting a Bus to an RV

Deciding to live out of a bus is a huge decision—and it impacts more than just your finances. But when thinking about the cost specifically, here’s what you need to consider before purchasing a used bus:


Converting a school bus to an RV can be a complex task—it involves stripping down a vehicle that was originally intended for transporting people and then adding creature comforts to create a new home.

One of the most significant factors that influence the cost of your school bus conversion is the size of the bus and the scope of your project. The larger your school bus, the more expensive it tends to be to convert. A small bus, for example, may have room for just a toilet, while a larger bus can also accommodate a sink and shower.


The quality of the materials you choose also plays an important role in how much you'll pay.

As with a traditional home, the bathroom and kitchen areas of a school bus conversion are where you have the most freedom when choosing what to install. Selecting ceramic tile over a vinyl backsplash or real wood over composite is an example of purchasing decisions that can impact the bottom line.


While there are certain aspects of the construction process that you can handle yourself, you'll most likely outsource most of the project to a pro. Considering that electricians, plumbers, flooring installers, and painters can cost as much as $100 per hour, labor costs can take up a significant portion of your renovation budget.

DIY vs. Hire a Construction Pro

Unless you have significant construction experience, you’ll most likely hire a professional to handle many installation jobs on your school bus. Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing tasks are generally better left to a pro as they relate to the safety, legality, and longevity of your bus conversion, while putting in appliances, installing fixtures, and painting are jobs that most DIYers can take on.

If you want to be completely hands-off, find a general contractor near you who can coordinate the whole project, subcontracting work out to specific contractors as necessary.

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Is it cheaper to buy an RV or convert a bus?

In many cases, it’s much less expensive to convert a bus than to buy an RV, especially if you’re considering a newer RV model, which can exceed $100,000.

Another huge benefit of school bus conversion is that you are in control of the renovation project. You get to pick your camper's new layout and all the appliances and furniture.

Why are used school buses so cheap?

While school buses can easily cost $300,000 when they're new, you can often find used buses for just a few thousand dollars. These vehicles experience extreme depreciation due to government regulations; they can only be used for so long before they must be replaced. Due to those same regulations, other government agencies cannot purchase them for their own uses, so the consumer market is the only place they can go.

How long does it take to do a bus conversion?

The length of time it takes to convert a bus depends on the scope of the project (and size of the bus), how much work is DIY vs. done by a professional contractor, and how much work you’re doing up front.

In general, expect at least a couple of months for a conversion, but larger conversions could take six months to a year. Remember: You can tackle projects as you go: Get the basic work done so that it’s livable, and then continue to enhance your living space over time.