Why A School Bus?


Mr. C and I were both raised to enjoy traveling and being in the great outdoors. We both enjoyed many family vacations and these included the use of several different types of camping structures. From cabins, motorhomes, trailers, tent trailers, 5th wheels, and truck campers to the simple canvas tent….we have tried them all. When we began to travel and explore with our own children, we started discussing which option our family would eventually choose. For several years, all we could actually afford was a tent. Recently, when we made the decision to travel around for longer periods of time, we knew we would have to finally make the big decision on which type of RV to purchase.
At first, we just looked at the size and functionality of each option. The tent trailer and other pull-behind trailers are great because you can leave them at a campsite and explore in your regular family vehicle. But tent trailers have to be closed down during travel, thus knocking out a ton of permanent storage space….not an option for our family. While our 8 passenger van is technically supposed to be able to pull a trailer, I have heard from others that it would put a lot of strain on the engine. I would like to keep the engine unstrained, thank you. The truck camper (way too small) and the 5th wheel both require a truck, which we weren’t about to purchase. This narrowed it down to either a pull-behind trailer and purchasing a different vehicle that would have the capacity to pull the trailer or a motorhome. With our travels to Central America, we didn’t think we would actually be in need of our family vehicle much. Our plan is to stay in each area where we will be serving for a week, two weeks at the most. We could take a couple of bikes and a stroller for getting around once we are in our weekly destination. Or we can……walk. I know, a novel idea.
We came to the decision to look at purchasing a motorhome. All of the motorhomes I came across that were under $5k were from the 70’s and 80’s and not one of them slept 8. I kept looking. Then I began asking questions and researching the “other” option…a bus conversion. I asked many skoolies (individuals who either carry out or own school bus conversions) about the difficulty of completing a bus conversion. I looked at floor plans of both motorhomes and bus conversions. I asked motorhome owners and skoolies about the gas mileage they got with their vehicles. I watched videos and viewed photos of the remains of RV and school bus accidents.

After much research and contemplation, Mr. C and I came to the conclusion that the best option for our family is a bus conversion. We based that decision upon these 3 reasons:

Reason #1: Size & Functionality

We have 6 kids and finding an RV that sleeps 8 people is rather difficult. Not only was it difficult, but the one or two that I found, didn’t have separate sleeping quarters for anyone…you were pretty much just trying to fit individuals into whatever nook and cranny you could find. If we were only going for a few days, this might work, but we wanted to have the option to travel for longer than a few days. We also knew that we were planning a trip to Central America where we would be gone for a few months. During that time I want the kids to have beds that they can use as their own personal space and not have to worry about making up in order to set up a table….and Mr. C and I wanted a little bit more privacy than we found available in a prefab RV.

Out of around 50 RVs I looked at (and some were WAY out of our price range…by about $495k), I only found one floor plan that I really liked. Too bad it only slept 5 and needed to be pulled by a large vehicle. When you purchase an RV that already has a floor plan, you are stuck with those plans. I guess you could take it apart and reconfigure it all to fit your needs, assuming that the size was adequate to do this. But that seemed like a lot of money to spend beyond a $5k-$10k purchase.

Why settle for a floor plan that didn’t work for our family when we could just start from scratch and create our motorhome to our family’s desired specifications at well below the cost of one of those?

Reason #2: Mileage & Durability
As I asked other RVers what type of gas mileage they got with their motorhomes, the answer I heard most was “Usually 3 miles to the gallon. Sometimes 5 or even 7, if we are doing a lot of freeway driving.” Then I asked skoolies what type of mileage they got. Most told me that they got between 7-10, especially those with diesel engines. After driving Liahona back from Illinois, I can say that we got, on average, about 10 miles per gallon. I know, it seems like a heavier vehicle should use more fuel…go figure.

Once I began looking deeper into the durability of a motorhome vs. a bus conversion, I was astounded. Motorhomes typically come with a gas engine. For those of you who don’t know (and this included myself a couple of months ago), gas engines are known for not lasting as long as diesel engines. I asked several people why a gas engine doesn’t last as long and what I gathered was that gas engines require around 5-7 times more energy to accomplish the same function as a diesel engine. That wears the gas engine out a lot quicker. So, while Liahona has around 110k miles on her, she is more like 30k miles in gas engine miles. It’s kind of like converting dog years to human years…unless you have lost a dog, you don’t understand the significance in the equation. 😉

Bus conversions save money on gas and last longer. I could stop here, but there is more…

Reason #3: Safety
This reason is the most important, but it was hard for me to accept the fact that a multi-million dollar industry could know that their product is not safe and still sleep at night. I did a lot of research in this area. I just have to say that I will never look at a Recreational Vehicle the same again. Now, every time I see an RV, I shudder to think of the potential destruction that can occur.
Did you know that most RVs are made up of aluminum paneling and wooden framing around the outside, with wood paneling on the inside of that? There are the nicer motorhomes that sometimes use fiberglass on the outside and these usually run around a low end $250k. But even these, when they have great impact, will crumble. Who wants to drive around in a tin can? Not us!

School buses, on the other hand, are all steel. Thick steel paneling and steel framing around the outside, with steel paneling on the inside. They are designed, not for beauty, nor for convenience, but for the sole purpose of safely transporting the most precious cargo in the world, our children. Why wouldn’t they be made of steel, right?

Hmmmm…not a hard decision to make after all.

After reading through this, you may begin to understand that I am not only a peace loving, nature embracing, wanna-be-gypsy lady…I am also well educated in what is best for our family based upon much research and facts. Although I do have to admit, there is a part of me that likes the idea of painting Liahona bright purple with many flowers and peace signs across her body……what do you think? 🙂

Skoolies Rock!

Mrs. CCC
(Completely Converted to Conversions)

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