11 Skillful School Bus Conversions That Get an A-Plus in Our Book

Revived and retrofitted as delightful—and functional—tiny homes on wheels, these skoolies receive top marks.

These Internationals and Blue Birds have been stripped down to their hulls and custom-built for life on the open road. With cozy sleeping quarters, multipurpose nooks, and full baths and kitchens, some of these school bus conversions—also known as skoolies—are equipped to house full families so everyone, including Fido, can come along for the ride.

A Couple Convert an Old School Bus Into a Light and Efficient Family Home

With their four young children, Gabriel and Debbie Mayes downsized from a 5,000-square-foot house to a 250-square-foot skoolie that they renovated themselves. 

Inside, the converted school bus feels bright and cozy with a neutral color scheme and warm wood accents. The sleeping quarters are situated in the back of the bus with the living, dining, and kitchen areas in the front, which gives the spaces definition and a thoughtful flow.  

After Ashley Trebitowski spotted a Craigslist ad for a 1999 Bluebird school bus in Ennis, Texas, being sold for $4,400, she and her husband, Brandon, hopped on a flight to check out the vehicle and drove it back to their home in New Mexico. Over the next few months, the couple overhauled the bus for their family of five with a $30,000 DIY renovation.

Bright white walls and plenty of windows make the 320-square-foot home appear more spacious. In the living area, the family constructed two camel leather couches with built-in storage for extension cords, leveling blocks, board games, kettle balls, and more. A table can be placed between the couches for family meals. The bus also has a tiny woodstove—along with wood storage—on the ledge above the fridge. 

Wind River Tiny Homes, a pioneer builder of custom and sustainable tiny homes in Chattanooga, Tennessee, helped transform a 250-square-foot Blue Bird All American school bus into a home on wheels for Elizabeth J.W. Spencer, her husband, and their one-year-old—plus their pup, Ginger. 

The front of the bus has an open-concept layout with compact living, kitchen, and dining areas. For added flexibility, the couch turns into a bed and a dining table. The back of the bus features cozy sleeping areas, storage, a bathroom, and a standing desk for remote working.

Mande and Ben Tucker renovated a 1992 International school bus, transforming it into their adventure vehicle. The couple coated the exterior with an oil-based paint in a custom-mixed, sea-foam green hue and added a roof deck for storing their surfboards and paddleboards—and for stargazing. The duo can also attach posts to the deck to suspend hammocks from the platform. 

During the DIY build-out, the couple embraced reclaimed materials and items, reusing foam from the original school bus seats to create banquette cushions and salvaging a 1950s stove from an old RV. The mirrored closet doors conceal a portable toilet, while an outdoor shower is plumbed through a tankless water heater. The cabinet on the left holds an under-counter refrigerator. 

Graphic designer Matthew Welsh Weinberger drew inspiration from modern Scandinavian design when transforming this 38-foot-long skoolie for a family of five. The 1980s school bus contains two seating areas, a full kitchen, bunk beds with storage, a bathroom with a shower and toilet, a hallway with storage and appliances, and a comfortable principal sleeping area with a wardrobe.

The tiled roof in the bathroom was one of the most challenging aspects of the fit-out. "We used an extremely durable tile and applied it with a healthy mixture of elastic glues and flexible mortar," says Weinberger. "The framed structure the tiles ultimately sit on is solid enough to hopefully reduce any flexing of the bus itself. That being said, you haven’t tiled until you try to cement board and penny tile a school bus roofline!"

After selling their home in Nixa, Missouri, Chris and Tina Wann decided to hit the road with their two sons, Elijah and Rylee, and blind pup, Dub the Skoolie Dog, in tow. The family maximized space within their 234-square-foot skoolie by creating smart storage options including overhead bins, shelves, reclaimed lockers, and even a cool display to show off plant clippings. 

The retired school bus, which the family affectionately calls Big Booty Judy, was designed with a galley-style layout. The family had help from a contractor for the first part of the build, but ended up doing the rest of the overhaul themselves. Chris installed the air conditioner, solar power, and propane while the family lived on the bus on a campground.  

Brooklyn-based couple Timothy and Meryl Miller found this 2000 Bluebird bus for sale in Madison, Wisconsin, through Facebook Marketplace. The couple paid $5,500 for the bus, which already had all the seats torn out, and spent an additional $15,216 on the top-to-bottom conversion.

The couple were hands-on with even the smallest details, from sewing the seat cushions to hand-stenciling the faux marble countertops. Materials like terra-cotta, baltic birch, and cane give the skoolie a warm and inviting vibe.

For Rachel and Joel Binkerd, the key to financial freedom—and the ability to travel year-round—is the 264-square-foot 1998 Bluebird International bus they call Binks Tube. The duo found their skoolie, which had been converted from a bus to a tiny home on an HGTV network show, on Facebook Marketplace for $29,000. Although the bus had been retrofitted, the interior required additional improvements in order to be livable full time. 

The couple spent almost a year and a half—and about $40,000—remodeling their compact home on wheels. They covered the cracked walls with shiplap, and in the living room they added a flip-up table/desk, removed a roof hatch and an artificial plant wall, and replaced the existing pink sofa with a built-in gray one that converts to a queen-size bed with storage space underneath.

After getting a taste of #vanlife, Gianna and Jake Bachowski spent the pandemic converting a 2005 Thomas Freightliner school bus that they found on Craigslist for $5,000—finishing just in time for the arrival of their second daughter.

Florida-based company Vera Custom Woodworking brought the family’s vision to life by installing wood ceiling paneling and hidden storage compartments in the kitchen and common areas. Gianna finished the decor with matte-black kitchen fixtures, secure pull handles, and an artisan fireclay kitchen sink by American Farmhouse.

Meag and Ben Poirier snapped up this 31-foot bus—formerly a prison transport vehicle and a mobile command center for the Sheriff’s Department in Fairfax County, Virginia—on Craigslist for $8,000. Over the next two years, the duo converted the 1989 Chevy B6P into a 165-square-foot home. "Everything from the cabinets and drawers to the bed frame and curtains are fully custom; we made it all from scratch," says Ben. 

After the kitchen and dining comes the living room, which is fitted with a DIY couch that pulls out to a twin-size bed. In the heart of the bus, a tiny woodstove and hearth is the primary source of heat. The couple’s queen-size bed is located at the back of the bus. It is raised on a platform with storage space for clothing and electronics underneath. 

Lauren and Van Jones turned a 1999 Thomas MVP transit bus into a home on wheels for their family in Birmingham, Alabama. The 280-square-foot skoolie previously transported students to after-school activities, and Lauren and Van purchased it online after discovering it had only 51,000 miles. The updated interior includes two sofas with built-in storage, a large kitchen area, and a wood-burning stove.

Van outfitted the bathroom with an open shower and a raised ceiling, and opted to put the vanity in the hallway. Botanical-print wallpaper dresses the walls of the vanity area and the separate space that Van built for the compostable toilet. 

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