So, now we had a plan… but what vehicle would we choose?
We began the overwhelming process of trying to figure out what vehicle we wanted and which one would best suit our needs. Going through this process is probably the most crucial part of starting into this lifestyle. Picking the wrong vehicle could make for a miserable experience. When we first started, we were looking more into Sprinter vans and the like, but in the end we went with a school bus. Sight unseen I might add. There are pretty big differences between vans and buses. So what changed?
Zack did research. ALLLLL the research. I am not sure if you can ever have information overload when making a decision like this, but if you can he definitely had it. Our only conversations for the two months in-between when Zack put his house on the market and when we purchased the bus were the pros/cons of different vehicles. Besides vans and school buses, other vehicles that were mentioned were RV’s, box trucks, ice-cream trucks, some type of military truck. We literally considered all the options!
We narrowed down our choices and finally made a decision. A 2001 Thomas HDX school bus. Here are some of the things we considered when choosing our new ‘home’:
- Stealth camping – Where would we be camping? Did we want a vehicle we could stealth camp in? In the end, Zack and I both love nature. Our goal is to be camping in the woods way more often than we have to be in cities. I am sure there are times where having a stealth vehicle would come in handy for us, but the goal is to not make that the norm.
- Use of space – This is an obvious one and will be very different for everyone. One of the things that was important for me was to have the driver area connected to the living area. We have a dog too and giving her space when she would have to be in the vehicle was important. Did we want a bathroom with a toilet or shower? A kitchen with an oven or just a cooktop?
- Four wheel drive – This was probably the biggest hinderance for us when purchasing the bus. Zack really wanted a vehicle with four wheel drive. He likes to go off-roading and find hidden places. Obviously the bus isn’t great for that. In the end we decided it would be okay because we have a vehicle we could tow if we decided to and there are sooo many places to see that we would be able to get to with the bus. Our next vehicle could always have four wheel drive and we could go back and explore the places we loved a little more in-depth.
- What were we going to be taking with us – We both have bikes and kayaks. If we wanted to take them with us, we would have to find a vehicle that could carry them in some capacity.
- Cost/Time – We had a year as our timeline. That is where we started. Then we looked at what we could do in that year. We could save and buy an RV at the end of the year. In the end, this was just too expensive. Or convert something ourselves. When looking at a conversion you have a whole other set of things to consider like cost of tools & materials, where to work on it, experience/expertise in different areas. Can we do the work or do we have to hire someone to do certain jobs?
- Maintenance – What kind of maintenance were we looking at for the different types of vehicles? How much was the upkeep going to be and would it be easy to find places to work on whatever we chose. For buses, we found that there are definitely better engines and some models of not so great engines. Research really paid off in this area and we made sure we got one of the better models. We also had a CAT dealership check out our engine before we bought it to make sure it was in good condition.
One of the most difficult things about this is that you don’t know what you actually want or need. We have both lived in apartments and houses before, but never vehicles. We have an idea of what we think we want but we know that once we are on the road full-time the story is likely to change. And I’m sure we’ll be writing about it, so stay tuned.