Here are a list of questions that we feel we are asked most often. Feel free to ask more in the comments or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll answer them and may even add them to the list!
What kind of bus do you have?
We own a 2001 Thomas Saf-T-Liner handicap pusher bus. It has a Caterpillar 3126b diesel engine mated to an Allison MD3060 push button 6 speed transmission. We purchased it from Betty and Greg and highly recommend them if anyone is looking to purchase a school bus.
What kind of fuel mileage does it get?
We were amazed at how often this question was asked at the Tiny House Gathering in Florida. Our bus averages around 8mpg, we can usually do around 480 miles on a single tank of diesel; our diesel tank is 60 gallons. So, it’s on par with your average car, but costs a little more to fill up. Zack always jokes and tells everyone that “The fuel mileage is pretty good for a house”
I sometimes wonder about people who want to drive a 30,000lb bus at 75 miles an hour, but we get asked this question a lot and are always surprised by the looks on people’s faces when we tell them our top speed is 65 going downhill. The engines of buses are capable of running highway speeds like big rigs and small cars, but they are typically governed to go much slower because they carry precious cargo. Not only before the conversion, but our entire house is this bus, so after the conversion as well. We’re never in a hurry and we typically travel only 150 miles every two weeks. Traveling around 55-60 mph is really nice, especially when you’re in amazing scenery that you’ve never experienced before. Why WOULD you want to go so fast in that case? Who knows.
Do you live in the bus full time?
As of mid-November (2016), yes!! We sold our house to purchase the bus.
How much did it cost?
People always hesitate before they ask us this question but Zack and I are very open about what it takes to live this lifestyle. We purchased the bus for around $9,000 and put about $20,000 into the conversion. We always tell people, you can spend as much or as little as you want, when doing this. Some of the things you can do to keep costs down are to do the work yourself, borrow tools, and try to salvage/re-use materials.
Did you do the work yourselves?
Zack, his dad, and I did all of the work ourselves, except for the roof rack. This definitely helped with keeping the cost down.
The roof rack
Speaking of, the roof rack was one of the most expensive single items that we had made for our bus, it’s also one of the only things that we outsourced to be built. The company, Dark Threat Fabrication, based in Heber Springs, Arkansas built it for us. The material they used was 1.5″ steel square tubing with expanded metal for the decking. A lot of custom fabrication went into the uprights and support brackets so we can’t answer exactly how that was done; you’d need to do the research yourself to find out what’s best for your bus. The cost to us was $4500 including paint. It took a total of 2 months for the rack to be completed, which includes the research and development that went into making sure this was possible and not some crazy idea that would end up costing us a rollover or some unfortunate event down the road.
Material: 1.5″ Steel Square Tubing with Expanded Metal
What is your solar setup?
We have (4x) 250 watt 24v solar panels that are connected to (4x) 155ah deep cycle batteries. Two of the panels are flat mounted to the front of the roof rack on hinges to allow for tilting into the sun during the winter months and the others are simply flat mounted. This is the inverter we bought and the MPPT controller.
Where is your fridge?
Our fridge is hidden in the corner of our kitchen. It is a chest-style deep freezer that we converted into a refrigerator. This is easy and inexpensive to do. We don’t have a freezer, but we have a ton more fridge space than what we would have with an RV fridge that would go under the counter. And by having it in the corner, we didn’t lose any under the counter drawers to the fridge. Win, win.
Who is the mechanic in the duo?
I always thought this question was strange but we got asked this question a lot at the Tiny House Festival. Neither of us are mechanics. We break down just like everybody who drives a car does. And we call for help when we do, just like everyone else. We have AAA roadside assistance and have also found Roadside Diesel mechanics are a thing and are very useful.
What do you do to earn income?
Zack has a job as a web developer. He is able to work remotely so as long as we have an internet connection, we are good. I left my corporate job to be able to do this and have odd jobs and work camping jobs, when available.
Where do you get water?
We have a 63 gallon fresh water tank and we have filled up a few times at State Parks, when we have stayed there. We have also had good luck at RV parks. Even though you are not staying there, they will let you fill up for a small fee ($5-$10). You can also ask at gas stations. We found a gas station that let us fill up for free and one for only $3. Sometimes they have stations at the pump. Just make sure if you get your water from a pump, that the handle is blue (potable water) or just not red (non-potable water).
If you are in a National Park with your vehicle, sometimes there is at least one campground in the park with an RV water fill station. They are free, or the cost of getting in the park; It all depends on how you look at it. **This may not be true at all places, this is just what we have encountered so far.
What do you use to heat your bus?