When we first decided to look into buses for our conversion, we were quickly overwhelmed by all of the school bus sizes available. We learned that every skoolie size has its perks and disadvantages and what is right for you may not be the best option for someone else. We’ll share the 3 most common school bus sizes, their perks, and some of our favorite skoolies in that length.
The 3 primary types of school bus sizes include:
1. Short Buses
2. Medium-Size Buses
3. Full-Size Buses / Coach Buses
Short Buses (20-25ft)
Short buses could be a viable option for you for a number of reasons. For one, a smaller bus is much more maneuverable than some of the lengthier skoolies. In addition to being a bit easier to drive, mini buses can generally fit into most parking spots. This makes it simpler to run errands including grocery shopping, the gym, or laundry.
Ideal Candidate: Short buses are great options for 1 or 2 people. They’re also a good choice for someone not interested in towing an additional car or looking to get into harder to reach boondocking spots.
Downsides: While maneuverability is definitely a bonus, you will be giving up a significant amount of living space on a short bus. In addition to the loss of space, you may have to make compromises to what you want in your build. For example, many short buses may not have a toilet or shower.
Skooliana: Isaac and Julie live on their 21 ft. 2003 Ford E450 7.3L Diesel short bus. While they definitely think the bus’s space meets their needs, they wish they could’ve added a bathroom and shower.
Medium-Size Buses (25-35ft)
Mid-size skoolies are a happy medium between a short and full-size bus. They offer plenty of interior room and generally come with most (if not all) of the same features of a full-sized bus including style, wheel size, and engine.
Ideal Candidate: Mid-size buses are ideal for 2 people, pets, and even children if you don’t feel too concerned about space restrictions. While also being a bit easier to maneuver then a full-size, medium buses can also be *somewhat* easier to get into some tighter boondocking spots.
Downsides: Based on our personal experiences, one of the major disadvantages of a medium bus is that they don’t fit in one parking space. Another disadvantage is that mid-size buses are harder to find and more expensive.
Charlotte (Our Bus Build): Charlotte is a 2002 Thomas Built bus and is approximately 26 feet long. We are currently towing our Jeep Cherokee behind our bus, as well. Our mid-size skoolie features almost everything we could possibly want in a “home” including a toilet, shower, heat, air conditioning, 2 full-size beds, and full-size kitchen. David, I and the dog live in the space.
Full-Size Buses (35ft+)
If you’re looking for an optimal design template with tons of room, getting a full-size school bus or coach is the way to go. There is such a large assortment of affordable full-size buses on the market, as well.
Ideal Candidate: A full-length school bus size is perfect for 3 or people. We’ve even seen 8 people live in a coach bus before! While coaches aren’t technically a skoolie, they do reach 45 ft. in length and generally have decent headroom.
Full-size buses could also be a great option if you’re not looking to do too much boondocking and would prefer to use your towed car as a primary transportation vehicle.
Downsides: Full-size school buses can reach nearly 45ft in length. This makes the learning curve to drive them a lot more difficult. Driving a skoolie definitely takes some getting used to, especially if the vehicle you purchased has air brakes. Additionally, a full-size school bus is going to have difficulty finding parking, especially in more populated towns and cities. A lot of people with lengthier buses are known to tow a vehicle as another means of running errands.
8people3dogsandasnakeonabus: The Evans family started their bus journey with 8 people, 3 dogs, and a snake. But, since their start date, one of their daughters graduated and 2 of their dogs passed away, so now they’re traveling with 7 people, 1 dog, and a snake! They have a 40′ MCI MC9 Crusader 2 from 1986 and the family absolutely loves its!
The space is definitely mangeable. The family found a rough adjustment period in the beginning, but they have been able to adapt.
Even when there’s poor weather or can’t get outside as much, they have room for everything they need and little parts of the bus that they can all have a chance to escape to. They actually don’t think they need more space. They have room for everything they need and they even found themselves throwing away things! Every person has a private area of the bus and plenty of space to commune.
The Evans family chose a coach over a school bus for a few reasons. School busses don’t offer much headroom without a roof raise and the family was on a timeline. Additionally, the coach offered more cargo space with the storage bays making it possible to hold water tanks, battery banks, etc. without having to build boxes into beds, etc. The cargo bays also open up more spare footage, floor plan options, and extra storage. And, the last perk: There are no wheel wells to build around!
Want to know more information about purchasing a great bus that meets your needs? Check out Choosing the Right Bus for Your School Bus Conversion.