Bus to RV Conversion

Recreational vehicle (RV) camping is a great way to travel, see the country and enjoy nature while still retaining at least some of the comforts of home.

Choose Your Bus

RVs, however, can be prohibitively expensive. If you can’t afford an RV and you’re mechanically inclined or like to spend time on sophisticated home improvement projects, consider converting a bus to an RV.

Most people who do bus-to-RV conversions buy old school buses. Not only are old school buses large and suitable for turning into an RV, if you buy one that was recently retired, it is more than likely it was maintained well and the engine serviced frequently. There will be enough things you’ll have to buy to convert the bus. So choose something with a good engine and without serious body damage. A little rust is no big deal, but you don’t want a lot of dents or holes. You can buy used school buses at auctions or from school districts. Sometimes, you can even find them on eBay.

Plan the Interior

Before you begin taking out all the seats on the inside, measure the interior and make a floor plan. You may decide there are things in the inside you can keep the way they are. Even if there aren’t, it’s better to have an idea of what you want to do before you tear it up. Measure the interior and draw a floor plan. Decide where and if you want seating, a kitchen area, a bathroom, beds, a television or shelves. Think logically. Where will you install plumbing? Where can you put a propane tank? Where will you need lights?

Insulation and Framing

After you remove all the seats and anything else you won’t need or don’t want, install insulation and framing to separate different areas of your RV, such as the bedroom from the kitchen. You’ll probably also cover up many of the windows on the school bus. One way to do this is to cover your interior with paneling. You can install insulation behind or under the paneling to make the inside more temperature controlled.

Shelves and Furniture

Where they’re needed, install shelving and cabinets. More cabinets will be wanted in the kitchen area than in other areas. More shelves give you more easy storage, although they reduce the living space. All your furniture needs to be bolted down. This is a moving vehicle, and you don’t want your beds, television or tables shifting around as you drive.


RVs don’t have indoor plumbing like houses do. They empty into a dump tank, which is usually located underneath the vehicle. Install a large plastic tank under your bus to serve as a dump tank; all pipes need to empty into the tank. RV campsites usually have dump tank stations for you to empty the tank.


No one wants to leave their RV the distinctive yellow school bus color, but be careful how you decorate the outside. You don’t want it to attract the attention of every police officer in the country, and many RV campgrounds won’t let odd-looking converted buses stay at the site.

About the Author

Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.