I have recently gotten a number of questions concerning buying a bus to convert to a motorhome or RV. Since this is one of the aspects of my business I thought instead of answering them seperately I would answer all of them at once in this fashion. If you are considering doing a conversion yourself it is a wonderful project that can be highly rewarding with the final product. It can also be a nightmare when you realize the cost factor, time factor and necessary equipment necessary involved in doing a decent conversion. You notice I did not say a top of the line conversion, I said decent conversion. That is the plumbing works, the electric is reliable and safe. The walls, seperators, cabinets, closets etc will stay together after the first few thousand miles of driving and the space is used efficiently. The first thing you have to consider when doing a conversion is the platform that your planning to use, that is what kind of vehicle, tour bus, school bus, shuttle etc. You then have to consider whether your planning a liveaboard or a weekender RV. There are very major differences between the two. The major differences are of course the equipment that you are going to have to incorporate into the conversion. Unless you plan to spend time in the primitive areas of the country or even a couple weeks on the road you can built the conversion without some very costly and space comsuming equipment. A weekender can be easily equiped with only a porta pottie (even this can be eliminated if you don't mind walking to the bath house in the middle of the night) and a microwave and a portable grill, that's right you cook outside:). With the modern campsites available, in a small RV it is almost foolish to build in a shower and toilet. Nearly every camp ground has a bath house/bathroom that is by far bigger and more comfortable than what you can put in a small RV. This also allows you to do away with hot water heater, fresh, grey and sewer water tanks, pumps and the associated plumbing. It also gives you another 20 to twenty five square feet of floor space that is critial in a small RV. It is also easier to simply wire the coach for 120 or 220 power and no generator, though I do reccomend that you install a converter and use 12vdc as much as possible. Once again most campsites now have power available. You can run the roof air only when parked but ...... These two systems alone will save you a few thousand dollars. That is right I said a few THOUSAND dollars. There is a reason that an RV is expensive and its not just the fact that the manufacturers and sales folks love to make a huge profit on each unit:), there is substancial cost to purchase the necessary equipment to provide yourself with generator, A/C ( forty foot bus should have at least two roof A/Cs or better yet HVAC system built in and no roof A/C) Heat, wiring, constavolt (convertor), refrigerator, stove, sinks, holding tanks, toilet, plumbing and pumps etc. And if your building a unit to go off on a weekend or even a week or two most of that equipment is not necessary because of the facilities at nearly every campground or RV park. Now if your building a forty foot bus as a live aboard you are of course facing greater challenges:). You want to build a coach that is comfortable liveaboard and is self contained as much as possible. Though once again you are more likely to spend time at a campground or RV park, when traveling there are many occasions where you wish to stop and enjoy someplace that is more remote. For this reason you need to equip the unit with a generator and power distribution system that is safe and reliable, you have to set up a system to isolate the generator plant from the shore power and as the same as in any RV the wiring has to be run in a fashion that is safe, I use conduit for all internal and external wiring in my units. this is over-kill I agree but romex stapled to the inside of bulkheads or under cabinetry is one of the main causes of fires in RVs. You also on a self contained unit are more than likely going to want a furnace and stove and possibily a three way Frig (12vdc,120vac and gas, though if you go with three way frig expect to pay anywere from $700 to $2000 for a new one) which in most cases involves propane tanks or under belly propane fixed storage. Again this is point that has to be taken seriously, not only is the equipment expensive but installation is something you have to do competently to avoid major problems. Next is the water/sewer system. You have to use holding tanks for your waste water and have a reliable method of dumping the tanks at a dump station or hooking up to serwer at a campsite. You also need fresh water tank and either demand pump or pressure system for your water feeding toilet, sinks, shower, hot water heater etc (hot water heater can be gas or electric or combination but again the cost factor is going to be high), and finally you will want to install a inlet for site provided water source. By the way if you plumb the unit for using an inlet hose from the camp's supply, make sure that you use plumbing that will maintain its intregrity at 80 psi minimum. I have seen numerous people who have build their own system turn on the feed hose and blow out half the plumbing in the coach:) The rest of the coach is the easiest part, carpeting, bunks, seating, closets, stereo, TV etc, I say easiest since there are allot more compentent carpenters who can screw together cabinets and such than there are electricians and plumbers:) But its all things you have to consider.
I have touched on the major points here, there are many others that you will discover as you proceed with a conversion. I am not telling anyone not to convert a vehicle to an RV. In many ways its great idea, what I am trying to instill is the fact that the cost of purchasing the vehicle in many cases is the least of your cost factors. I have not even touched on the cost or problems with removing or covering existing window areas with metal to eliminate windows where you don't want them, or the cost factor of painting a bus. These things are also expensive. What I am trying to impart is that 60% of all private conversion projects are not finsished by the person(s) who starts them and a non finshed conversion has little or at the best less value that the vehicle did before the conversion was started. So planning to build your dream coach is wonderful but consider carefully if you can afford to actually do it, or if the project you want is more than you have the facilities or time to build, building a conversion takes more than the handy tools you have in your garage and in most cases a few hundred hours of labor, and everytime you have to pay to have something done on the coach your spending lots of money to someone else. In many cases its better idea to go out and buy an older RV and simply refurbish it than it is to start from scratch. Also of course there are many half or quarter done conversions out there that can be purchased cheaply, Just be careful of what you buy, look carefully, replacing poorly done or incorrectly done work can be more expensive than new:) Good luck with your project.