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Old 12-12-2018, 12:47 PM   #15
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JonGP,

If you were a married son of mine, I would encourage the two of you to pursue your dream. But I would also encourage you to do it right and drop the idea of building a motor home, when you can buy one for nearly the same over-all investment, and then resell it when your dream has finished. Who knows, when your first child comes along, you might want to keep your rig for weekend get-aways. As a grandfather, I would feel much better knowing the child is traveling around in a normal motor home.

You can buy a rig like MINE HERE with low miles and everything the two of you need to pursue your dream properly for about $10,000 more than the bus as-is. By the time you are done with the bus, you'll have a lot extra invested, closing in on the other choice, and you'll be living in an uncomfortable make-shift house that could be dangerous to drive and difficult to insure and plate.

Since "small size" is important to you, my rig may be smaller than that bus. It measures 23'-8" long, a narrow 93" wide and only 9'-10" to the tippy top of the a/c unit. Compare those dimensions with your bus. Our rig would be very capable to full-time in and it's very well made to last as long as you take good care of it. With TVs, twin house batteries, whole house inverter, lots on on board water & waste tanks, decent propane, 4k generator, furnace, a/c, big fridge, etc, etc, etc, you'll be happy you listened to me son.....

Did I convince you?

PS: We have a 35 year old married son with our beautiful 3 year old grand daughter and one on the way. We also have a second son, single, turning 30 in a few months. Hence the reference to "my son".
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Old 12-12-2018, 02:26 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Ron Dittmer View Post
JonGP,

If you were a married son of mine, I would encourage the two of you to pursue your dream. But I would also encourage you to do it right and drop the idea of building a motor home.
You have not convinced me yet!lol but im definitely questioning why I disregarded a factory RV. Your response seems so genuine that I cant help but hear your warning. Say my budget was 20k, what can I do for 20k? from what I remember the biggest downfalls were a predetermined layout and poor insulation. its also hard to modify if the layout does not fit your needs. The benefits were lightweight (compared to bus). I used to be an aircraft electrician in the military but I have no experience with RVs. Basically Im not afraid to use a tool but that doesn't mean I have the skills to just jump into converting the bus. Luckily there are hundreds of people sharing their work online with amazing walk through.

So im just gonna spill more info, the bus has 11k miles and the guy is asking 4k. Like I said, it was owned by the DMV and regular maintenance was done and it was all captured in the carfax report. Im thinking I can spend 10k on the conversion. Im I out of my mind?
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Old 12-12-2018, 03:33 PM   #17
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Big undertaking. Not only buying appliances but mounting, support framing, wiring. Adding cabinets, roof air conditioner, fridge, lighting, TV & computer hookup, furnace, bathroom and holding tanks, bath and kitchen sinks. Bus has limited or no storage. Adding a generator and fuel lines, electrical converter. and then there's beds, couch, dinette and a stove/oven..
Try to find used RV that may need some work. They are out there but it's also an area where you may need help determining the real value...
Compare a similar RV and try to visualize the work needed to convert the bus.
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Old 12-12-2018, 04:01 PM   #18
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Big undertaking. Not only buying appliances but mounting, support framing, wiring. Adding cabinets, roof air conditioner, fridge, lighting, TV & computer hookup, furnace, bathroom and holding tanks, bath and kitchen sinks. Bus has limited or no storage. Adding a generator and fuel lines, electrical converter. and then there's beds, couch, dinette and a stove/oven..
Try to find used RV that may need some work. They are out there but it's also an area where you may need help determining the real value...
Nice to see a fellow coastie here. 06-15 AET2 here
I know :( ive been working on a parts list and its pretty extensive. Since everyone is suggesting I go for a class C im searching craigslist through search tempest but so far nothing good under 23' in length.

Any guidance on searchwords or ways to find comparable RVs would be greatly apreciated
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Old 12-12-2018, 05:13 PM   #19
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Several sites list RV's I heard of both RVtrader and Rv-listings mentioned. (but I've never used either, on my 4th RV always from a dealer)
I retired from the hooligan navy in 85 with 29 years, ETC to OCS in 64, then Flight Training. I enjoyed my career.
Good luck on your search.
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Old 12-12-2018, 06:56 PM   #20
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Got to agree with Ron_Ditmer.

When we were young, we did things like put 427 V8 engines in volkswagons and 357 engines in Pinto's. What we wound up with was a mess. No parts. No one to fix what we couldn't. No way to recoup the money we tied up in it.

If you can afford a vehicle built for the purpose (RV'ing) then put some funds into fixing it the way you like it, you will have the perfect vehicle.

Don't get me wrong, I watch the Youtube videos of folks turning school buses into RV's and I am amazed. I also watch videos of people who buy a non standard vehicle with good intents, and regret the decision after a short time.

Whatever you decide, no one here will find fault with you. I personally admire your apparent energy and willingness to put that much effort into producing the vehicle you want.

Please keep us posted on your decision. We would like to follow along and see how things turn out.

See you on the road.

PS Ron_Ditmer. Love the rig.
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Old 12-12-2018, 07:10 PM   #21
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I have never owned or had an RV, I plan to install gray water and no black tank, im going to use one of those composting toilets.
Don't forget a fresh water tank and a small pump... using 1-gallon jugs gets old real quick.... and refilling them gets even older a lot faster... I know.
And unless you have a older "donor" RV to get the appliances from (roof-mount air conditioner, refrigerator /freezer, grey tank, water heater, propane stove, furnace, Thetford toilet, fresh water tank, water pump, etc) you will have some serious expenses as you convert your bus / van / whatever. And what is your time worth? And some residential appliances won't hold up to the vibration of running down the road for months on end.

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Currently live in PA and will be moving to texas within a year
That metal body will get awfully warm real quick in the TX sun. Use LOTS of insulation... Roof, walls, doors, and don't forget the floor. And plan on a sunshade on the outside of each window and the windshield(s). Even with that you will be totally dependent on your air conditioning.

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... trying to find as many things wrong so I can negotiate in price. I guess what I really meant was help me find posible issues with the vehicle so I dont get stuck overpaying for something just because I got too excited...
Check the age on the tires... there's a date code in the sidewall. The accepted rule is nothing over 7 years on the road. Losing a tire on an RV at speed has a helluva lot more potential for damage or injury than on a small car (especially a steering/front tire versus a running/rear tire).

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I thought about buying an RV but the really nice ones are way out of my price range.... I stopped looking at RVs earlier on, some of the reasons for example is adding upgrades like solar which would be difficult on already build RVs.
The first step to finding an RV is to just call up every RV storage lot inside of 100 miles of you and ask what's seriously behind in their rent, or for sale. And call up the private storage rental companies, some have RV / boat spots. A co-worker used to work at a Public Storage lot, he told me that there were RVs parked inside some of the 40 and 50 foot lockers, and there were more parked outside.

I recently picked up a 32 foot RV that was made in 1985 from a storage lot for less than $1000 total. It has less than 70,000 miles on it. The owner had stored it there since 2009, passed away and his kids and grandkids had zero interest in a 30+ year old RV. I made an initial offer of paying off the back storage fees in exchange for the title and I was totally surprised when they accepted. I expected to have to pay a lot more.

I only had saturday and sunday to work on it, but in over 15 weekends I put a chassis battery in it, then an ignition switch and then sorted out a dozen different electrical issues, which included a new headlight switch and tracing a LOT of wiring and undoing and redoing a lot of poorly done modifications. A new starter got it running for the first time in a decade... which exposed the need for dropping the 80-gallon fuel tank and replacing all the rubber fuel lines. Then a new alternator voltage regulator got the battery charging again. Overall, I was surprised that's all it took... I expected to have to rebuild the carburetor...

The old tires were rotten, and totally unsafe. I was worried about just getting it to a tire store 2 miles away without a blowout. The spare was the original from 1985... Another $1550 later I had new tires, and the tire shop had their installers come to the storage lot to do the install for $50 extra.

The weekend after the tires went on I drove it down to where I work... I had a friend escort me in his vehicle just in case the beast broke down partway...

It's now parked under a 40 foot tarp and behind the rear shop building (with permission!). It's plugged into a exterior AC outlet, and I'm living in it 4 nights a week, saving me a 90 mile (round trip) commute every day.

The next step is to reseal the roof and replace the two air conditioning covers and all three black & grey vents... And the 65 gallon fresh water tank is cracked. And it turns out that running the cables for the solar will be easy as the passageway for the grey tank vent has plenty of room for two #4 cables. I already have a few 100w panels and a charge controller.

When I'm done I expect to have under $6000 in my RV including the new tires.
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Insulation is a big priority for me, its very difficult to asses how well insulated a used RV might be.
Measure how thick the walls are. Subtract an inch. That will give you a rough idea as to how much insulation you have. (figure 1/2 inch for each wall - exterior and interior)

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Im already married and wife is on board with moving into it. We are relatively young, I just turn 30 and shes a couple of years younger. We have been looking at traveling the states with the van for a few years now but we never had the guts. Its really now or never because that biological clock keeps ticking and im not sure if we would be up for that challenge in an RV. I know people do it but not sure its for us.
The RV life is not for everyone despite what you read. The best advice I ever heard: Go rent or borrow an RV for a week or three. Drive it 500 miles (have your wife drive it partway), park it for a few days, visit a place you've never been to, then drive someplace else, visit another place, then drive home. Try out the RV life for AT LEAST two weeks. You, your wife, or both of you may decide RVing is not for you, and you'll find out with a lot less hassle and for a lot less $$$. In my case my late wife nix'd the idea. She's gone, and I'm trying it solo and on a budget, plus I'm saving money on commuting.

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I was under the impression that a high end RV would definitely be more expensive.
You don't need a high end RV as your first RV, in fact it's a bad idea. Get a low or medium one as your first and use it for a year or two, and you will learn what YOU need and want in your RV (and needs and wants are two different topics). Then sell the first one and buy the one you plan on keeping for a long time.

I consider my 33 year old RV as a "starter" or first RV. I already know a number of things I will want different in my "long term" RV.

I've proven you CAN find a "starter" RV without breaking the bank. It just needs a lot of sweat equity. You start by making those phone calls. Once I had the title and the keys to my RV it still took me over 15 weekends to sort out the DC wiring and engine / transmission / brakes and other issues before I got the beast operational and safe to put on a public highway - and I have a background that includes doing full engine rebuilds and creating wiring harnesses from scratch. If I had to pay a mechanic or an auto electrician to do even half of the work that was required I would never have been able to afford it. I did all of it by myself except I had help swapping the starter (a starter for a Chevrolet 454 (7.4 liters) is a HEAVY beast and we had the RV jacked a couple of feet up so we could crawl under it).

Note that there is one potential "gotcha" in buying a used RV... depending on the jurisdiction you live in there may be penalties that are more than the RV is worth. Always check with the DMV before making an offer (take a photo of the license plate and show it to the DMV clerk and ask what it will cost to transfer it to you). In my case the previous owner had spent the $15 per year for 18 years to keep it current but "nonop" (not operational, i.e. off the roads and in storage... it was used for a while as a guest room, parked in grandmas driveway)...

If he hadn't done that bit of homework - checking the registration status before I contacted the owners - the back registration and penalties would have totaled over $970 and I would have gone on to the next RV on my list. That $1000 purchase price I mentioned above included the fine for no registration for one year, the transfer fee and new DMV registration. At the time I made my offer the lot had 4 RVs for sale, 2 had not been registered in over 12 years (with over $1k in fees and penalties), one was a 2 year old high end Prevost that had a outrageous price and the fourth was the one I bought.
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I also thought that Registering as an rv only required a few things like electricity runing water gary water tanks and a few other things. I watch several youtube videos (not specifically about changing the designation to RV) and the ones that mentioned changing the paperwork said it was easy.
You may find that it's much easier to register an already existing RV... Depending on the jurisdiction you may find that a homebuilt needs an inspection and you may have to pay an inspection fee... and if they find anything you get to fix it and pay again. A vehicle that the DMV has (or had) on their books already as an RV is potentially a lot less hassle...
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Old 12-12-2018, 07:18 PM   #22
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I would go with an RV motor coach not less than 25' long to live in as a single. Get a higher-end, quality built unit if your going to live in it full time. Conversions are costly and hard to register as an RV.
AND with some insurance carriers..Impossible to insure..
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Old 12-12-2018, 11:36 PM   #23
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Deals on RV's are out there, even good quality older ones. You asked what $20,000 will buy, well I paid $20,500 for my coach in 2016 (asking price was $25,000), for all practical purposes it is identical to the one on in this youtube video( note it is a 28 ft (29'5" bumper to bumper) even though the salesman says 25 ft over and over again) , though perhaps with some upgrades, like 400 watts of solar panels on the roof, 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter, new rv refrigerator installed in 2014, ....



Since buying it though I have put more money into it (nearly another $10,000), as well as put another 12,000 miles on it, though honestly much of the money I have spent has been on preventive maintenance, and upgrades adding stuff like a residential size toilet, and Tire pressure monitors, new shock absorbers, new sway bar bushings, Garmin GPS... Though there have been a few less optional repairs, most noteably:


$1,300 for new upper and lower ball joints (paid a shop with the right tools to do them, even though I am mostly a DIY'er)


$700 for a shop to fabricate a new hydraulic hardline for the automatic parking brake, after one blew stranding me on the side of the road


$300 for a new tire in middle of nowhere Nebraska thanks to a pot hole in a 1 lane construction zone on I-80


$750 to get the dash air conditioner working (I consider this life support in the south)


$400 to get the brakes checked, and flushed when the master cylinder cap cracked loosing all the brake fluid, sure I knew it was the local rip off RV repair shop, but when the brake pedal goes to the floor, you pull into the shop that is 1/3 mile away.

DIY stuff includes


$200 for new front suspension air bags I installed in a campground in the rain in Missouri after one sprung a leak ($70 of which was the next day air shipping, so we could leave on our scheduled departure date)


$50 for a new alternator (great price amazon deal, on a open box return with minor cosmetic damage, broken plastic tab, would have been $336 OEM retail )



$40 for a new idler pulley that had been chirping since I bought the coach that I changed while I had the alternator off


$200 for a new fan clutch, yeah I know it is high for a fan clutch, but this is an OEM only part on my coach


$75 new entry door lock after the interior handle broke off the old one


$250 for a pair of 6V golf cart batteries for the house battery bank


$130 new engine starting battery





countless little things, from new windshield wiper blades, various turn signal and marker bulbs (and replacements for the corroded sockets), oil and other fluids, a couple of warn out electrical outlets, new plug for the shore power cord (old one was pitted and cracked), replacement of leaking propane regulator, burned out water heater electric element, ....
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Old 12-13-2018, 07:31 AM   #24
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You have not convinced me yet!lol but im definitely questioning why I disregarded a factory RV. Your response seems so genuine that I cant help but hear your warning. Say my budget was 20k, what can I do for 20k? from what I remember the biggest downfalls were a predetermined layout and poor insulation. its also hard to modify if the layout does not fit your needs. The benefits were lightweight (compared to bus). I used to be an aircraft electrician in the military but I have no experience with RVs. Basically Im not afraid to use a tool but that doesn't mean I have the skills to just jump into converting the bus. Luckily there are hundreds of people sharing their work online with amazing walk through.

So im just gonna spill more info, the bus has 11k miles and the guy is asking 4k. Like I said, it was owned by the DMV and regular maintenance was done and it was all captured in the carfax report. Im thinking I can spend 10k on the conversion. Am I out of my mind?
$4k? I don't know why I thought the bus alone was costing $15k, then adding the conversion to that. Even so, if only you could find a good floor plan on an existing motor home. The right deal would likely require fly-to-buy.

The example I gave you earlier, my rig, is very well insulated. It has block foam insulation in the walls, ceiling, and the floor. All windows are thermal pane (except the cab area up front) and the main entry door is one of the best I have seen with regards to sealing. It's a very tight rig, very well sealed, great for colder weather. I admit I don't winter-camp so I can't share it's limitations. I advise to spend a little time right now before the January RV push, researching a 2004-2009 Phoenix Cruiser (with the fancy yet strong rear wall system with integrated spare tire compartment) you will find many different models and lengths. Models 2100, 2350, and 2400 will be your three short ones.

Please do yourself a favor and spend one week's research to make sure a complete motor home is definitely out of the question.

About mileage. Your 20 year old bus has just 11,000 miles. That is not necessarily a good thing, unless it was stored indoors most of it's life. You may have stated "indoor storage" which would be a very good thing. If not, you could have many mechanical issues to iron out. You did say it was well maintained. If it was lot-driven, adding 500 miles annually, that would be ideal. If all the miles were put on the first year, then it sat, that would be a bad thing.
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Old 12-13-2018, 08:37 PM   #25
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Have you looked at school busses? Numerous and readily available and affordable. Built like a tank. I would go larger myself for full time living.
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Old 12-13-2018, 09:23 PM   #26
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I agree, rent one, if still interested, buy a cheapie and get a feel for what you need. Then sell yours and buy your dream machine.
The problem with converting a van to a m/h is you are competing with a whole group of experienced professional designers and engineers in creating your own and expect yours to be better also when you go sell, people gravitate to a gently used m/h long before they ever consider an amateur conversion.
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Old 12-13-2018, 10:32 PM   #27
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Getting a bus of this type or a school bus and converting it to live FT, you may find it very hard or impossible to insure or title..
https://discoveringusbus.com/thinkin...-a-school-bus/

Converting a school bus to a livable RV are called school's.
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Old 12-16-2018, 11:17 PM   #28
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I am a relatively new RVer, just over a year - but I own a 2017 35 foot gas coach and also a bus. But a 45 foot coach bus that I am slowly converting. Let me tell you that there are dozens and dozens of things you may not be taking into consideration when you go this route to save money.



Registering for RV use is basic - in a lot of states you just need a bed (air mattress would work), a 'kitchen' (use your imagination, hot plates count) and sometimes a bathroom of sorts (composting, etc).



The real issue with getting a bus for full-time RVing is the travel aspect. Specifically the lack of RVIA certification (although it can be obtained at a cost). I will tell you now, most campgrounds will not want your bus. Forget the 10-15 year rule that discriminates against a lot of RVers - now you'll have to deal with finding that perfect park, right on the beach...that says no, you are not welcome in your converted bus.



That aside, have you thought about some of these basic necessities for day-to-day life?


- 30 or 50 amp? Can you wire it yourself?
- Pex plumbing, do you know how to make sure hot and cold go where they need to, and can you design a plumbing schematic that ensures you can fill your fresh tank, bypass the water heater if necessary and also have low-point drains for interization/maintinence?

- What sort of water heater will you use?

- What sort of water pump are you going to use?

- How will you design the wet bay? Are you any good with PVC installation for tank drains?

- Are you going to have propane on board, if so - where/how will you mount it to make sure you can either remove the tanks or easily access them for re-fill?
- 12 volt systems? How many house batteries will you need? Are you going to use an inverter with a built in charger, or use an independent charger?
- Generator? You'd be surprised how often you'll want/need one - portable or built in?
- Leveling jacks? If you think you won't want them, just wait. After 2 or 3 weeks of feeling the sea sickness kick in every time one of you walks around - you'll wish you had them.
- Refrigeration? How small do you think you can go? We have an ~8 cu ft in the gasser and for the two of us it barely works.

- HVAC? In Texas, you'll need AC. How many do you need? What BTU is sufficient?
- Regular vehicle? Of all of the buses you've looked at, how many can tow the car you have or are willing to buy? Please don't think you can go years having a 'chase vehicle' because it will get old.


So now you have a ~$15k bus, with roughly $5-15K conversion costs just to make it ROUGHLY livable, that no decent park will allow. Doesn't sound fun to me. I'm a self proclaimed bus-nut and I'm on all of the forums. When my bus is done I am dumping the RV (sticks and staples as they are endearingly known in the bus world) and never looking back. But I will have in excess of $150K into it by the time I'm done. Why don't I just buy a used Dutch Star? I don't want one. I don't like traditional RV's and I like to drive more than I like to camp - but in your circumstance I almost implore you to get one. For 15K you can find a lot of decent Class C's that will basically work, right out of the box. After owning it for a year, getting to know the systems onboard and how they work together - building a comprehensive list of how you would re-design it to for your liking/lifestyle and then starting on a massive project like this.



Just calculating the size and location of the tanks is a chore enough - because you'll still need as much storage space as possible - and the weight has to be distributed properly.



Join a forum like BCM and just read....and keep reading. You'll soon see why I'm trying to talk you out of this idea. There are good RV's in your price range and you'll enjoy the experience SO much more if you start simple and work your way up.
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