“How much did it cost?” is one of the first things people want to know, though some are too polite to ask. It matters to me that you know that my home didn’t come with a big price tag – because I want you to know you can also do this! With that in mind, here is the run down of the money we’ve spent on our Skoolie so far. We’ve been working at keeping it super simple, low-tech and affordable because we want people to know that this kind of bus-to-RV transformation is something that can be done without mortgaging your soul. Plus – it doesn’t have to be expensive to be beautiful, simple, and functional.
I’ve got a degree in Interior Design so this bus was a labor of love and a fun design challenge.
- Bus: 2001 Ford E-450 Bus with 144K miles: $4,500
- Title change from Bus to Class A Recreational Vehicle: $327
- Total: $4827 (plus tags and taxes)
We got an amazing deal! And since that turtle shell is mostly fiberglass, there’s no need to worry about rust on that part at least. We expect to use our bus three seasons of the year – or to be mobile enough to get to warmer climate during our winter – therefore we didn’t bother with insulating the walls and ceiling.
- Kitchen cabinet: an antique dresser from Habitat for Humanity: $100
- Paint for the cabinet: Easy Care Ultra Premium low-VOC paint: $18
- Brass hardware (came with the cabinet, we just polished it) $0
- Fridge: Daewoo Retro Fridge 4.4 cubic ft $290
- Oven: Breville Smart Oven Air $400
- Cooktop on grid: Copper Chef Induction Cooktop $44
- Cooktop off grid Coleman 2 burner perfect flow stove: $63
- Storage behind cabinet: Three Winco 1/3 size 6 inch food safe Pans $45
- Storage behind cabinet: six Cambro 1/9 plastic pans that we already had $0
- Storage behind cabinet: One Winco Pan that we already had $0
- Sink basin that we already had that we used for the sink $0.
- Salvaged stone countertop purchased from individual on Craigslist: $200
- Piano hinge and other hardware associated with the custom stone top: $(?)
- Misc wood and hardware to attach cabinet and fridge to bus: $150
- Total: $1,310
I think this is a great price for the nuts and bolts of a kitchen.
- Tractor Supply Pitcher Pump (both pump and faucet – no electrical power required) $45
- PVC pipe, cement, adapters, valves: $70
- Tractor Supply 5 gallon military style water tank: $21
- True Value six gallon blue water containers, quantity 2: $23
- Amazon Igloo six gallon blue water container: $17
- Amazon 10 inch home brew funnel for filling water system: $15
- Drain with flexible hose we already had: $7
- Off-Grid Water System Total: $198
Yes, really. The plumbing for our kitchen is insanely simple and affordable.
- Bathroom cabinet: an antique I bought at an auction many years ago $0
- Paint for the cabinet: rattle cans I had already + one can of copper $7
- Brass hardware (came with the cabinet), plus rattlecan I already had $0
- Sink: eBay Chilean Copper Bowl for $125 + S&H for $135
- Pitcher: CopperBull Pitcher for $60
- Throne: an antique chair I was given a few years ago $0
- Toilet: The Luggable Loo – same one we used in our first tiny house $0
- Off-Grid Bathroom Total: $202
In a “normal” home, a bathroom starts at $8k but not here. Simplicity reigns supreme in this space. And our bathroom system will work even if we’re not plugged into water & sewer. We love the flexibility that comes with this kind of simplicity. We lived in 125 sq ft with two sinks for a number of years so we know it’s really nice to have both sinks, but we also know we can live just fine without it. No worries. And we can still change this and update it if we decide to later. And no, no shower. Many #vanlife and #buslife folks are using a membership at Planet Fitness for working out and a shower, and that reduces the need to carry around lots of heavy water in great big tanks. Keeping the bus light directly affects the cost of fuel to move the beast.
- The tangerine Italian sofa from Habitat for Humanity for $100 that was lovely but didn’t fit. $100 (No worries, we’ll use that elsewhere)
- Cushion HD36 Regular non-toxic foam with CertiPUR Cerfification. $331
- White non-toxic upholstery Vinyl and Labor $1200
- Blue piping recycled vinyl left over from another project: $0
- Copper pipe to re-create the Le Corbusier style: $332 (approximate)
- 3/4 inch blonde plywood for support: $105
- Wool mattress cover for comfort $164
- Bedding: $98
- Two love seats that fold together to form a Queen sized bed Total: $2,330
I have never paid so much for a sofa bed, and it can be done MUCH cheaper! There were a number of factors that contributed to how expensive this sofa bed combination became. I’ve got some medical conditions that require me to be particularly careful about toxins – so choosing specific upholstery and cushions ended up being pretty expensive. In addition, I wanted a furnished look – not a built in look in this space. Using copper and creating our own version of a classic Le Corbusier style sofa was time consuming and expensive. I really love how they turned out! Just be aware that there are much cheaper ways of doing this!
- Figured maple bespoke shelves made by Xaver: $700
- Frosted glass for privacy salvaged from damaged kitchen cabinet doors: $0
- Total $700
Yeah, curly maple shelves hand made by a master craftsmen aren’t on everyone’s list for a Skoolie. And that price tag is just for the wood, they would cost WAY more if you were paying his hourly rate to have them made. They are gorgeous and a reflection of who we are, the cost is totally worth it to me. But of course it could have been done cheaper.
- Maple drawers that we got on Craigslist: $50
- Electrical: Breaker box, other supplies + labor approximately $1514
- Floor: flooring from Habitat for Humanity + labor estimate $1000
- Paper blinds $18
- copper curtain rods: $50
- fancy connectors: $15
- Fabric for curtains $56
- Hand-made walnut top kitchen table from our restaurant: $0
- Bentwood chairs leftover from our restaurant $0
- Total Misc: $2,703
Creativity is your friend. Looking around and finding other ways to use things you already have is fantastic. And sometimes you just buy the expensive item you love because it’s beautiful and it’s your home. We were able to do something things extremely simply, and in other places we really splurged. In the end, our home is affordable and an example that you should pick your vehicle and just get started making your home. If you’re willing to get creative and watch YouTube videos to learn stuff, you really can make a beautiful home without a huge investment!
- LED dimmable multicolor strip lights with remote x3 plus connectors: $174
- Total: $174
We’ve got roughly $12,444 in this project so far, not including the things we already had that we used for this project, and not including the labor that it required to make this all come together. That’s not a bad number at all!
Keep in mind that without the two decidedly-not-frugal items on the list – namely the $2,330 sofa/bed and the bespoke curly maple book shelves/room dividers for $700 the total is a reasonable: $9,380 which is actually pretty remarkable. We had a lot of this stuff, so that made it more reasonable as well.
We hired someone to do the electrical wiring and flooring. Those are things we could have done ourselves to save a money, but in this case a friend needed the work and we didn’t have the time, so it ended up being a win-win for all involved.
That’s where things are at the moment. I’ll be back to fill in any empty spots when we’ve got more to add. We do have plans for some other details, and Vinnie will always be a work in progress just like we are.