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Watch: Couple transform school bus into tiny home on wheels
Meet Richard and Rachel, a couple who instead of going the RV route, purchased a 39-foot school bus and spent $12K transforming it into an off-the-grid home. Rachel's mother's initial reaction? This isn't the '60s.
I'm not sure if the young California couple profiled in this intriguing recent video from faircompanies are former students of one Ms. Valerie Frizzle or just budget-minded, IKEA-hacking small space wizards, or both, but you got to hand it to 'em for venturing off into uncharted territory in the world of mobile home living.
For the past six years, Richard and Rachel have been carefully and cleverly modifying a 39-foot diesel school bus purchased for $3,000 into a totally self-sufficient home complete with a solar-powered composting toilet, custom transformer furniture, a 770-watt solar array, a solar fridge/freezer combo, tons of storage space for clothing, books, bikes, and sewing supplies, and enough sleeping areas to host one hell of a roving slumber party. And I should also mention the second floor loft space/family room — constructed from the top half of a Volkswagen Vanagon that was welded onto to the roof of the bus — that features a projector screen and succulent-filled entertainment center.
Still, the MayBlueBus isn't quite yet an RV — the vehicle is currently registered as an automobile — but once a few key upgrades are made, such as installing a shower and stovetop, then the transformation into a full-fledged mobile home will be complete (pending approval from the DMV). Explains Richard on the MayBlueBus blog: “The reason this is important is that RVs get home owners' rights, which is helpful for taxes and credit. Also the police cannot search your vehicle without a warrant when it has RV status.” But as Richard points out early in the video, the couple painted over the bus' original yellow paint job with a "more accessible" blue and white to "let people know we aren't hippies, we're just regular people." Nothing to worry about with those police searches then, right?
Thus far, Richard and Rachel have spent in the ballpark of $12,000 on the conversion. Big purchases included the solar panels (six of them at $200 a pop from eBay), the Sundazer fridge ($1,200), and the composting toilet ($1,400). “Really what we're paying for is the efficiency of the items that we have. We want to live high-tech, but we want to live with the lowest amount of energy possible," explains Rachel, who calls the project "less of a sacrifice and more of an enabler."
Aside from renovation costs, the couple dole out very little per month on living expenses for their mortgage-free mobile home. This obviously doesn't include any kind of water hook-up given that the bus is sans plumbing at the moment (they shower elsewhere every two or three days). Vehicle registration is around $100 per year. "It may not be for everyone to live this way, but we wanted to own our place — we wanted to be independent as possible — so we're spending maybe a $100 a month on our living. Our life doesn't have to be about being in debt ... it can be about enjoying each other's company and the company of the people that we love," says Rachel.
She adds: "The piece of mind comes from the ability just to know that you've created your environment the best that you can... when you're a child you're dreaming about the spaces that you live in and the spaces that other people live in. And you can have that as an adult, but only if you've created that environment for yourself.”
More on the project — plus a cute 'n' cuddly Boston terrier — in the video below.
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