After months of poring over Pinterest, binge-watching every tiny house show HGTV has to offer, and Googling yourself into oblivion, you've finally decided you want to buy a bus that will eventually become your full-time home.
How should I get started with my Tiny House?
I get asked this question every single day. Every. Day. So I decided to create this simple guide explaining how to do exactly that: get started.
Before you begin
Usually, when people come to me with this question, they're in a very emotional place. Your home is a very personal thing, and changing that home even more so! It's easy to see living in a bus as a charming, bohemian solution to any and all housing needs. While it can be that, there are a lot of things that make this life very complicated (and decidedly not for everyone).
I say this with love: tiny living is not for the faint of heart. Bus life is even less so.
Do you have a place to park your bus once it's finished? There are a lot of campgrounds out there that will let you park there for short periods of time, but these can be expensive, and usually only temporary.
Zoning codes and restrictions might prevent you from camping on a friend's land if you plan to live in your bus full-time (if you're not sure about these, go to your local zoning office and chat with a professional. It's better to know ahead of time what to expect rather than to have something unexpectedly sprung on you after the fact). You should have a solid plan in place before you even start looking for your bus.
Are you comfortable working on and maintaining a large, complicated vehicle?
Bus parts and repairs can be very expensive. There are a lot of great resources out there that will help you figure out how to do repairs on your bus, should anything go wrong, but the initial complexity of bus mechanics has caused us more than one stress spiral.
Insurance was, by far, the biggest headache we encountered after we bought our bus. We got signed with Progressive the day we bought our bus, then less than 2 months later, they dropped us. Good Sam, Allstate, and The General are a few places I recommend looking. Again, have a plan in place before you get too deep into this process.
It'll save you lots of stress later.
I'm Ready, Let's Go!
If you've given these things careful consideration and decide you still want to move forward, congratulations! You're ready for the fun part.
First things first: Decide your budget
How much are you willing/able to put into your future home? More money will most likely mean you can get a newer bus, with less miles (mo' miles, mo' problems), and overall less headache when it comes to potential mechanical issues. We budgeted around $10,000 for our entire conversion, but every person's situation is different. Set your budget at a place that makes the most financial sense for you.
When budgeting your initial cost, also factor in your renovation. How much can you afford to put towards materials and labor? This is where know-how and a strong work ethic will save you tons of money. Andrew and I had already spent most of our savings on purchasing the bus itself, so we had to be creative when it came to the renovation. In the end, we designed and built the majority of our furniture and cabinetry, and sewed our curtains and couch cushions, which saved us hundreds of dollars. If you yourself aren't very handy, consider asking your friends and family for help in specific areas of your renovation.
Don't skimp on the important things, like getting a licensed electrician to wire your bus. Not only will this help guarantee the safety of your home, this simple but essential factor can determine whether or not many insurance companies will even consider writing a policy for your bus.
Next: Go get your bus
School systems are a great resource for finding newer, well-maintained buses at reasonable prices (oftentimes with their services records included). If you're planning on doing your renovation from the ground up, start your search here.
For us, time was a huge factor when deciding which bus was the right one for us. Bus conversions typically take a long time to do from scratch, and we had roughly 4 months left on our lease, so we chose one that had most of the complicated renovations done (like wiring, plumbing, and the basic wall buildout), and customized it from there (with finishes, flooring, furniture, paint, textiles, etc.). Buses with work in them will cost a bit more, but if you're a power tool novice or in a time crunch, it may be worth taking a look. Side note: we found our bus on this site.
I had absolutely no design education prior to designing our bus, but experience is the best teacher. To start, I recommend doing a lot of research into space-saving storage ideas (there are a ton on Pinterest).
It's also a great idea to look at other bus conversions to spark ideas for your own. When you do, make a list of what you love about them, what you would do differently, and any ideas you might get. Seeing how other people have done this helped us figure out what we wanted (and didn't want) very quickly.
Aesthetic is always very personal, but I do want to stress that when you're designing a small space, you don't want to overstimulate yourself. Take care to choose a color scheme that won't overload your senses or become something that you quickly regret- in a tiny space, design choices pack an additional punch. Take time to make the right ones.
Feel overwhelmed when it comes to design? I'm beginning to design affordable interiors for other tiny living enthusiasts, so if you're interested, send an email to [firstname.lastname@example.org], and I'll contact you with my services and rates. I love a good challenge, and designing on a budget is one I'm extremely familiar with.
As always, I'd love to hear from you, so leave a comment!