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How Long is a School Bus? (Conversion FAQs)

Have you ever looked at your income and the bills you have to pay and realized that affording that dream home is nothing but a dream?

It can be quite depressing thinking that you will never own your home, but you don’t have to be stuck in a rut, at least not when you can get your hands on a school bus. One that can be converted into a home on wheels.

A standard 65 passenger school bus measures about 35 feet long. Typically, most buses range from 20-45 feet. The length of a school bus can be estimated using the Window Rule, which allows an individual to gauge the length in mere seconds.

Here’s all you need to know about finding the right length of a school bus to suit your needs:

How are buses measured?

School buses are measured from bumper to bumper to help in the classification under the 3 classes (more on that later).

However, people mostly tend to be interested in the interior space since they intend to live inside it. Therefore, while the exterior length comes in handy for knowing if you will ever find a parking space, interior measurements give you an idea of any work that you’ll have to do to make it habitable.

Of course, the interior measurements only include the usable space, so the cockpit area and engine are excluded. The width is also important, but all buses usually are 7.5 feet wide, and the interior height is also standard at 6 feet.

What lengths do school buses come in?

School buses are classified into three different groups, depending on their size:

1. Mini

These are the smallest buses and they measure between 20 and 25 feet. Due to their small size, minibusses are best suited for small families with few belongings.

Still, if you have loads of stuff and it is the only one you can afford, building some storage shelves and a rooftop deck can still make it work. However, you will have to make do without a few things like a shower, toilet, or passenger seat due to limited space.

You can also opt for this bus if you are not experienced in driving larger buses. Besides, since you can be guaranteed of finding a parking space for a minibus, it is ideal if you plan on using yours to run errands.

2. Medium-size

A medium-sized school bus measures between 25 and 35 feet and can easily be mistaken for a full-size bus due to the similarity in wheel size and engines. However, it is much shorter and offers enough space for a small family.

If you plan on driving around the city, you will need to have another small vehicle because medium-sized buses need more than one parking space, which may not be readily available.

3. Full-size

Any bus that measures more than 35 feet qualifies to be in the full-size category, and because of the considerable length, such buses are ideal for at least 3 people. The larger it is, the more occupants can comfortably fit in it.

However, the bigger size makes it a problem navigating in the city; therefore, they are perfect for families that do not plan to move around. For this reason, such families require an extra vehicle or maybe a bike to make running errands easier.

How to estimate bus length and square footage

You may come across a listing of what you feel could be your ideal skoolie. However, how can you tell how long it is if the seller didn’t list measurements? You could ask, but what if I told you that there was a faster method that doesn’t involve the back and forth of online messaging?

The truth is pictures are all you need to estimate your future home’s length and square footage. Try this before deciding to go and physically assess it yourself.

Here are 3 common methods of estimation:

1. Window rule

Since most buses have an interior length of 7.5 feet and windows are usually 2.5 feet, the number of windows will determine the estimated length. If you can multiply the number of windows by 7.5 feet and by 2.5 feet, you will get the bus’s approximate square footage.

For instance, if the windows visible are 6, then the approximate square footage is 6 x 7.5 x 2.5 = 112.5 square feet.

As for the length, you will multiply the number of windows by the window length and then add the length of the van front or dog nose, estimated at 10 feet. Therefore, the bus’s length with 6 windows could be 2.5 x 6=15 + 10 = 25 feet.

On the other hand, if the bus has a flat front, you will add 6 feet instead of 10 feet; hence in the example above, the equation will be 2.5 x 6 = 15 + 6 = 21 feet.

2. Front end style and engine placement

As discussed above, the type of front style plays a role in estimating the length of the bus. The rule is to add 10 feet for a dog nose or van front or 6 feet to a flat nose to the figure resulting from multiplying the number of windows by 2.5.

The engine placement also has a say in length, but you should note it does not add to the interior space square footage. An engine in the front takes up a lot of space, which is quite significant when combined with the driver’s area.

You might be tempted to conclude that a bus with an engine at the back is most ideal because the driver’s area will reduce the interior space. However, take into account that you could need some under-bed storage, which will be decreased by the engine placement at the back.

Besides, it requires unique driving because the driver sits in front of the front axle; in buses with a front-engine, the driver sits behind it.

3. Passenger capacity

Since most states limit school buses’ length to 40 or 45 feet, you will rarely find buses longer than this. You can still tell the length of a bus by the number of passengers it can carry. Usually, if the listing mentions it is a 72-passenger bus, most likely it measures around 34-feet long.

One with an 84-passenger capacity measures 39-feet long, while a 90-passenger bus is over 40 feet long. Still, other factors come into play, such as room for a wheelchair lift at the back, which means more feet. The general rule is to add up to one foot of length for a wheelchair lift.

What bus length is right for you?

When choosing the bus based on length, there are several factors you should consider, and they include:

1. How many people will be living in the bus?

You can find a large family of eight living in a three-bedroom apartment while a couple lives in a five-bedroom mansion. Similarly, picking a skoolie based on the number of people who intend on living there can be hard.

The bottom line is the comfort required by factoring in privacy and enough room for storage space for each occupant. You should not forget that if you have pets, even their litter boxes and beds will occupy space. You can ensure you get the ideal skoolie size by listing all the essentials and estimate how much square footage each will cover.

2. Where do you plan to drive your bus?

Some people buy skoolies strictly to use as a dwelling place and not as a means of transport. If you fall under this category, then you will need a tow car that will help you with running errands.

On the other hand, if the skoolie is your main residence and means of getting by, you need to put a lot of thought into the length you buy. Full-size buses are not easy to navigate in small towns or park in the store’s parking space.

3. Where do you plan to convert your bus?

Let’s face it, not most of us have acres of land lying idle where a full-size bus can be converted. As a result, you might have to rent space, or you can choose to do it on the street, but the latter can set you back a few hundred dollars in parking tickets.

Besides, even if you have enough space to convert a small bus, the local HOA rules can dictate that you should not park it for more than a few hours, making the conversion process a headache.

4. What is your budget for the conversion & maintenance?

In the end, regardless of which bus you prefer, the depth of your pockets will determine your choice. Smaller buses are more expensive, going for around $5,000 or more, while large buses will have you forking out $2,000.

While the attractive price may push you to get a full-size bus, remember that you will need more money to convert it than a smaller bus due to the more amenities installed. A small bus can cost $7000 in conversion cost.

Maintaining a big bus is also expensive because they usually have more occupants, which means spending more on electricity and water. Additionally, although smaller buses have larger tank capacities, larger buses consume more fuel.

Final thoughts

You’ve been searching for hours and you finally find a listing for the skoolie of your dreams, or so you think. You may be tempted to buy it on the spot, but don’t.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but seeing and touching eliminate all doubts when purchasing your skoolie. I hope that this article was useful in helping you determine the school bus length that is right for you.

If want to learn more about skoolies, feel free to check out my other articles. I’m sure you’ll love it!