Shuttle Bus Conversion: A Breakdown of Costs
Published March 20, 2018

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Hey everyone! We get a lot of questions regarding how we afforded our shuttle bus conversion last year. In this post, we are going to go over exactly how much money we spent on our tiny home on wheels and how we afforded it (HINT: We are not trust-fund millennials!!).

How We Afford Bus-Life!

Purchase of Bus

We purchased the Grand-Mothership in Helena, Montana in late July of 2017. The owner was asking $3500, but we talked him down to $2800 after having a mechanic look at the potential problems.

How We Afford Bus-Life!

About a month after that, we spend around $700 to get her fixed up, including new sway bar bushings, transmission fluid/filter change, new brake line and fluid, new rear differential fluid, and a few other minor things.

This brings the total cost of the bus and mechanical work to $3500.

Shuttle Bus Conversion

Our numbers here get a bit wonky. We didn’t keep detailed records of exactly how much money we have spent converting our bus, but we have some ballpark figures. If you are converting a bus (or plan to), WE RECOMMEND KEEPING DETAILED RECORDS OF WHAT YOU SPENT! The reason for this is because it is fun to look back at it and do some math 🙂

For our conversion, we sourced used building materials from Home ReSource in Missoula, MT. If you live in Missoula, CHECK THEM OUT! Their website is here.

Because of this, we got everything incredibly cheap. For the summer of 2018, our first “rough” conversion cost around $500. This included a gutted interior, new floor, bed, shelves, kitchen countertop, minimal cabinets, an exterior paint job, and minimal kitchen plumbing.

Of course, at this point in the conversion we were complete “nubes” so not everything was done to perfection, but it worked well for the summer!

Once we returned from Europe in late fall of 2017, we started funneling more money into the bus as we prepared to live in it full-time in Portland starting January 2018. The second “better” conversion cost us roughly $800. It included a bathroom with a composting toilet, a custom couch with storage, a new wood ceiling, minimal insulation, and a wood stove (the bulk of the $800).

After the second conversion rendition, our bus was livable. We moved to Portland, OR on January 4th, 2018.

Ever since being in Portland, we have added a numerous amount of bus updates. This third and current conversion of our bus cost roughly $500. It has included a lock/key for the door, a lofted bed with storage underneath, a completely redone and nice looking bathroom, a new kitchen countertop, a bigger sink with a fancy faucet, new plumbing, and, overall, a nicer aesthetic than before.

We still have projects, but the conversion is slowly coming to an end. We will soon (within the next year), sell this old granny an upgrade to a full sized skoolie or classic tiny home on wheels and start the process over again.

This brings the total conversion cost to about $1800.


Split between the two of us, this is so cheap. It has not been an expensive journey. Has it been difficult? ABSOLUTELY! We have put our blood and sweat into this home along with countless hours of ripping, tearing, screwing, building, and painting.

How we afforded it (and a trip to Europe)

Being that the total cost of our conversion was not that expensive, it wasn’t too difficult to afford. What people often ask though is how did you afford this bus right before a two-month trip to Europe? Also, how old are you?

Well, we were 20 last year (pretty young, huh?!). We afforded these two things by SAVING OUR MONEY! A wonderful concept, but difficult to accomplish.

Luckily for us, we had amazing summer jobs in Montana that provided room and board (even though we lived out of our truck/car most of the time). This gave us the means to save money. No loan payments (yet), no credit card or utility bills…it was simple. Alongside that, we are also musicians and played a lot of summer gigs, giving us some extra cash.

Even if you don’t make a lot of money in a job, saving money all comes down to this one tip: Cut out the things you don’t need and you will save money in the long run.

This can be difficult, but it is a center point of our minimalistic lifestyle. If you don’t need Spotify or Netflix, don’t pay for it. If you don’t need new clothes, don’t buy them.

Imagine where you will be in a year if you start today. If you are more interested in living a minimalist lifestyle, check out our beginner’s guide here.

Current Living Costs

In Portland, we pay $600 a month to park our bus in the best backyard ever, with a dog, garden, space to breathe, and wonderful people. This includes sewer, water, electricity, trash, and internet.

Remember that we split this cost, so it is only $300 a month each. This is very cheap for Portland, OR.

How Much We Save

If we were to be living in an apartment or studio in Portland currently, we would be paying roughly $1200 a month. THAT IS 2X MORE MONEY THAN WE PAY!

So, if we figure we are saving $600 a month, with Portland wages, it will take about 9 MONTHS to have our bus payed for. If you ask us, that is not bad at all 🙂

For those of you thinking about buying and converting a van or bus for your next home, we will be publishing an article THIS WEEK to inspire you to do so. Stay tuned!

As always, BE WELL!
Riley & Cece



1 Comment

  1. Patty J

    Sounds lovely!! Best way to recycle older vehicles instead of spending a fortune on a new RV.


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