Are you attracted to skoolie life but don’t like the idea of driving such a large vehicle? Or are you into van life but more space for less money? A short bus may be just what you’re looking for!

A short bus is a type of school bus that is, well, short. They typically feature a bus body built onto a cutaway van chassis, such as a Ford E-350 or Chevy Express 3500; many are diesel. But while short buses are shorter than full-sized skoolies, they’re often more spacious inside than even the largest Ford Transit, Ram Promaster, or Sprinter Van.

School buses measure size by the number of windows behind the front cab area. Short buses have between 4 and 6 windows, which translates to about 20-25 feet in length. That’s a smaller space than a full size bus. But it’s as long or longer than the longest wheelbase Sprinter, and your average short bus is about a foot wider. The only dimension they fall short in is height. Most short buses top out at a touch over six feet, so taller people might scrape the ceiling (unless you choose to raise the roof on your short bus conversion).

With all of this space – but not too much space – it’s no wonder that short bus conversions are popular options for people living a nomadic lifestyle. And since you can often pick up a used school bus on the cheap through various bus auction websites, short school bus conversions can be affordable compared to many vans.

There are some downsides to short bus conversions. They’re not as maneuverable or comfortable to drive as smaller vehicles, and they may not be able to get up to higher speeds on the highway. Not every mechanic can work on a bus, so it may be harder to find a shop when needed. And because short bus RV conversions are unconventional, finding suitable insurance can be more difficult.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of converting a short bus into a tiny home on wheels, check out these inspiring short bus conversions that show just how roomy and functional they can be.

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1. This short bus conversion with a crawl-in closet from @whereis_brittany

@whereis_brittany Short bus conversion kitchen
Photo by @whereis_brittany

Brittany is an Air Force veteran who converted a 4-window-long 1998 Chevy 3500 school bus into a short bus camper to live in. She purchased her used school bus for $3200. Factoring in her renovations, including a solar electrical system and her 12V refrigerator, Brittany spent about $18,200 on her short bus conversion.

Instead of a garage beneath the bed, there is a crawl-in closet that houses hanging clothes and allows for excellent airflow. A couch with storage space underneath acts as Brittany’s garage.

@whereis_brittany Woman standing near the sink inside a shortbus conversion camper
Photo by @whereis_brittany

The kitchen has many remarkable aspects, like a blue sink bowl, colorful tile stickers, and glittery butcher block countertops. There is also a 12-volt fridge and a camp stove. 

The roof of this short bus conversion has a 320-watt flexible solar panel. Two 120-amp batteries and a 1200-watt pure sine inverter are beneath the bed.

2. This comfy short bus RV conversion from @freshairvlog

@freshairvlog  Interior of a short bus converted to camper
Photo by @freshairvlog

Kyle and Tobi built a 2006 GMC Thomas 4-window short bus conversion for van life travel.

Tobi hand-sewed curtains that run along the windows of the bus. On the passenger side are open cabinets with fabric covers that roll up when they need access to the space.

There is a second seat in the living space on the driver’s side with a seatbelt. A fixed table in front of it acts as a workstation for Tobi that she can use when Kyle is driving.

On the roof of the bus, they have 400-watt Renogy solar panels. The two huge solar panels connect to a charge controller inside the bus, which feeds two 6-volt golf cart batteries wired in parallel to make a 12-volt system. The bus’s alternator can also charge the batteries.

3. This short bus conversion with reclaimed wood from @littlehomebus

@littlehomebus converted short bus cozy interior
Photo by @littlehomebus

Maggie built out a Ford E-350 4-window short bus conversion to live and work in. Much of her short bus build is made of wood that she reclaimed from used furniture and paint sticks.

We like the locking door handle that Maggie modified so that she can lock her traditionally-opening bus door from the inside and outside of the bus. The entryway features flooring, upholstery, and an overhead storage cabinet.

@littlehomebus Woman sitting on a bed inside her shortbus camper
Photo by @littlehomebus

In the back of the bus, Maggie has a full-size bed fixed width-wise. The bed has struts that allow her to lift the bed and access the storage beneath it.

A bench seat by the entryway provides Maggie with a space to work during the day. The bench also stores her electrical system and fridge. Her electrical system includes a Goal Zero portable power station with a fast charger that takes power from her alternator, solar, and shore power. Maggie decided to install solar panels to charge her system off grid anytime, and there are 350 watts of solar on the roof of her short bus rv conversion.

4. This trendy short bus shop build by @junglethebus

@junglethebus interior of a small bus rv
Photo by @junglethebus

Gillian converted a 2002 Ford E-450 short bus for full-time skoolie life and to sell hand-dyed clothes and secondhand items. Her build includes storage space for everything she sells and many pretty, artistic design choices.

She didn’t skimp on the kitchen, making sure to have appliances large enough for everyday cooking. The kitchen has an impressively sized freezer/fridge combo, a propane stove/oven combo, a sink, overhead cabinets, plenty of counter space, and storage for water and propane tanks. There is pantry storage in the drawers beside the stove.

@junglethebus Young woman standing in front of her short bus converted to camper
Photo by @junglethebus

Across from the kitchen is a bench seat for working and lounging during the day. The bench is long and wide enough to serve as a guest bed and store the bus’s electrical system beneath it.

5. This short bus conversion with a rooftop deck from Cole and Monica

Short bus rv interior
Still from a video by Tiny Home Tours

Cole and Monica built out a 5-window-long 2000 Chevy Express 3500 short bus conversion to live and travel in full-time.

The couple installed a jump seat from another Chevy next to the driver’s seat. The jump seat folds down and swivels, so it doesn’t take up much space, which is a great solution for couples doing bus life. We love the magnetic hooks that Cole and Monica utilize to hang up a curtain to separate the cab from the living space. It’s a simple system that is easy to set up and take down that provides additional privacy.

Cole and Monica lying on the roof deck of their short bus camper
Still from a video by Tiny Home Tours

They put a ladder on the side of the bus to access their sturdy roof deck. Also on the roof are two 320-watt solar panels that power a 12-volt 200 amp hour Renogy battery.

6. This short skoolie build with a hidden shower from @escobedontheroad

@escobedontheroad Bench seat inside a short bus conversion
Still from a video by Bona Fide Bus

Chelle and Griselda built out a 5-window-long 2003 GMC Savana 3500 short bus conversion to live in full-time with their cat and two dogs.

The couple wanted plenty of seating included in this build, so they have bench seats on both sides of their bus conversion. One houses their toilet – a bucket system with cedar – and storage for linens and towels.

@escobedontheroad couple standing in front of their short bus conversion
Still from a video by Bona Fide Bus

The other bench houses their shower solution, which consists of a galvanized tub, a flexible curtain rod that attaches to ceiling hooks, and a curtain. Behind the benches are countertops, a sink, and open shelving for cooking and food storage.

On the roof, six 100-watt solar panels power a 300-Ah battery bank. There is also a 3000-watt inverter that helps run their kitchen appliances. The solar components and 30 amp power box sit in the under-bed storage.

7. This low-cost short bus conversion from @jagaloria

@jagaloria Exterior of a short bus converted to camper
Still from a video by Tree & Julia

Jagaloria converted a 4-window-long Chevy short bus camper to live in and host friends. Not including the bus itself, her build cost about $300, and another $1000 for her solar set up.

She went to a pallet yard and was able to use reclaimed wood and other material for her build. The wood was headed for the trash, so she was able to get it for free, making it both eco- and budget-friendly.

@jagaloria Young woman sitting inside her shortbus conversion
Still from a video by Tree & Julia

A bench seat converts into a bed that sleeps two, and the fixed bed in the back can sleep three people.

There is a control panel and an inverter in the entryway of the bus. Jagaloria has two batteries – a marine battery and a truck battery, with a switch that allows her to choose what to charge. A flexible solar panel sits on the roof of the bus.

8. This $4000 short bus RV build by Kevin

Bed inside a short bus conversion
Still from a video by A Bus Life Story

Kevin converted a 4-window-long 1994 Ford E-350 short bus for about $4000.

He built a storage bench along one side of the school bus conversion. One of the bench pieces can be lifted and latched onto brackets that Kevin installed, converting the space into a dinette that seats two with a table.

Kevin standing by his short bus rv
Still from a video by A Bus Life Story

Kevin built a closet with different storage compartments and a rod for hanging clothes. The closet also acts as a partition that separates the bedroom from the kitchen.

There are 12-volt outlets for charging electronics. The bus conversion is powered by two car batteries that run to a power inverter. The inverter charges the batteries when the bus is running. Kevin has not included solar in his build yet but plans to when he gets a fridge.

9. This short bus conversion with smart updates from @livingzeal

@livingzeal Young couple relaxing inside their short bus conversion
Photo by @livingzeal

 Chad and Zaynah converted a short bus to travel in with their pets. Including the vehicle, the short bus conversion cost them about $10,000. They have lived in the bus for a year and made some great updates to suit the space and lifestyle.

Chad and Zaynah did differently from most short bus conversions: they partitioned off the cab from the living space, giving it a more homey feel while separating their bathroom equipment, which they keep up front.

They store a portable shower system in the entryway that they use to shower on the entryway stairs or outside the bus when they are off-grid. There is also a composting toilet stored in the cab.

@livingzeal Smiling young couple sitting at the front seat of a short bus conversion
Photo by @livingzeal

The living space has a section for the couple’s passion projects with storage for musical instruments and tech equipment.

In the back of the bus is a futon-style couch that converts into a bed. This style of bed frame allows more openness and floor space in the bus while providing more seating.

A solar charge controller in the bedroom area helps the couple manage their solar electrical system.

10. This short bus camper conversion for a family of three from @greenbusandus

@greenbusandus Cute baby girl sitting on a car seat inside a short bus conversion
Photo by @greenbusandus

Tyler and Shelby converted a 4-window-long short bus camper to travel in with their daughter, Daisy, for a year-long trip on the road.

There is overhead storage above the driver’s seat where the couple can safely store cleaning supplies and other items so the baby can’t access them.

The kitchen is behind the driver’s seat and includes a long countertop, sink, fridge, storage for food, spices, and a camp stove.

@greenbusandus Young couple with a baby sitting at the door of a short bus converted to camper
Photo by @greenbusandus

The bench seat adjacent to the kitchen converts into a dinette. Daisy’s car seat gets buckled into this section when they are driving. At night, Tyler and Shelby secure a baby gate around the bench seat for a makeshift crib.

Two 100-watt solar panels on the top of the bus charge a Goal Zero Yeti 1250 battery bank. The battery is wired to the alternator so it can charge while the bus is running.

11. This cozy short school bus conversion from @doritann

@doritann short bus conversion, stunning interior
Photo by @doritann

Dorit built out a 5-window-long 2001 GMC short bus conversion herself for full-time van life.

She altered the original bus door to include a deadbolt and function as a standard door. The entryway includes shoe storage and plants.

A dinette behind the driver’s seat allows Dorit to work, eat, and host company more easily than the bench seat setup she had started with. There is storage under each dinette seat.

@doritann Woman standing near a short bus conversion parked on the side of a road
Photo by @doritann

Dorit created a DIY composting toilet with a urine diverter, bucket, and toilet seat, a budget-friendly alternative to purchasing a composting toilet. The toilet is behind the dinette, with storage beside it for a vanity and pine shavings that help the composting process.

200-watts of solar on the roof of the bus charge deep cycle batteries located in an exterior storage compartment.

12. This off-grid 4-window skoolie conversion from Élöik

Élöik showing the interior of her short bus camper
Still from a video by Avion Awesome

Élöik bought a partially converted 4-window-long 2005 Ford E-350 short school bus conversion to live in full-time.

The kitchen is behind the driver’s seat and includes a 12-volt fridge, sink with water pump, and enough water storage to allow Élöik to go off-grid for about two weeks.

Élöik standing next to her short bus conversion
Still from a video by Avion Awesome

She opted to have two toilets: one for urine and one for solid waste, which has been easier for her to manage and dispose of waste less frequently than when she had one toilet. For showering, Élöik heats water on a camp stove and bathes on a towel in the kitchen area.

Curtains partition the fixed platform bed in the back of the bus from the living space. Under-bed storage holds the diesel reservoir, electrical system, and clothing. 270-watts of solar sit on the roof and connect to the two batteries beneath the bed.

13. This short bus conversion with a fixed shower from @abuslifestory

@abuslifestory Short bus conversion interior
Still from a video by FLORB

Issac and Jaylena built a 5-window-long 2003 Ford E-450 short bus conversion to live in and out of for a year.

Issac altered the bus door to open and close like a traditional door. The back door also opens and has a sliding lock. From the back, they can access storage beneath the bed.

@abuslifestory Couple standing inside their short bus conversion
Still from a video by FLORB

The shower behind the driver’s seat includes a shower pan, cedar siding, copper piping, a showerhead, a skylight, privacy film over the window, a curtain rod, and a shower curtain.

A shore power plug on the bus’s exterior goes to a trickle charger inside that maintains the lithium power bank. The electrical system is located beneath the bed and includes a Renogy 40 amp DC to DC battery charger, 1800-watt inverter, and 150 amp hours of lithium batteries. On the roof, there are two 220-watt solar panels.

14. This 5-window skoolie conversion with a 3-foot closet from @the.skoolie.teacher

@the.skoolie.teacher Modern short school bus conversion
Photo by @the.skoolie.teacher

Deyana is a teacher who converted a 5-window GMC short bus conversion to live and travel in full-time.

To add a homey touch, she tiled the entryway and cut a welcome mat in half to fit on the steps—a cabinet in the entry stores shoes and a Jackery power station.

The kitchen is split into two sections and includes a fixed oven/stove combo, a deep kitchen sink, a fridge and freezer, a pantry, and lots of counter and storage space.

@the.skoolie.teacher Woman sitting on the hood of a short bus conversion
Photo by @the.skoolie.teacher

There is a 3-foot-wide closet with plenty of space to store hanging clothes, folded clothes, toiletries, and more.

Deyana installed a hitch on the back of the bus to carry her Yamaha Zuma moped, propane tanks, and generator. On the roof, she installed a deck.

For the electrical system, there are three 175-watt Renogy flexible solar panels on the roof. Under the bed, there are three 200-amp hour batteries and a 3000-watt inverter.

15. This short bus conversion with a dog kennel from @ilariamorris

@ilariamorris Young woman doing handstand inside her small bus rv
Photo by @ilariamorris

Ilaria built a 5-window-long 2001 Chevy Express short bus conversion to live on the road full-time.

The living space has a bench seat with memory foam cushions and a large storage section underneath it for tools, clothing, and linens.

The kitchen has a 3-burner gas oven and stove, a large sink, and water storage.

@ilariamorris Woman with her dog posing near a shortbus rv conversion
Photo by @ilariamorris

Ilaria has a full-size fixed bed in the back of the interior space. In the bedroom area, she has a bookshelf, heater, and a monitor for watching TV. Beneath the bed, there is a kennel for her dog.

From the exterior, she can access the garage storage, which includes her propane tank, spare tire, and electrical system with 300-Ah of lithium batteries. On the roof of the bus, she installed three 200-watt solar panels.

Build Your Van


The Ultimate Van Build Guide

Planning a van build? Read our free guide. We cover just about everything you need to know – from planning, to insulation, to solar and electrical, to picking appliances, to essential tools. Get started today so you can get out there on the road!

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