Can I live in a bus on my own land?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Can I live in a bus on my own land? We will explain how you can live in a bus on your own land and what US law requires for long-term living in an RV. 

Can I live in a bus on my own land?

In the US you can live in a bus on your own land only if you have registered your converted bus as an RV. This means, that you will have to homologate the vehicle, and also make sure you respect certain rules:

  • There must be a septic tank or access to city sewage on the private land;
  • You cannot have 110-120V electrical cables;
  • Depending on the converted bus size, there is a limitation on how many people can reside in the same vehicle.

Our recommendation is you buy a piece of land in the country if you want to live full time in a Skoolie. If the land is not considered a residential area or part of a suburb, you are entitled to live freely on it.

How to live in a bus on your own land

Now, we have already established that to live in a bus on your own land you must register the converted vehicle as a recreational vehicle (RV). 

What the law says:

The vehicles concerned by the approval: Motor vehicle for transporting people or transporting goods converted into a vehicle in which seats, a table, a kitchen area, beds or berths obtained by converting (or not) the seats and storage spaces are installed.

In order to be approved as an RV, it is necessary to install at least the installation and legalization of a bed and a piece of furniture in your bus. With these two changes, we can now convert the bus to an RV although we usually carry out many more reforms to make the Skoolie as comfortable as possible.

When the work is not carried out by a professional builder, the conformity of the installations will be attested by a certificate drawn up by one of the approved bodies. 

These organizations check, for example, the fuel gas installation; heating and cooking appliances, refrigerators, hot water production appliances; emergency exits; ventilation and aeration devices; the installation of liquid fuels.

The steps to follow to approve a converted bus

Here is a concise summary of all the steps you will need to follow in order to have a converted bus approved in the US:

  1. Apply to the manufacturer for authorization to decommission the vehicle;
  2. Make a plan of the layout of the vehicle, noting everything that will be changed in the specifications;
  3. Carry out work on the bus to standards by following the steps of approval;
  4. Present the vehicle to an approved inspection body: they will check all gas-related installations, electrical installations, ventilation, and heating in order to obtain the certificate required for the file;
  5. Weigh the vehicle with all the fittings, the water tanks, the full tank of diesel, the driver in 3 steps, the front axle, the rear axle, and both axles at the same time in order to obtain another certificate required for the file;
  6. Submit the complete file to the prefecture, attach all the documents and wait to be summoned by the mining department. The mining engineer performs several checks, then declares the vehicle compliant with a report. This report is itself transmitted to the Prefecture;
  7. Apply for a vehicle registration certificate for the approved vehicle.

Why homologation of a converted bus is necessary:

  • Safety above all! Fellow handymen, approving your bus fitted out by you will allow you to guarantee a well-executed and safe installation.
  • To save money. You will thus respect the law in force and will therefore avoid the fines issued for any fitted out vehicle that does not have a homologation card. Not to mention that to pass the technical control of the converted bus, you must be homologation approved.
  • It will be much easier to insure the converted vehicle. Claims and other incidents can thus be taken care of.
  • An essential condition for resale: Homologation will be an essential element for the resale of your vehicle. Without it, your arrangements are in contradiction with the law and therefore worthless for a potential buyer. Any converted vehicle that is not homologated will be declared non-compliant with the technical control and sent for inspection, it will then be unsaleable.

If you do not want to have your vehicle homologated or if you simply do not have the means, there is a way to get around the regulations: equip your vehicle with removable fittings. 

In this way, you can remove them when passing the technical control of your Skoolie. Many workshops or service providers offer very practical conversion kits, prices ranging from $600 for an entry-level kit to over $2,500 for a more complete kit. On the other hand, you will certainly be fined if you are checked by the police when you travel with your removable arrangement.

Where else can I park and live in a school bus?

You can park a school bus:

  • On free public lands;
  • At Walmart;
  • Casinos.
  • In front of a friend’s house.
  • BLM Land and National Parks.
  • Rest stops.
  • Campgrounds and RV parks.

However, you cannot live in your bus in the above-mentioned places. Most of them allow a short stay and in some places, you will have to pay a fee for it. 

Can I park a school bus on the public road?

Since the Highway Code considers the Skoolie to be a car, you can park as if you were driving a car. You can park as long as you are not in the way. Your parking should not be equally dangerous or abusive. You must ensure:

  • not obstruct the visibility of other road users
  • do not cover up traffic lights or signs
  • leave sufficient space between your Skoolie and the continuous line if there is one to allow another vehicle to travel without crossing or overlapping the line marked on the ground.
  • respect any decrees taken by the mayor of the city where you wish to park.

Finally, you should know that the maximum authorized duration of uninterrupted parking on public roads is 7 days.

Note: Watch out for signs that may indicate the authorization or the prohibition of parking in a converted bus decided by the town hall. They are visible at the entrance to the town and the car parks concerned.

How is it to live in a converted bus?

Living full-time in a converted bus isn’t the same as living in a house. Here are some tips to make sure you can do it. Make a list of all your essentials, go visit a motorhome and imagine where you would store your things. 

The advantages of living in a converted bus full time:

  • No routine, feeling of always travelling and living in the present.
  • Possibility of reducing your lifestyle (by choosing a less expensive country).
  • Living with fewer ties means living a little freer.

The disadvantages of full-time life in a converted bus:

  • You will have to live in a cramped space with less stuff.
  • As a couple, you will have less privacy and will have to support each other despite the closeness. Solo, the feeling of loneliness, of course.
  • Buying a motorhome is not an investment for your old age. Unlike a house, you won’t sell it for more than you bought it.

The bottom line

Having a bus rather than a campervan can have many advantages. The space inside this vehicle is much larger and therefore comfortable than a van-style vehicle. The layout possibilities are therefore greater and are like a real studio of around thirty square meters. 

Of course, you have to consider the advantages, but also the disadvantages of converting a converted bus. Bus legislation obliges the driver to hold a special license in order to drive it legally. It is also necessary to take into account the many hours of work at the technical and administrative level that this requires.

 You do not embark on the adventure without having first acquainted yourself with all the legal and mandatory aspects.

We hope that now you are more clear about what Skoolie life really means and all the necessary steps you must take in order to legally live in a converted bus on your own land. Please let us know if we left something uncovered!

FAQ on Can I live in a bus on my own land?

Can I live in a caravan on my land?

You can live in a caravan on your land, but there are a few rules to follow. Caravans and motorhomes can remain on the grounds of a primary residence, but only between uses. They must in no case lose their mobile nature, otherwise, they will be considered as a fixed installation by the municipality.

Can I put a caravan in my garden?

You can install your caravan in your garden without authorization if you are not using it as a home or as an annexe to your home. The caravan must permanently retain its means of mobility (wheels, drawbar, etc.) in order to be able to leave its location at any time.

Can I put a trailer on my land?

To put a trailer on one’s land, the owner of a trailer must have the mayor’s parking authorization to install his trailer on his land. If the trailer is fixed, a building permit is required.

How to live on non-building land?

It is not allowed to live year-round on any non-building land. You can set up a tent or request authorization from the town hall for your caravan or mobile home.

Are Skoolies worth it?

For many people, Skoolies are totally worth it. A Skoolie offers a way to always be on the go without sacrificing the comforts that a home offers. School buses are also a blank canvas – once the seats are removed the possibilities are endless. The design will depend on the number of people that will be accommodated on the bus, as well as their lifestyle and needs.