Many people who enjoy adventuring and touring buy school buses, or “skoolies” as they’re affectionately referred to as, and convert them to vehicles they can tour in. Some people convert school buses themselves, and others hire companies that specialize in retrofitting buses into recreational vehicles (RVs) for touring or even as permanent homes.
Whether you have bought an old school bus, or skoolie, and are keen to convert it into a motorhome – or you plan to get someone else to convert it for you, you have probably heard that you need to get skoolie insurance. In fact, it’s mandatory to have liability insurance when driving a vehicle. The aim of insurance is to protect you and your passengers in the event of an accident, and also to protect the bus and its contents in the event of theft. There are various types of additional coverage that you may also like to opt for.
But many people need guidance on how to get school bus conversion insurance as it can be quite a complex process that takes some planning. People planning bus conversions also want to know what the insurance companies require before they are willing to approve school bus conversion insurance, and which companies actually provide skoolie insurance. You are probably also wondering what school bus conversion insurance costs each year and whether you can afford it for your converted bus.
Many people who buy school busses, find it quite a challenge to navigate the insurance side of things. Skoolie insurance can differ from state to state, which makes it even more complicated to find relevant resources. Not all insurers will cover school bus conversions and there are quite a few prerequisites for those that do. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on converted school buses and insurance, to make it easier to access all the information and resources you may need.
Although this is not intended to provide legal or insurance advice, we have researched skoolie insurance to provide you with resources to make your own informed decisions. We cover how to get insurance for your new school bus when you buy it and drive it home, as well as how to get full insurance cover for your skoolie once you’ve completed the bus conversion.
Skoolie insurance for your school bus
When people convert a traditional school bus into a recreational vehicle, they typically remove all the bus seats to make space for a bed, table, kitchen and a bathroom.
It’s usually easier to get insurance if you hire a professional bus conversion company to do the retrofitting for you, sometimes called a “professional conversion”. In fact some insurance companies will only provide insurance if the conversion was done by a professional. However, many people prefer to do their own skoolie conversions themselves.
It’s usually a good idea to get in touch with insurance companies before you start the conversion, so that you know what is compliant with their prerequisites for insurance and what isn’t. That can save you lots of time and money.
There are various factors that affect whether insurers will find your skoolie eligible for insurance, and will also affect the premium you’ll have to pay. These include:
- Whether you did the conversion yourself or got a professional to do it for you
- Whether the bus was used commercially or if it was a school bus
- The age, make, model and mileage of the vehicle
- Whether it has a manual or automatic transmission
- What the condition of the engine is like, mechanically
- Whether you plan to use it as a recreational vehicle or live in it as a home
- What the costs of retrofitting or converting the bus amount to
Does my Skoolie need insurance?
Yes, it’s generally mandatory to have general liability insurance and it’s also a huge financial risk if you don’t. Imagine being in an accident and being liable for damages. Or having all the contents of your skoolie stolen – or even worse, the entire skoolie.
But, getting insurance for your skoolie can be one of the most challenging aspects of owning one. That’s largely because insurance varies considerably from state to state and not all insurers cover school bus conversions. For example, certain insurance companies will cover conversions that people do themselves, but in other states it’s far more tricky to find skoolie insurance and the process to get it may be far more protracted and challenging.
How do I insure my Skoolie?
You’ll want to insure your school bus when you buy it and drive it home – but once you start working on the conversion then you could apply for a different type of insurance cover. And once your conversion is complete, you can then register your skoolie as an RV and apply for RV insurance. We cover all three of these different aspects of insuring your school bus conversion below.
Insuring your skoolie for the drive home
When you buy your skoolie, before it’s been converted into an RV, you won’t be eligible for RV insurance so will need to look for commercial vehicle for personal use insurance which can be quite tricky to get and quite expensive.
There are a few options that you can choose from to insure your skoolie from when you purchase it and drive it home. The availability and cost of insurance will depend somewhat on the state you’re in, whether you bought the skoolie on finance or not, and how much risk you are prepared to take.
If you paid for the vehicle in cash, then you will need proof of insurance for your ride home. You will want to take out a commercial vehicle for personal use insurance. You may be limited in the miles that you can drive, and may have to provide the dates on which you intend to drive the bus home or to the destination where the conversion will take place.
You could opt for liability-only insurance, which means that if you were to get into an accident, then all damages would not be covered. However, as it’s still a commercial vehicle, and many insurance companies won’t insure this, so getting insurance could be a challenge.
Alternatively you could make a point of asking your insurance company for temporary insurance just to get the vehicle home or for liability-only insurance. That type of policy usually has a limited duration or around 24 to 72 hours.
If you bought the vehicle with finance and you are keen to get full cover insurance for the journey home, then you could see if your current insurer will add it to your policy, or otherwise if the company providing the loan can recommend an insurer. You probably will need to take out a commercial comprehensive policy, which could be quite pricey, but once you’ve converted your skoolie then you can change the policy.
A final option is to see if the seller will deliver the skoolie to you – that way they take liability for its transport.
Insurance for your skoolie while it’s being converted
It’s definitely a good idea to have insurance while you store your skoolie to work on its conversion. That is because it could get damaged by a fire, get stolen or be driven into. Plus you may also want to drive it occasionally.
Whether you opt for commercial or personal liability cover, you may not be able to get all the items that you install in your skoolie insured unless you are able to get commercial comprehensive insurance which can also be quite expensive.
It’s important that you take photos of all the renovations you make to the bus and that you also keep all the invoices during the conversion process, so you can keep track of how much it cost you to convert the skoolie. This information may be used by the insurance company to calculate the insured value and the replacement value in case of theft or damage.
Insuring your skoolie once it’s been converted
There are different insurance options you can choose from when it comes to skoolies. If you have already converted your skoolie, then you may have the option for the following insurance policies (depending on the insurance company, what coverage is offered in the state you live in, and what cover you choose):
- Liability insurance, which covers injury to persons or damage to the bus, or anyone you potentially have an accident with
- Collision cover to pay for damages from an accident to replace or repair your RV
- Comprehensive insurance to cover damages from theft, fire, flooding etc.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorists insurance, which gives you cover for personal and property damage in the event that the driver you are in an accident with doesn’t have enough insurance.
- Benefits that include roadside assistance and towing in the event of a breakdown or a flat tyre
- If you live in your skoolie, there’s also full time insurance you can take out called renters insurance whereby you can insure all your personal belongings anywhere in the world, including in the bus.
A major factor in what type of insurance cover you may be able to get for your skoolie, and how much that will cost, depends on what you plan to use your skoolie for. If you plan to use the skoolie as a “recreational only” vehicle, then you will be looking for RV insurance. This can be quite reasonable (depending on various factors) but there are some limitations – one of which is that you can’t live in the RV or use it as your home. You also may be limited in terms of how many miles a year you can drive it and where you can park it.
If you plan to live in your skoolie, then you’ll want renters or home-owner insurance cover, which covers the vehicle and the value of the improvements as well as any of your personal possessions in the vehicle. It may also be a good idea to get comprehensive cover which includes costs in the event of collisions, theft, uninsured motorists etc.
How to insure your converted school bus
Once your skoolie has been converted and you want to get insurance, there are a few prerequisites that you’ll need to first fulfil.
- Firstly, you need to register your skoolie as an RV or motorhome. This means you need to retitle it from a commercial vehicle to an RV. To do that, you will usually need a VIN verification, an emissions test, and a certified weight slip.
- The person who intends to drive the skoolie must have a good driving record. If you have accidents and fines from the last few years on your record then that may make it more difficult to get insurance.
- Certain states don’t allow school bus insurance cover, so you need to check if the state you live in does or not.
- You’ll need to be able to provide the VIN number for the bus, which will be on the RV title.
- You will also need to show that your bus meets the standards for motor vehicles, according to the federal department of motor vehicles. You will probably want to have some photos showing the conversion, and should also have all your receipts for the work.
- You will also need to be able to prove that the conversion process removed all the seats and the bus sign and flashing lights. In some cases you may need to repaint it from yellow and remove the decals. You will then need to show that your skoolie has an independent power source, running water, a kitchen, a sink, a sleeping area and in some cases a toilet, refrigerator or icebox and heating or cooling – so that it complies with being an RV. Wood stoves are usually not allowed and could mean that you won’t get approved for insurance. Roof decks can also make getting insurance a challenge.
Once you have fulfilled these requirements, you will need to find an insurance company or insurance agent. You can try to contact the insurance company you use for your car insurance and house insurance and see if they cover skoolies. Often the insurer you use will want to help you to keep you as a client, and may even be able to give you a discount for having multiple vehicles on your policy.
Otherwise, you may have to look for insurance agents that specialise in unusual vehicles and skoolies to find quotes from companies that will insure your skoolie. Independent insurance agents are often able to find unusual vehicle coverage for you because they are networked with a variety of insurance companies. And that way you may also be able to get several comparative quotes so you can compare and decide which ones are most attractive and suited to your needs.
The insurance company you select will be able to decide on what coverage and fees it will offer you. They will probably want to know whether you plan to live in the skoolie full-time or just part-time; how many miles you intend on driving in the skoolie each year; and how often you’ll be driving as opposed to just parking it.
School bus conversion insurance: costs and options
How much is it to insure a Skoolie bus conversion?
As mentioned above, there are various options when it comes to insuring skoolies. Firstly, there are different types of insurance depending on whether you want to cover the ride home from buying the skoolie, or to cover the build process, or the rig once it’s been converted. Then your insurance cover costs will vary depending on whether you use the skoolie as an RV for touring or as a permanent residence – and whether you did the conversion yourself or hired professionals to do it for you. And the costs will vary depending on whether you opt for a full comprehensive cover, or more limited types of liability cover.
Furthermore, costs will vary depending on the state you live in, how old the vehicle is, how much mileage it has covered, the condition of the engine, the type of transmission, and how much the conversion cost you.
Lastly, the costs vary depending on which insurance company you opt for – that’s why it’s always a good idea to get comparative quotes to compare prices and benefits.
Some skoolie insurance policies may cost as little as $28 a month while others may set you back $180 a month.
Which insurance companies offer school bus or RV insurance?
One of the challenges of getting insurance coverage for your school bus is figuring out which insurers offer skoolie insurance. We’ve made it easier for you by researching some of these companies and detailing information about them below.
You will need to contact each company to get an insurance quote (or work with an agent who can do this for you) and then compare and see which one offers the benefits and prices you are looking for.
State Farm offers insurance cover for RVs which includes motorhomes and van campers. This coverage includes damages and a variety of losses, such as theft, fire, storms and collisions. You can also opt for roadside assistance in the case of an emergency while travelling. Plus they offer cover for the contents of your motorhome under a personal articles policy, for items like cameras, bicycles, jewelry and fishing gear which can be useful. They have 19,000 agents across the USA, although the pricing can differ quite a bit from state to state.
There are many Farm Bureau offices across the different US states, and you will need to find the relevant state website for contact details and information on what they offer in terms of skoolie and RV insurance.
Farm Bureau seems to be a popular option among southern and midwestern states. Some offer discounts if you have multiple policies with them, if you opt for a qualifying paperless policy, or if you have been accident-free for several years.
Good Sam seems to be a popular insurance option for RVs and specifically skoolies. This insurance agency is a network of insurance companies and they can therefore offer specialty RV insurance through this network that fits your budget and needs.
Not all insurers will cover a skoolie that has been converted by non-professionals. National General may be an option if you’ve done the skoolie conversion yourself, as opposed to getting a professional company to do it for you.
They offer personalized RV insurance cover for skoolies and also offer a wide range of discounts. These include safe driver discounts, paperless discounts, multi-vehicle and multi-coverage discounts. They also have a wide range of RV insurance cover options such as specialized equipment coverage, complete general liability and storage savings.
The pricing can differ quite a bit from state to state. Progressive often partners with Kampgrounds Of America (KOA), so if you’re a member of the latter you could try getting a quote from them first and you may be able to get a discount that way.
Progressive offers RV insurance for class A motorhomes, like a skoolie, and offers various discounts on insurance for people who have other policies with them, a clean driving record or people who get quotes in advance. Progressive also offers a range of RV insurance options such as basic liability coverage, comprehensive and collision, windshield coverage, and emergency coverage. They also offer vacation liability cover which is useful in case someone gets injured near your RV or if you cause damages – for example if your RV has a fuel leak in a campground.
AIS has been in the auto insurance industry for over 50 years and has a range of auto insurance partners to help provide the best price and cover. They do sometimes offer discounts, for example if you have other policies with them. Their auto insurance offers basic, standard and additional coverages which can extend to bodily injury liability cover, property damage liability, general liability, collision cover, comprehensive cover, uninsured and underinsured cover and personal injury protection.