Before we begin to drastically transform Tiny Beluga, I wanted to do a little spotlight on the charm of this beautiful bus pre-conversion.
A huge part of this project comes down to luck and in-the-moment decisions. We found Tiny Beluga on a whim. I randomly felt like searching Craigslist for busses one day. I had recently decided that a bus made more sense than creating a tiny home from scratch, but I was in no way avidly looking for it, or feeling ready to take on the conversion.
My reasoning for choosing a bus conversion instead of traditional tiny home came down to:
1. Building a tiny home from scratch takes more resources, time, and money than converting a bus, (or it seemed it would if we built it DIY).
2. Once you build the traditional tiny home you need an expensive 1 Ton truck to move it, or an expensive rental everytime you need to move it.
3. The foundation trailer of the tiny home is a few thousand dollars to buy if you buy the best kind (who wants to build the tiny home of their dreams on a bad trailer?!), a vintage bus can cost the same amount as the traditional tiny homes foundation! That seems like a big savings to me.
4. The frame is already up, modifications to the existing structure may be easier than building the structure from scratch.
5. The bus is framed with steel which will be more durable and last longer than wood.
(Note the vintage light green ceiling and the long windows!)
The average tiny home can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 or more to build, not including labor. We could easily reach $20,000 depending on the choices we make for the conversion, however it still seems less expensive and like the most work (walls, foundation, transportation) is taken care of.
I could live in a super tiny tiny home if I was by myself, but Jonah's a tall guy, and I've lived out of a backpack for 9 months, in a small caretakers room under a kitchen in an 18 person Victorian in SF, a tiny room in an old Catholic Rectory turned 25 person community in SF, a small bedroom under a ladder in Mill Valley, and I just want a bit more space. It's still tiny by American standards, though it will be more space than the small bedrooms we've been occupying for 6 years, and larger than many traditional tiny homes.
This beautiful 1971 Gillig Coach just happened to be listed for a few thousand, completely in my budget, and it had all the charm and character I wanted. A drive was ignited in me to go see it, and in a last minute moment of genius we brought Jonah's friend Mark, an amazing mechanic, to come look at the bus as well.
I swear Mark can fix anything! He is so knowledgeable about all things automotive and mechanical. He took a really good look at the Gillig and told us we'd better buy it. He said for the price it was a good deal, however he also gave us a long list of things we'd need to replace:
4 tires in the back
Probably a lot of electrical and wiring
Fixing rust spots
etc. etc. (I'm sure the list was longer)
I definitely recommend taking a mechanic to see your potential conversion bus if you are serious about buying one. We also met the mechanic who worked on the bus for the last 15-20 years and he gave Jonah a driving lesson. INVALUABLE opportunity.
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE traditional tiny homes! I love tiny homes of all kinds and spend hours drooling on pinterest for all the cuteness and innovation that's going on right now in this movement, This option was the best for me and within reach at the time.
Plus, Tiny Beluga chose me, like the wand choosing the wizard, that's the feeling I get about her anyway :)
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