Robin, who is on her path to living tiny in a mobile home, sent me an email, and had a few questions about insuring her future Skoolie. Her long term goal with the Tiny Home is to travel the US tracing her genealogy. I hope that some of the information here is some help to her achieving her dream.
I wish I had some solid positive answers for her, but insurance is a difficult thing for School Bus Conversions. (Since the email, she has decided to look into purchasing an Airstream and converting it to fit her needs. With further research, she has found the School Bus conversion insurance issue to be too much of a ridiculous hassle.)
"How and with which company did you insure it? What does it cover?"
I flew to Long Beach on March 17, 2015 to look at the Blue Bus and was ready to buy it. However, in order for me to drive it from the lot in Long Beach, California to my parents house in Vegas, Nevada I needed to get the Bus insured. I called a few numbers for different auto/RV/Motor Home/Boat insurance companies. I was overwhelmingly told NO. "We do not insure converted School Buses."
During several calls I was asked if we are doing the conversion ourselves, or if it would be done professionally. Will I be living in it full time? The other issue was that the Bus still had all the seats. They couldn't insure it as anything but a commercial vehicle, until the seats are out. But I couldn't ride it over to Vegas to begin taking the seats out without insurance. At the end of the day, I was not able to secure insurance for the bus. I was so upset and mad about how much of a hassle it had been to get the bus insured.
It was such a hassle, that I nearly forgot about the whole thing and was ready to go back home without buying that bus, or any bus in the future. It was a terrible experience and I felt that if it was so hard right from the start, perhaps the Bus Life was not meant for me after all.
Here are some of the things I learned that night:
1. Insurance for Converted School Buses is hard to come by.
2. Do not bother calling 1-800 numbers for major car insurance companies.
3. Call local Insurance "Brokers" with in-town phone numbers.
4. Progressive and other major companies will insure you for 2 weeks, then drop you. No questions asked.
5. It will always be a hassle.
6. Do not mention that you will live in the conversion full time.
7. Be prepared to have major headaches and question everything.
8. You will be asked if the conversion was done by a professional company. Might even be asked for receipts.
8. Do your homework.
Progressive has this to say:
"A class A non-professional bus conversion has the following characteristics:
- Motor home facilities built into a Class A type bus shell, but does not include changes made to school buses or public transit buses, as these vehicles are unacceptable.
- Conversion is performed by the owner of the vehicle."
They do not insures Skoolies.
So what ended up happening?
The next morning, I made a call to a local insurance broker in Vegas, who works with State Farm. They wrote a policy for me to get insurance for the bus, so that I was able to legally drive it to Vegas. It was a Commercial Policy, just for liability, the lowest minimum insurance you need to have a vehicle on the road. It came to a $90 a month. So I had insurance, went to a local Credit Union, got the money and bought the bus. Then I drove the bus to Vegas to be converted.
Towards the end of the Bus Build, I gave State Farm another call to get the bus insured as a Motor Home. For that to happen in the state of Nevada, a DMV representative had to look at the Bus. He had to sign off on several things, such as the bus having proper plumbing, a way to cook food, and a few other things. I also had to have a DOT inspection done, to make sure things like the windshield, brakes, lights and everything worked. After that, I was able to re-title the bus as a "reconstructed motor home," and was able to Insure it as a motor home. It is no longer considered a Bus. They were able to insure me with good coverage, including road side assistance for $300 a year. All was working out great. Perhaps this was going to work out after all.
A few weeks later I got a call. I need to insure a car under my policy to be able to have the motor home/bus insured. I don't have a car. It was now going to cost $1,000 a year for insurance. That was not what I signed up for. So I had my parents transfer my mom's car under that policy, and all was well. Then they called back and said that now it will be $250 a year for the Bus. Great! Then, a few months later, they called me again and told me that insurance will now be $866 for 6 months! So, I cancelled my policy with them. They come back every month and change what they are going to charge me. It's impossible to win with them.
There are a limited number of other companies out there, mainly The General Automobile Insurance, who insures Skoolies. Some others are paying up to $1,600 a year for insurance for their bus conversion. I was surprised that State Farm offered me more than Liability, which is the most that a bus usually can get.
I understand its all about Risk to the Insurance companies, but man, it shouldn't be this ridiculously difficult to get a bus insured. If anyone has any information to add, feel free to comment below. This topic is one of the most talked about in the Skoolie Community. Perhaps as we grow as a community, we can change the way that the insurance companies see us.
Greatest of luck to you Robin, may you find what you are looking for. And best of luck to everyone else having the insurance blues!