What kind of insurance does a bus conversion need?
If you’re planning to renovate and live in a converted school bus, try insuring with one of these policies:
Commercial vehicle for personal use. This policy works well if you haven’t transformed your bus to a home yet, but still need to drive it around. Look around for commercial vehicle insurers that let you buy a policy for personal use of a bus. You’ll likely need to talk to an insurance rep about a policy.
RV insurance for converted buses. Once you’ve turned your bus into a home, a full-time RV policy can cover driving as well as your belongings and damage that happens while parked on a lot or land.
Specialty bus insurance company. A few companies offer specialized coverage for modified or classic vehicles, but you’ll have to dig for these specialty insurers.
Renters insurance. Many skoolie owners get renters insurance to cover their personal belongings and add extra liability to their insurance protection. You’ll need a permanent address to buy this policy, though, so work with your insurance agent to find a solution that qualifies for this insurance.
Coverage to consider for a school bus conversion
Settle on the types of coverage you need based on your state laws and how you’ll be using your converted bus.
Liability. Your state requires liability coverage at a minimum for vehicles of any kind, including converted buses that you intend to live in.
Uninsured or underinsured driver. Sometimes optional or state-required, this coverage kicks in when an at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or high enough policy limits to cover your bus’s repairs.
Collision. This helps you repair your home on wheels if you get in a vehicle accident that damages your bus.
Comprehensive. This coverage pays for physical damage to your bus from the elements like storms, flooding or fallen tree branches. Theft and vandalism are covered too.
Contents. This add-on ensures your personal belongings inside your new home have adequate protection. Double-check that you can set the policy limit high enough to cover all your belongings.
Medical payments. Use your insurance to pay for medical bills if you get injured in a vehicle accident. Some states require personal injury protection, which can offer extra protection for childcare and income loss.
Roadside assistance. This coverage comes in handy when you break down on the road due to a flat tire, dead battery or other minor problems. Check with your insurance company to see if your bus will qualify for its roadside assistance plans.
Where to find specialty bus conversion insurance
These specialty insurance companies can insure your bus before it’s converted or the final school bus conversion:
National General. Some owners have found success insuring through this company that’s familiar with high-risk or special situations.
XInsurance. XInsurance confirmed that it considers converted buses for personal use, but it’s official application is for commercial buses. Check with an agent about the details for your bus conversion. This insurer specializes in high-risk types of insurance and accepts those with previous claims on record.
Major insurance companies. Some people have insured their buses through State Farm, Progressive or other traditional insurance companies, but the acceptance varies. Talk with an agent at your preferred company to see if your bus qualifies.
Can I insure my bus without converting it?
Typically no, because most states require you to meet specific guidelines before you can title your bus as an RV. You’ll need the motorhome title to qualify for RV insurance.
However, some skoolie owners find loopholes that don’t require inspections or photos of their conversion, which helps them title and insure as an RV quickly. Yet state laws are meant to make sure of your bus’s safety before you drive and live in it. Consider getting a safety inspection even if you can get your RV title and insurance before renovating.
Compare bus conversion insurance policies
How to qualify for bus conversion insurance
If you’re living in your bus, consider making RV insurance your end goal since this policy covers vehicles used for both living and driving. Bus conversions for a business will need commercial vehicle insurance.
To qualify for RV insurance, you might need to take these steps:
1. Find a vehicle insurance policy
Since your bus isn’t livable during the renovation process, you may need to insure it as only a vehicle and switch to an RV policy later. Many people have found success buying commercial vehicle insurance for personal use.
2. Renovate to meet your state’s laws
To meet your state’s motorhome classification, you probably need at least sleeping quarters, a water source and cooking capabilities like a stove and refrigerator in your bus. Along with that, you might need a bathroom and air conditioning, and you’ll be required to remove the school bus signs and paint over the color.
3. Get your bus conversion inspected
Many states require you to get a safety inspection before approving the title. Reach out to your Department of Motor Vehicles to see if you need an inspection and to find your closest safety inspection station.
4. Title your bus as a motorhome
Once your bus meets the motorhome criteria, you can change your bus title to a motorhome title. You’ll need proof of your renovations and may need an inspection.
5. Look for an RV insurance policy
With the motorhome title in hand, you can apply for an RV insurance policy the same way as any other RV, either online or by phone.
6. Make changes required for your title or RV insurance
In specific cases, your insurance company may want proof that your new home is well-built and secure. Provide any proof needed — you might have this on hand from the motorhome titling process.
Try your local currency exchange
Currency exchange offices deal with vehicle titles for many areas, making the representatives familiar with the titling process. The representatives may contact the right authorities even if they can’t complete the process themselves.
Title documentation you’ll need for bus conversions
You’ll need some basic information to prove that you own and have converted your bus to an RV.
Bus title. In many states, you’ll need the original title, but a few states, like Vermont, allow a copy of the title for buses at or over 15 years old.
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The bus title will show the VIN. But you may need the number in specific cases like if you have an abandoned bus or bought the bus without a title.
Bill of sale. This gives further proof that you bought and own the bus. Receipts showing your conversion costs. These receipts prove that you’re no longer using the vehicle as a school bus.
Your converted bus in person or photos. Bring detailed photos of the interior and exterior. These should show main areas that meet your state’s motorhome criteria and that you’ve removed school bus signs.
How much does bus conversion insurance cost?
Expect to pay $1,000 to $2,000 per year to insure your converted bus, or $80 to $170 each month.
The exact price will vary based on the size of your bus and the type of insurance you’re getting. For example, a commercial vehicle policy for personal use may cost around $1,000 per year. An RV policy could cost $1,000 to $2,000 each year because of extra coverage for your custom bus and belongings.
By renovating your bus mindfully and meeting state motorhome laws, you could qualify for an RV policy or bus insurance from a company that allows do-it-yourself conversions.
Frequently asked questions about bus conversion insurance
Typically, you’ll need to pay for the sales tax when buying your bus, then tags and registration after that. Registration costs vary by state, but can cost $200 or more in some.
It’s not strictly legal to live in a bus without converting it. Most states require you to make adjustments for this retired commercial vehicle, especially removing signs and changing the color. If you plan to live in any bus, you’ll want to check your state’s requirements before buying, like insurance and registration.
If you don’t have the savings on hand to renovate your bus, consider your home improvement loan options. Bus conversions can cost tens of thousands in renovations, depending on the bus’s size and extent of your renovations.
Sarah George is a writer at Finder who unravels complicated topics about insurance, business and finance. She's been wordsmithing for nearly five years, after earning an English education degree. Her insurance know-how has been featured on CarInsurance.com. You can usually find Sarah sipping hot tea and talking through movie plots in her downtime.
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