The Bus Renovation Journal

Help Save the Outside Found Bus

Update 6/26/15: We got insurance! Long story short, Good Sam stepped up and helped us figure everything out. Thanks to everyone who pitched in to help us figure this out! We’re excited to get on the road, more updates coming soon.

This gorgeous bus might never make it on the road because we can’t find insurance. After months of working on transforming the bus from a shell of a school bus into an RV, one insurance company after another has denied us coverage, each with varying reasons. We were looking forward to starting our road trip tomorrow, but that is not going to happen. Now, we’re just hoping to get on the road at all. We’re reaching out for your help!

We’ve contacted over 30 insurance companies so far, with no success. At this point we’re looking for an independent insurance agent who can help write us an individual policy for liability insurance only. If you think you can help us with this, or in any possible way and SAVE THE OUTSIDE FOUND BUS, please contact Alyssa and Will at outsidefoundbus@gmail.com.

Continue reading to check out the bus. Click here to learn more about our insurance problems.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

She’s a 2001 GMC Bluebird.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

Looking back from the driver’s area. The couch lifts up for storage underneath.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project
Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

Have to have room for the Hildebear!

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

But when we have guests or want to eat, this area transforms.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

Looking back to see our desk area, directly across from the kitchen.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project
Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

Tiny oven, fridge, and stove!

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

Drawers for clothes storage in front of the bed, step so Hilde can get up on her own!

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

Cozy cabin bed area, and a place for our tiny library.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

View from the bed!

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

Tiny bathroom with a composting toilet and custom shower!

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

“Garage” in the back for our mountain bikes, climbing, hiking, backpacking, and skiing gear!

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

The Backstory

Will and I have spent the last few years perfecting the “weekend warrior” thing. Since we run a small consulting business, we can do all of our work remotely, so we pack up our truck and hit the road every weekend to get as much hiking, mountain biking, and general adventure time as we possibly can.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

The old way. Lots of fun, not a lot of space!

Last summer we took a long road trip through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington – “weekend warrioring” for several weeks at once. On a lonely highway just outside of Missoula, Will came up with a great idea. We would buy an old school bus, convert it to a camper, and travel to our favorite spots around the West. It would have a full kitchen, bathroom, living area, and – most importantly – plenty of desk space so we could still work, from anywhere. It would be powered by solar energy and and have a composting toilet so we could be off the grid as much as possible. Best of all, our favorite pup Hilde could come along on all of our adventures without having to be cramped in the back seat. We worked hard, saved our pennies, and decided to take the plunge late last year.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

She fit so perfectly when she was only 6 months old!

We found the bus in on Craigslist in Grass Valley, California, and brought it to Will’s parent’s house in Auburn, just 20 miles away. Will’s Grandpa has been collecting tools and knowledge for longer than we’ve been alive, so his workshop would be our home base. Over the last few months we’ve worked 12+ hour days, simultaneously keeping our business afloat and turning this shell of a bus into the ultimate adventure mobile.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

The day we brought her home. We were so proud!

It was no cakewalk! We encountered challenges every step of the way, but instead of giving up or compromising on our vision, we learned more skills, made valuable connections with those who could help us, and – above all – never lost sight of the end goal.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

The inside, before we started working.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

We did so much grinding!!

Side by side, we ground down over 2000 rivets, layed and re-layed floors, and built furniture. We hired an RV contractor hook up our appliances, electrical, and plumbing, but we built everything else with our own two hands, and help from our family and friends. Perhaps the most notable is our 30º kitchen counter – we all wished we’d payed a little more attention in geometry when building that piece! After four months of hard work, we’ve ended up with the most amazing thing either of us has ever created.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

Before and after: is this really the same bus!?

Just recently we gave the bus our stamp of approval and celebrated the end of this project with an “Open Bus” party for our friends and family. Little did we know that in reality, we were far from getting on the road.

Insurance Challenges

Let’s back up a second. To register a vehicle in California, you must have proof of insurance. Back in November when we bought the bus, we talked to a company (who shall remain nameless, in case they want to fix this problem!) who told us that they would insure the bus, but not until it was converted. Great news!

We got back in touch with them a few weeks ago with photos of our finished bus. When the agent asked us “So, are you guys going to be living in it?” we didn’t realize it was a qualifying question, and said yes. Unfortunately, casually answering this simple question made us un-insurable: even though we were only applying for liability coverage, this company wouldn’t take us if we were going to be “full timers.”

The funny thing is that we won’t technically be “full time” in the bus, according to this company’s own guidelines of “9 or more months of use per year.” We are planning on traveling from now until the beginning of winter, storing the bus while we stay in Montana, Wyoming, or Colorado, for the ski season, and picking it up again next spring. After that we’ll be looking for a place to settle down; this is not an incredibly long term arrangement for us.

Thinking it was all one big misunderstanding, we called the insurance company back and explained this to them. They balked. We groveled – promising to change our plans completely to fit their criteria (and even provide proof!) They responded that they wouldn’t believe our change in plans because it was different from our original story, and refused to insure us no matter what we do.

Now, I know what you’re thinking here – why not just contact another company? Long story short, we’ve been working on this for several weeks and have gone down every available avenue that we know of. We’ve spoken with more than 30 companies so far, to no avail. Apparently there is not a lot of love for converted school buses in the RV insurance world.

At this point we just want to get this bus on the road. We’re only looking for liability insurance to meet the minimum requirements for the DMV. We don’t want to deceive anyone by pretending it’s not a bus, which is what a lot of advice online suggests. We’ve worked so hard on this thing, and we just want to finish it with the same above-board attention to detail that we’ve had all along.

We’ve heard that there are small insurance companies out there who can write their own policies, independent from the big guys. If you have any knowledge of this, or know someone who might be able to help us, please get in touch with us at outsidefoundbus@gmail.com. If you don’t know anyone who can help, we would really appreciate you sharing our story so it might reach someone who can.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

So here we are. We’ve cast off our lines, but have become mired on the rocks. Help us get back on track, and we’ll do our best to share our adventures with you. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and hopefully to help us realize our dreams.

Outside Found | Bus Conversion Project

Are you thinking about converting a bus?

If so, make sure to check out our Big Bus Materials List! It has everything we used, from appliances to light switches to flooring, to do our conversion. Check it out »

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  • Rebecca Busato

    So glad you got it worked out. Can you please fill us in on who finally insured you? We are facing the same problem with our own bus conversion. Any advice would be hugely appreciated!! Thank you!

    • Alyssa

      We ended up with National General (via Good Sam) after all… just needed the right agent to help push it through. The most important part was making sure they knew we wouldn’t be living on it full time.

  • Laura

    Hi guys! My husband and I have been interested in having a tiny house for a few years and somehow stumbled onto pictures of your bus last year. Your bus single handedly inspired us to buy a bus and we’re on our way to our tiny house-bus. πŸ™‚ Would you be willing to say which insurance company you guys use for your bus? Thank you for all the inspiration!

  • Timocian

    Hi, I know im a little late to the discussion but would you guys be willing to go more into detail about how you were able to secure insurance? Im starting my own skoolie conversion for my mom’s 60th birthday road trip across america and my current insurance company does not cover school bus conversions.
    Any help is always appreciated!

    • Will Hitchcock

      Hey Timo. You should check out Good Sam and National General Insurance (Good Sam insures through National General). They offer liability insurance for school bus conversions which is all that is normally required by states, but won’t do comprehensive. The big key with them is that you can’t be living and travelling on the bus full time. If you are doing a month or two here and there and maintain a permanent address elsewhere, you’ll be fine. I think they classify full time as being on the vehicle 9 months or more out of the year.

      • Timo Johann

        Hi Will,
        Cool deal and thanks for the quick response! As of right now I maybe driving her home tonight so I’ll be calling them today.
        Thanks again and love the blog and bus, maybe we’ll run into each other next year on the road.
        Happy Trails,
        -Timo

        • Will Hitchcock

          One other important thing to note is that they won’t insure it until the conversion process is completely done. They want to see that it has been permanently converted from a bus to an RV which means bed, toilet, cooking area, etc. We had to park the bus and go without insurance for a few months during the project before we were ready to get insured and road legal.

          • Timo Johann

            Aha, thanks for the heads up. I’m probably looking at road trips to start and then moving in for 8 or nine months a year so that shouldn’t be a big problem.

            How did you handle transporting your bus before you had it insured? I’d like to avoid paying for a tow for a couple hundred miles. Most of what I’ve read people are saying that they called their insurance company and were offered between 24-72 hour coverage under their current policy to get the bus home and had a bill-of-sale, signed title and, a “Just Purchased” sign in place of a license plate in case they were stopped on the way.

            I live in NC and we don’t have a one-way trip permit system like VA, where I am purchasing, Is this something you guys had to deal with?

          • Will Hitchcock

            I’ve heard about the 24-72 insurance thing as well. That might be your best option here, but I don’t have any experience with it.

            We found a random loophole where Progressive allowed us to apply online for instant coverage on the conversion before it was completed. They then called us the next week and told us that they didn’t cover bus conversions and revoked our coverage, but it was long enough to get the paperwork done and get the bus back to the shop to work on. You can try to go through their site and see if that will work, but I suspect they’ve removed the option for school bus conversions. It sounds like they used to insure them and then stopped but never removed the option from the site.

          • Timo Johann

            That’s who i currently have and you are correct, they just have an astrix and in bright red “Converted school buses not accepted.”
            I’m thinking the 24 hour coverage will be my best option as well.
            thanks again for all your help!