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This is a question that we get a lot. Sometimes when we’re having a tough time finding a parking space, or running into maintenance issue on the bus, we ask ourselves this same thing! Here are a few reasons why we chose the bus over an RV or van:
1. Our own layout, with plenty of space
The biggest reason that we chose the bus over a van or RV is that we wanted to choose our own layout and have plenty of space to be comfortable. We work full time while we’re on the road, so having office space inside the bus so that we can work comfortably was a must for us. A van would be too small, and in an RV we would likely be stuck working from the dinette. (Side note from Alyssa: I hate the RV dinette! It’s so awkward to visit with people in that setting, unless you’re at an actual diner. A real couch is a much more pleasant experience!!)
A huge part of our life on the road is spending time in the outdoors. Running doesn’t take a whole lot of gear (except shoes – so many shoes) but mountain biking comes with bikes, tools, and lots of miscellaneous itemx. In an RV or a van, that stuff would be very difficult to store inside. Having space in the back of the bus for all of our toys means that they’re not exposed to the elements or would-be thieves looking for a sweet new mountain bike.
We also share our space with one huge dog. Hilde is big boned and she loves to claim her space. It’s not uncommon for us to get back to the bus and find her stretched across the entire couch, like she owns the place. Having a little extra space in the bus means that Hilde can move around freely and doesn’t have to use our bed as her own dog bed. It’s also nice for all three of us in the event that we need to leave Hilde alone – the bus is big enough that we don’t need to worry about the “hot car” effect and she has plenty of room to avoid feeling cramped.
2. Home away from home
We fully embrace the tiny house philosophy of “making the outdoors our living room” by spending as much time outdoors as we possibly can. However, like it or not, sometimes the rain comes, sometimes we need a rest day, and sometimes we get injured. If you live in a real house, those are the days that you spend home on the couch. We wanted to make sure that we could get that same feeling while we are on the road, and with our layout we absolutely can. Between the couch space, comfortable dining room table, and bed area, we have plenty of options to lounge around in a homey setting. The open concept gives plenty of light and makes it feel much more spacious than it is.
In a van we’d be confined to the bed or the front seat. Most RVs would probably be very comfortable, but many have tons of walls, gaudy interiors, and few windows – just not our style!
3. We like to have nice things [but are on a budget]
Our budget for the bus project was $30,000. (That’s a big number! Or so we thought, too… read on.) That got us everything you see in the bus tour including: the bus, some new bus parts, building materials, a solar power system, a composting toilet, all of our kitchen appliances, a fan forced air heater, running hot water, a shower, a mattress, couch cushions, building materials and some insane building experience, and lots more. Best of all, we own the bus outright!
At the time of this writing, Dodge Ram ProMasters are super popular adventure vans. For the high roof option (if you want to be able to stand inside) these start at $32,495. That’s almost $2,500 over our entire budget – just to get started with the vehicle! To be fair, one could probably shave $10k off that price by going with a used van and doing the buildout with the remaining cash, but you certainly wouldn’t be able to afford all of the amenities we’ve added.
If we were to have gone the RV route, we definitely would have had to finance or go used. The smallest Winnebago Class A motorhome (what the bus would be considered) starts at $133,420 – and you can bet that doesn’t come with a solar setup or 10 days worth of water storage. The cheapest Class A’s on Craigslist that are 2001 or newer (same year as the bus) start at around $50,000 and only go up from there… not affordable.
4. Being off the grid
For many, traveling in a RV means hopping from RV park to RV park where you are constantly connected to power, water, sewage, and cable TV. For us, paying $40 – $70 / night for these amenities is not affordable, so a “must” for the bus was being able to spend several days in a row off the grid, as close to self-sustainable as possible. Our solar system eliminates the need to ever plug into power, and our composting toilet requires no plumbing and very little maintenance. We can carry 65 gallons of fresh water at a time which usually shakes out to be 7-10 days worth of water depending on what we’re cooking and how much we use the shower. We try to avoid using the toilet as much as possible, but when nature calls, we don’t sweat it too much if there are no bathrooms conveniently close.
With a van, it would be easy to meet our power needs with a solar setup, but carrying a week’s worth of water and having the convenience of an indoor toilet would definitely be pushing it. All of this would be possible with an RV, but solar systems and composting toilets aren’t included in your typical RV package and would come at an extra cost.
5. The Coolness factor
One of the best things about the bus is that it’s just cool! It’s fun to drive down the street and turn heads as people wonder what the heck is going on with the bus. People get genuinely excited when they figure out what it is and see what we’ve done inside. There are a few other busses like ours out there, but compared to vans and RVs, not a lot of people have taken the time to outfit a bus into a dream adventure-mobile. We love showing the bus off – it’s the perfect adventure mobile for us! If you see us cruising around, come say hi!
Do you have a #buslife question we should answer next week? Add it to the comments!