How Much Does It Cost to Live in a Skoolie? Here's a Full Breakdown

Mobile Dwellings
by Mobile Dwellings

How much does it cost to live in a skoolie? Well, our family of three traveled all around the United States for 6 months in our 40-foot school bus conversion, and wow, it was expensive.

In June of 2020, we left our jobs and hit the road full time. We had the adventure of a lifetime and gained a renewed zest for life, but we thought sharing the breakdown of our skoolie costs could help you better plan your journey, as well. Here are our tips and advice.

Meal made in a skoolie

1. Groceries

We spent an incredible amount of money on food. We eat a pescetarian diet and we eat very well. We spent around $1,500 on groceries monthly ($9,000 on food in six months total). The amount we spent on food did not change significantly from when we lived in a house.

Buying gifts for baby Nova

2. Shopping

We still shopped in stores for clothing, things for Nova, and gifts. We spent a whopping $5,057 on consumer goods in six months using our stimulus checks. We also spent $250 donating to causes or people in need, mostly in the skoolie community.

Dog staying with family

3. Pets 

Our dog stayed with family and we paid for food and vet expenses while we were away. She's an older dog with some issues so we spent $900 in six months on her care. 

4. Entertainment 

We spent $66 on Spotify for six months. We also have other business-related subscription expenses, such as Amazon and Skillshare.

Ultrasound scan of a baby

5. Medical care

Through the Affordable Care Act, we ended up picking very cheap insurance and quickly found out that insurance does not transfer out of state. Read the fine print to make sure the insurance will be useful. We had several medical expenses we paid for completely out of pocket. 

We also got pregnant with our second child during this trip and needed routine medical care. We spent $1,542 on medical expenses during the six months. This total doesn’t include several larger bills we are paying off. 

6. Laundry

If you don't have a washer and dryer in your skoolie, using a laundromat can be fun. 

Load all your laundry into three or four machines at one time. We were able to do two weeks' worth of laundry in about an hour and a half. We spent about $56 on laundry in six months.

Repairing a skoolie

7. Breakdowns

Skoolies need maintenance and breakdowns are expensive if you can’t fix them yourself. We spent about $2,069 on repairs. We did oil changes, fixed coolant hoses, and fixed an air dryer. We spent money on unusable replacement parts before realizing the problem was just a $20 governor on the air compressor.

Skoolie cost breakdown

8. Mail

When you're on the road, there’s a need to ship things back home or to friends or family. During our time on the road, we spent $42 on shipping. 

We also paid $35 a month for a virtual mailbox. Our mail was forwarded from our home address to a virtual mailbox. They take a picture of our mail, email it to us, and then we can tell them if we want them to open it, scan it, shred it, or ship it to us. We paid $210 for six months of virtual mail service. 

Living in a school bus

9. Insurance

We have an insurance policy through Allstate that covers damages to people, property, and our bus, including catastrophic events. We bought top-tier services from Good Sam towing and recovery. And so for one year of both of those products, We spent $1,642 on one year’s worth of insurance.

10. Phones

Our phone plan costs were $280 for six months. We have a great plan from Xfinity Mobile but mobile hotspots can be very expensive. A great plan and a mobile hotspot can run up to $900. 

Buying gas for the skoolie

11. Gas

Our 40-foot school bus has an all-mechanical Detroit diesel six V 92 engine which gets about 6 to 7 miles per gallon. We were lucky that gas prices were low when we traveled. We drove almost 12,000 miles during our six months and our fuel and oil costs added up to $4,546.

Parking the skoolie at a campground

12. Campgrounds

Staying in national and state campgrounds was money well spent because they provided access to explore the parks. We also stayed in free locations and stealth-camped in large cities near friends' houses. We also stayed in pullouts, rest areas, and random strange locations.

Staying at a winery and farm

We also used our Harvest House subscription to stay free in wineries and farms.

All in all, in six months of travel for parking and camping, and other miscellaneous expenses, we spent $4,123. 

Converting a school bus to a skoolie

13. Afterwards…

After our trip, we spent three months parked in our friend's backyard helping them do their own bus conversion. 

How much does it cost to live in a skoolie?

Then we spent the next three months living with my family in preparation for the birth of our daughter, River. I’m happy to say we’re all doing extremely well. 

How much does it cost to live in a skoolie?

Full-time travel in a skoolie with a family might not be cheaper than living in a home. All in all, in six months we spent a little over $30,000 for our family of three. 

Let us know if you’ve traveled full time in your skoolie or plan to. If you’ve traveled, fill us in on any surprise skoolie costs you encountered and how you solved them. 

Join the conversation
3 of 6 comments
  • Vivian Vivian on Aug 14, 2022

    I would love to travel but this isn't doable for my husband and me. I don't even make $30 thousand a year. Plus I wouldn't be making that if we traveled. Love the idea but we will stick to weekends traveling. We also own our home. Love the idea though.

    • Mobile Dwellings Mobile Dwellings on Aug 16, 2022

      It's hard to pull off. Maybe it will be cheaper without children and you can fit in a smaller, more fuel efficient rig! We own our home as well and we rented it while we were away for an additional $1,000 to $1,500 per month of net income.

  • Mary Mary on May 16, 2023

    Such a great story & adventure!