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Skoolie vs Box Truck vs Van

Whether you’re looking for a tiny home alternative on wheels, or just a vehicle to convert for living your best van life, then you may be thinking outside the box.

For most people, that means comparing school bus conversions (skoolies), van conversions, and box truck conversions.

We’ve done the research into all of these options to help you make the decision that best fits your lifestyle and budget.

Pros and Cons of School Buses for Conversions

converted short bus interior
image: Reddit

With a skoolie, you end up with a decent amount of space to design your living space in the school bus.

Assuming that you go with a 40-foot bus, that gives you a 8×40-foot area for your living space conversion.

What may be considered both a pro and a con of a skoolie conversion is that you essentially have just one large space, because you can’t really separate the space.

If you are planning on driving this vehicle, then a skoolie is relatively safe since it sits higher up and is designed with the safety of people throughout the bus in mind.

A possible disadvantage of a skoolie is that some states do require a CDL license to drive it.

And, getting insurance on the skoolie can be challenging.

If you plan on trying to park in neighborhoods or business parking lots, then you probably don’t want a skoolie since there is no way to disguise a school bus.

Most campgrounds also won’t accept a skoolie.

Basically, there is zero stealth factor when you’re driving and living out of a converted school bus.

Pros and Cons of Box Trucks for Conversions

box truck conversions
image: Reddit

With a box truck (box van), you end up having a smaller amount of space available to design your living space, as compared to a school bus.

However, a box truck does have two distinct spaces instead of one big space.

You have the cab of the box truck as one space and the back of the box truck as a second space.

One thing that you need to keep in mind about doing a box truck conversion is that the cab and the back of the box truck usually aren’t connected, which means you have 6 to 7 feet of wasted space.

That being said, there is the possibility of adding an over-the-cab sleeping quarters to get back some of that lost space.

A big disadvantage of the box truck is that since the cab is separated and the back isn’t designed for keeping people safe in transit, everyone has to be in the cab when you’re driving the vehicle.

This also means that you have to pull over and stop if you need to access something in the living space in the back of the truck.

Another possible disadvantage is the insurance situation with a box truck – you’ll need commercial insurance for it.

If you plan on trying to park in neighborhoods or business parking lots, then you will have decent luck with a box truck conversion since they have good stealth factor – except that you have to exit the cab to get to the back living space.

Additionally, most campgrounds don’t allow converted box trucks.

Pros and Cons of Vans for Conversions

converted van interior
image: Reddit

Like a skoolie, a van only gives you one living space, which means that you cannot really have separate living spaces.

With a van conversion, you a lot of options:

  • passenger van
  • cargo van
  • sprinter van

Of course, when you compare a van to a skoolie, the big disadvantage of some van types is the lack of windows for natural light. But a regular converted cargo van or passenger van doesn’t have this windowless problem.

If you plan on trying to park in neighborhoods or business parking lots, then your luck will vary with a van conversion.

The stealth factor is good since you don’t need to exit the vehicle to access the living space, but it can be obvious when someone is overnighting in a converted van due to the light leakage around the windows.

However, most campgrounds accept van lifers with no problem.

Plus, vans get the best gas mileage out of all the options discussed on this page.

van life

Final Word

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when looking for a vehicle to convert into a living space.

Each has their advantages and disadvantages, so opt for the vehicle type that best suits your lifestyle.