If you are in the market for a used RV and have decided to look at a private seller’s camper, you may come across a “homemade” or conversion camper. A conversion is usually a rebuilt or redesigned bus.
There are many pros and cons when considering a conversion.
This photo is of an actual school bus conversion camper that was allowed in one of the campgrounds we recently stayed in.
From the photo, you can see why some RVers (especially the Campers these folks parked right on top of ) are not always happy to have conversions as camp neighbors and why many campgrounds will not allow conversions in their parks. And even if it is not mentioned in their park rules, a glance out the entrance office window toward your conversion may cause the “no vacancy” sign to go up as all campgrounds have the right to refuse service to anyone.
In this particular case, these folks didn’t even change the original bus colors (which is against the law in most states). If that isn’t enough, just seeing the standard home window air-condition sticking out the back should be a clue that the folks who “converted” this school bus had no idea of the laws or safety issues involved in recreational vehicles. This conversion could possibly be a hazard with electric or propane issues. Imagine a fire or explosion in the confines of a campground! That is why many campgrounds prefer vehicles that have been inspected at a factory and manufactured by known companies.
Yet there are conversion campers that are skillfully designed and have had professional repairs and installations made. These conversions are usually very expensive (usually the same price, if not more than the cost of a new RV) and it shows. They are the ones that make television specials and articles in DIY magazines. When they pull in a campground that allows conversions, other RVers often flock around it in awe hinting for tours!
If you are seriously considering a conversion, you should first be aware of the laws within your state. Contact the appropriate local government agencies and get the information you need about what is legal and what is not. This will save you a great deal of heartbreak later on if you find yourself with a traffic ticket-bound conversion.
When you find something that does comply with state laws, make sure you get the full history of the conversion. Find out if anything is under warranty and if the manuals for all items are included. Unlike a new RV (or even a used one from a dealer who offers limited-warranties on purchases), you will find yourself paying for any and all repairs that are needed. If you can’t make those repairs yourself, you will be forced to go to a RV dealership. Since your conversion is not standard, you may find yourself waiting for parts and paying heavily for repairs.
If the conversion has had professional work on it, get all the information you can on what they did and who to contact if you have a problem. This will save you a great deal of hassle is there is a major problem later on down the road.
Insurance companies may treat this a bit differently than a recreational vehicle, since it is a converted commercial vehicle. You should contact your insurance company and ask them about how conversion campers are handled and get an estimate on how much it would cost you for insurance.
If after searching for a conversion you find that you would rather build your own, than you have to do a great deal of homework! Talk to people who have lived and designed their own conversions and ask them to tell you the pros and cons they have discovered. Read all the books and articles you can on the subject before you even start to look for something to transform into a “camper”.
There are many pros and cons to a conversion and only after you do some research will you know if it is a good idea for you. This is a type of decision you can’t jump into. If you do, you may find yourself with a costly, never-ending project.