Why We Chose a City Bus Instead of a School Bus

Want to take a guess at my first concern once we decided to pursue bus life? Not the typical, what about your job? What will people think? How is that possible with kids? Nope, that stuff I was not too worried about. My first concern was: We are tall and need head room!! This is what first brought us to the not as popular decision to go with a city bus.

Now, I know a ton of people these days decide to do a roof raise on a school bus so they can have more head room. But we knew this would not work for us. We were realistic in the sense that we knew a bus conversion was going to be epically challenging for us, so adding in a super complicated task of raising the roof on a school bus was never an option for us.

Next, this lead us to researching school buses with the tallest roof possible. This took us to  the Thomas HDX  or Saf-T-Liner. Jaime found one nearby so we went to see it, and I was not ok with the amount of head room. Especially after adding in the space for future flooring and ceiling. It might have worked if we were going to be weekenders, but definitely not for full time.

So, at this point. It was either figure out how the heck to survive a roof raise, or go with a city bus. So then we thought about other items that were important to us and if a city bus would give us those or not. The next biggest thing on my want list was big windows. If we are planning on visiting all these beautiful places, you better believe I need to be able to lay in my bed and see the beauty. City buses definitely deliever with the windows! I mean, have you seen our bus? 🙂 Next up? Width. The one thing that I love about manufactured rigs are slides. The extra space they provide is drool worthy and it was hard to give up slides by going with a conversion. Well, city buses are wider than school buses. Our bus is a whopping 8.5 ft wide. Say WHAT?! Yeah, so that’s nice.

So now for some negatives. We see 2 significant downfalls of the city bus, and those are:

less clearance


overall size

A city bus does not sit as high up as a school bus. When traveling, especially out west, clearance on your vehicle can be a big deal. School buses sit so high up that they rarely, if ever, have to worry about bottoming out, but it is a concern for us.

Also, we are big, y’all. When we went on our first trip, I overheard someone walking by say “Do you see how big that thing is? Wow” ha! We are basically the same size of a 40ft Class A, but I think Gillie appears bigger. We are wider than a Class A, and a little lower to the ground, and both of these factors have an impact on our traveling.

The reason we decided we were ok with these limitations? Jaime’s work and our awesome Suzuki Samurai. Going with 40 ft we cannot fit into the vast majority of National Parks. Major bummer! But you know what you do not get in National Parks? Quality cell/internet service. So unless Jaime takes PTO, we cannot stay in a National Park anyways. We are planning on tent camping a couple times a year in National Parks and he can enjoy some PTO. The vast majority of the time we will simply find an RV park just outside the National Park and drive in in our Samurai.

So to sum it up, the reason we decided to accept lower clearance and being a big rig, is we knew Jaime would still have a full time job, and the need for quality internet and cell service restricts us out of where we would need more clearance and to be smaller anyways! Plus, we have a super fun tow vehicle that will provide some fun off roading 🙂


Full disclosure: Some days we hate how big we are! (And by we, I mean mostly me (Jessica) But being full time, and newbies, when we bought our bus, we thought we “had to have” 40 ft. Now living in this not so tiny space we know we could have gone smaller, but we are very happy with where we are now!


Are you looking to buy a bus or camper? What are your must haves? If you have any questions or want some help, let us know! Seriously, Jaime misses looking at buses for sale. We helped some friends buy a bus last year and he loved being back in that research 🙂


2 thoughts on “Why We Chose a City Bus Instead of a School Bus”

  • Head room was a big plus for us choosing our GILLIG Transit. I honestly didn’t think too much about the lack of clearance but we learned on our 2k road trip back home after buying our bus that that would be a slight issue but, we’ll roll with it. Matt did most of our bus research and I think the rear engine was a motivator for him & the windows!

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