Insuring a skoolie is one of the trickiest parts of a bus conversion, simply because it is so different from state to state. In some states, major insurance companies like State Farm and Progressive will cover self-converted school buses with no hassle, while in other states it can be much harder to find a company that will insure a bus and a much more involved process even once you do find a company.
Since it’s generally illegal and a big financial risk to not insure your bus conversion, this is a necessary evil. In this article, I’ll share what my experience was like insuring my own skoolie in Washington, and we’ll hear from some bus owners from other states as well.
How to get insurance on a skoolie – your action plan:
- Get your conversion titled as an RV.
- Prepare photos of your running water, bed, bathroom and kitchen.
- Find an insurance agent who specializes in unusual vehicles.
- Get quotes from national insurers. i.e. Geico, State Farm, Progressive.
- Never give up. There is a solution for you!
Everyone’s experience is different when it comes to finding insurance for a skoolie, the big takeaway is to never give up and just keep making calls until you find a solution. Here’s the success stories to inspire you…
Insuring My Own Skoolie (Washington)
Insurance Company: National General
Coverage Type: Catastrophic coverage only
Cost Per Month: $61
Follow on IG: @stu.the.bus (pictured above)
My boyfriend Aaron and I did some research on our own trying to find insurance coverage, contacting major insurance companies like Geico, State Farm, Progressive, and so forth, but none of them would agree to cover a self-converted bus, despite it being registered as an RV in the state of Washington (an extremely simple and inexpensive process in our state that only required us to get a certified weight slip).
According to the representatives, if we had had a conversion company do the work, we could have gotten insurance through any of those companies, but since we did all the work ourselves that wasn’t an option for us.
Luckily, Aaron has a friend who works in the insurance industry, and he was able to refer us to an agent named Bob who specialized in insuring unusual vehicles like ours. Bob and Aaron spent a lot of time on the phone together over the course of a week, as Aaron shared the details and specs of our bus, and Bob searched for prospective insurance policies.
After an in-depth search on his part, Bob presented us with essentially our only option: a catastrophic-only policy through National General Insurance.
To obtain the policy, we sent in pictures of the bus, proving that it has a bed, kitchen facilities, a bathroom, and running water, thereby confirming that it is indeed an RV. They offered us a 6-month policy at $368, which works out to about $61 per month. We have been on the road for about 18 months at the time of this writing and have renewed our policy twice with no problems.
We have fortunately (knock on wood) not had to make any claims to date.
Bob recommended that we also take out a renter’s insurance policy, which covers all of our belongings in the bus against theft or damage. Our bus insurance policy only covers the vehicle itself, but nothing within it. We pay about $10 per month for our policy through Safeco Insurance.
My parents have generously allowed us to use their address in Washington as our home base for both the vehicle insurance and renter’s insurance policies.
In addition, we opted to invest in a Good Sam Club roadside assistance program in case we needed a tow or other expensive service. For about $30 per year, we can rest easy knowing that we have 4 free tows to the nearest service center, as well as free tire changes and battery jumps. Unfortunately, the one time we have called Good Sam Club for a tow, they were unable to help us.
“We had gotten stuck in a river bed in Montana and despite our best efforts, we could not extricate ourselves…”
We called for a tow and the Good Sam Club representative asked us what type of vehicle we needed towed (despite the fact that I had very clearly explained the exact details of the vehicle when we signed up and asked for assurance multiple times that we were eligible for coverage) and when we told him it was a short school bus, he tried to tell us that Good Sam Club doesn’t cover bus conversions and that we would need to talk to the sales team before they could help us.
Frustrated and pissed off, we hung up the phone when it became clear this guy couldn’t (or wouldn’t) help us. We decided that since the bus was stable and we were fine to spend the night where it was, we would just go to sleep and then reassess the next day. Luckily, in the morning a helpful local came by and towed us out, and a couple of days later I spent an hour giving a different Good Sam Club representative a piece of my mind.
He requested that we send in pictures of the conversion, which we did, and then he confirmed that we are in fact eligible for coverage. So, use Good Sam Club at your own risk.
Elle and TJ’s Skoolie Insurance (New York)
Insurance Company: State Farm
Coverage Type: Full coverage RV insurance
Cost Per Month: $55
Follow on IG: @no_fuss_bus
Conveniently, as I write this, I am sitting in the desert near Moab with a few other skoolie owners. I asked them to share their experiences with obtaining insurance, and Elle and TJ kindly agreed.
Bus Insurance/Roadside Assistance
Elle and TJ also have their bus registered as an RV (technically a “home on wheels”) but the insurance companies in New York are apparently kinder to self-converted bus owners, as they were able to get a much more comprehensive policy through State Farm.
They used an agent as well, and although the process wasn’t hard, it did take a while to get everything squared away, partially due to some errors made by State Farm when creating the policy. They had to send in a few pictures and the agent did the rest.
They have full coverage with a $500 deductible, and even auto glass is covered — a big deal in the skoolie world because of all the specialty windows and doors and the generally large amount of glass on a bus body. Roadside assistance is even included with their policy, giving them one free tow per year, so they don’t have a separate policy for that.
Unfortunately, in the three months that Elle and TJ have been on the road, they have already had to make two claims on their insurance.
One claim was for some broken windows, and the other was an incredibly harrowing experience that involved getting towed when one of their rear tires flew off the axle as they were driving, due to an inexperienced tech overtightening the lug nuts which caused the heads to shear off the bolts.
Despite some ensuing drama, they got safely back on the road and successfully have been reimbursed for both incidents.
Elle and TJ also have a renter’s insurance policy through State Farm, which costs about $11 per month and covers all their belongings.
Christina’s Skoolie Insurance (Texas)
Insurance Company: Progressive
Coverage Type: Full coverage on a commercial vehicle for private use
Cost Per Month: $100
Follow on IG: @christinahadly
Christina is also part of our temporary Moab bus community and she generously agreed to share her experience as well.
Christina’s bus is registered as an RV and insured as a commercial vehicle for private use with full coverage, although she plans to change her coverage at some point to a cheaper regular RV policy.
She investigated a few companies like USAA but they wouldn’t cover her skoolie, so she contacted an agent who was able to get her the Progressive policy within a matter of hours. Fortunately, she has not had to make any claims in the seven months she has been on the road.
Christina also has a renter’s insurance policy through USAA, which costs her about $15 per month. Like the rest of us, she wanted to protect all of her belongings as well as her bus.
While she said she does not currently have a roadside assistance plan, Christina said that makes her nervous so it may be something she invests in, in the future.
Other Skoolie Insurance Considerations
As you can see, rules and availability regarding insurance vary quite a bit from state to state. Some states also have intense inspection processes even just to get your skoolie registered. It’s a good idea to do research about your own state, and if the regulations are extremely strict, you can consider using another state as your home base.
If you have family or friends who live in other more skoolie-friendly states, you might consider nominally “renting” from them so that your home address is in that state.
Registering a Skoolie as an RV
We decided to register our skoolie as an RV so that we could get cheaper insurance, and as protection against DUIs. In some states, you can get a DUI for drinking alcohol in a vehicle even when it’s parked and turned off.
However, if your vehicle is registered as an RV, these rules don’t apply since it’s technically a domicile. We figured we would rather be safe than sorry with this since we love to enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine after a day of adventuring.
Getting Dropped by Insurance Companies
We also met a couple here in Moab who had State Farm coverage out of Florida and were then dropped after a couple of months, for allegedly no reason whatsoever. They had trouble getting coverage at all after that because most insurance companies want pictures of the inside and outside of the bus, and they had their Instagram handle on the back of the bus.
The insurance company then checked their Instagram page and saw that it was clear that this couple lived in their bus full time, and many companies have stipulations about the amount of time in a year that you spend driving or living in your RV. This couple currently doesn’t have insurance coverage at all.
So, be warned that insurance companies can and will check your Instagram page if they can to see if you are being truthful when you sign up for insurance.
Up Next In Skoolie Life:
Cat is originally from Seattle, WA but has traveled around the US and Canada full-time in a self-converted school bus with her boyfriend Aaron since April of 2018. She enjoys rock climbing, paddleboarding, hiking, and generally being outdoors!