Our Unique Solution To The Problem Of How To Transport A Large Family

“You’re going to have five kids?!?”  This is what I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, in conversations that usually start with, “Is this your first?”  People seem pretty shocked at the size of our growing family and often start firing off questions about the practical issues, like whether we will have to move, will both of us parents be working, and if we’ve gone shopping for a van yet.  Well, we looked at vans, and decided that they were not the most practical solution to our dilemma of the best way to transport a large family.



Mr. Smith has a pickup truck and I have a small SUV.  Both of these vehicles have been paid off for several years now and are still in good shape thanks to Mr. Smith’s regular maintenance.  I think that a lot of friends, family, and neighbors have been confused about why we haven’t gone out to buy new vehicles yet – especially since we can’t even ride as a family (three kids, two adults) in either one of them.  Well, we do fit in my father-in-law’s vehicle and he lives three houses down the street.  If we do need to go anywhere as a family, it is usually no big deal for us to borrow his car.  This is how we’ve made it through the past two years (since having our third child) without purchasing a new vehicle, so we could continue to pay down debt.


We knew that this was not a permanent solution, and we would need to purchase another vehicle eventually.  Our plan was to have “one more child” and go find a reliable, used, traditional minivan.  But then one became two.  Instead of being able to have two in a middle row and two in a back row, we were looking at squeezing three in the back (needing new, slimmer car seats) and putting the twins together in the middle row.  What we envisioned was a large family crawling around in a confined space, with no room to bring along a friend or grandparent, and very limited storage for everything from groceries to strollers. Furthermore, as they grow (because we wanted to purchase something that will last a while), available space would just keep on shrinking.


Picking from the large supply of standard minivans out there seemed like a bad, impractical choice for our family.  We did some research into three row vans.  These vans are harder to find and cost quite a bit more (good old supply and demand).  We wanted a vehicle we could purchase outright, but one of these vans would require us to take out a car loan.  Even though we could spread out the kids a bit more with three rows, we were still facing similar problems with space and storage.


How were we going to find a reliable, safe vehicle for transporting our large family – now and years into the future?  We like to do things a little differently, live creatively, and think outside the box.  After lots of research and searching for just the right one, I give you The Smith family’s new vehicle . . . a used, short school bus!!!



Mr. Smith did a lot of research.  These vehicles are super safe for the kids and have seat belts that will work for their car seats.  Each child will sit on their own bench, on the inside, for further protection.  The bus has a 7.3 L Diesel engine and only 130,000 miles.  It is not great on gas mileage, but should last us a very long time.  The bus is from the South, so it is almost rust free.  You don’t need a CDL license to drive it – yes, I have already taken it for a short ride.  The insurance is comparable to a regular vehicle (as long as we don’t use it for commercial purposes).  We do need to paint it a different color than yellow, and remove the stop sign and all of the “School Bus” decals.


Our neighbors think we’re absolutely nuts with this thing sitting in the driveway . . . it’s hilarious!  Over the past two years, we’ve learned that we don’t go on that many family outings.  We still have my SUV and Mr. Smith’s truck to drive to work.  This bus is more for trips to the zoo, birthday parties, sporting events, or visiting relatives.  We will have plenty of room to bring along strollers, wagons, coolers, friends, and whatever else we could possibly need.  Another really awesome thing?  We used money from our tax return and purchased this bus for $4,500 off Craigslist.  It is ours.  There is no car payment and it should be the last vehicle that we need for a very long time.


We’re very excited about customizing this bus, to make it perfect for our family.  Our plans include painting it, removing a couple of seats, building in some storage areas, and letting the kids “decorate” their own areas.  You can trust that there will be more posts with before and after photos of the transformation.  Go ahead – ask your questions or tell me if you think we’re crazy – but this is our new family vehicle 🙂




  1. Shauna

    I love this! What a great vehicle for your family, with the fun part of being able to customize it. I know part of the reason I didn’t want to go from 2-3 kids is the vehicle issue. This last year I upgraded to a station wagon to give my family of 4 a little more room for longer trips, and in some ways I still regret it, most of the time my smaller hatchback would have still worked for quite a long time. And I can only imagine at least while the kids are younger their friends will think it’s cool to be able to ride with them on a bus.

    Parenting and Frugality high five!

    1. *High Five!* Thanks so much. The kids do think it’s pretty cool and are already coming up with ideas to personalize the bus. Granted, not all of them are going to happen – like Goofball’s idea to set up a Lego area, LOL.

    1. Haha Emily, that’s not the first reference we’ve heard to the Partridge Family (I guess it’s not that unique of an idea), but we’re definitely planning on having a lot of fun with the bus.

  2. Emily beat me to it with the comment about the Partridge Family – “C’mon get happy”!

    I swear I was thinking “bus” as I was reading this post, before I saw the photo of Big Yeller. I think this is an excellent choice.

    FYI, Radical Personal Finance has an interview with a family that lives in a bus (and they also have a tiny home). https://radicalpersonalfinance.com/episode-317/
    Mrs Groovy recently posted…The Eve of Destruction Approach to Retirement PlanningMy Profile

    1. Thanks Mrs. Groovy! I will have to listen to that interview. Mr. Smith found an online forum devoted to people doing all sorts of transformation to “skoolies.” It’s pretty amazing how people make old school buses into homes and RV’s. He even found a couple who built a pen for their goat in the back! We’ve got a bunch of ideas, but nothing too extreme at this point.

    1. LOL – I don’t think I’ve ever done an April Fools post – maybe next year! We definitely have a bus and you’ll be seeing much more about it as we complete “The Transformation.”

  3. Jax

    This is really awesome! What a out of the box solution to transportation issues. We are also going to purchase a school bus this year. My partner is a musician and wants to turn the school bus into a touring “RV”-so lots of renovating inside to make it a home away from home!

    1. Thanks and good for you! Definitely check out “skoolie” forums and all of the YouTube videos. You have so many options when it comes to renovating an old school bus. Hope you post some before and after pics on your blog Jax!

  4. Oh my gosh, what a neat idea! We often joked about needing a school bus for my family of five kids growing up. First we had a station wagon, back when you could sit in the backwards seat around age 5 without a booster seat. Then we got a full-size van and my parents had a third bench seat squeezed into the back, bringing the seat belt count to 10 so we could take friends along with us sometimes. I had the pleasure of learning to drive on that vehicle 🙂 Best wishes for your bus revamp!

    1. Thanks Kalie! It sounds like you probably could have used a school bus back then! Unfortunately, we haven’t made much progress yet, but hope to be unveiling a revamped bus in the near future.

    1. Thanks for reading and I’m happy to hear that you’re “hooked” 🙂 The next few years should be very interesting and I will share as much as possible of our journey with all of you.

      FYI – The easiest way to stay up to date is to sign up for email notifications of new posts via the box on the right.

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