We knew this would be an issue. There are lots of horror stories online about the runaround people get from their state’s DMV or DOT trying to convert their new School Bus’s title into a private RV. It’s a necessary step for several reasons: registration for a bus—which is considered a commercial vehicle—is often much more expensive ($165 as opposed to over $1200 in IL), so is insurance, and in many states the type of driver’s license you need changes depending on your title. Usually, a regular license is enough for a motorhome, but private buses and commercial trucks often have different requirements.
This can be a challenge because many states require an inspection of a finished vehicle to change the title. But what do you do in the build phase? Do you spend an arm and a leg to title it as a bus and then change when you are finished with the conversion? Do you pay higher insurance rates until then? Do you keep it in a lot and not drive it until you title it?
Our situation requires that we drive the bus during the conversion. We need to be able to take it over to Home Depot to get lumber. We’re taking it to family for a couple of weeks for help. So, we definitely needed to get it titled and insured.
In Illinois (and every state is different), there is a list of requirements that you must have to be considered an RV:
Cooking appliance with onboard fuel source
Gas or electric fridge
Toilet with exterior evac
Heat/AC with power other than engine
Potable (drinkable) water supply
110v power supply
There are few specifics offered on these systems, but you need to have 4 of the 6. Once you have these systems in place, you need to get an inspection from a special inspector who comes to you (this was also a problem for us, as we keep the bus in Indiana). They sign off on a form that you take back to the Secretary of State, and they will then switch your title. Maybe. You also need to have all of the school bus stuff removed (flashing lights, stop signs) and have it painted a different color. The problem many people encounter in this process is that usually, no one understands what you are talking about. They’ve often never done this before. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes their ignorance leads them to just change the title without question.
So, we have just started our conversion—and we are now legally an RV. We were able to skip all the hoops of inspections, and we are ready to roll. How did we do it? Currency Exchanges. Currency Exchanges do titles and licenses in most states. They also don’t know the rules very well, or care very much. The first Currency Exchange we went to called the Secretary of State and had them explain the process to us. So we went to another one. 10 minutes out the door with temp tags. The new license plates arrive on Monday.