You want buy or build a tiny house, and after going through the extensive Tiny House Types list, you have eliminated most of the options. Now you are down to 2: THOW or Skoolie, and you are not sure which one to pick.
I will list all the details, pros and cons below. But, before going into the details let me give you the short answer:
If being mobile with your tiny house is important for you, and planning to move to a different location very often; skoolie is the right choice for you. On the other hand; if you prefer to stay longer periods at the same location; THOW should be your choice.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot move your THOW, or you have to keep moving with your skoolie. Both tiny house types are mobile tiny houses. One of them is just a little easier to move.
Ok, after this entry, let me go through all the aspects in details. Starting with definitions:
As you -most probably- know; tiny houses built on top of trailers are called Tiny House On Wheels (or THOW). And Skoolies are old school busses, which are modified to be used as tiny houses.
They have many similarities:
- They are both tiny houses with wheels. One of them is on a trailer frame (THOW) and the other is school bus frame.
- They both have (more – less) similar living areas
- They both cost similar amount at the beginning (if you build them yourself)
Ok, we now know the similarities. But what about the differences? What are the pros and cons for options? Here are they:
Tiny House On Wheels
- In THOWs, interior height can be designed however you want. If you are a tall person, a THOW may be a better and easier for you.
- THOWs can have lofts, which will increase the usage space. The tiny house limitation of 400 sq ft does not include lofts. So; if you need more space, with a similar size rectangular structure, THOW will be a better option for you.
- Since THOWs are built by wood, construction or making changes on THOWs are easier.
- You can go places by using your tow vehicle only (shopping, running errands etc.). Which is not that easy with skoolie. If you leave your Tiny House unattended, don’t forget to secure it properly (remove one of the tires, lock the tires, etc.)
- Typically THOWs are better insulated.
- Usually THOWs hold their value, if not increase.
- Before each move you will need some time to get ready to travel. Moving a THOW is not as easy as moving a skoolie.
- THOWs don’t have their own engines, you need a tow-vehicle to move your tiny house.
- In general, THOWs are not great for big families. Usually they are a good fit for a single person, a couple or a couple and a kid.
- Cheap to buy an old school bus. And if you are doing the conversion yourself, building the skoolie is also cheap (assuming no serious issues with the engine and transmission).
- Easier to move to another location.
- Your tiny house is also your vehicle (though; some may list this item under cons section).
- Especially 40 ft versions are great for bigger families. Master bedroom + kids’ bedrooms can fit in a skoolie easily.
- Skoolies have lots of storage space. Great for creating full off-grid skoolie (easy to fit water tanks underneath the school bus).
- They designed to carry children; so they are built strong.
- The engine of the school bus could double as a generator.
- Lots of hard work to convert the school bus to skoolie. The shell of the school bus is made from metal. This makes the skoolie strong; but on the other hand making modifications the the shell becomes really hard.
- Harder to find parking for skoolies (especially if not fully off-grid)
- Skoolies’ usually have limited height (6 – 6.5 foot). Possible to increase; but needs serious money and i wouldn’t suggest to play with the metal structure. This limited height may cause some problems (ie shower) if you are a tall person.
- Your vehicle is your house. If your vehicle needs repair and needs to stay in the mechanic shop, you won’t have your house for a while.
- If engine has a problem, you will need to find a diesel engine mechanic (different then regular mechanic, and harder to find)
- For the long run, skoolies are more expensive (because of repair needs; engine, transmission, axels, etc).
- Many national parks don’t allow vehicles longer than 27 ft. So, this may be a problem if your skoolie is longer than 27 ft.
- Skoolies have weird and usually curved shapes inside. Almost everything need to be custom made, because of this reason.
- If you are not planning to travel much, better to stay away from skoolies. Not running the bus for a long time is not good for engines.
THOW vs Skoolie Comparison Videos From Real People
The first video covers pretty much all the important points:
The next one is not exactly a comparison between skoolie and tiny house; but it has some good points that I’ve already covered above (caution: you may want to skip the first half of the video; he is talking about real life experiences like diarrhea etc.)
I have created a comparison table for all aspects to see the big picture easily:
|Initial cost (DIY)||Similar||Similar|
|Long run cost||More expensive|
|Design||Some limitations||More flexible|
|Big families||Better fit||Not great|
|Storage space||A lot|
|Parking||Easier to find a spot|
As you see; both options have advantages and disadvantages. You will need to pick the right one for your personal needs.
Whatever the decision will be, please check your state and local rules and regulations at the beginning. Wouldn’t be nice converting 40 ft school bus to skoolie, and then learning that you cannot register it properly in your state.
Hopefully I was able to help you a little with your research and Skoolie vs THOW comparison. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment below; and I’ll get back to you.