Note: This post is still up-to-date as of August 1, 2017. Nevada caravaners, see my new post on Nevada seat belt laws!
This post contains information specific to Pennsylvania. If you’re licensed in another state, call your DMV and notary to ask about your options for titling your skoolie so you can drive it.
I have a non-commercial Pennsylvania Driver’s license. If you have any class of commercial license, you can drive any type of school bus, so title it however is cheapest and easiest. However, if you have a standard license like me, it gets trickier. There are a few options for titling your bus so that you can legally drive it. The best way is to title the vehicle as an RV, which has some benefits and drawbacks.
Your license allows you to drive a shorter school bus, up to 14 passengers. If you buy one of these buses, you can get it titled as a van or RV. If you title it as a van, all passengers will need to abide by all state seatbelt laws at all times, which might be tricky, as installing federal-regulation seatbelts is tricky. To get around this problem, you could title it as an RV. Some states don’t require passengers to abide by seatbelt laws when riding in an RV. For a list of these states, scroll all the way down. However, PA has strict requirements for titling a vehicle as an RV. It must have separate bathroom, kitchen, and sleeping area. It must have electric and plumbing. What’s more, you have to pay $200 for the title, and pay a body shop to inspect it and submit the paperwork for you to the state.
Now, you may be able to title it as an RV without meeting all those requirements. Some converters have been successful just going to the notary and saying, “I need an RV plate,” and they say, “OK.” However, I wouldn’t recommend this.
You cannot drive a longer bus if it is titled as a bus, because a regular license does not allow for more than 14 passengers. You have a few options. First, you can title it as an RV, as discussed above. This is a solid option, especially if you planned to meet the PA requirements anyway. If you don’t want to follow this route, you can title it as a truck once you pull out all the seats. This means you intend to use it primarily for cargo, rather than passengers. In this scenario, all passengers will need to wear seatbelts (safer, anyhow). However, this will only work if the vehicle weighs under 26,000 lbs. If it is more than that, there is no way to title the vehicle to drive it with a regular license. So, if you want/need a longer vehicle, but don’t have a commercial license, you’ll have to make modifications to it to have it titled as an RV or truck.
In sum, it’s really important that your conversion is legal for you to drive. You want to know that if you are pulled over you won’t risk losing your license for driving a vehicle you aren’t licensed to drive. You also want to be sure that you’re insured for a legal vehicle so that you’re covered if you damage the vehicle in an accident.
States that require only the driver to wear a seatbelt. (Maybe use them anyway!)
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
States that require all passengers to wear seatbelts (safest way to travel anyway!)
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina