If you’ve been following our story you’ll already know that the search for our vehicle to drive around Australia in has not been a quick one (needing 3 parts to tell the whole story gives it away a bit!)
At least for a few weeks.
One of the main things that our trip to Brisbane taught us was that on the road, if we had any mechanical dramas, it was important to be able to get parts easily and cheaply. What we noticed with our daily online searches for mobile homes was that there were at least 2 or 3 new converted Toyota Coasters available each week – and they are commonly used as courtesy vehicles all around Australia. What we also soon noticed however was that they were all set up for couples or singles – with a double bed, cooking area, toilet and shower inside and seats for just 2 people – not practical at all for a family of four + dog!
The price was definitely way more suited to us though – with some Coasters available from $10k – a huge saving from our initial enquiries into buying a caravan plus car. We started looking at Coasters available in Cairns and realised that to convert one that was designed for 2 people into a family van would be expensive and complicated – apparently adding seats back in once taken out is a tricky business when it comes to getting it registered. We then asked around and found out that courtesy vehicles could only be used for 15 years before they had to be decommissioned – regardless of what condition they were in – and quite often this was the best way to purchase one, especially if you needed a more personalised style of conversion. You buy the bus ex commercial, take all the seats out and add what you need. Another bonus of doing it this way is that you can pick up a decent bus for around $7k – leaving a lot of money left over to spend converting it.
So we started to look down this avenue – and found 5 or 6 locally that seemed great. The idea was that we would take out most of the seats, pack our stuff in then convert the bus when we arrived in Sydney (with a few of hubby’s tradey mates on hand to assist!). We got serious and found one we really liked – but when we took it to a mechanic to have a quick look over for any obvious issues he warned us off, saying it would soon need some big mechanical work doing. Back to the drawing board again! We had drawn up a list of more ex-commercial buses to visit, when hubby was browsing through Gumtree again one night and showed me a new listing. Unbelievably it was a converted Toyota Coaster, with double bed, bunk beds, and 5 seats! Yes – even one for the dog! To add to the excitement it was located just an hour and a half away – no expensive flights and accommodation needed to go and check this one out!
From the moment we saw the bus we knew it was perfect. Not only were the boys already in their chosen beds the minute the door was open, it also had lots of shelving, was really clean, had a brilliant outside awning and even had split system aircon! The price was amazing too and we could tell it had been looked after in the past. Another bonus was that it can be driven on a car license so I would be able to drive if needed (shame we spent all that money getting hubby his MR license but it might come in handy one day!)
We agreed to buy the bus pending getting it checked by a mechanic – everything came back ship shape so we handed over our hard earned dollars and signed the papers for our new home!
One of the best things about the bus is that we had absolutely nothing cosmetic that needed doing before we set off. Despite this, hubby spent many a happy hour moving shelves around and rearranging things to make it perfect, but it cost us next to nothing. To install our baby seats though we had to get 2 anchor points fitted – these were the most expensive bolts I have ever seen and cost us $850! Can’t put a value on safety though!
The plan is still to do a few modifications when we get to Sydney but the more miles we travel in it the more perfect we realise it is.
One of our initial concerns was that we wouldn’t be able to unhook and go exploring – as you can with a car/caravan set up – but this has been absolutely no issue for us. We have found that once we arrive somewhere we are keen to look around on foot or bike (another Gumtree bargain found was our box trailer that carries all non daily essentials such as bikes and kites and nail polish!) – also when we do drive somewhere we have our own picnic area, change room, nap station all ready to go – and it’s impossible to forget some essential at home as it all travels with us!
Everything happens for a reason and we are so happy with our new home it makes the dramas of our search all seem worth it. Some things are just meant to be – and the appearance of a double rainbow as we pulled up outside our house on the day we brought the bus home topped the day off perfectly!
So that’s how we found our new home – we’ve made a few changes to the outside of the bus thanks to the Design Lab in Cairns who did a great job on our decals!