I have been dreaming for a while now of making a green home from a 20' ocean shipping container.
This would be a guest cabin with a small bathroom and kitchen area.
The plan would be to experiment with many of the ideas I've written about here before.
To make a house from a shipping container, I would need to get a container to my house and be able to regularly move it to the area a few blocks away where I can park it overnight without disturbing people.
At first I thought about buying a Class 8 semi truck and a traditional shipping container chassis. I live in San Francisco, CA.
I called a couple of insurance companies today to find out how much it would cost to insure a non commercial Class 8 semi truck and a container chassis. I got a quote from Progressive of about $3,300 per year! This is just too much, since I would probably only put 500 miles a year on the combo. I would also need to get a non-commercial Class A license. I found a truck driving school that would train me for only $595, and they said it would take only 4 hours!
This is a non commercial pet project of mine, so these expenses are just a lot of money. A semi truck might be $5,000, the container chassis might be $3,000 and the shipping container might be $2,500. Add in $3,300 for insurance, and this is getting pretty expensive before I even start work on the dwelling.
Then I thought of an idea I want to run by you:
I can buy a 40' front engine school bus for around $3,000.
Then I could cut off much of the passenger compartment and recycle it.
Then I could weld some supports to the frame so that I would have 4 corner supports matched to where a 20' shipping container would sit if it were placed on the bus frame.
I could use the same corner supports found on an actual container chassis trailer, so a container could be attached to the bus frame by the same solid twist lock attachment method as is used by semi truck drivers.
The result is I would have a bus with a box on the back that could be removed at will by a forklift or crane.
I would think this would qualify as a motorhome once I install the stove, fridge and toilet inside the container. Thus, I can skip the class A license and the very costly semi truck insurance. I got a quote from AAA today for my car and a random EBay school bus. The rate was less than insuring just my car! They explained this by saying that by adding the school bus I got a multi-vehicle discount. In effect, I can insure a 40' school bus at less than zero cost -- they will be paying me.
If the DMV won't count the shipping container as part of the vehicle since it's removable with the twist of 4 corner connectors, I could leave 5 feet of the original bus passenger compartment and put a minimal duplicate motorhome installation in there. Then the vehicle would still be a motorhome even without the shipping container on the back.
The cost savings of doing the above are dramatic, especially over the years, since I will pay less than zero for insurance and can use my Class C license.
I am wondering how to cut off the majority of the bus passenger compartment. Can I just use a sawzall to just start removing manageable chunks by myself until I'm done? As I understand it, school buses are just passenger compartments on truck frames, and the passenger compartment can be cut away without ruining the truck frame.
Does anyone have an idea how much the passenger compartment weighs? A shipping container is about 4,500 pounds (20' long). I found info on the Internet that suggests an empty 40' school bus weighs about 19,000 pounds and has a GVWR rating of about 30,000 pounds. I would guess the passenger compartment might weigh 3,000 pounds, so I could add a container plus extras weighing about 14,000 pounds without going over the GVWR.
I would hope the total length could be closer to 30 or 35 feet, so the container would not overhang the rear wheels as much as a passenger compartment does.
I would think a school bus based platform would be easier to drive than a semi - trailer combination, and that repairs would be cheaper since the engine in school buses seem to be smaller than found in a full fledged semi truck. Even if the engine blew up, I could buy another school bus cheaply to just get the engine from it.
One downside is a school bus based platform will look funny and attract more attention than a semi and container chassis, but I think I can deal with that.
One important point I want to make: This crazy idea is to enable me to experiment and learn about building a home from a shipping container, which I am extremely interested in. I still have and will continue to convert my RTS bus conversion.
I can't just put a shipping container in my backyard because there's no obvious place for one, and the crane charge is $4,500 each visit.
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