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Ok, so you’ve looked at online auctions and thought, “I bet I could be happy with a used ambulance.” Well, before you buy a used ambulance to drive as an improvised RV or other personal vehicle, you might want to consider a few things.

You can purchase and drive an ambulance as a personal vehicle– but you might not want to

Like decommissioned HMMWVs (Humvees), emergency vehicles will typically head to auction after they’ve outlived their usefulness to fire and EMS agencies. However, before you resign yourself to drive an ambulance as your personal vehicle, you might want to consider some things. 

As with other emergency and military vehicles, you’ll have to manage your expectations of your decommissioned vehicle. Most importantly, if you’re buying an ambulance from a department with a high call volume, it’s likely it has driven in dynamic circumstances, including at speeds of 75 mph or more on the highway continuously. Like other official vehicles, operators use them as tools; these vehicles are meant to work hard. And you better believe emergency medical personnel work their vehicles hard.

A used ambulance's patient care area could be repurposed as a mobile home or food truck.
An ambulance’s patient care area | Tonya Davison via iStock

Still, it isn’t illegal to buy an ambulance and repurpose it for your personal use. You will, however, have to remove or modify the lights, sirens, and agency markings if any remain. Emergency lights and sirens belong on applicable, official vehicles like fire and police

Consequently, you could be charged by local authorities for impersonating emergency medical personnel if you drive your old Krankenwagen with lights and sirens. You might giggle, but some gimmicky businesses seek to capitalize on the theme of an ambulance. Such was the case of “The Slambulance,” an ambulance party bus conversion. Needless to say, police, fire, and EMS in Fort Worth, Texas wanted it off the road, per Extreme Tactical Dynamics

Moreover, depending on what you want to use your ambulance for, it could have a few useful features. For instance, modern rigs have built-in storage areas for LifePak monitors, first aid supplies, and other emergency medicine essentials. Those compartments could easily find repurposing with owners who want to turn them into mobile homes, offices, or food trucks.

Even though it is legal to buy an ambulance, I can’t recommend buying one in any other context than a novelty. If your creative intent is to convert it into a food truck or mobile business, it could be an interesting second chapter in that emergency vehicle’s life. However, you might find a decommissioned ambulance mobile home or van life substitute too laborious to be rewarding.