Getting a new (or maybe more appropriate for this article, old car) vehicle is really exciting. You fawn over it and clean it endlessly, ordering parts in a frenzy to set it up just the way you want it. Then you remember the DMV. Depending on which state you live in, this can be quite a hassle, particularly if you are trying to drive anything old or cool in any way. We’ve all been doing it wrong by trying to get our state’s plates—silly us. It turns out, all we have to do to get our vintage cars or custom projects tagged is call up Vermont, and they’ll shoot us over a tag in no time.
Building the school bus camper isn’t the hard part; getting it tagged is
As seen on Jalopnik, Mercedes Streeter got a school bus to convert into a camper and quickly learned that the requirements to make it legal was a basket of headaches. States vary in how they register vehicles, which can be maddening. Streeter mentions living in Illinois and the state’s school bus/camper registration laws being quite difficult.
The appeal of converting a school is easy to see. Many traditional RVs are very expensive and still cheaply built. School buses are inexpensive and very tough machines. And, as Streeter mentioned, there is enough room to build a mobile motorcycle garage, and who doesn’t want that? As Streeter points out, the trouble is getting the bus tagged appropriately (if you live somewhere other than Vermont).
School buses aren’t classified as an RV
School buses have so many seats that they enter into a different classification that requires more than just the standard driver’s license. Even if you take the seats out, a full-sized school bus still weighs too much and requires a higher-grade registration and driving license.
So how do you deal with registration?
You can either get trained up and acquire the proper license or convert it to an RV. Converting it to an RV legally is a bit harder than you might think. To be able to register the bus as an RV, it must have at least four of the following features:
1) A cooking facility with an on-board fuel source
2) A gas or electric fridge;
3) A toilet with exterior evacuation;
4) A heating or air conditioning system with an on-board power or fuel source separate from the vehicle engine;
5) A potable water supply system that includes at least a sink, a faucet, and a water tank with an exterior service supply connection;
6) A 110-125 volt electric power supply.
In addition to all these requirements, the bus also has to be painted a different color than the classic School-bus yellow. Streeter says that for Illinois, the bus has to be registered within 20 days of purchase. So if you can’t get four of those things done and paint the bus in 20 days, you have to register it as a bus, meaning that you can’t drive it unless you have a CDL. As you can see, school bus registration is turning out to be a massive pain.
Never fear, Vermont is here
Luckily for Streeter and the rest of us who enjoy interesting and strange vehicles, Vermont is the people’s DMV. As of this writing, if you register your car “in” Vermont, the green-tag slingers will send you a tag in the mail, wherever you live. The vehicle will be registered in your name, complete with wherever your home address is. This is totally on the up and up, too. No sketchiness or illegal activities are happening. Apparently, this isn’t even much of a secret to many vintage car and motorcycle folks. This is simply something that Vermont does.
Even more excitingly, Vermont doesn’t care that much about titles. They will register many vehicles without a title. As a matter of fact, Vermont only titles cars that are 15-years-old or newer. This means anything older than 15 years won’t need a title. The registration will suffice for proof of ownership and any other legal necessities. The green tag will only cost you six percent of the purchase price. The only other things you need if you don’t have a title just include a bill of sale and VIN verification to prove ownership and the check and wait a month.
Thank you, Vermont. The motoring community is mighty grateful for your relaxed views on bureaucracy.