- Charlie MacVicar and Luke Walker moved into a double-decker bus to save money on rent.
- The 550-square-foot bus has a claw-foot tub, full kitchen, wood-fired stove, and walk-in closet.
- They have lived there full-time since 2018, and say it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.
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When Charlie MacVicar, 26, and her boyfriend Luke Walker, 27, decided to move in together, they knew they didn’t want to be tied to a mortgage or pay excessive amounts of rent.
MacVicar’s father owns land in Essex, UK, that the couple could live on, so they toyed around with everything from converting a shipping container to renovating an RV, before settling on a double-decker bus to have more space.
They viewed a ton of double-deckers – most requiring a lot of work, and others not tall enough for 6-foot-tall Walker – until they found the perfect one: an authentic red Go-Ahead London Volvo Plaxton bus that they purchased in 2017. It was, in fact, still transporting passengers only a few months before they bought it.
They spent $3,435 (£2,500) on the bus, another $20,600 (£15,000) on the renovation, and about a year converting it. They’ve lived in the bus full-time since 2018, commuting to work until the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020.
While MacVicar told Insider they pay her father a small amount of rent to park on his land, their expenses are minimal.
The bus is parked right next to a pond, and the couple even has two goats, Monty and Darwin.
"When you live in a bus you live a weird life, so you might as well have two goats," MacVicar said.
Neither of them had any background in building or design, and they initially struggled with the renovation
MacVicar is a logistics coordinator and Walker works for an insurance company.
"It was definitely a shock to the system," MacVicar said of renovating the bus - which still had all the seats inside - with no previous construction experience.
"We got really overwhelmed," she said. "Like, it was my first time picking up a screwdriver."
Luckily, she said the two had help from friends and family and hired professionals for some of the trickier work, such as plumbing and electrics.
MacVicar said that coming up with the plans for their double-decker was a challenge, as few of these buses have been converted into homes. She said they had very little to go off of in terms of inspiration or tried-and-true floor plans for the bus, which is 14.6 feet high, 32.8 feet long, and 8.3 feet wide.
The bus is fully equipped like a regular house
Downstairs, there's a full kitchen with an oven, stove, microwave, farmhouse sink, and fridge, a washing machine, and a dining table that seats three, as well as a living room with a wood-fired stove and two benches, plus a small desk space.
There's also a small bathroom with a toilet and sink - the only private space in the otherwise open-plan bus.
While they don't have a shower, there's a free-standing Victorian claw-foot bathtub upstairs in the bedroom, which has a double bed with two nightstands and a TV. MacVicar said the tub had to be lifted in through an emergency window by crane.
There's also a sizeable walk-in closet with a dressing area upstairs.
"Anything that we would normally have in a house, I don't feel like we're lacking in the bus," she said. "We've made it work."
The bus is connected to electricity, WiFi, and water, and gas gets delivered.
MacVicar said that everything on the top floor had to be custom made since the floor there curves slightly, and that they had to raise the bottom floor to fit gas and water pipes underneath.
They also had to work around the driver's seat and wheel arches to keep the bus driveable. While they've been parked in place since 2018, they felt that having the bus remain mobile couldn't hurt.
MacVicar said that keeping things open-plan makes the space feel much bigger.
"I think the more stuff you build, it's going to make the bus feel smaller," she said.
MacVicar's favorite feature is the tub, and she describes taking a bath while the sun is shining, looking out at her goats and the lily pad-covered pond.
"You just forget that you're on a double-decker bus, and then you just have to sort of think, 'Wait a minute, I'm having a bath on a double-decker bus,'" she said. "It's a weird thought."
The bus is an ongoing project, according to MacVicar. For example, the wood-fired stove was a recent addition, and they plan to build an outdoor shower this summer.
There's plenty of room
"I remember looking at some flats with my boyfriend, and to be honest, it feels like we've got a lot more space than some people that we know," MacVicar said. They also have almost half an acre of outdoor space.
Downsizing wasn't much of an issue for the couple, as both had been living at home with their parents, saying that they essentially only each had a bedroom to themselves, and shared everything else with their family.
"It was upsizing, really," she said. "For me, it felt like we've got more space moving into the bus than when we lived at home."
The couple said moving into the bus is 'the best thing we've ever done'
While they're about 10 minutes from shops and a residential neighborhood, MacVicar said that their plot of land is incredibly private - there aren't any neighbors or even street lamps. Instead, they're surrounded by greenery overlooking a pond with their very own rowboat.
"At night it's like a bonus, it's really dark, and no one's around, and it's really quiet and peaceful," she said.
The bus is mostly windows, and MacVicar said they decided not to put in any curtains because they love the ample natural light, and there aren't any neighbors to peek in.
MacVicar said she loves life on the bus, though she'll admit that temperature control is a downside. The bus isn't insulated, so she said that - despite having installed heaters, a wood-fired stove, and an A/C unit - it gets really cold in the winter and sweltering in the summer, and that she has to pay attention to condensation to avoid mold.
"It honestly has been the best thing we've ever done," she said. "Some days I sit here and I think, 'Oh, why am I living in this bus, this is so annoying.' But the majority of the time, I think we're just so grateful for being able to do something quite creative when we're not creative people."
To MacVicar, the bus allows them to enjoy the simple things in life, and to slow down.
"I love being able to look outside and see my goats and have a more country, outdoor living sort of space," she said. "It has been the best thing for us."