Toyota Coaster 26

Search for a Family Camper: Why not buy a bus?

There is a trend in the United States called “skoolies.” A skoolie is a retired school bus that is modified into a recreational vehicle or tiny home. Some are amazing to look at, and some are works in progress. Here is one of the better examples.

Skoolie converted-school-bus
Image courtesy of

The idea of a skoolie is fun, but I do not want to live in a bus full-time or have one parked outside my house for months. But I do like the idea of owning a bus.

This Toyota Coaster 26 looks like it could be the right size to not only fit the entire family, but have enough room to spare for all our luggage, entertainment devices, and much more. The Coaster has more than enough seating. There are 22 seats and seven “jump-seats” that can fold down to take the place of the aisle. We would remove the jump seats. They do not have safety belts.

Toyota Coaster 26 jump seats

This Coaster is listed for sale in Africa. We could tear out the last three rows of seats and still have enough room for everyone to sit by themselves. Creating a platform to house a bed with storage underneath for luggage and more is easy enough. Installing a Happijac bed lift for a second bed would create enough sleeping space for the whole family.

Toyota Coaster 26

It’s a Toyota with a diesel engine and a snorkel. The rear windows open horizontally, allowing for airflow, and there are rear heat and A/C controls by the driver. It would be the perfect family vacation vehicle. It can’t be that hard to install some solar panels on the roof too.

Slow and Steady

Toyota Coaster 26 Diesel Engine

The engine is a Toyota 3.7L inline four-cylinder. It only makes around 98 horsepower and 177 Lb. Ft. of torque. The engine is located between the drivers and front passenger seats. There is a jumpseat that folds out over the engine as well. The Coaster will not be winning any races. Unless that race is to carry as many people as possible a long way in relative comfort. There is a 25-gallon fuel tank on board.

Toyota Coaster 26 rear cargo

With the engine located at the front, there is plenty of room below the rear seats for cargo spaces. The plan to remove the rear seats is what I would do. This bus is some JDM curtains away from being the perfect family road-trip vehicle. Too bad, it is probably too new even to get it imported into the US. *Starts browsing old school buses instead*


Coaster images via

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17 responses to “Search for a Family Camper: Why not buy a bus?”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    “Some are amazing to look at, and some are works in progress.”

    Some are very much both. This one is currently $625:

    1. neight428 Avatar

      Looks like the perfect type of project for my half-assed mechanic skills combined with my eighth-assed carpentry skills.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        On the plus side, the interior requires only the addition of a driver’s seat and the removal of nothing for Lemons Rally perfection.

    2. I_Borgward Avatar

      It’s the stone soup of buses! Just rebuild or replace every last damned piece of it and you’ve got a bus!

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        It appears to already have George Washington’s axe.

      2. outback_ute Avatar

        Jack up the patina and wheel a new bus underneath?

  2. Sjalabais Avatar

    This one seems to be in great shape. But getting a bus requires so much space…and it’s quite expensive to use. Sure a fun project, but in my head this one competes with a lot of other stupid ideas and I don’t see it winning.

  3. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    Perhaps a party bus or shortbus like this The most interesting conversion candidate I’ve seen lately was Ford Econoline based bookmobile.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Check the gearing of the bus: many aren’t great for freeway use because they’re designed for around-town use. On the other hand, if you want to go off-road, low gearing might be good:

  4. smokyburnout Avatar

    I feel like it would be much harder to turn a regular school bus into a MEGA COASTER, though

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Looks like that is an ultra-rare version (50 made) with independent rear end and portal hubs (to match the Mega Cruiser-sourced portal front), however there is a ‘normal’ factory 4×4 version that has the same front end and presumably a lifted live rear axle. Plus there are third-party conversions of the Coaster and new Hiace done here in Australia, although the cost is fairly horrific! –×4-conversion-kit-launched-for-toyota-hiace-commuter-van-121583/

  5. I_Borgward Avatar

    Buses! One of my very favorite bad ideas to daydream about! Years ago, I passed up a Flxible very much like the one in the picture, powered by a Cadillac 500 V8 on a Eldorado transaxle. $500! Art deco with Cad power! What could possibly go wrong? The only thing that saved me from my idiocy was a lack of space behind my house.

    Lately, I daydream about this one (still don’t enough storage space, so I am saved from myself once again)!:

  6. I_Borgward Avatar

    Buses! My very favorite bad idea! Years ago, I passed up a Flxible much like the one in the picture, powered by a Cadillac 500 mated to an Eldorado transaxle. Cad-powered art deco bus! What could possibly go wrong?!?! My lack of storage space for such a beast saved me from my idiocy.

    Now I daydream about this one. Lack of storage remains the same, so once again I am saved from myself:

  7. crank_case Avatar

    Does the 25 year import rule apply to Buses? ..because it’s gotta be way easier to import a Coaster from Japan given there’s already a very established export infrastructure for cars and stuff.

  8. Manic_King Avatar

    Yeah, I still also think you should contact some exporter in Japan to check the possibilities (this bus is LHD tho, so no idea what market it’s made for).
    When I thought about export from Japan I contacted Pacific Coast Auto, that’s Canadian Derek of Youtube fame and everything seemed quite straightforward, you can visit auction listings via and check available vehicles yourself, they will translate docs and arrange transport, bidding etc. Also, a lot of procured vans already…. on youtube search PacificCoastAuto for videos of vehicles.

  9. Hatchtopia Avatar

    Are they called ‘jump seats’ because that’s what you’re going to be doing over them when the damn thing is on fire?

  10. Oak Tree Avatar
    Oak Tree

    Alternatively, you could just drive to the camp site in your Tercel, and set up a tent…