Live Like Obama and Ashton: How to Spend Millions on a Tricked-Out Bus

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Jason Reed / Reuters

Nothing says down-home average Joe like a tour bus. When traveling the country glad-handing all the pedestrian folk as part of your political rounds, a tour bus—not a stable of limousines or a bevy of SUVs—helps you fit in with the crowd. But if you’re the President (or anybody with excess money, for that matter), you owe it to the public to give them a bit more pizzazz.

As President Obama rolled out the first of two new tour bus additions to his transportation fleet this week in Minnesota, he did so in Presidential style, complete with a shiny black coat of paint, protective armor and plenty of extras like artillery and advanced communication capabilities. The bill reportedly reached $1.1 million for each bus.

(PHOTOS: Barack Obama’s Midwest Bus Tour)

But if you’re super rich and want more than some armor and flashing lights, there are plenty of other add-ons available on the market.

J.R. Anderson, part of the family that owns Anderson Mobile Estates in Florida, says “we have done so many different platforms” that the possibilities for tricking out your bus never end.

One celebrity reportedly taking advantage of Anderson Mobile Estates’ possibilities is actor Ashton Kutcher. The U.K.’s Daily Mail reports Anderson’s company has set him up with a two-story, 53-foot-long bus/trailer that includes seven 60-inch 3D plasma screens, just for starters, and a hydraulic system that pops up the second floor and expands the main floor to a total of 1,100 square feet for use on the set of Two and a Half Men.

While Anderson could “neither confirm nor deny” his company has outfitted Kutcher, he did mention some key elements of his high-end models. A few basic—yes, these amenities take “stock” to a new level—must-haves include a full kitchen, king-size bed, granite countertops, mirrors that double as televisions, multiple bathrooms, separate and dedicated rooms for your hobbies and security cameras mounted on the outside of the bus.

(LIST: Top 10 Famous Buses)

An obvious next step to tricking out a tour bus is technology, including going strictly with 3D Plasma HD television screens. Add a touch screen that controls the upstairs and downstairs DVD players at one time, adjusts the shades on the windows, changes the temperature inside the two-story bus and even checks in on the solar panels mounted on the top of your rig.

To give your bus your own personality, start with removing all windows—this helps with privacy, whether you’re Obama or Kutcher—and on the inside instead encase LCD screens in Plexiglas. Then, with cameras embedded on the outside of the bus, the interior LCD screens broadcast the exterior camera’s shots, making it a more high-tech version of a window. Anderson says he has seen buses with floor-to-ceiling LCD screens. Of course, you can turn the channel away from simply viewing the rolling hills or screaming and adoring fans outside your bus to whatever scene you desire. If you don’t care about the façade of pretending the bus windows are legitimate, add on a wrap to advertise yourself, like NASCAR or Sarah Palin, whose “One Nation” tour bus customized wrap reportedly cost about $14,000.

While the Secret Service isn’t chatty about the amenities in Obama’s ride purchased from Tennessee’s Hemphill Brothers Coach Company, this marks the first time the buses have joined the Presidential garage. In the past, when buses were rented, it cost tens of thousands of dollars per month to do so (and plenty of extra time to add in Presidential security features and then strip them back out when the rental period was done), so purchasing a pair of the black buses will actually save money.

Kutcher’s “trailer” won’t be so cost-effective, with rental costs reportedly nearing $9,000 per week. Let’s just hope for that kind of cash, he opted for the rippling-water floor. That’s tricky.

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Tim Newcomb is a contributor for TIME. Find him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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