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Need help finding the right van

Discussion in 'Van Dwelling / Rubber Tramping' started by MormonWanders, Jan 8, 2016.

  1. MormonWanders

    MormonWanders is getting to know the place

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    I've lived in my 2006 corolla S on and off, but it's about time I get something more comfortable for full timing. I can't get a whole lot out of my current car since it's a rebuilt title with problems. I've been saving up and I would like to spend between 5 -10 grand on a reliable van that will last me a long time (however cheaper is always better if it's quality).

    I'd like to eventually add solar and get a good PC gaming type station going on in there. Stealth is very important. Front or all wheel drive for the roads off the grid, I am not closed off to RWD, but FWD or all is preferred. Short body is important, it's just me in there (5'10" male) and I am already living out of one bag except for my pc, so I don't need much space. I'm an ecofreak and something clean or fuel efficient would make me feel less guilty, if it's affordable.

    Astro cargo vans, ecolines, and ford transits are the main ones I'm looking at now. My heart wants a westafalia, but I don't like that they are primarily rwd and it would be a hassle with repairs and stealth once I left the Pacific northwest.

    So what do you all think? Does anyone have a preference? Also what are your guys's thoughts on disel vs gas?
     
  2. creature

    creature Completely Addicted
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    first off..
    don't fantasize.
     
  3. creature

    creature Completely Addicted
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    second off, if you get past that, diesel is best.. 30% simpler power train, & if you have to, you can cut your fuel with straight veg oil from the shelf, if you have EBT folks willing to pitch.

    diesel will go 300,000 or more, if you treat her with any reasonable respect at all..

    $10K as an upper limit gives you a hell of a lot of room..

    don't shit us with fantasy if you don't actually & materially hold that cash in hand, at this very moment, as you read this... fuck 'maybe...'

    so.. since you say 5 - 10 grand, let's backtrack a bit & say $2,500 so you have something left over to actually travel on.. unless you provide a cash in hand number.


    do you want gas or diesel?


    no preference?

    find a diesel van with under 180,000 miles, sink $ into the suspension & front end..

    service the differential & trans..

    rebuild the body & interior with blood & hard fucking work.

    then go.
     
  4. Kim Chee

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    You like low key? There's a ton of Sienna minivans in your area.

    Inexpensive to operate and dependable.

    Looks more like "soccer mom" and less like you are looking for kids to help you find your lost puppy.
     
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  5. OP
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    MormonWanders

    MormonWanders is getting to know the place

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    No bullshit, I've worked long and hard to save for a reliable rig. Maybe I am dreaming a bit with the gaming desk though.

    I am not familiar with disels, but many have recommended them to me. Sounds like a good deal, I am worried about down the road services costs if something were to break and need replacement.

    10K is the maximum I can spend. And if I did spend that much I'd only have about another grand left for conversion, registration, insurance, etc. Starting with solar is more than likely not doable, I'll have to start working again before shit gets fancy.

    Thanks for the tip, any certain makes and models you'd suggest?
     
  6. OP
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    MormonWanders

    MormonWanders is getting to know the place

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    Being from Utah, the land of the three Ms (minivans, meth labs, and mormons), I've always had a prejudice against minivans. A friend of mine converted hers to a fairly decent rig, so maybe I'm just being stingy.

    And like you said those things are cop and neighborhood busy body proof, slap a little stick figure family and Christian fish on the back and it's good to go! Sure would make urban camping a hell of a lot easier, so I'm definitely considering it now.
     
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  7. Eyegor

    Eyegor Hungry for Knowledge

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    MW, you've listed a big list of wants that are almost mutually incompatible, at least in US.
    1) drive train. It is not difficult to find 4wd full size vans but they are not cheap, and very little stealth. The new Ram ProMaster is FWD but beyond your budget. Many more AWD/FWD options in the minivan. I am partial to Dodge Caravans but most makes do something similar. Better stealth options too, but worst if you really want to get off the main path. I've gotten my soccer mom van pretty far back in the woods but it is not meant for that kind of abuse.
    2) gas vs. diesel. While I too prefer diesel, in the minivan world these are rare and hard to come by. Diesels are more reliable in my experience, but fuel is more expensive and ultimately repairs are too. This is mitigated somewhat by their usual longevity. MPG is better with diesel but not enough to make up cost difference. If you picture long hours of engine idling to power 12v or inverters, then finding a diesel may make more sense.

    If you are set on a van I would recommend an older Astro AWD or Toyota if you can find one in decent shape. After that, a AWD minivan of your choice. Full size vans are better for fulltiming but worse for blending in. You also mentioned short wheelbase. This is much less common in full size vans than they used to be. They also suck gas and ones in your price range tend to be getting into that range where repairs become more frequent. Windows are a rough topic. More windows makes the van blend in better but worse for stealth. Probably a different post though.

    Good Luck with your search. Don't spend too much time or energy finding the perfect vehicle. It doesn't exist. Find something that will meet your basics now and start traveling. You can improve, repair, or replace as you go along. And after more full time van experience you will have a much better idea of what you want/need in your travels.
     
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    #7 Eyegor, Jan 9, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2016
  8. creature

    creature Completely Addicted
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  9. Matt Derrick

    Matt Derrick StP Founder, Admin, and travel addict
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    give up on the 4wd, it's not going to happen, and really, you're not going to need it.

    i prefer diesel, because the engines are designed to last 500k miles or more if you take care of it. gas is more expensive, but they're generally more fuel efficient. diesel vans are hard to find though, so you might have to settle for gas.

    as a fellow pc enthusiast, i understand what you're saying, but your minimum gaming rig is going to run at 500w for the tower alone, not to mention the monitor and accessories. this requires a fairly big solar panel setup. it's not impossible, but you really might want to try to pair down your gaming needs instead. alienware has some interesting laptops that use external video cards (that are upgradeable!) so that could be a decent solution. the external card still runs at around 450w, but you could at least turn if off when you're not gaming.

    as for budget, if you have 10k, 5 is fine for the van and the other half you can use to really pimp out the interior. you'll find plenty of good vans for 5k. you might want to consider a short bus though, you'll have more choices, better quality, at a lower price.

    just some random thoughts.
     
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  10. creature

    creature Completely Addicted
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    sorry.. my comp crashed before i could edit my rant & seems you got the raw version.. hol' on...
     
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    #10 creature, Jan 9, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2016
  11. MarsOrScars

    MarsOrScars Celebrated Poster

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    Your situation sounds really similar to mine. I'm also looking for (and saving away money) for a van.

    Just my requirements are different, I want a van I can turn into a completely functional living space including shower, kitchen, potable water and solar system. I found a book on how to do this, along with a lot of other resources bookmarked away or tabbed, and I have access to a lot of the materials which would drive this conversion cost down a lot.

    Right now, I'm specifically concerned with van dimensions. I've done plenty of thru-hikes to know that squatting over in tents or low-ceiling vans is not going to be my cup of tea for full time living. Let alone trying to avoid having to pit-stop at hotels. I suppose couch (crust) surfing is also an option for rubber trampers but I don't want to be entirely dependent on this as I'm an introvert.

    I'm going to recommend the Sprinter van with a 144" LWB (Long Wheel Base), pre-2006 models I've seen for ~$6000 but they look like rust buckets just from the pics. Cosmetic rust damage is manageable and in fact preferred as it erodes seller confidence, but rust eating through critical chassis components might drive the cost of repairs up a few grand. Previous posts in this thread have mentioned diesel trucks or vans, I'm also open to these vehicles. In particular something like a diesel Ambulance (or box truck) would be awesome. I don't want a stealth van, as much as I'd just want something that's more like a blank canvas. I don't really like the aesthetics of already manufactured camper vans and RVs. It's likely I'm going to get artsy-fartsy with the blank white exterior once I've made the maiden voyage. lol. As for the drive train, AWD would be suitable if you're looking to do some over-land and offroad excursions. In which case more power to you, just get a Toyota 4Runner and a really nice tent you can stand up in. RWD is sufficient for most roads in the US, I'd rather keep my home on asphalt and not in a muddy ditch, or worse, tipped over.

    Next point, the gaming PC. As a fellow PC-masterrace enthusiast I understand the desire to tote along the PC, but I've done the math and you're not going to like it. I've been running a power consumption meter on my entire rig, and I am consuming on average 260 Wh at 2.3 Amps. The 2.3 Amps is particularly a huge deal because most caravan power systems (especially solar power grids) I've seen are wired to sustain about 5 A loads. For this reason I'm willing to make the sacrifice and ditch PC gaming while on the road. I'll still have a laptop, a raspberry pi and a smart phone. Perhaps I'll be able to afford an even more powerful gaming laptop but that is at the bottom of my priorities. The whole point of myself going mobile full time is to get out and see shit, meet people and focus on a personal development projects.

    --Peace
     
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  12. roguetrader

    roguetrader Sir Posts a Lot

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    A frequent 'mistake' that people make buying there first living vehicle is getting something too small for there actual needs - if your going to be living in your van full time you need something that will be big enough for you to cope with being cooped up for days at a time when the weathers bad. I know many people migrate south in winter / north in summer but its still likely that at some point you'll be inside the van for large periods of time - being able to stand comfortably with a decent amount of room counts for a hell of a lot ! Obviously this all depends on you as a person - i've known people live in tiny vehicles that would drive me crazy, for years - but i've been doing this for a long time and my vehicles are definetly getting bigger as the years roll by
     
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  13. Seasee

    Seasee Just signed up

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    I like the idea of a full time home-van with mobile gaming capabilities! Though, a full desktop rig may not be a good idea for solar panels as they take up quite a lot of juice.
    There is an easy alternative to gaming on the road with solar panels.

    It's Intel's Core M platform!

    The latest 12nm Core M3, Core M5, and Core M7 are where you want to look in terms of performance and ultraportablity. They have a Max Power Consumption (TDP = Thermal Design Power) of 4.5Watts as default on most, others have 6Watts, depending on the manufacturer. But the TDP is configurable using the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility(IETU) and Throttlestop, I use mine at 7W TDP and the performance is faster as well :)

    Speaking from experience as I have a last generation Core M 5Y71 slate 11.6" slate PC with a keyboard dock, it is very fast and runs Minecraft and Fallout 3 at full 60FPS and Gamecube emulation of Windwaker at stable 30FPS and Metroid Prime at 45-60FPS. I tried Fallout 4 on the Core M 5Y71 but it got 4FPS on very low settings, might do better on the latest m7 though.

    For budget I would go with the Core M 5Y71 1.2-2.9Ghz Turboboost, as mine with 8gb DDR3L RAM and 256gb SSD2 drive with 4G capability(currently using my HP x2 Elite 1011 G1 with the free 200mb per month T-Mobile SIM plan that only cost $0.99 for the tmobile sim, its awesome) was only $450 on ebay. But for max performance for higher price I would get the Core m7-6Y75. Currently is $1149 on ebay for the HP Spectre x2 2-in-1 12" Core m7-6Y75 1.2-3.1Ghz Turboboost with 8gb RAM and 256gb SSD. Think it would be similarly priced for other models with Core m7-6Y75.

    My Core M 5Y71 came with Windows 10 but I customized a Windows 10 Pro x64 iso and made it much more privacy friendly and faster then installed it using the keyboard dock with USB 3.0. (DirectX 12 is awesome for gaming).

    Hope you find what you are looking for! ::bookworm::
    Sorry to derail the minivan/vehicle post chain, just trying to help in the things that I have experience with!

    (P.S: broke my first posting cherry ! :D )
     
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    #13 Seasee, Jan 15, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2016
  14. OP
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    MormonWanders

    MormonWanders is getting to know the place

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    What is your personal preference on windows? I'm leaving towards an astro cargo after reading these posts. I feel like a windowless white van sitting in the parking lot would come off as sketchy and attract attention. If it is in the budget I would probably paint it a different color, just to get rid of the whole "suspicious white van" complex. But I don't think there is much else I can do to blend it.

    A windowed van I could always black out I guess.
     
  15. BigChase

    BigChase is getting to know the place

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    I'm on my second full size Chevy van now. They've always done me good. Reliable and parts are cheap. But they're big, mostly rwd and like any full size van not great on gas. Love mine just the same though. Have you looked into Subaru Outback wagons? Smaller, awd, decent gas mileage.
     
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