2020 goal to go full vanlife

hi, I’m Shelbie,
I’ve been looking into living the van life for awhile and I’m deciding that I’m going to spend 2019 looking for a van and saving up to start traveling the US by 2020. I’ve looked at a few so far, the latest I have been interested in is a 1975 dodge maxivan with 152m on it. I would like to have a solar panel system on whatever I get but I was interested if anyone is familiar with the dodge maxivan. The asking price is $5000


Greetings & Welcome!

I have a 1973 hightop Dodge MaxiVan. It was originally a Travco camper van, but it was stripped when I got it. They are great vans! Mine has the 318 engine, and the 727 automatic transmission. I bought it with over 200k miles on it for $800, over 10 years ago, and it is now over 450k miles on the original engine and transmission with only normal maintenance performed. The only modifications I added were converting it to an electronic ignition from points, adding a fuel pressure regulator, and an electric fuel pump.

I much prefer the older, pre-computerized vans. They’re far more reliable, and cheaper to own and run in general. If the one you’re looking at is in really good shape, and move in ready, then that isn’t too bad a price, IF it started out life as a window van and not a cargo van. You don’t want one that started out life as a cargo van, because they’re just not as good for many reasons. Mine pictured below started out as a passenger window van, if your windows look different, it started out as a cargo van.

Forget the solar panels, they’re the worst choice, and the most expensive. An isolator, generator, or shore power are ALL better and cheaper choices. The van is likely already set up with an isolator, and probably a converter and inverter, maybe even a generator. Don’t get suckered into 12v compressor fridges, or expensive roof vents either. My entire electrical system, including everything necessary cost under $200 including the generator.

You need to make sure everything in the camper portion is working, or it could turn into a money pit. If you’re not mechanically inclined, I would also take it to a good mechanic for an inspection prior to purchase. If the seller says no, walk away.

Okay, let’s talk money. Money is the downfall of most vandwellers. You either need a LOT of savings, or you need some sort of travel friendly reliable income. You need to get this all set up and working before quitting your current job, and if possible I suggest people actually try out this lifestyle with their vacation time, BEFORE they quit their job and commit to it full time. Never gamble more than you’re willing to lose.

It’s not all rainbows and roses. Most of what you read online is fiction and outright lies. All the promoters are just in it for the money, they are not your friends. Very few people last longer than a year as a full timer. The promoters want you to BUY your way into being homeless, jobless, & broke. It’s a trap that ruins a lot of people’s lives. Get your finances in order, then test the waters before committing to full timing or giving up anything.

Here’s my home on wheels:

Good Luck & keep us posted!

"I can live like a king because I work like a dog." ~ An anonymous vandweller

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This is the van I’m looking at, she said her husband’s father bought it brand new in 1975, he was a carpenter and did everything on the inside himself, it was willed to them and they are moving a few states away and don’t want to bring it with them. It has 152 miles on it, it’s been kept inside the garage, they took it to a concert a couple months back. Their asking price is $5000 and I’m trying to find out if it’s a good investment or too much of a money pit.

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That’s a pretty nice looking van, but I’d sure miss my windows.

It probably won’t get as good gas mileage due to lower gearing in the rear end, and ventilation might be a bit of a problem.

You might be able to put a more user friendly kitchen counter between the drivers seat and the bed.


"I can live like a king because I work like a dog." ~ An anonymous vandweller