Maintenance and repair locations

Hi all,

I’m excited to be posting here even though I have been following vanlife for a long time and had many experiences sleeping in the trunk of cars or even 5-tonners (if you don’t consider civilian life).

Anyways I wanted to buy an excursion 6 months ago but had cold feet because I don’t think I had the resources or expertise to inspect or repair vehicles on the go (I replaced my dodge charger’s thermostat but that took 1-2weeks of research to understand the flow of fluids and parts to buy).

Now i’m ready as I’m sick and tired of living in the living room but I decide that if I were to choose between the ideal vehicle (ford excursion) vs others, I would choose others because my ultimately goal is van life.

So I went down to look at a 2001 Suburban this afternoon (after 5pm PST). It got dark pretty quickly but the owner was helpful enough to assist me with checking the oil levels, undercarriage and blinkers. It probably got like 230-250k miles, but the interesting thing is that the he’s only the 2nd owner and 14 years of owning it, he replaced tons of things: alternator, radiator, control arms of the suspension and even gotten a rebuilt engine from Chevy that he used for about 70k miles after 170-180k mile of operation (i think).

fluids are all good, the car was smogged a few days ago, only that while the engine was on, the ABS and brake lights were on on the dash. And weirdly, after I turn the key to on to hook up my obd scantool, the battery couldn’t start the engine after (even though it did before when he pulled up to the curb) and he says he will probably change the battery tomorrow. He welcomes me to see him tomorrow afternoon after his kids’ soccer practice or on Monday (when the mechanic is open too).

But still it’s quite an old car, it’s price at 3.3k and if I get it, i’ll probably save up $1k++ in case I have to swap a new transmission.

Here lies another question, where and how do you guys repair your own vehicle? Any advice on that transmission? Just worried that it’s a ticking bomb and will leave me stranded somewhere undesirable. But shifting from neutral to park and driving is very smooth, steering is solid (maybe because the SUV is huge?) and 4x4 works.

Any opinions and advice on the car or purchasing will be great too!

I also wonder if anyone has any opinion on v8 excursions. There’s a bunch of negative impressions about it’s sluggishness and towing capabilities on the ford forum but I would really like opinions in terms of vanlifers!

Greetings & Welcome!

I’m not a big fan of 4x4’s. Added maintenance, and lower mpg. If I really want to go somewhere my 2wd van can’t take me, then I’ll rent an ATV, UTV, or boat etc, and save the wear and tear on my van. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taken vans, buses, and motorhomes to places that Jeep’s have trouble getting to…

For most people, I think factory campers (vans, motorhomes, etc.) are a much better choice than the DIY route. They’re usually cheaper, better engineered, ready to go, and hold their value much better than self conversions. Over the years, I’ve had many older factory campers in excellent shape for under $2500. Once they’re fully depreciated, their value holds or sometimes even appreciates if you take good care of it and keep it original.


"Beat Murphy's Law with a KISS! (Keep It Stupidly Simple)" ~ Van_Dweller

Anything with that many miles will have one repair expense after another. Save your money and headaches in the long run and get something with fewer miles, but get something domestic such as a Ford or Chevy. There’s a mechanic in every town in America that can work on them, and parts are cheap compared to the imports like Mercedes.