New member, new way of getting there

Hello all,

New to the forum and thanks to the admins for all the work.
Getting older and transforming from distance motorcycling and fifth wheel camping to a van we will build out ourselves to nip into small spaces with just the right amount of “STUFF” and also visit the grandkids without being 53 feet long overall.
Electrician by trade in a busy place and finding time for the build will be the biggest challenge. We aren’t in a huge rush and I could never pay someone to do work I can do myself so it will take as long as needed to get it done.
In the research and design mode now. New van, old van? 2 wheel drive or 4 wheel? Big solar install or generator? Medium roof or high. All this an much more to figure out.
Thanks again and looking forward to being a member.

Welcome to the forum. A lot of those choices you spelled out will depend on you and your needs. New or used comes down to budget and your tolerance of risk, but 9 times out of 10 there won’t be many issues until the warranty runs out anyway. My opinion is to let someone else pay for the depreciation, and put that money you saved into a van maintenance/breakdown fund.

There are very nice minimalist van conversions, and very nice conversions with almost all the comforts of brick & mortar living. Most tend to be somewhere in-between, but keeping it simple and minimalist is where most long-term van people end up. There’s a lot one can do without a lot of electricity if we look to the past (humans have lived without electricity far longer than with).

If you need compressor type air conditioning it’s better to go with a small generator over a large solar battery system; or use shore power. Then you can go with a smaller and more manageable solar battery system. Making heat (or removing heat) is not something you want to use precious battery power to do (AC, heat, hot water, cooking). If you’re in a dry climate evaporative cooling works well without depleting the batteries much. Even in humid climates, moving outside air into one end of the van and out the other works okay without AC, especially at night.

Pros for 4WD are that you can go a few more places without getting stuck, but in my opinion it’s a luxury that comes at a really big cost in terms of purchase price, maintenance, and gas mileage. I’ve been stuck many more times in a 4WD vehicle than in a 2WD vehicle (during my years as a field geologist). A van will never have the capabilities of a Jeep or other dedicated 4x4 - too big. I think 4WD sometimes inspires a false confidence. It may be wiser to do something in-between such as an electric or pneumatic locking differential that can be disengaged unless it’s really needed, winch, traction aids, and more aggressive tires that can be aired down for more traction.

Greetings & Welcome!

I’ve built out just about everything ranging from vans to both big & small buses, spending anywhere from a couple hundred to $30k+ for the conversion. I’ve also had motorhomes, trailers, and even camper boats. In the end, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that a cheap older motorhome with all the amenities, including a generator, is the best bang for a buck. They’re cheap & move in ready…

The duelies will get you farther than singles, and with good recovery gear, you can go darn near anywhere. Before it got stolen, I had an old military chainsaw style portable winch, that could get you out of anywhere, even with 40’ bus. Today I carry traction mats, a come-along, and a block & tackle. Most of the dualies I’ve had also had some form of traction control.

I think the added width of a motorhome or bus can add a lot of livability without adding a lot of length, and lots of windows beat the heck out of a windowless box. A cheap used shuttle bus or schoolie can make a great base for a DIY project.


"Old school, cheap, simple, reliable, and easily replaceable for the win!" ~ Traveler@Heart