Planning Box truck Full-time Conversion Does anyone know about box trucks?

The ‘Choosing the right Vehicle’ category is for anything related to the discussions, questions, comparisons, & information about living in different types of vehicles.

If anyone has any input about or experience with:

  • converting a box truck into full time living space
  • converting box truck into 4x4 off-road vehicle
  • buying a well maintained box truck for a low price
  • what box truck brand, model, or engine is most reliable, efficient, and good for long term use
  • choosing diesel over gas engines

I would be able to utilize it in my current situation.

My situation
I am currently a college student working to earn money to buy a box truck to convert into a full time living space as soon as possible.

I am choosing to look for a box truck because it is a good compromise between a small, extended van with a high roof, and a bigger bus “skoolie”, I also appreciate the cab over engine box truck design (like isuzu trucks) and the visibility, space, and function they provide, the customizability of a box truck and the ability to modify the box and cab.

I am in the researching stage and I am trying to learn about the best vehicle that is reliable, easy, as cheap as possible to maintain/repair/service, etc. with the best gas mileage possible.

I am looking for a vehicle that is about 15 ft of space which is about the medium size as box trucks can be very large or about the size of a van.

Brands and Models I am considering are:

  1. I have heard many good things about the Isuzu N series, wondering if I could get a recent year model (above 2000 at least) at an affordable price (my budget for the actual vehicle with the box is around 10000). Also wondering if they are very reliable and able to be easily and cheaply worked on in the US compared to ford, chevy, etc. box trucks or if they are just significantly better than those making it worth going with isuzu. Wondering where I can buy a well taken care of isuzu truck in my budget that will last many years and be reliable.

  2. Ford Models are another option I am considering because they are manufactured in the US and I expect that they would be easy to repair, maintain, upgrade, service, because of their domestic parts and shops. I am wondering if they are as reliable as isuzus or if they are a good option for a home conversion.

  3. the Hino brand is another brand I am wanting to learn about because it supposedly is a part of Toyota which makes what many consider to be the most reliable vehicles. Is Hino a good brand for Box trucks? Are Hino box trucks easy to get worked on and serviced and are they as reliable as toyota vehicles?

  4. Also considering Chevy, GMC, etc.

Also wanting to know what the best way to cheaply convert the box truck to a 4x4 offroad capable vehicle would be.

Sorry for the quick reply but here’s what I can offer:

Box truck is nice and square, easing in the build!
4x4 conversion could be a very in depth undertaking. Maybe consider just installing an air locking rear differential (one you can turn on and off) if that would work for your situation.
Well maintained vehicles; look into a fleet vehicle. They always have very good maintenance programs (i.e. city vehicles, landscape companies, public transport companies, couriers, etc.)
If you’re going to go diesel, try really hard to find one that is pre DEF fluid regulations (not sure what year that was) as DEF fluid plugs stuff up and diesels with this additive tend to die earlier than older diesels. (My duramax diesel truck has 400,000 miles and as NEVER failed me or broken down and doesn’t seem to want to any time soon)

I hope you get more replies here also!

Thanks for the reply, here is what i found about the DEF Fluid

"What year did def fluid become mandatory?

A: Because almost all diesel-powered passenger cars and trucks built since 2010 are equipped with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and require Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF), it is readily available at most fueling stations and automotive parts retail stores. Truck stops often have a DEF pump right on the fuel island. Jan 4, 2016"

Are you currently using a duramax diesel truck as a home or just a work vehicle? What year is your vehicle?

Also do you think adding a lift to the vehicle or making the stance of the vehicle’s wheels wider without making it 4x4 would be a more realistic possibility? Would it make it better for offroad do you think without having to add an overly complex 4x4 feature?

A locking differential, good all-terrain tires (BFGoodrich All-Terrain) and understanding traction on dirt is a solid set up for mild offroading. Unless you’re going off the typical dirt fire-road I’m sure you’ve got what it takes. Widening the stance won’t offer much capabilities and could cause your tires to rub on fenders/frame… A leveling kit or small lift could be simple or complicated depending on which type/brand (suspension type) of vehicle you decide on. Usually a 1" - 2" lift is easily attainable with a coil spacer in the front and a lift block for the rear if it has leaf springs.

Hi there!
I’m curious, did you end up getting a box truck?
I did my build in a 13ft (plus 2ft over the cab) 2012 Ford E-350 Econoline with flex fuel. I chose it because it had a custom box already on it - instead of a roll up door, it has a single person door such as you’d find on an rv. I found it at a used work trucks dealer in Toronto Ontario call VC Flex.

It’s surprisingly good on gas! I chose it because a box is easier to build in if you have basic DIY skills such as I have.

Anyway I’d love to hear what you ended up with :slight_smile:

i bought a short school bus because i came across one that seemed to have some good features and the right size, but i recently ended up selling it because the roof height wouldnt work for my build, so im looking for options again, including different specialized box trucks that could be under $8000, one reason i chose a bus was because they are affordable compared to a beat up box truck. maybe i could find one in good shape for under $8k though but i doubt it.

I chose my box truck much for the same reason. When I compared the age and mileage of the box trucks to similar age and mileage of the various sprinter and transit Vans out there, I found the box trucks were so much cheaper. I was fortunate to find a box with a single barn door on the back. Most of them have the big roll up which prevents many people from choosing that. The other advantage I have found by choosing my box truck is that there was room underneath to put storage bins and even a generator housing.
Plus it’s so much easier to build in a square box. Lol