Southbound Jackalope

Just posting a little introduction, nothing spectacular to see here. I’m the Southbound Jackalope! I’m based in the Southeast, USA. I have been traveling the east coast- midwest for the last 5 years with work and am finally trying to switch it up and do something else.

I am currently looking into obtaining a Promaster 159 (Preferably EXT) to convert myself. If anyone has any tips to get a brother going, let me know… Otherwise I will be researching as I was before! If anyone has any good websites to look for a used van, please let me know! That is my main priority at the moment.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone who contributes here, I have found a lot of helpful info that will save me a lot of time and trouble!


Greetings & Welcome!

For starters, don’t believe much of what you hear, see, or read. Cargo vans make terrible campers, they are not stealthy at all, they cost a fortune to convert, they’re uncomfortable, and living in a windowless box is worse than a jail cell. The only reason they get promoted is because the promoters are after your money, and if you make better choices, they won’t get it.

Factory camper vans and motorhomes and motorhomes can be found cheap, especially older ones, and even ones from the 70’s and 80’s can be found with extremely low miles and in near showroom condition. I have had many that I paid under $2500 for. They were totally reliable, totally livable, and move in ready without any added expenses.

Don’t get conned into stripping it or remodeling it, or adding any expensive options. Pick one with a good floor plan, and use it as it was intended. MAYBE after years of experience, you will want to build your own, but for newbies it is a very bad choice. Not only will it cost you a great deal more, it will also be much more uncomfortable, as is likely to turn into a never ending money pit. These people are continually spending $1k here, $3k there, and $5k over there, and still eventually they wind up selling it for a huge loss, and buying a cheap older factory camper.

With all that being said, I have spent the last 11 years living in a self built camper van. It was stripped when I bought it, but the price was right for mechanically perfect high top window van. My full featured “build” cost under $300 and includes a futon sofa/bed, kitchen, toilet & shower, heating & cooling, and unlimited power. No solar panels, no expensive roof vents, no 12v compressor fridges, etc. etc. What I do have is a super comfortable swivel rocker recliner to lounge in or work from, because I both live in and work from my camper van. The most important point here is that I had over 30 years of experience living on wheels, BEFORE I “built” this camper van, and I didn’t “build” it at all, I merely moved my interior in and secured it. Even though I have under $1500 total in my rig, I wouldn’t trade it for any of those $50k+++ instagram or youtube vans. I have something they’ll never have, comfort and reliability. My 1973 Dodge van has NEVER broken down, has over 450k miles on it, and still runs like new and passes smog checks. All it’s ever needed is just normal maintenance. Unlike more expensive rigs, mine paid for itself within the first few months of ownership, and I literally couldn’t be more comfortable.


"Adequate & required ventilation defeats insulation, so why bother?" ~ FreedomAin'tFree!

Thanks for the reply, brother! My only issue trying to scoop an older van is that I have had horrible luck buying older used vehicles and they always end up turning into a money pit. Thats why I was wanting to buy something newer, and hopefully more reliable.


Unfortunately, newer isn’t always better… I find that pre-computerized vans are much more reliable. The only computerized one I’ve had was a money pit, and it had the lowest miles at under 100k. Starting in the early 90’s, greed took precedence over quality, and quality is not very likely to return. Today’s warranties are practically useless too. They’ll blame the big problem on some small owner maintenance issue and not cover it. Happened to me multiple times on a 1 year old van. Some little hose sprung a leak causing the transmission to go out, wrong coolant (put in by the dealer!!!) caused the head gasket to go out, supposedly… Multiple expensive issues, and taking it to a different dealer didn’t help, taking it to an independent shop didn’t help either. And that van had been purchased new, and maintained by that dealership…

Unlike houses, vehicles also depreciate rather quickly. The best buys are fully depreciated vehicles, and when it comes to campers, many of them have only been used a few weekends a year, so really old can still be in near new condition. A friend just bought a 1976 class C in immaculate shape, that had brand new tires, and totally serviced for $1500, and it only had 76k miles on it. No sign it had ever leaked, and everything worked like new. I have bought similar rigs multiple times. Rigs from outside the rust belt last a long time. A person could replace everything including the drivetrain to make a brand new rig and still save a fortune over newer ones.

Personally, I don’t feel a need to keep up with the Jones’s, I’m more interested in comfort, convenience, reliability, and since losing so much money on an almost new rig, affordability. I lost over $30k in a year, and I’ve seen multiple others lose $30k-$50k within a couple short years. While the promoters don’t care, for most of us, that’s a huge financial hit. While it didn’t wipe me out, I’m still kicking myself for being such a sucker.

Most cargo van dwellers don’t keep them long enough to justify the expenses. In contrast, most RV’ers and factory camper van owners, tend to keep their rigs much longer. After my cargo van fiasco, the financial sense of my choice of vehicles became much more clear. I have never lost money on any rigs, either before or since that one…


"Price is what you pay, value is what you receive.
Buyer Beware, the price is often too high." ~ CashTalks

To buy old vans, public auctions could be a right place if you are very good at inspection. On the other hand, you can also see pre-owned vehicles at CarGurus, AutoTrader and Carfax.

Yeah, I am pretty bad at that apparently lol. I have had horrible vehicle luck in the past when buying older used vehicles. I’ll keep an eye out though, thanks for your suggestions!

1 Like

We bought our 2015 Roadtrek (so it was already camperized, but still had warranties to deal with kinks that came up in the forst two years). I would probably build out or buy a preowned next time. Our friends carey on vegabond (you kind find em on fb or YouTube) are building out a promaster 3500. Our search for a van started with much older models, chevy vans, vw, and ended with a newer promaster because it had what wanted. It is really about finding the rig that works best for you. RV trader, autotrader, and maybe auctions could be good places to search :slight_smile:

1 Like

My plan is still for a promaster 159 ext, and building it out myself. I have a fair bit of experience with the carpentry side of things. I have a friend and a cousin who both build cabinets if i need help on that. And i have a master electrician friend who offered to help run all my solar and electric. So i am fairly confident i can get what i need done… and the promaster seems to suit my desires the best. Not ignoring what Van_dweller has said, but also not finding any older vans that seem to suit me.

1 Like

Makes sense! Stoked to see your build! Another good thing about the promaster, we have never had an issue finding someone to service it when needed (a little peace of mind when you’re traveling:) )

1 Like

That was another big factor! Promasters are running on basic parts that any mechanic should be relatively experienced with and the repairs shouldn’t cost near as much as a Sprinter or most of the imports.

1 Like

So things are working out differently than planned, me and a friend were looking at vans, and he went to work that evening. A friend of his came in to his work (he didn’t know anything about us looking for a van) and mentioned he had just found out he didn’t have a car, and offered to give him a 1984 chevy van for free. He says it runs well, just gotta go check it out. So we may be working on that very soon.


Cool! I’ll take an older pre-computerized van over a newer one every time. Back from an era when quality actually had meaning.

Keep us posted!


"Smiles are contagious, pass it on!" ~ Van_Dweller

1 Like