What should I do?

Me and my girlfriend recently traveled to the San Juan islands to try to get a perfect box truck tiny home, but it was so rusted out that we could pull whole chunks off of the frame with our bare hands. We wasted a lot of money going across the country to look at something that seemed perfect. Now our plans are to get a used U-Haul truck and try to convert it to a tiny home. Our budget is 8-9000. What would you do? We are musicians that want to tour around the country and try to be stealth, while maintaining as much comfort as possible. Would love some guidance, we feel lost. We’ve heard bad things about U-Haul trucks.


Greetings & Welcome!

First off, there’s no such thing as stealth, the only people you’re fooling is yourselves. Somebody is ALWAYS watching and knows exactly what you’re doing. You want to be a good neighbor, not try to hide.

Buy a cheap old motorhome that’s ready to go to get you started. Tons of them out there, cheap, but in excellent condition. Only once did I ever pay over $2500 for a home on wheels, and the more expensive one was the worst of the bunch.

Floor plans mean EVERYTHING, and there are many to choose from. You want to feel comfortable, not cramped, and have great views.

No matter how new or old it is, plan on resealing the roof immediately after purchase, and yearly thereafter.

ALWAYS have an emergency fund large enough to repair/replace EVERYTHING, plus at least 6 months worth of living expenses! Jobs on the road can be difficult or impossible to find in many areas. Don’t count on any of the BS about free camping on BLM land, most of those places are in bad locations and the roads if you can even call them roads, tear rigs and tires up really bad. There’s a reason they’re free.

Budget for RV parks and campgrounds, you’ll be much happier in the long run. Walmart parking lots and the like get really old really fast.

Get something with a generator, and forget about things like solar. Just like many other poor choices, solar pays it’s promoters very well, but that still doesn’t make it a good choice. Use factory motorhomes the way they were designed to be used from the factory, don’t remodel, or modify them or you will kill their value. If you want something different later, then upgrade to a different rig that already has everything you want, FROM THE FACTORY, not owner modified.

Good luck, & keep us posted.


"Spending money to save money is usually a scam." ~ SmartSavers

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i was just browsing through the forum posts when I ran into your answer. (I’m in a similar boat to the original poster, but haven’t bit the bullet yet)

I noticed that you mentioned:

  1. RV parks vs Walmart - I totally understand the appeal of a park compared to a walmart, but it is still much MUCH cheaper to stay there. When you are a traveling artist, the RV parks would add up quickly.

  2. Generator vs Solar - your suggestion is definitely surprising because mostly everybody is raving about solar. Can you elaborate why it’s a “poor” idea? (other than, you can’t run a generator in a Walmart parking lot f course :slight_smile: )

thank you!!


While Walmarts might be free, the whole point of the adventure is enjoyment. You won’t experience that in a Walmart parking lot. People need to understand that this lifestyle requires money, frequently more money than traditional living. To enjoy your adventure you either need a big savings account, or you need to be working. Otherwise you’re just broke and homeless.

Short of savings or retirement income, the only formula that I know of that actually works involves working enough to be able to afford the good life. The good life to most means nice campgrounds or RV parks, and possibly travel, but not Walmart or BLM land. I typically park for free in cities, but on the street in neighborhoods, not parking lots. By being a good neighbor, I can camp for free in nice neighborhoods for as long as I like. For me, going camping is a treat, just like if I was living in a house, but the jobs, the supplies, the entertainment, and everything else I want is in the cities, not the boondocks.

Only a very tiny percent of the people who waste their money on solar ever wind up with a half decent system. It’s the most expensive battery charging option available, will never pay for itself, and kills batteries prematurely due to poor charging methods.

I’ve personally had several different solar systems installed, two professionally, and one where I carefully followed the directions of others that they swore worked good. Total cost, at least $10k, and not one of them was worth the powder to blow it to hell. On the final install, that I did myself, after it proved to be another failure, I decided to go against all the advice, and added an isolator to charge while driving, like my good non-solar rigs all had and worked flawlessly. Installing the isolator did solve my problems, but after the solar panels got stolen, it became obvious that it was the isolator doing the work, not the solar. But after several months of solar only, it had already damaged my $600 worth of house batteries to the extent that they were dead within a year.

Sick of buying expensive batteries continually, I switched to slightly used, deep cycle batteries from junk yards for under $20 each. Without the solar, the battery lifespan immediately returned to 6-7 years, and all of my power problems were solved.

99%+ of the time, the isolator is all the charging I need, even though I am mainly a city dweller and don’t do that much driving. My house battery will typically last a week, and I drive a little every 2-3 days so it never gets drained too low. If I’m boondocking, between my house battery and my identical deep cycle starting battery, I can go for 2 weeks and still have plenty of power to start my rig.

I did add a $99 (on sale) generator, and a $29 battery charger to my arsenal for a backup plan. A whole lot cheaper than solar, more reliable, not dependent on the sun or weather, and perhaps most importantly it charges batteries correctly with a full charge, not just the shallow charge provided by solar.

I’ve also known several people that their solar caught their van on fire. Same with lithium batteries, and propane. The more I learn, the more I understand that taking unnecessary risks is NOT a good choice. My system does not compromise on safety, comfort, or reliability. Everything is bought locally, and is easily replaceable almost anywhere.

I like cheap, reliable, efficient, and effective, and solar isn’t any of those things.

In contrast, I do have some individual self contained solar powered things that I can sit in a window to charge, including a aa/aaa/c/d/9v battery charger, a radio, lanterns, and a bug zapper. Unlike my house battery, if they fail, it isn’t a big deal. If it takes days or a week for them to recharge, I have alternatives, because I’m not without power.

The people getting paid to promote solar rave about it, most of the people with it, cuss at it, but their complaints are quickly deleted. There’s simply no money in it for the promoters if the actual truth gets exposed. While they’re busy selling fantasy and fiction, the rest of us are left to deal with the reality of things. So unlike the promoters, I try to expose the cold hard truth.

Can you be the 1 in a thousand or more that has success with solar? Sure, it’s possible, but is it worth the gamble? If I could turn the clock back, I would have stuck to the tried and true and saved $10k+. The promoters have taught me a lot of very expensive lessons, all of which made them money at my expense, and caused me a lot of grief. I was doing it right long before the internet or the promoters, and not a single thing has changed. What worked 50 or 100 years ago are still the best choices today, with rare exception.


"Spending money to save money is usually a scam." ~ SmartSavers


Hi! I also am looking to convert a box van… no more than 16’… I’m in a major city, and it seems like people don’t react well to motorhomes. I could get by parking by film studios and other overlooked places.
I don’t know much about batteries , are you saying that you have the house battery hooked up to the car like the car battery is set up? How do you do it?
Do you charge it via an outlet when you’re back in a city?
What kind of battery is it?

Greetings & Welcome!

Motorhomes usually get a much better reaction than either cargo vans or box trucks. City and county rules can make a lot of difference too. Often commercial vehicles aren’t allowed to be parked on the street overnight, and it doesn’t matter if it’s registered as a personal vehicle. Commercial vehicle laws are usually strictly enforced, RV rules not so much, oversized vehicle laws are a mixed bag.

I have two deep cycle batteries, one for a house battery, and one for my starting battery. My starting battery is charged normally from my alternator, and my house battery is charged via an solenoid off from my starter battery when my engine is running. Both batteries have low voltage cut-offs attached to them, to prevent over discharge. Then I have a switch so if my house battery is used up, I can switch over and use my starter battery as a house battery. Each battery will last me about a week, and even after the cut-off kicks off, the starter battery still has plenty of power left to start my van.

For a backup plan, I have a $99 generator combined with a $29 battery charger. It works day or night, no sun required. Like most full timers, I no longer use solar. I rarely have access to shore power either, except from my own generator.

99% of the time, just charging while driving is sufficient, even though I don’t drive that much. I too am mostly in cities, and drive maybe 3 days a week to the store, out to eat, or other errands. Rarely more than a few miles in city traffic. Some people claim that I don’t drive enough to fully charge my batteries. This may or may not be true, nor do I care. I never run out of power, and my last $18 house battery purchased used from a junkyard lasted 7 years. That’s good enough for me.


"Proper Planning is preferable to premature failure" ~ DreamLife

Makes sense! Thank you for the useful tips!

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thanks for your detailed reply!

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