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Old 09-07-2016, 04:06 PM   #1
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Suggestions on van to purchase

Hello! New to the forum. First post to be exact. My husband and I have been lurking for a while and doing some research for the past 6 months and feel (kind of) ready to pull the trigger on purchasing a van to convert. I would love some extra insight on choosing which van to purchase. We have a few options. A bit about us: Late twenties, no kids, husbands a mechanic, I work in med research at NASA. My dad who will be helping on the build is an engineer/carpenter. Would love to get done with this project for no more than 15k. We are starting small, see how we like the thing before we go big. Some background of what our goals are:

- Would love a small kitchen (really just place to store a couple cold items and 2 burners). I feel like feeding myself on our camping excursions is my number one priority
- Need something versatile that we can eventually do a 4x4 conversion on but until then, needs to be able to drive on a beach (probably will do a winch until conversion)
- Looking to fit a double bed, we don't need rear seats as we only plan for this to be a 2 person van and will sometimes accommodate our dog. Basically, I am okay with the van being mostly bed, some under storage and kitchen. We travel light and the dog would love to sit on a bed instead of a bench seat while riding. I'm not sure we will ever consider a poptop but I guess anything is possible.
- This will not be used for any trips longer than a week. Mostly for long weekends camping at the river, lake, or beach.
- Needs to be reliable as I would like to be able to take this out on my own and although my husband is a mechanic (the plumbers toilet always leaks!!) we still are looking for something with some longevity. Texas is also a huge state, we live in Houston, and most places we will be driving to are at least 3 hours with 90% highway.

I appreciate any suggestions or tips on things to avoid. I have read a bit about people preferring vans with no windows but a part of me kind of wants them. I do see how there could be a security/privacy issue so I am open to suggestions. Here are a couple links of what we've been having our eye on. We are trying to buy a van for less than $4k and minor mechanical issues are okay since my husband has done a lot of rebuilds on old cars and seems to know what he's doing - at least to me. He leans more towards a Ford but there seem to be some solid Dodge options out there. Thanks in advance yall!


2) 2005 FORD ECONOLINE E350 Work Van

3) 2003 DOGE RAM 3500

4) 2001 RAM B3500 Extended Cargo Van

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Old 09-07-2016, 05:10 PM   #2
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Future 4x4 conversion will be a lot easier with a Ford. Other than that, find the one in the best condition that you can afford.

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Old 09-08-2016, 08:54 PM   #3
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Location: Denver, CO
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I've been looking at vans for over two years now and just pulled the trigger on one last week.
Here's my .02 cents worth.

After Labor day is the best time to buy price wise. Every resort, rafting company and lodge is unloading vans now to downsize for the winter. Spring/early summer is the worst time to buy.

There were only 2 vans I was considering: E350 with 5.4L or 3500 with 6.0L.

The Ford is a proven long lasting van, Downside is the 3V 5.4L. If you look at a Ford with the triton motor make sure you listen for the cam phazers rattling. A tiny bit of rattle is fine. If it sounds like a diesel under the hood, walk away.

The GM 3500 with the 6.0L is a powerhouse and a 200k motor. Downside is the fuel costs and the initial cost of the van.

Chrysler has always had a very good drive train, but the rest of the vehicle seems to fall apart.

I just purchased a 2010 E350 XLT Extended with 73k miles for $15,000. It was a corporate vehicle with full records, mint inside and out. I've done a full service from nose to tail(because I'm anal) and had to put on a set of tires because the ones on it were dry cracked from sun and age. In the Denver area there are some great deals on 06-10 vans with under 100k in the $12-15k price range. Figure out how much you're really going to use it. If its just going to be a camping vehicle once a month then I wouldn't hesitate to go with something inexpensive. If you're going to run it 10,000+ miles a year, I would up your budget.

96 Ford probably has the 5.8 and 4OED trans. The motor is going to be tired at 200k and the tranny will probably run hot. My 95 Bronco with the 5.8 has 150k on it and is getting weak, along with about 12mpg.
05 Ford would be ok if the 5.4L motor has anything left. Don't get the 4.6L.
03, 01 Dodge, if they have the 360 motor it would be ok. I wouldn't consider the small 4.7L or 318 motors.

Hope this helps!
2010 Ford E350 EB 6" Weldtec Lift
2017 Subaru Legacy
1990 Volvo 240GL
2x 1987 BMW 535is
1995 BMW 540i6
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Old 09-09-2016, 08:53 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by winmag4582001 View Post
Downside is the 3V 5.4L. If you look at a Ford with the triton motor make sure you listen for the cam phazers rattling. A tiny bit of rattle is fine. If it sounds like a diesel under the hood, walk away.


96 Ford probably has the 5.8 and 4OED trans. The motor is going to be tired at 200k and the tranny will probably run hot.
Hope this helps!
Ford never put the 3-valve in the vans, so there's no cam phasers.But yeah, avoid any gas engine that clatters like a diesel. This happens on some of the LS motors too (for different reasons).
2000 E450 dually V10 wagon
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