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Old 12-31-2016, 09:29 PM   #1
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Narrowing down the search

Hi all,

Been lurking around here for awhile, but first time posting.

I've been on the search for the right van over the last 6 months. I've invested some money having vans inspected all over the country, but haven't found that perfect one and it's staring to become expensive!

I was hoping to get some personal insight from all the van owners out there. This is my first time ever owning anything like this, so it's difficult to say what it is I need exactly. With that in mind, I thought I'd list out some of the things I'm planning to do with the van and hopefully you can help point me in the right direction.

Budget - max of $30k including any repairs/updates I need to do myself

Knowledge - basic mechanics understanding and relatively handy, but currently renting an apartment and lacking any real workspace. Not looking to do a full build (or even close) but willing to add final touches.

Needs:
1. Ability to seat 5 in some fashion and sleep at least 2
2. Ground clearance and good tires. I'd absolutely love/prefer 4wd, but I'm a bit weary of the price tag and possible issues/maintenance. I'm planning on taking this van deep into Baja where 4x4 is helpful, but I'm hoping I can get away with 2wd, locking rear, winch, land anchor, etc. Thoughts?
3. Needs to be parkable in normal parking spot.
4. Needs fresh and gray water
5. Needs solar, and a strong enough inverter system so I can work with a laptop for extended periods of time.
6. Desk/table for eating and working
7. Solar fridge
8. Ability to stand up inside
9. Don't need shower/toilet, don't need massive insallation, don't need shore power as I'm really just looking to do off the grid mostly (but shore power would still be cool). Don't really car about a cooktop as I think I'd use a portable grill more often anyways.

With all this in mind, the vans I've been looking at are all over the map and I'm having trouble narrowing down. They seem to be either too expensive, complete blank slates, need too much work, too old/unreliable.

I guess I'd just like some insight on what others have done...did you focus on a good engine, the right body type, camping features, etc? I've gone through the Craigslist posts but nothing is jumping out - any specific ones you could recommend and why? I'd love to do some of the work myself, but I'd really prefer being able to use this thing right away and for it to be relatively maintenance free.

Honestly, any advice to help me for my search would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 01-01-2017, 09:16 AM   #2
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Regarding seating, how often do you need to seat 5?

After a similarly long search (based more on price/condition than major features) I bought a cargo van. I will mostly need seating for 2, but want to have the ability to carry either or both of our 2 daughters from time to time.

I picked up a Freedman Flip and Fold 2 place seat retired from a 'little bus', and will be mounting it right behind the driver's seat. When I don't need it, it will be out of the way. For my purposes, versatility is important.

Betting there are some creative ways to meet your seating requirements.
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Old 01-01-2017, 09:21 AM   #3
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Sounds like an 2WD RB with an LSD and/or locker and maybe a lift kit.......and if you are patient a pop-top...

If I were starting again I'd probably go that way......

I've got a similar setup (and needs apparently)...I use a portable butane stove, have a small fresh water tank on-board, and solar.

Seems like there was a recent posting for a newer blank interior van with a pop-top somewhere.......can't remember where.....that may be a good start.....

Do have a preference for a window or cargo van?
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Old 01-01-2017, 09:54 AM   #4
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For the seating, could definitely do something where I install the seating when needed...don't need the 5 person set up all the time, but would need it a few times a year. That freedom flip definitely sounds like a good option and I too am looking for that kind of versatility. It will be wife and I primarily, but I would like to do some surf trips where I occasionally bring a few buddies along.

As for window preference...I like the idea of windows but could go either way for the right van. The setup you described seems like what I'm going for, but finding one like that has been a challenge!

There's actually a post on this forum of a vehicle I made an offer on (1991 4x4 in mimbres nm) but after some research online and some forum reviews, I decided to back off, especially when he wouldn't budge on the price. That seems to be what I'm struggling with the most - knowing when I see a good deal and moving quickly, or knowing it's a money pit.
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Old 01-01-2017, 10:27 AM   #5
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Roccon99 - where are you located? helpful if location is in your profile.

Your desires to use the van in Baja points to pop top and opening windows for lots of ventilation. Also, when driving in heat, the rear air set up makes cooling much more distributed throughout the van. Finding a van with the factory rear AC/heat is a great way to go.

Needs:
1. Ability to seat 5 in some fashion and sleep at least 2
>> RB 50 layout is popular and covers these.
2. Ground clearance and good tires. I'd absolutely love/prefer 4wd, but I'm a bit weary of the price tag and possible issues/maintenance. I'm planning on taking this van deep into Baja where 4x4 is helpful, but I'm hoping I can get away with 2wd, locking rear, winch, land anchor, etc. Thoughts?
>> Nothing like having 4wd and I do not think the maintenance would be significantly more than 2wd except you may go places which create the need for more repairs maintenance. But given the same places and use, I do not think the difference would be that significant over time.
3. Needs to be parkable in normal parking spot.
>> Regular length so RB, which kind of fits this.
4. Needs fresh and gray water
Number of gallons in tanks? You can add tankage underneath if not heading to freezing temps.
5. Needs solar, and a strong enough inverter system so I can work with a laptop for extended periods of time.
>> Probably better to add yourself if the system is over ten years old. Figure 300w solar and a battery bank off at least 200 Ah.
6. Desk/table for eating and working
>> Can use a portable roll/fold up table, or add a pedestal one.
7. Solar fridge
>> What is this?? Fridge off your batteries which are charged by solar.....
8. Ability to stand up inside
Pop Top
9. Don't need shower/toilet,
>> Porta Potti w 5 gals holding tank.
Shore power
>> A good setup will likely have this already and it is nice to have.
Cooktop
>> ala boywonder butane approach works great or a nice camp stove
Fuel Capacity was not listed - Baja -Either internal larger tanks or use the bumper area for fuel cans.
Awning - Baja = need. I really like the Fiammas ability to be used in rain and sun and ability to partially extended out when it is windy, or tight space.

$30k budget will be a tough parameter to meet for 4wd that does not require work. Even lifting and outfitting a 2wd rig will quickly add $8k or more with suspension kit, install, wheels/tires, extra recovery gear.

Will you do any towing?
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Old 01-01-2017, 10:41 AM   #6
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I'm thinkin' $30 is easily doable for a newer 2WD RB....even with a PH top.....

$16K or so for a decent mileage 2008-2011 RB window van
$2K for a locker
$3K for lift kit
$7K for a top
$1.5K wheels/tires
$1K solar and basic water system

Real easy without a pop-top.........and If you like a fixed top, also less $$ than a PH top

*the above guesstimates assume doing some work yourself and having other work professionally done (specifically the locker, top and lift kit professionally installed)
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Old 01-01-2017, 11:00 AM   #7
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All very helpful. To answer some questions: I'm in San Diego, don't plan on doing any towing, could probably fit an eb in my parking space (so that opens up a few other options).

So it definitely sounds like a passenger van with rear ac/heat is step one. It also sounds like I should be going for more of a blank slate - if that's the case, any recommendations on shops that can do full builds on a budget in so cal? What do you think about trying to find an older model smb and adding solar/recovery gear? I'm not too comfortable building out a full interior and I have a feeling that a shop build will be more than I can afford when you add it all up.
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Old 01-01-2017, 12:49 PM   #8
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Might want to give this one a look.

1996 Dodge Sportsmobile trade?
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Old 01-01-2017, 02:38 PM   #9
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That one did seem nice. I texted the seller and he's got some people coming to see it on Tuesday, so we'll see.

That does bring up some questions though.

What kind of mileage should I be shooting for? Over 100k starts to concern me - not sure what usually goes wrong around then and the costs of fixing.

Also, seems like fords are preferred - what about the other brands should I watch out for?

For a van like that, could I make the upgrades necessary for it to be capable enough for the average Baja road?

Finally, I'm willing and able to travel just about anywhere in the country to get a van...so feel free to share good candidates even if they're not in southwest.
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Old 01-01-2017, 03:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roccon99 View Post

...so feel free to share good candidates even if they're not in southwest.


Right here....So Cal......5 minute CL search.....

2010 Ford Econoline E350 Passenger Van w/ Only 22k Mi One Owner !!

2012 Ford E350 Econoline Wagon XLT 12 PASSENGER, 5.4L V8

EXCELLENT***2013 FORD E-350 EXTENDED PASSENGER VAN LOW MILES***

Ford E350 XLT Super Duty 12 Passenger
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