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Old 04-02-2008, 01:21 PM   #1
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Greetings from Delaware!

Hello everyone. I just joined this informative forum today, and began reading some good posts on DIY interiors, and enjoying all the photos of people's rigs.

I found you thanks to a member at RV.net posting your URL. I've been a member there for about 6 months now, originally researching 5th wheels and pickup trucks there. I soon realized that this combination was beyond my financial (and storage) means.

Now, I'm currently researching the "smaller" RV's out there (Class B's, Van Conversions, etc) and after spending some time "stuck" on Sportsmobile's website (and their DYO "game" online) I found this forum!

So far, I'm leaning towards a van conversion like Sportsmobile (as opposed to a Class B RV), because I like the design-it-yourself option, I like the more "stealth" appearance, I like the "normal" and friendly service-ability of them, and.. well, I just like the cool looks of them! (especially the 4x4's). The DIY interior projects intrigue me. A lot.

I, of course, have a thousand questions for everyone here. And I know all of your combined hands-on experience will help answer my questions. But I'll try to use the search function first and just absorb all the information for now.

Thanks for the great forum!

I will start out with a very general question though, and I'd love to hear everyone's honest answers. First, some background info...

I'm in my mid-30's, divorced, w/ 3 kids, and a house (which I'm trying to sell). My kids don't live w/ me FT (they live w/ Mommy); I have visitation w/ them every Wed night and every other weekend. I'm not even close to retiring (at this rate, that'll be when I'm about 132). I work a "regular" fulltime job and then also own my own business (which I run part time in the evenings and weekends - some weeks I'm busy w/ it, and other weeks I have no "extra" work). I am engaged to a great woman who loves traveling, and would enjoy going with me on trips. I've been considering an RV for weekend (and extended weekend) trips for just the two of us. But w/ my financial status (i.e. child support payment of 43% take home pay, increasing utility bills, ARM mortgage, etc) I can only afford to run one vehicle (monthly payment, insurance, maintenance, etc), so the RV would also double as a daily driver.

My question(s), and I want a brutally honest answer from everyone: Given my background info above...

Am I in the wrong "stage" of life to even worry about an RV?

And sub-questions from that:

Do I have enough time to devote to RVing? (Sure, I could make time, but beyond weekends, I only have maybe one week of vacation from work to devote to traveling)...

Do I have enough finances to devote to an RV? I mean, you not only have to buy the "base" van, but also buy all the RV conversions, too, right? I realize no one will know the true answer to my finances here, but I'm curious how much money it takes to "care" for an RV like a Sportsmobile. I doubt that I'd need a 4x4 (although I like how they look!) around here in Delaware and southern PA....

Is an RV (like a Sportsmobile) even worth considering for a daily driver? I currently drive a minivan, which gets around 15 mpg. I do like the storage space, and room for 5+ that my minivan provides. I'm afraid that a sportsmobile (or any similar sized RV) will force me to work three jobs just to keep it fed w/ gas....

I think you get the idea here - I'm a newbie to all of this and am just wondering if I'm truly ready (given my family/financial/time situation) to dive into the world of RVing, as interesting and neat as it sounds....

Your thoughts and opinions (and of course experiences) are greatly appreciated!
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Old 04-02-2008, 07:26 PM   #2
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I think they're fine as a daily, although I hate to put the miles on it the van is a lot easier to drive and park than my F250 crew/longbed. Bumper to bumper they're the same lenght but the van is just so much easier.

Now you realise where you're asking this question right? I just asked if I should fly to Washington and spend 20 hours driving a J10 home on a jeep pickup board and of course they all said, "Do it do it do it"....

That said, can you afford NOT to have one? When that precious weekend comes around do you want to spend time getting a tent, trailer, or cooler ready or do you want to hit the road and be camping?

The 4x4 versions are a little less stealth as they draw a lot of attention but they'd still work as a daily driver. Your friendly neighborhood association would have to be really bad to no allow it as your car, whereas your most basic RV even in a B is going to be good for neither of those things.

So yeah buy one. I'm sure others will give you more and better reasons.

Oh yeah, and don't forget you can go older and save some $$ that way.
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Old 04-02-2008, 08:42 PM   #3
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Thanks jage!

Yeah, I realize where I'm asking my questions. That's why I specified wanting "honest" answers (not biased!). LOL.

In all honesty, yeah I think I could afford NOT to have one right now, especially w/ a house (and associated utility bills) to worry about... but once that's sold, my financial burdens lighten up a bit. And I can't wait for that!! So, for now, I'm just window shopping, and dreaming.

So the 4x4 versions can be used as a daily driver? That's good to know. Is the 4x4 mode set all the time, or is there a selector for 2wd, too? After I sell my house, I'd be moving in w/ my fiancee (I live there PT now anyway), and I'm sure her neighborhood assoc (if there even is one) would allow an E350 type van to be parked in the driveway (or on the street), especially since I've seen some big pickups around, and a van conversion, and even a small work trailer, all parked on the roadside.

As for "how" to buy, I'm sure I'd have to buy used anyway, just to afford the initial purchase (or monthly payments). I've also thought of buying a "bare base model" and doing all the firniture and cabinets myself, the exact way I want them. I'm sure a B.Arch degree and CAD experience would come in handy for that project.

Thanks again for the post and comments!
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Homebuilt RV Project: Design Phase is 80% Complete! (but on hold until I win the lottery)
Ford E-350 EB w/ Cruiser Top, Flip-down "Gaucho" sofa/bed, custom cabinets, AGM batteries, solar panels, water heater, fresh/gray water tanks, sink, porta-potty....
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Old 04-02-2008, 09:26 PM   #4
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First, decide if you really need/want 4 wheel drive. You can still camp most places with 2wd.

Everyone here, I think, has some form of camper conversion from Sportsmobile, but some have their 4wd conversion from Sportsmobile (SMB), some from Salem-Kroger in northern Calif, some from Quigley (back east) and some from Quadvan in Oregon. There are a number of posts on this forum regarding the virtues of each.

The SMB 4wd conversion uses an Atlas transfer case with manual shifters, I'm not sure about Salem-Kroger and Quigley, and Quadvan gives you the choice of a selector switch or a shifter.

The degree of stealth can also be increased with a Quadvan conversion which you can get with a 2" lift. Confused yet?


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Old 04-02-2008, 10:27 PM   #5
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Herb, thanks for the post, too!

No, I'm not confused yet. Any tidbit of pertinent info goes into my database I've been creating on the subject of RV's. That way I can see it easier, all at once, and I can always look at it when I need to. It lives on a portable hard drive which goes back and forth to work, my house, and my fiancee's house w/ me. (Yeah, I'm a bit of a geek I guess)...

At this point, the 4x4 option isn't necessary, but if I find an affordable SMB that has it, I won't pass it up. My only concerns w/ the 4x4 are:

1. Can I add the 4x4 later if I get a 2wd from somewhere else?
2. Which engines can handle the 4x4? Must I get the diesel?
3. Where can I get it serviced?
4. Cost of "ownership" vs. 2wd vehicle
5. What's the "standard" lift height w/ a 4x4 package?

Sounds like Quigley is the only facility even remotely close to me who could do the work. It's only about 2 hours from me (past my parents' house even).

I've read a lot about the "need" or desire to be more stealthy. Is that only for being in certain camping locations so people don't kick you out (compared to, say, looking totally like a Class B)? Or is it so people don't truly know you're an RV and try to break in, assuming you have all your costly possessions inside? Of course, using that logic, any large van like the E350 could be a contractor, plumber, etc who typically carry $1000's worth of tools w/ them. Hmmm....

Thanks for the posts. Keep them coming!
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Homebuilt RV Project: Design Phase is 80% Complete! (but on hold until I win the lottery)
Ford E-350 EB w/ Cruiser Top, Flip-down "Gaucho" sofa/bed, custom cabinets, AGM batteries, solar panels, water heater, fresh/gray water tanks, sink, porta-potty....
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Old 04-02-2008, 10:32 PM   #6
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Our homeowner association (HOA) specifically prohibits RVs parking in our neighborhood. We've parked the SMB there for over a month now and no HOA nazis have complained. And we have the president of the HOA living on our cul-de-sac. So they see it but like most people they just see "van." Were they to look closely we might be in trouble. This HOA is quite actively patrolling the area for violations. They have a guy in a car who drives the neighborhood looking for stuff to write up.

So something else to consider. If you ever move to a place with an active HOA, you might be able to slide by with the SMB.
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Old 04-02-2008, 11:30 PM   #7
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Dave,
The SMB makes a great love hut, but for justification purposes, how old are your kids?
In my opinion, camping with your kids, even if only over the weekend is the cheapest and most fun way to spend time with them away from the TV, the chores, etc.. We've spent alot of time backpacking which was wonderful, but it was only a couple of times a year; we would have gotten out of town more often for short breaks if we'd had a way to avoid motels; and if you can't get away, the van makes an awesome clubhouse.
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Old 04-03-2008, 06:07 AM   #8
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Dave,

Like most answers, "it depends".

SMB, at least the one in Fresno, will only do a 4wd conversion on a vehicle within a few years of the current year's version.

The diesel is great, but by no means necessary. The V10 is an excellent choice as well, but the V8 MIGHT not be enough dependin on your planned usage. These base vans plus the conversions, are heavy. The choice between diesel and gassers is a personal one. I wanted the diesel because I felt it better suited my towing needs.

Servicing of Ford parts should be done at a local Ford dealer. Some dealers are much better than others when it comes to a modified vehicle. Some blame EVERYTHING on the conversion, some don't hesitate to fix a Ford issue if there's a Ford part at fault. The SMB parts/mods you'll need to maintain yourself (with SMB tech help) or send to a competant mechanic, but SMB will get you replacemenbt parts if needed.

4wd is more expensive to maintain, and 4wd, even part-time, does cut into your fuel mileage. How much....?

Believe most 4wd conversions are a 4-4.5" lift.

Sometimes I'm a little California centric, since that's where I live. SMB also has "factories" in Texas and Indiana.


Hope this helps,
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Old 04-03-2008, 09:13 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lowracer
... HOA nazis ...
That's funny. I know what you mean though - it sounds like the HOA's just want something to do (i.e. get more money) to pass the time, and act like they're important. Luckily, most neighborhoods in DE don't have HOA's. But it is a good point and something to "worry" about when thinking of a new place to live. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanna
... for justification purposes, how old are your kids?
In my opinion, camping with your kids, even if only over the weekend is the cheapest and most fun way to spend time with them away from the TV, the chores, etc...
My kids are young: 8, 6.5, and 5. We do go on local "hikes" together on the trails near my house (2500 acres of dirt trails for horseback riding, mtn biking, hiking, jogging, etc). It's great exercise, gets them away from their precious TV (i.e. OUTside), and enables great (and needed) Daddy/kids time. Having the RV certainly would allow us to go to other places and have fun, too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronco_hauler
SMB, at least the one in Fresno, will only do a 4wd conversion on a vehicle within a few years of the current year's version.

The diesel is great, but by no means necessary. The V10 is an excellent choice as well, but the V8 MIGHT not be enough dependin on your planned usage. These base vans plus the conversions, are heavy. The choice between diesel and gassers is a personal one....

Servicing of Ford parts should be done at a local Ford dealer... The SMB parts/mods you'll need to maintain yourself (with SMB tech help) or send to a competant mechanic, but SMB will get you replacemenbt parts if needed.

4wd is more expensive to maintain, and 4wd, even part-time, does cut into your fuel mileage.
Thanks again! ... My planned usage does not include towing anything big. If anything, I would add a lightweight travel trailer or pop-up tent for additional sleeping/bathroom facilities for the kids, but that's it.

I'm sure these SMB's are heavy, especially w/ all the wood inside for the cabinetry and beds! Plus, of course, any propane, water, batteries, etc. Could the weight be reduced by using a different material for the woodwork inside by DIY??

It's good to know that SMB has decent customer service after sales, and will send replacement parts and provide tech support. That's a relief. And Ford being able to work on them is a real plus! There's actually a Ford truck dealer/service facility only a minute down the road from my fiancee's! They sell and service the F and E series trucks!

Only a 4-4.5" lift? The pictures I've seen make them seem higher I think. I was thinking it's more like 10" or something. Oops. Regardless, it sounds like the 4x4 option isn't something I need right now, especially around here, and especially for the kind of driving I'd be doing and the locations for camping that are close to here.

Thanks for the posts everyone!
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Homebuilt RV Project: Design Phase is 80% Complete! (but on hold until I win the lottery)
Ford E-350 EB w/ Cruiser Top, Flip-down "Gaucho" sofa/bed, custom cabinets, AGM batteries, solar panels, water heater, fresh/gray water tanks, sink, porta-potty....
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Old 04-03-2008, 09:24 AM   #10
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Dave,

The 4-4.5" lift is suspension lift only. Most everyone has larger tires as well, adding to the overall height. The penthouse rood adds some height as well.


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