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Old 04-06-2014, 12:55 PM   #1
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Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

Having to choose between my Honda Odyssey and Extended Ford E-350 for a last-minute drive from Texas to Florida made me think twice about more space not always being needed or better, although often it is; particularly when camping instead of just traveling. Much depends on specific need and circumstances.

And like it's been discussed often in fuel-economy threads, larger, heavier, and more powerful typically means thirstier so I opted to drive the Odyssey. It took me three tanks of gas to cover 1130 miles, averaging 23.6, 25.3, and 25.0 MPG at around 75 MPH. The first tank included a little city traffic getting out of Texas. By comparison my Econoline would have gotten around 14 MPG at 75 MPH. I get close to 15 MPG when limiting speed to 70 MPH.

And the difference is not surprising. One van weighs around 4500 and the other 7000 pounds. One has 3.5 and the other 6.8 liters of engine size. Frontal area based on width and height is also nearly proportional too -- just under twice as large.

While I can sleep comfortably in the Honda (and did) when the weather is nice, an Odyssey-size van is not really large enough to convert into a camper. Granted original VW campers were no larger, but that was a different time.

I've always thought in terms of bigger being better for a Class B camper conversion, but I also realize that there are some benefits to smaller too -- like maybe cost, fuel economy, ease of driving, maneuverability, garageable, and so on. A van sized in the middle that could get around 20 MPG on gas may be a great compromise.

So I'm wondering if those of you who chose to go smaller rather than bigger were generally satisfied with your decision or if you regret not going larger in size when you had the chance.
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Old 04-06-2014, 01:17 PM   #2
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Re: Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

I thought I went smaller when I chose an E350 based SMB.

Can't really picture going smaller for extended use. If I want to go smaller for a short (4-5 day) trip I can take my Jetta TDi (50mpg) and a tent.

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Old 04-06-2014, 01:36 PM   #3
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Re: Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

33' Bounder 8.5 mpg (still have it for when we take the kids n dogs ) down to a Dodge poptop 16 mpg average. I guess it's all in your perspective.
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Old 04-06-2014, 01:52 PM   #4
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Re: Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

I could go you one smaller and drive my Mini Cooper. With one person I can kick back the seat and sleep, and get way better gas mileage.

It just depends on what you need. For me it isn't overall size, even when dealing with backpacking, tenting, or other overnight activity. I find the breakdown comes more with comfort. Like:

Can I stand in it?

Can I sleep in it?

Can I cook a meal in it?

Can I drive offroad?

Can I drive in the city?

And so on. For me, the van is about the smallest stand up, sleep and cook-in thing I could find, aside from tents. Right tool for the right job, as they say.
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Old 04-06-2014, 02:38 PM   #5
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Re: Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

If I wanted to do more extensive off road travel I would consider going smaller. The smaller expedition type vehicles have their plusses but climbing in my SMB during bad weather and not feeling cramped is fantastic. I Actually think if I were a campground person, I'd want something big enough to have a real sized shower/head.
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:02 PM   #6
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Re: Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

Chance, I had an Odyssey too, or my wife did, for several years. It was an 02? and we did one 2-week summer trip in it with a rooftop box and a tent. That thing is fabulous for family travel. 78 quiet, smooth mph all day in comfortable captains chairs. Mine got about 22 at best but that's about 100% better than my present van. We loved to travel in it, but that was before a real camper van/SMB. Having a bathroom (or porta potty) for your baby daughter who is deathly afraid of those automatic flush toilets , having a fridge, having a place to stand up, even for passengers occasionally while the vehicle is moving, and having everything I need for extended travel without the need of anything but a laundromat is why I love the MPG compromise of a van. I don't think I will ever travel in something like that again. I don't like overpriced hotels. I would much rather relax in my own little home, even in a rest stop parking lot. I think the only perfect way, though, is to own about 20 cars. I'm working on that as fast as I can.

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Old 04-06-2014, 10:47 PM   #7
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Re: Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

Our kids are gone so we considered smaller vans like an astro or a shorty sprinter. But we do spend some time lounging inside in cold weather, and those would just be too cramped.

If we are driving a lot of miles per day, it is cheaper to take our Accord and motel it. Just depends on the trip.
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:55 PM   #8
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Re: Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

My rig has been my daily driver for about a year now and when people ask what kind of milage I get I simply say 310.00 bucks month on avrg..... :mrgreen: but I did break down and buy another rig so I don't rack up the miles on Vatonka.
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Old 04-07-2014, 02:40 PM   #9
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Re: Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 86Scotty
Chance, I had an Odyssey too, or my wife did, for several years. It was an 02? and we did one 2-week summer trip in it with a rooftop box and a tent. That thing is fabulous for family travel. 78 quiet, smooth mph all day in comfortable captains chairs. Mine got about 22 at best but that's about 100% better than my present van. We loved to travel in it, but that was before a real camper van/SMB. Having a bathroom (or porta potty) for your baby daughter who is deathly afraid of those automatic flush toilets , having a fridge, having a place to stand up, even for passengers occasionally while the vehicle is moving, and having everything I need for extended travel without the need of anything but a laundromat is why I love the MPG compromise of a van. I don't think I will ever travel in something like that again. I don't like overpriced hotels. I would much rather relax in my own little home, even in a rest stop parking lot. I think the only perfect way, though, is to own about 20 cars. I'm working on that as fast as I can.

Scotty, I was just using my Odyssey as an example of how smaller vehicle size affects driving in many ways and would never consider such a small van to convert into a camper. I know many people can tent camp out of any minivan or station wagon, but that's not the same as having the vehicle serve as a camper; which is what most of us want or we wouldn't participate in this forum. Being an RV is what my extended E-350 offers that the Odyssey can't match.

What I'm wondering about is if some buyers choose a significantly smaller vehicle to convert into a camper and then regret not going with a much larger model. For example, do some Sprinter class B owners who go with short-wheelbase low-roof vans later wish they had purchased a 170-inch wheelbase high-roof instead? Also would like to hear from those who went smaller and are glad they did.

A similar comparison to Sprinter can be the new ProMaster. From onset I was mostly interested only in the very largest extended 159-inch wheelbase model because it seem to offer greatest value. But a 136-inch low-roof model has almost as much interior room as an extended Econoline equipped with a high roof. And if an extended Econoline is enough room for so many, then why wouldn't a smaller ProMaster be adequate also even though larger units can be purchased for incrementally little more?


BTW, for me fuel economy alone is not a deal breaker or maker. I'm not even sure that a smaller PM that could get maybe 20 MPG would be that different in total costs than the largest PM that might get 17 MPG. The shorter PM might serve as a better second "car" and should fit in home garages with 8-ft doors. Maybe less prone to cross winds? Easier to maneuver in parking lots? Pick up a burger at a drive through? It's hard to quantify these types of advantages for a smaller van camper. By comparison advantages to larger Class Bs are easier to visualize.
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Old 04-07-2014, 02:54 PM   #10
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Re: Downsizing: Satisfied or Regrets?

Quote:
Originally Posted by daveb
.....cut.....I Actually think if I were a campground person, I'd want something big enough to have a real sized shower/head.
Thanks, that's an interesting opinion I found counterintuitive. Would like to hear more on why you think this.

I would have thought that since many campgrounds offer nice showers and restrooms that a real size shower/head would be less important. I personally would have expected that request more from those who camp in remote locations.
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