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Old 09-18-2017, 06:39 AM   #1
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Help me decide - Airstream or Sportsmobile

This will be my first purchase. A little about me - Iím in my 30s, have a 10 year old son, getting married next year. I plan to own the vehicle for at least 10-20 years. Weíve rented RVs before but definitely want to go with the Class B. Most of my use (couple times a month) will be 1-2 night trips off the grid (parking at trailheads to mountain bike or hike). I anticipate more than 95% of my use to be away from campgrounds. We will probably do 1 or 2 big trips a year with 4 of us (the kids will sleep in a tent). I will probably go on some longer trips solo or with 2 of us as well, mostly off grid. I know either unit will be limited to a few days of water and fuel. I want 4x4 so I wonít be limited in snow and maybe some gravel or muddy roads in the mountains.

I plan on making the purchase in about a year which is why Iím seriously looking now as I know it will take at least that long to get the Sportsmobile built. Essentially the vans Iím looking at are identical (Sprinter 3500 4x4 Long Body), the question is more about the interior and options. The total cost for either van would be about $140,000.

Airstream Grand Tour Ext
- 4x4 option
- Otherwise standard systems (LP generator 2.5k, propane stove/furnace, 30 gal freshwater)

Sportsmobile
- 4x4 option
- No propane system (although Iím not set on this)
- Extra battery bank (total 4 AGM)
- Extra solar panel
- Diesel 3k generator
- Diesel water heater and furnace
- Electric stove
- Refrigerator and water tank upgrade (to match capacity of Airstream)

I havenít visited Sportsmobile yet. Iíve been in the Airstreams and generally like the plush feel to them (so does my soon to be wife). It looks like the Sporsmobile shower would be a bit roomier and then the benefit of having the water tanks mounted inside.

So here are my general questions and concerns. Any thoughts or input is greatly appreciated. Iím pretty open-minded and admittedly a newbie, so feel free to make other suggestions as well.

- With prices being equal, is there a benefit to the upgraded generator, batteries, all-electric system of the sports mobile

- Do you think having all the diesel options on the sports mobile will be a significant limitation for being off the grid (the diesel tank on either unit is 24 gallon, so no propane to draw off of on the sports mobile)

- Should it really come down to which interior we like better?
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Old 09-18-2017, 07:24 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by jbmtb View Post

- Should it really come down to which interior we like better?
I'll adjust this sentence for you in an effort to help out,"It should really come down to which interior your future wife likes better".

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Old 09-18-2017, 07:51 AM   #3
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I went through the same thinking process except with a Pleasureway. I thought the Pleasureway had significant better build quality than an Airstream. Look closely at the Airstream build quailty behind the shiney cabinets.

I decided against the Pleasureway partly because of the LP generator. Propane is fine as long as you don't need it much. It is a nuisance to fill the tank (find a dealer, wait for them to have time to fill the tank, etc.). It is cost effective though to use a propane for item with short term use like cooking and hot water.

I would forget the diesel generator and get a 2nd alternator. I picked a Sportsmobile largely because of the ability to add a 2nd alternator. Look up some pictures of a diesel generator hanging down in the back of a Sprinter and you will decide against this quickly. They are also noisy. The 2nd alternator with a decent battery bank is a great alternative. If you do the math, you also don't have to do very much driving each day with the 2nd alternator to match the output of solar panels. Solar panels are pretty expensive for what you get each day in electrical output but are useful if you are sitting for long periods of time.

We picked the Sportsmobile because we could design it ourselves from scratch but also because we could use a 2nd alternator, a diesel Espar heater and a propane tank for cooking and hot water (cheaper than the diesel options). I wish I could have used a lithium battery system but Sportsmobile is slow to adopt lithium batteries.
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Old 09-18-2017, 10:57 AM   #4
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$140,000..... That's $140,000 US dollars.....

For that price you could get the biggest Ford F450 4x4 diesel with one of the best in box campers. Or, buy a F350 4x4 diesel and a fifth wheel.

IMO, I just don't see $140k worth of materials or engineering.
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:57 PM   #5
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Have you considered Van Specialties?

Craftsmanship is a little better then both, and they can keep exterior penetrations to a minimum, if you want to maintain a stock look for stealth camping
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by winmag4582001 View Post
$140,000..... That's $140,000 US dollars.....

For that price you could get the biggest Ford F450 4x4 diesel with one of the best in box campers. Or, buy a F350 4x4 diesel and a fifth wheel.

IMO, I just don't see $140k worth of materials or engineering.
Either of those are a completely different driving and camping experience than a camper van. Why buy a diesel pickup and a camper when you can buy a Prius and stay in hotels?
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Old 09-18-2017, 01:49 PM   #7
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Either of those are a completely different driving and camping experience than a camper van. Why buy a diesel pickup and a camper when you can buy a Prius and stay in hotels?
I agree with that statement.
I bought a van because it was multi functional and 1/4 the price of a good diesel 4x4 truck. I have plans of converting mine to 4x4 myself and save $20k.
The biggest issue I have with my van in the mountains (Colorado) is not ground clearance or traction, it's the size and length. I drove my Forester up roads my van can't, because of it's length.
To a poor SOB like myself, $140k on anything is out of the question. Even if I had that cash, I'd still do all the work myself and save $70k.

Just giving my opinion here. No offense meant.
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Old 09-18-2017, 02:12 PM   #8
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You should really try to look at as many long body sprinters that have been converted so you can get a feel for them and how much space you will have inside. The one hurdle I faced with a full interior SMB is the lack of storage space for large items (totes of firewood and other camping gear).

I did the van plus trailer thing and it was actually pretty nice to have a base camp set up with the trailer and be able to use the tow vehicle to get around without having to break down all your gear. The downside to that is dealing with a trailer. Here in CA, the speed limit is 55 when towing. My van is a V10 so gas mileage isn't good and I would have to map out where gas stations would be that can accommodate the length of the van + trailer. I'm not a pro at maneuvering with the trailer though so maybe it wouldn't be an issue if you are better at that.
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Old 09-18-2017, 06:59 PM   #9
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SMB build has allowed us to configure a layout that maximizes open space, still can store gear, still get a refer and heater in there and windows all around to scope what is happening when we're shacked up...
We kept the shower at rear of barn doors to avoid giving up space and views; counter tops are plenty, cook top area etc..
Our plan was maximum open space and comfort and just enough amenities to keep it comfortable...
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Old 09-18-2017, 08:23 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by winmag4582001 View Post
I agree with that statement.
I bought a van because it was multi functional and 1/4 the price of a good diesel 4x4 truck. I have plans of converting mine to 4x4 myself and save $20k.
The biggest issue I have with my van in the mountains (Colorado) is not ground clearance or traction, it's the size and length. I drove my Forester up roads my van can't, because of it's length.
To a poor SOB like myself, $140k on anything is out of the question. Even if I had that cash, I'd still do all the work myself and save $70k.

Just giving my opinion here. No offense meant.
Not to get too off topic here but I just wanted to give you a heads up that even if you didnt have to pay for a kit, axles, driveshafts, or tranny rebuild your still not going to save 20k doing a DIY 4wd install.
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