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Old 02-03-2019, 08:43 PM   #1
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To convert or not to convert...

Hello all,

First off thanks so much for all the knowledge and resources on this forum! I'm new to the SMB world and have been soaking everything in the last week. I'm looking to either buy a used SMB or to possibly do a conversion myself.

Here's a little background information: We live in CA, our budget is under $40k (the more under the better but we're also looking to get something that will last us a while), and we have a 1 year old daughter (we plan to continue to grow the family over the next 5 years).

Our main list of "wants" right now is this

- Really like the Sportmobile layouts/conversions. We rented one with a EB 50 layout and really liked it.
- Love the pop top and it's a must for us.
- Would like the ability to sleep 4 adults (hence the pop top)
- We're okay with the idea of a convertible bench seat in the back, but in the long run we'll probably need a better fixed seating option closer to the front with 3 point seat belts as we grow our family, so if we're building one we want to keep that in mind.
- We think we're going to need the space of an extended body
- 4x4 isn't a big priority for us.

I'm trying to price things out, so if we did decide to do our own conversion, what years/models of base vans should we be considering? We like the Ford Econoline Vans, is there any major difference in the model over the years? Should we try to find a 7.3 diesel for longevity? Or is the 5.4l gas engine fine? Any other options we should be looking for as we price out used vans for a base build? If we did our own conversion any advice for seating (trying to find the right balance between safety and functionality with a bias towards safety).

Other than that any general advice on whether or not we should consider converting or just look for a good used option? Free time is at premium at the moment with a one year old daughter, but if we're going to spend the money we'd like to have something that would fit our family well and last us for a long while. We're okay with the conversion taking a bit of time if we end up at the right place.

Thanks!
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Old 02-04-2019, 10:53 AM   #2
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What sorts of skills to you have today (DYI conversion, maintenance) ?


A place, tools, and a desire to spend every weekend working on a small RV?



How long do you anticipate keeping this rig?


comment: with a $40k budget and no 4x4 needed, I would think you'd be able to find a nice complete, used (with plenty of life left in it) poptop van, already finished.
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Old 02-04-2019, 11:03 AM   #3
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I have a good amount of construction experience and am comfortable using most tools you'd find in woodshop. Regarding working on cars though I have little to no experience with that, and no metal working experience (although I'm down to learn). I do have a place and access to most tools I'd need (including metal working tools). A desire to spend every weekend working on the rig? I think thats the toughest one. If I felt confident that we'd end up with a clearly better result though, I'd definitely consider it. But that is definitely a concern of mine.

We're hoping to build or buy something that could last us the next 10 years? Not sure if that's realistic or not but we'd like to get maximum value out of our van. Obviously things will change a lot for us in the next 5-10 years and we may need to do something different in the future so buying something that won't totally crater in value if we had to sell would be ideal.
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Old 02-04-2019, 03:02 PM   #4
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Ive been in your shoes OK, a little different, in my case we had a 1yr old, and were going to try for baby #2 soon. The 63 VW Westfalia I had was too small, too slow, not warm or comfortable for cross country ski trips we were doing at the time. I thought about getting something newer to fix up, (I had the mechanical skills back then) maybe a later model VW Vanagon. I also had a second house, it needed some work, so in the end, I decided to sell the Westy and buy a something already finished.



Something newer, with a furnace, A/C and cruise control, ready to take camping 3 days after I bought it. It allowed me just enjoy my family and camping, instead of taking on another project.



Im not anti-project by any means, but it is something to think about.


If I were you, I'd be looking at $25k gas powered rigs with just under100k miles, 15yrs old, something like that. Expect to give it a full service, maybe put on new tires, fix the furnace, the air bag light, the little stuff that you'd expect from a 15yr old rig.
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Old 02-04-2019, 03:14 PM   #5
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I've had numerous vans. I think they're great for ( ONE ), possibly two.
The kids grow faster than the van does. Soon, you'll be pulling a trailer.
You might fare better with a conversion van and a trailer.
Park the trailer at the CG. Do day trips with the van. Just sayin.
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Old 02-04-2019, 04:19 PM   #6
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We have a 14 year old son and have been traveling with him in our SMB for over six years now. Our layout is an EB-10 with Penthouse, plus we added a third captains chair, and it works just fine for the three of us. Our traveling style is heavy on road tripping, with us usually staying 1-3 nights at any given place. We rarely stay in campgrounds with full hookups; usually national parks, USFS/BLM dispersed camping, and the occasional boondock or Walmart site. While we occasionally eat inside, were usually cooking and eating outside. We may retire inside at night to read or whatever.
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Old 02-04-2019, 07:02 PM   #7
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Old 02-04-2019, 07:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomsBeast View Post
...Something newer, with a furnace, A/C and cruise control, ready to take camping 3 days after I bought it. It allowed me just enjoy my family and camping, instead of taking on another project.



Im not anti-project by any means, but it is something to think about...
Thanks for the perspective, that's definitely helpful. It does sound super appealing to just buy something already to go, I just might need to be a little patient and wait for the right one. Once you start looking into conversion its hard not to get excited about all the things you can do, but ultimately I'm looking for a way to spend more time with my family and not less and taking on this size of project may not be in our best interest at the moment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by regis101 View Post
I've had numerous vans. I think they're great for ( ONE ), possibly two.
The kids grow faster than the van does. Soon, you'll be pulling a trailer.
You might fare better with a conversion van and a trailer.
Park the trailer at the CG. Do day trips with the van. Just sayin.
That's also really helpful, it's hard for me to project what it would be like with more kids so that is good information. I've never really considered a trailer much, I think the biggest limiting factor would be storage where I'm at but down the road my situation could change and that could be a nice option.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianW View Post
We have a 14 year old son and have been traveling with him in our SMB for over six years now. Our layout is an EB-10 with Penthouse, plus we added a third captains chair, and it works just fine for the three of us. Our traveling style is heavy on road tripping, with us usually staying 1-3 nights at any given place. We rarely stay in campgrounds with full hookups; usually national parks, USFS/BLM dispersed camping, and the occasional boondock or Walmart site. While we occasionally eat inside, were usually cooking and eating outside. We may retire inside at night to read or whatever.
Oh that's really great, I really like the EB-10 layout I was just trying to find a good seat option. How have you liked the dinette area? Is is a big enough space that its comfortable for you all to sit at? We love playing board games and it would be great to have a space to do that.
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Old 02-04-2019, 07:18 PM   #9
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Not sure if this has sold yet (no affiliation), but very low mileage, and price leaves you room to do upgrades as you see fit (Could pull cabinet by barn doors and install a single seat for the little one, and if you also pull the two cabinets behind the drivers seat you could have twin captains chairs in the back). You'll create some great family memories once you lock down on a rig that meets your criteria - good luck in your your pursuit.
http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...e-23191-2.html
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Old 02-04-2019, 07:24 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Twoxentrix View Post
Not sure if this has sold yet (no affiliation), but very low mileage, and price leaves you room to do upgrades as you see fit (Could pull cabinet by barn doors and install a single seat for the little one, and if you also pull the two cabinets behind the drivers seat you could have twin captains chairs in the back). You'll create some great family memories once you lock down on a rig that meets your criteria - good luck in your your pursuit.
http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...e-23191-2.html
Yes, thank you I messaged the owner but haven't received a response. But I agree a van in that price range with that low of mileage would be amazing. I was thinking similar things for upgrades, who knows but at this point I'm assuming it's been sold.
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