I initially wrote this up as a reply to Chumley, who spent a good deal of time documenting his write up on his Sportsmobile purchase. I instead will simply link his message as a reply to his original thread so I don’t take any of the focus from the great work he has done:
Original Chumley writeup:
Reply to Chumley/All:
Thanks so much for sharing your build experiences Chumley. It is great to see someone willing to take the time and offer up their thoughts on “how they made their decisions” on building a van. Based off your inspiration, I have decided to write a little about our thoughts on building a Sportsmobile van. I too have a sprinter that just arrived in Charleston, and will be converted at Sportsmobile in Indiana. Based off your experience and thought process, the wife and I have decided that an on-site visit to Huntington would be a wise move to finalize our floor plan options.
A couple of thoughts on buying a van in general:
I went back and forth trying to find the best options I could to keep costs under control as much as possible. I received a separate quote from Sportsmobile on the full cost of the sprinter van from their preferred dealer in Chicago. I used that quote to go to my local MB dealer here in Atlanta to “see what they could do.” In the end I decided to decouple the two and purchase the van separately from MB Atlanta for several reasons: #1 I did not want to pay for this van for the next 10-20 years by combining the two under one loan. #2 The overall cost of an RV loan as compared to a traditional auto loan just ends up being more expensive. #3 I have saved up enough $$$ for several years to pay for the conversion outright.
We ended up going through USAA and taking out a 60 month, 3.19% APR with the payments ended up ~800ish.
Having the flexibility to customize an interior is what sold me on Sportsmobile. We decided we wanted to go as minimal as possible and remove a lot of the traditional RV type add-ons that most go for. Considering my wife and I have both done a lot of backpacking, and spend a lot of time “roughing” it (hand shovels can make good toilet tools) we took decided we did not want a lot of the features to free up space in the van for toys. No stove, porta-potty, shower, gray water, fresh water, propane tanks in our build. We even skipped on TV. I figured if I don’t watch TV at home, I know I won’t on the road. Our main focus is outdoor play so visiting Sportsmobile in person will hopefully relay what types of things we want added. We cave, kayak, hike, SUP, run, etc so places to hang wet stuff, store gear, and basically have room to carry things are what is most important to us. We really want to find out if we will be able to hang two SUP boards from the interior of the roof of the van (RB high roof) and still have room to close the door. All indications seem to point that direction but we really want to get a better feel for how practical that may be for moving around inside while on the road. Another add-on consideration is adding a small scooter (~250 CC) to the back of the RV. With a class III factory receiver and 500lb tongue weight, I added on the suggested add-ons from the dual rear springs, suspension package and vibration absorber to hopefully beef up the rear enough to support a ramp/scooter and try to keep things ~450 or under.
Some things we have added and are tempted to add before we finalize our van:
We added the solar panels. Most of our travel may end up at RV campgrounds but we do some random trips where we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. We have not yet decided on an add-on AC unit but considering we travel to Florida a lot I think we will strongly reconsider that option. I am curious to hear how the “interior” AC unit works for those who have the low roof/penthouse top option. Already having a high roof, I’d prefer something mounted inside versus adding to the already high roof. Does anyone know if these AC units run off the typical 20amp breakers you find at camp grounds? I am thinking we may be better off with a small, “quiet” travel generator than adding something else on the van. We did add the diesel Espar heater option. We added the 3rd seat with the intention of maybe using it for the occasional passenger. It would need to be removed if we intended to use the bed. Too bad there are no quick releases to place the seat and remove. Apparently it is four bolts to the floor.
Other things we have had a hard time finding information on:
- Ideas for travel shelves to place plastic crates of gear. We left an area of the van in the back empty with the intention of making it “flex space” to have a spot to either pile crates of gear (caving for example) or stick something larger in place. I have not found a good way to articulate to sportsmobile what I am after with portable shelves / temporary storage. Hopefully I can settle that in person.
- Good source for aftermarket Brush guard/bull bumper. Something to be added at a later date but they seem to be difficult to shop.
I have attached a copy of our tentative setup. I welcome anyone’s suggestions / feedback.