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Old 01-12-2017, 10:09 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Otter View Post
I may be completely off the mark here and, if I am, just move along, but I sense that you might be looking for a bunch of stuff that will meet your needs, but you might not have the $$ for it. A lot of folks here really wanted a certain thing and would have sold our first born to pay for it if we found it but, lo and behold, they wanted actual money which is, commonly, in short supply.
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Thanks for the input, Otter. Without getting too philosophical, here are my thoughts:

I'm an accountant, so every decision I make comes with a pretty detailed cost/benefit analysis. When I look at the SMB decision, I think about the amount of money I'm willing to spend, the amount of time I'm willing to invest, and the amount of use I actually envision getting out of the vehicle. All of these factors are dependent on the other, which makes it a difficult analysis.

The money aspect is complicated. I'm fortunate enough that I could afford to buy an expensive SMB, but I'm not sure that's a smart investment. More important to me is time - that is the one resource that I don't have nearly enough of. And finally, the use of the vehicle - that I'm just not sure about - I'd like to think it would get used quite a bit, but life gets in the way, so I have to be realistic.

So, here are my options:

1. Buy a really nice one for $60k. Even though it's newer, stuff can still go wrong. Have to deal with depreciation/value swings. Have to worry about an expensive van getting stolen or damaged in Mexico. Don't know what I like/dislike and that's a steep price to pay to find out. Also, just doesn't feel right spending that kind of money on something which is more of a luxury/toy.

2. Buy a $10K van and have someone build it. This takes time and money. Once again, have to pay full cost for the build and then deal with depreciation. Plus I have to wait for the van to be built...definite no.

3. Buy a $10K van and do work myself. Seems fair, but once again, time is my most valuable and limited resource. I'd much rather pay up for one that is close to done. Now, I could buy something basic and do like you said - add a half-ass bed, etc. But, a 4wd van, or a 2wd with lift and locker will be at least $15k. And those are generally higher mileage too.

4. Which leads me to the van that I've been asking about, and why I'm so curious for an opinion. This van has all the features, could go camping on day one, is cheap enough that I don't care if I have to scrap it for $5k in a year, and I don't have to worry about it in Mexico. But, I know it's 25 years old and stuff goes wrong - which is why I'm hoping I can get some more feedback.

5. Finally, my last option, and the one that started this whole thread, is to find a van in that happy medium of somewhat newer, but around $30k. This seems to be a unicorn though.

Funny enough, I parked next to a guy while surfing the other day who had a 1996 SMB EB E350 2WD. He purchased it 3 years ago for $10k with 130,000 miles. He added 10k in solar, lift, tires and couple of odds and ends. He mentioned something which made me think an older van might not be such a bad idea:

Said it had a 360 engine in it (which seemed strange to me), which he said was a blessing. He said every shop in Mexico has parts for that engine, but break down in a complicated diesel, and it might be awhile before you find a shop which can do the repair.

My final thought - if I got some responses that a 1991 SMB like the one I posted is a waste of time/piece of junk/problems waiting to happen - then I would lean towards your opinion of just getting a basic van, adding a lift and locker right away, and going from there. But, I haven't heard anything yet - and I still haven't found that basic van which is just right...

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Old 01-12-2017, 10:13 AM   #32
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I looked every day for over a year before Ii jumped on the Dodge. I have lost way too many good deals just waiting around a day or two.

These were the other two my wife and I were going to consider. They aren't full builds and aren't high tops, but that is something you can add? I like the look of that 2010.

2004 E350
https://sandiego.craigslist.org/csd/cto/5933504409.html

2010 E350 Lifted and Locked
https://orangecounty.craigslist.org/cto/5933836333.html
Appreciate the encouragement, Lugee - it really is like a full time job.

Yeah, I've seen those two floating around. The first one concerns me with the 6.0. I really like the second one and thought about contacting him. Got a lot going for it and definitely close to what I'm looking for. My only issue with that is price...I think I could probably find a full 4x4 for not much more.
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Old 01-12-2017, 10:32 AM   #33
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Roccon99 - One other option that I tossed around was buying a 4x4 pick up (F250, F350, Dodge 2500, Tacoma, Tundra, Titan, Frontier, etc) and dropping a pop up camper on it from 4wheelcampers, Palomino, Northstar, Hallmark, Outfitter, etc. I would sell off all my other cars and have one that does both. Of course - a Sportsmobile will serve that purpose as well.
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Old 01-12-2017, 10:35 AM   #34
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The older van you are considering purchasing is asking $17k and you're willing to dump it for $5k in a year? That's a $12k hit that you wouldn't take if you bought a $50-$60k rig and sold it in a year. The newer/nicer rigs don't depreciate much when you're in that price range.

You mention that you just don't know if you will use the van much or if you will like it. That's a lesson we learned on our first SMB. Having all the amenities in the van is great (storage, shelves, cooktop, fridge, etc), but it limited the use of the van to only being a camper. We didn't go as much as we wanted, it was only used for 3 weekend camping trips in a year. The other time, it just sat. We decided to sell that SMB and buy a passenger van that we can "transform" into a camper. Now I have my Chateau that I can take my family in and also take the seats out to use as a utility vehicle. I also made a bed platform that we use to sleep on. Its what fits us best and it was even my daily driver. Just my thoughts and experience I wanted to share since I went through the same emotions as you when buying my first van/smb.
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Old 01-12-2017, 11:50 AM   #35
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Roccon99 - One other option that I tossed around was buying a 4x4 pick up (F250, F350, Dodge 2500, Tacoma, Tundra, Titan, Frontier, etc) and dropping a pop up camper on it from 4wheelcampers, Palomino, Northstar, Hallmark, Outfitter, etc. I would sell off all my other cars and have one that does both. Of course - a Sportsmobile will serve that purpose as well.
That thought had crossed my mind as well. Guess I just never really got into the truck/camper combo. I think a swivel passenger seat in the van could make a big difference between the two.

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Originally Posted by mikracer View Post
The older van you are considering purchasing is asking $17k and you're willing to dump it for $5k in a year? That's a $12k hit that you wouldn't take if you bought a $50-$60k rig and sold it in a year. The newer/nicer rigs don't depreciate much when you're in that price range.

You mention that you just don't know if you will use the van much or if you will like it. That's a lesson we learned on our first SMB. Having all the amenities in the van is great (storage, shelves, cooktop, fridge, etc), but it limited the use of the van to only being a camper. We didn't go as much as we wanted, it was only used for 3 weekend camping trips in a year. The other time, it just sat. We decided to sell that SMB and buy a passenger van that we can "transform" into a camper. Now I have my Chateau that I can take my family in and also take the seats out to use as a utility vehicle. I also made a bed platform that we use to sleep on. Its what fits us best and it was even my daily driver. Just my thoughts and experience I wanted to share since I went through the same emotions as you when buying my first van/smb.
Great insight.

As far as dumping the older van, I guess I just meant as a worse case scenario, but I agree it's flawed logic. Just because I spent less originally doesn't mean it won't cost me more in the longrun than a more expensive, but more reliable van. Guess that's the million dollar question - is the price low enough to justify that van versus paying up for a newer van? i.e. - with a lower purchase price, you automatically put an upper limit on on potential losses. Obviously as the price of a van goes up, so does that limit.

With that being said, the more I search and chat with you guys, the more I do think that I may be better suited with a basic van. Though, there are a couple of deal breakers there. I definitely need solar, inverter, and fridge, and something that can get me into baja (whether lockers, lift, combo, etc) - I'll do some more searching, but any good threads that come to mind for those? Also, a converting rear seat would be pretty nice, but not necessary.
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Old 01-12-2017, 12:37 PM   #36
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That's the market for these vans.. If it's a really good deal, it's gone in days (if not hours), no time to schedule a fly out, a mechanic inspection, you just gotta jump in with both feet.

If you want more time to think about it, get an inspection, etc, you'll have to pay more.
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Old 01-12-2017, 01:42 PM   #37
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That's the market for these vans.. If it's a really good deal, it's gone in days (if not hours), no time to schedule a fly out, a mechanic inspection, you just gotta jump in with both feet.



If you want more time to think about it, get an inspection, etc, you'll have to pay more.


Yep


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Old 01-12-2017, 02:02 PM   #38
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Gonna throw my 2 cents in here.

My approach involved a starter SMB. I bought a 95 Dodge SMB. Not lifted, not 4x4, didn't look anything like a big built up badass SMB, but it had a full SMB interior build out with Pop Top. It was an awesome camping vehicle and it was cheap as dirt, <$10k. We used it for a year as an experiment, camped in it road tripped in it, and learned a ton about all the SMB systems inside it. We did not have any longterm visions for it. From the day we bought it, the plan was to use it for a year or 2 at the max, figure out what we liked/did not like then hunt for the SMB that fit our needs.

From the sounds of it you may not know exactly what you need/want at this point so my suggestion would be to find a low cost fully built out SMB and use it for a bit. This will give you a feel for what you like/need/want. As you know the market for these things is hot, I would not be concerned at all about being able to sell it and at least recouping your money a year or so after purchasing it.

Our old SMB had a side gaucho and lots of cabinets, we found that what we really needed was at least 1 rear captains chair for our young son to face forward, and could stand to lose some of the cabinets inside. We also had an inverter/charger that allowed us to plug a big computer monitor screen to one of the wall outlets in the old van and it was very useful for our Denver to Boston road trip so our son could watch movies during the trip. Our old van also had a grey water tank, that at first I thought was cool, but after using the van realized that I didn't really need the tank taking up space under the van. These were all things that I had no idea about till we owned the first SMB. It would have been difficult to say, without having a van, if I liked it full of cabinets or not. I think you learn a lot through the actual use of these things.

While trying to hit it out of the park on the first go around may be possible, it seems to me that you are better off jumping into the water first then figuring things out. Buying a cheaper SMB is not a permanent decision, if you don't like it, sell it. But at least that way you get some experience with these things.

I will also say that I learned a ton about the SMB appliances and systems crawling around and messing with stuff on that first van. I can read this forum all day(and I do!!), but there is no replacement for getting hands on. After having now owned 2 SMB's, I feel pretty confident that if I had to buy an SMB with a non-working appliance I could either fix it myself or know exactly what needs to be replaced. Therefore, if I were in the market to buy today, through what I have learned actually owning SMB's, I am not as afraid of things like a broken water pump or a split water hose, as I would have been prior to actually owning an SMB. This can open up the potential SMB's that might be priced lower due to some of their problems.

You will find that many people on this forum have owned multiple vans, and after each one they add/delete items from their "Ultimate Van" build list.

As far as high mileage goes, I would definitely rather have an old fully built SMB with 200k miles on it, than a newer stripped cargo van with 100k miles on it. Keep in mind that these are vacation/toy vehicles for many and are treated as such. I don't know many people who treat their stuff as rough as a company fleet vehicle gets treated. I dunno, I have owned high mileage vehicles most of my life(old van had 165k, new van now has 220k, current primary car has 245k miles) so I may be jaded as to their abilities. The other thing is that again, if you take the "starter" SMB mentality, if you don't have long term plans of keeping the vehicle, you can start with a high mileage SMB use it for a bit then trade up. I just saw a 1998 Ford E350 V10 SMB with 200k miles sell on Ebay for $8,500. The inside was a bit beat up, but nothing stopping it from going camping. Here is another Dodge, price seems decent, maybe a little high, but it has low miles for the age and it is a 2 owner vehicle!

95' Dodge Camper Van

Just my take on it. YMMV
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Old 01-12-2017, 02:18 PM   #39
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I more or less agree with everything Ben wrote.
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Old 01-12-2017, 02:24 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by rallypanam View Post
That's the market for these vans.. If it's a really good deal, it's gone in days (if not hours), no time to schedule a fly out, a mechanic inspection, you just gotta jump in with both feet.

If you want more time to think about it, get an inspection, etc, you'll have to pay more.
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Yep

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+2

The van I finally ended up with (and have now).....
.....is honestly (at least!) the 10th one that I tried to buy.

And even then -- I only succeeded because I happened to be the first person to call, just dumb luck --- I was hunting for a van full-time, like you are....and on the 4th of July, of all days, I took a break from a family party for 2 minutes to check for any new listings, and one had *just gone up*....I called frantically...the owner answered and was actually kind of dumbfounded. He was like...."wow, I literally JUST posted that!!!!"

The closest thing to the experience of trying to buy a good used Sportsmobile-type-van.....is probably the experience of people trying to buy homes in a hot real-estate market. People swarm the good properties with offers without even setting foot in 'em.

And I guess that, again, that's a consoling element to all of this:

Any van that looks desirable in Craigslist or eBay listings that you buy....and then you decide that you really don't want.....you can be reasonably sure (barring any major required repairs you get stuck with, that the seller somehow hid from you before you cut them a check) ---- that you could probably unload it for exactly what you paid for it. It will still look just as desirable in online listings/photos to the same large groups of eager buyers that are making it hard for you to buy a great van right now.

And for real --- even if your van proves to be a rat's nest of unpleasant surprises, stuff that needs a lot of work......but you really want to keep it.....really gotta say that the post Ben10281 just made really nails it.

Getting one of these, used, and then having to spend months (or years...) getting them sorted out is really a priceless education.

I've described it to other car-restorer/classic-car-aficionado buddies....that buying a used camper van, and then getting it brought up to speed....."is like buying (and attempting to renovate/restore) both a classic car AND an old apartment at the same time."

And that's a big chunk of the stuff that keeps this forum so alive!

Not just modifying/improving the newer SMB's....but keeping the older-and-just-as-worthy-of-love-and-adventure SMB's out there rolling along and going strong.


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