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Old 02-06-2010, 11:05 PM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 24
Any advice for a rookie looking for a used SMB?

Well, I'm about to take the plunge into Sportsmobiling. My budget is humble so I'll end up with something with over 100K miles. So my question is this: I'm about to check out my first used SMBs. Is there anything that might typically devalue a SBM that I should pay particular attention to? (For example mechanical issues at this mileage that would throw up a red flag to walk away from the sale.) Are there any 'must-haves' that might be optional upgrades that would be highly recommended? My needs are modest: 4x2 will be adequate, nothing to tow, not going off-road, basic weekend trips with the kids (4 and 6 years old).

I appreciate any thoughts/opinions. Thanks!

P.S. This forum is awesome! I can't wait to be part of the SMB family!

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Old 02-07-2010, 09:31 AM   #2
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Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,837
Re: Any advice for a rookie looking for a used SMB?

Good Luck and Welcome to the family

Asking for advice from this group is well..... interesting!

Kidding ladies, you will get some pretty darn solid stuff here
and good arguments from both camps
diesal vs gas
stove vs no stove
pop top vs fixed

One thing i would bring out that these are usually 1 Ton work vehicles
100k milage aint really too bad

also, the group of owners tend to take pretty good care of them
i have seen late models with 100k that are very clean
remember, most of the milage will be long distance getting to and from camping

my first bit:
go see some, doesnt matter what year or milage
for sale or not
ya gotta get a feel for them to see what ya like

search daily:
craigs list, here, ebay, auto trader, rv trader, good ones dont last

here is two from a quick CL search
no affiliation bla bla bla, the San Diego one is posted here also

(to search CL nationwide i use mozilla and

post where ya are and see if some of the folks here are close by
i am sure they would be glad to show off

again, welcome

bill wilson

did they tell you about the Manditory pics?

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Old 02-07-2010, 11:29 AM   #3
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Parker, CO
Posts: 7,640
Re: Any advice for a rookie looking for a used SMB?

Originally Posted by billwilson
and good arguments from both camps
diesal vs gas
Please note that starting Diesel vs. Gas discussions is no longer allowed. There is plenty of existing information already, which you can find with the Search.

As far as your search, consider that High Mileage is not your only option for reducing the expense of owning a Sportsmobile or similar van. The older models are less and less likely to have Sportsmobile branding, and even less likely to be identified as Sportsmobile. If you concentrate on "Camper Vans", "Pop top" or other phrases that people might use for older models you are more likely to turn up older (but mechanically sound) vans.

In addition you might be able to save some money doing part or all of the interior yourself. It gets tougher to get a penthouse top on older vans that don't already have one, but if you can find something or settle for a normal roof or fixed top (fixed tops are great, just more likely to be found as work vans, etc) and make it work, it can save you some money.

High mileage is where things start to go wrong. My recent diesel repairs to a 7.3L in my 99 F250 could have been as much as $3000 or more at a dealer or less honest shop. The truck had 55,568 miles on it, but has spent a fair amount of time at idle which doesn't show on the odometer. The problems I fixed are more indicative, that is to say common for, this engine at 125,000 miles according to the shop.

My point is, if you're shopping for a $10,000 vehicle and find a high mileage one for $5,000, then it is only a "deal" if you can keep the repairs under the $5,000 you saved, and live with the downtime and possible interruption of trips.

If you've only got $5,000 to spend in the first place, the 100,000 mile vehicle could easily turn in to something you cannot afford to fix. You're shopping at the cusp where owners start to hide problems or don't want to gamble with possible failures anymore. It's totally possible to find a gem that will run forever, but I'm not sure it's likely without careful evaluation.

It is very worth it though- to camp in a van in my opinion, so be patient and look for the right thing at the right price.
it was good to be back
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Old 02-08-2010, 10:40 AM   #4
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: North America
Posts: 31
Re: Any advice for a rookie looking for a used SMB?

Service records. On any van with high miles how it has been maintained is very important. No records and I would walk.

05 EB-50 SMB 4x4 6.0 - Gone! Back to self propelled for a while
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Old 02-08-2010, 01:21 PM   #5
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Location: Port Angeles Wa And Jackson Hole Wy.
Posts: 1,255
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Re: Any advice for a rookie looking for a used SMB?

Hello and welcome
I just ended my 3 month search and picked mine up Saturday it is 4x4 so the search was harder to find what I wanted lucky for me it was from a member of this Forum. The best thing I can say has already been said by Bill Willson and thats do lots of research dont be in a hurry and be picky. There are alot of camper vans out there some are really great some well lets just say not so great.
If it looks to good to be true most likely it is but not all ways you might have to travel to find it. ask for lots of pictures and service records most people are great about that. My last van older 1981 and it was really bad on gas 6mpg so newer with Fuel Injection for me was a must. I also did not have a penthouse or raised roof I thought I could live without it, I was wrong being able to stand up is a must even if its just to put your pants on. I feel that a 3/4 ton Van is much better than a 1/2 ton as a camper. able to handle more weight.
Good luck and enjoy the search it's part of the adventure.

Going where most dont
"one day at a time"
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Old 02-10-2010, 01:20 AM   #6
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 24
Re: Any advice for a rookie looking for a used SMB?

Thanks so much for the advice and words of encouragement. Although I haven't been looking for very long, I was presented with an opportunity that I felt I couldn't pass up. It's a '96 with 140K, but super clean inside and out with great service records and upgrades. So I hope to post with nothing but good news in the future, but I've got my fingers crossed. Thanks for the warm welcome.
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Old 02-16-2010, 08:29 PM   #7
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Salt Lake City
Posts: 74
Re: Any advice for a rookie looking for a used SMB?

If you read from the start we blogged about our choice of a used high top SMB and how we found it.

One interesting thing I learned this year from a good friend who was helping a friend repair his 1996 Roadtrek: ... e-van.html
He noted that the Roadtrek springs were under rated. When I saw him last he peeked at mine which are spot on rated for my last wiegh in. Just another reason to go with an used SMB over other choices.

Working on Converting a 2014 Sienna AWD Limited for rock climbing and back country skiing
Previous Rig: 1996 EB Dodge with Contempo Top
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