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Old 06-16-2010, 09:14 AM   #1
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Help us pursue our dream: seeking tips for SMB newbies

My wife and I are 37 and we're getting the itch to acquire an SMB and see the continent for 3-5 months with dog, kayaks, bikes, camping gear, etc in tow. However, we both suffer from analysis paralysis, and we're unsure of how to get started with finding the right SMB.

We live in MA, so I'd imagine the SMB population is low here. However, I just happened to park next to one from VT this morning! I'm taking it as a sign.

With that, please help with the following:

1) We live about 40 miles north of Boston - Anyone in the area own an SMB that we can check out?

2) Someone elsewhere on the forum recommended checking out the Overland Expo in Tucson for seeing lots of SMBs in one place. Sounds like a great idea. Does anyone know of similar events any closer to MA?

3) We're experienced outdoors-people (camping, etc.), but not experienced with this type of heavy machinery. Any general tips for newbies would be much appreciated.

4) What are the biggest pitfalls to consider when purchasing an SMB? We'll probably need to go for a used one. My sense is that finding a used 4x4 - in good shape - can be a dicey proposition.

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old 06-16-2010, 10:39 AM   #2
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Re: Help us pursue our dream: seeking tips for SMB newbies

I think there are many used SMB's out there that are in good condition. How "used" are you talking about? I picked mine up used and it had low 20k mileage and in great shape. Some things are being replaced but they are wear items or items that have not got much use (i.e. replacing water pump valves as it won't shut off for the onboard water tank).

Do some research on this site and others depending on what engine you are considering. (thedieselstop.com for diesel and there is a V-10 forum out there too). The best thing to do is inform yourself as much as you can about the vehicles so when you do find one you are making an educated choice and you know what you are buying.

Really all they are is a cargo van with a heavy load. Not sure if that qualifies for heavy machinery? The biggest thing I had to get used to was how high they sit and how you are looking down on all the other vehicles on the road.
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Old 06-16-2010, 12:26 PM   #3
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Re: Help us pursue our dream: seeking tips for SMB newbies

welcome folks

you need to spend some time here reading
read stuff that is of interest and NOT of interest

it is part of your MBA in SMB's

depending on budget, i am a fan of a used / remodel / homebrew

more work, more time, but you get what you need

folks here will post more

best

bw
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Old 06-16-2010, 12:42 PM   #4
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Re: Help us pursue our dream: seeking tips for SMB newbies

Quote:
3) We're experienced outdoors-people (camping, etc.), but not experienced with this type of heavy machinery. Any general tips for newbies would be much appreciated.
When you're coming down a steep mountain road don't forget that the stopping distance in a full-sized van is NOT the same as it is in the Subaru Forester. Yeah I know that should be obvious but it bears mentioning.

When I first got my van I asked a friend who drives large vehicles for any tips. He had one.
"You know those big yellow arrows and suggested mph signs you see on tight turns? They're talking to YOU."
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Old 06-16-2010, 01:18 PM   #5
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Re: Help us pursue our dream: seeking tips for SMB newbies

Thanks for the input guys.

WVvan - Hah! How did you know I drive a Forester??? Anyhow, that's a great tip.

Roonie - As you can tell from my above comment, "heavy machinery" refers to anything bigger than a Forester, though I used to drive an Econoline to deliver pizzas in college (so I've got that going for me).

Budget isn't a majorly huge issue - I'm more concerned with finding the right rig, I guess. The one I parked next to today, however, was a Mercedes 4x4. It was gorgeous, but probably a little too gorgeous for my wallet.

If you bought used, how long did it take you to find yours? Are you happy with your decision?
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Old 06-16-2010, 02:19 PM   #6
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Re: Help us pursue our dream: seeking tips for SMB newbies

Quote:
Originally Posted by smbdream

If you bought used, how long did it take you to find yours? Are you happy with your decision?

I looked for about 5 months. I saw a few in person. Mostly I did a lot of research on the rigs through this website and others. I knew what I was looking at and what to look for when I finally did make the purchase. Yes I am happy with the decision. It is a great rig and really utilitarian which is what I like. I was surprised however by the amount of looks and people pointing at it in wonder and the amount of questions I get when I stop somewhere. Also pictures do not do it justice to the actual size of the rig in person.
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Old 06-16-2010, 04:35 PM   #7
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Re: Help us pursue our dream: seeking tips for SMB newbies

Quote:
When I first got my van I asked a friend who drives large vehicles for any tips. He had one.
"You know those big yellow arrows and suggested mph signs you see on tight turns? They're talking to YOU."
Funny. That's what the previous owner of my van said to me when I test drove it. Very true! Also, remember that you have an overdrive button on the gear shift as well as 2nd and 1st if it gets steeper. Use your transmission (gently) to save your brakes.

I'll second everything else said above, although beware that 'homebuilt' means a LOT of work and requires you to be handy. Two fundamental choices you need to make as you start your search:

1. 2wd or 4wd?
2. Gas or diesel?

Maybe a third is Ford or Sprinter?

Lots of information here on the forum about all of these. This will help you narrow your search parameters for used vehicles. Then, your search will be determined by what happens to come up for sale. Think about interior layouts and choice of tops (pop-top, Voyager, etc.), but be ready to be flexible if you are going used. Also, have your cash or financing ready to go quickly in case the perfect vehicle comes up.

Good luck. It's a lot of fun!
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