Home Life on the Road

Our Class-B Van Hunt Continues – Clarifying Some Criteria

First of all, super huge thanks for all of the insightful and supportive comments to our recent post announcing our plans to integrate in a Class-B conversion van to our nomadic fleet.

We’ve been overjoyed with the enthusiasm, and doing our best to keep up with all of the feedback.

If you’ve not read it yet, we’d recommend starting here to get the scoop:

Is It Time For #vanlife?!? – Starting our Hunt For a Class-B Van RV

In response to a lot of the feedback and alternative suggestions, we decided to take to YouTube live earlier this week (view the nearly hour long archive) to address some of the most frequent questions we’ve fielded so far.

I thought I’d take a moment and expand on some of them on the blog too that weren’t covered in the original post.

So, here goes:

Yup.. hotel hopping works.

Totally a legit question, and I think our original blog post did a better job of explaining the goal than we did in our impromptu quick first video.

But basically, yes – this is a completely viable option to continue doing. We could just trade the Mini in for a more comfortable road vehicle and continue as is.

But trading the Mini for a van conversion opens so many more doors… err.. rather.. less hotel doors.

We won’t have to shuffle us, our stuff and a cat in and out of hotels. We can take a longer trip and make stops along the way to catch up with friends & family (right now, we really can’t even stop for a nice lunch with the cat in the car).

We can go out RVing when doing extended boat stays, such as we are now. We can attend RV events during our boating season. We can get out testing mobile internet gear in an RV environment while boating. And, we’d have a more readily available RV for using as a backdrop for our filming for The RVers TV Show.

And we can do all that without having to factor in the costs & variabilities of a rental (is it pet-friendly, does it smell, is the bed comfy, does everything work?)

But yes, the option to keep things status quo is on the table.

Looking at used vans too.

When RV shopping, starting with what is currently on the market is a great place to get an overview. And there’s no better place to see a lot of RVs than a major RV show or larger dealership.

So just because we started our hunt focused on new stuff, in no way means we’re considering exclusively only new coaches.

I seriously doubt we’ll end up justifying the premium price for something brand new – that’s just not smart for such a limited purpose vehicle. Maybe if we find a nice year end close out special or something however.

Now that we have an overview of what’s out there – we’re delving into the used market too.

We actually rented a small Class-C in Alaska a few years back.

Great question, and we’ve gotten a LOT of recommendations for a small Class-C or even a B+ or small A.

Aside from the size factor (most are too long and/or wide for normal parking spaces), here’s some additional reasons we don’t want something that is built to be exclusively an RV:

  • We’ll need to park long term in marina lots, and some just don’t allow RVs. A van conversion can be argued to be a daily driver and even pass as a van.
  • We’ll want to visit friends & family as we road trip, and some live in neighborhoods that don’t allow RVs in driveways  – but a van parked (not stayed in) for a few days likely wouldn’t catch as much notice.
  • And major point – We are new leaseholders at SKP Saguaro Co-op in Arizona, which will be our winter RV homebase for the bus (and long term storage). Their rules only allow one RV to be parked on the lot at a time. But, they exempt Class-Bs and Truck Campers if it’s your only vehicle for leaving the park not in your RV. That narrows it down right there.

Basically, a Class-B is designed in mind of being both an RV and daily driver – thus the rules are more ‘grey’ around them.

We spent our first four years towing a small trailer – we know this setup well.

We were surprised this one was suggested as often as it was. But we can see what some were thinking – we could have a smaller more nimble daily driver and then just use the trailer when we wanted to road trip or go out camping.

The biggest issue is the logistics.

We’d then have to move a vehicle and trailer between marinas, and likely find RV storage for the trailer in each location (as many marinas wouldn’t let us park a trailer). Or return to a past stop to pick up the trailer. Going out camping wouldn’t be as simple as just loading up the fridge parked out in the marina lot, and heading out – so thus, we wouldn’t do it as often.

And, we’d then be adding a fourth unit to our fleet – that’s more costs in registration, insurance and maintenance.

Not to mention, we did our first four years on the road in this setup. We’re ready for something new.  We’ve never had a class-B – that’s kinda fun!

This one is actually a really good suggestion, and caused us to stop and think.

It meets the criteria of fitting in a normal parking space, would give us a daily driver setup and would fit within the bylaws of our co-op park for parking on our lot.

But, it does look like an RV – so we’d have concerns about complications leaving the setup parked at some marinas and when visiting friends & family. And we’d have the issue of now having a 4-vessel fleet to maintain.

So, while a good thought and we totally get why some Class-B shoppers ultimately go this direction – we’re pretty set on a Class-B being the right choice for our specific mission.

Our first year on the road was pretty minimalist. Got that T-shirt already.

Another great thought – it certainly meets all of the parking criteria we’ve laid out, would be super affordable and gives us lots of flexibility to ‘design as we go’.

However, one of our use factors is a backdrop for our filming for The RVers TV show. So having something that looks more like a mainstream RV is ideal. And, some RV parks simply don’t allow non-RVs – and we’d like that flexibility too.

Remember, we did nearly a year in a 16′ T@b teardrop without a bathroom, AC or fridge. It was great, we don’t regret a moment – but we really like creature comforts now too.

If it’s comfortable and fun, we’re more likely to get out using it.

We covered this pretty well in the original blog post, but I’m repeating it here – as I’m sure someone will suggest it again.

So, again:

We’re quite positive the results of doing something custom would be awesome, but we don’t want to invest the design time or the waiting time into something for the limited use we’ll have planned for this vehicle.

We did a custom build on our Oliver – we know the time & effort commitment well of this path.

Many of the van converters we’ve checked in to have a lead time of around a year. We ideally want something we can roll off a lot in the next couple of months.

Besides, having not actually traveled in a Class-B yet – we’re no where near ready to make big design decisions.

Instead, we’re focusing on something that seems to be a great fit for this purpose, but not getting in over our heads that we can’t switch it up later if we decide something else might work better (which might very well be a custom build).

Van shopping – this a 2016 used RoadTrek 190.

So, yes – we have been continuing our van search since the Tampa RV Supershow. We’ve had opportunity to visit a local dealership for more extended casual time hanging out in a variety of new and used vans.

And we’ve started viewing used vans that have come up on our radar.

At present time, here’s our short list:

  • A lovingly used Roadtrek – likely a 190 or Simplicity/Zion  (we looked at a 2013 170 in person last week, and it was just a touch too compromised in space for us.. and this particular one a bit too worn for its age).
  • A lovingly lightly used smaller Pleasureway – they seem to hold up well over the years, and we really like the company and attention to quality
  • The Travato 59G’s layout keeps catching our eye.

    Winnebago Travato 59G/L – if we’re going newer, this model keeps pushing all our buttons. We spent a bunch of time hanging out in one last week, and it just feels ‘right’ for our needs with it’s split floorplan providing seating for 5 in the salon (err.. living room, sorry, boat speak coming out), usable bath and corner murphy bed. And the Volta lithium setup hits our geek points too.   (And yes, we’re in touch with the awesome Stef & James of TheFitRV.)

 

So, that’s where we’re at. We’re still shopping, absorbing and learning. Other stuff could be added to the list too as we go.

Our evenings after our workday are consumed with watching Stef & James and Ultramobility on YouTube (plus many other van tours), diving into forums & user groups, and digging up blog posts.

And we’re making plans for a field trip up to Gainesville to visit Sunshine State RV to tour even more used RV models, and get inside a Coachman Crossfit. And if you have leads on lovingly used vans the fit our criteria – send them our way!

But, we have a big new website redesign roll-out for our work life (MobileInternetInfo.com) in progress – so serious shopping may have to wait a couple weeks.

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38 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Fascinating discussion of the pros & cons, especially on limitations on parking in various places. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the van update. Sure sounds like you are getting more laser focused on what you really want – so good luck in finding the perfect unit. We know it’s out there with your name on it – just a matter of time.

    I was also intrigued by your SKP Lot / Casita purchase. As Escapee members this concept is really attractive to us. Have not put any $$ down yet as we are still full timing all around the country, and I know they have a number of parks to pick from – so we have to decide which one(s) we like. .

    One question for you – does this mean that you might have to change your domicile to AZ (assuming you will be there for more than 6 months/year)? It’s just that some states get very picky about how much time you spend in 1 location and they cannot wait to force you to become a resident. I know for my parents – who owned both a house in NY and in FL – that they had to be careful not to spend more than 6 months in their FL home (they wanted to stay NY residents). Just wondering.
    Thanks for the update – I am very excited to see what you end up buying. I think it is a great solution for you!

  3. Thanks for sharing your life and RV quandaries with us. I recently decided to start making the transition to RV living. I purchased a new Ford Transit 250 mid roof. It’s stealthy and a dream to drive. Making the van into a real RV home has been a great learning experience. A raised full size bed in the back. Mid-kitchen on one side, everyday storage on other. Living room up front. The pre-installed upfitter package of dual AGM’s, heavy duty alternator, and integrated switches, has made adding a maxxair fan, and electronics simple. I am starting the solar instalation this week.
    Generally, it has been a slow (3 months so far) project, taking time to think about additions, before proceeding. The hardest part is understanding that I don’t have to have everything I want right now. Using ingenuity, I have recycled most of my installed items from other uses. Total spending so far under $33K including the van! I looked at a lot of pre-made van’s. Yes they are pretty, and fancy, but, the140K pricetag is not what I would spend, without feeling foolish, or being in the 1%. Happy travels from central Florida!

  4. Yes moving in and out of hotels becomes old fast! We have finally found a class c with a great layout. Soooooo many compromises.

  5. Hi Cherie, Chris & Kiki

    Thank you for your well laid out thoughts on what kind of rig would work best for off boat transportation. I traveled extensively by car this year. All of which was living out of a suitcase , hotels and/or family residences. I loved traveling by car but, oh how I wished I had a tiny house with me. Packing and repacking a suitcase just gets to be a pain.

    I don’t have an RV yet, but two years ago at an RV show I stumbled upon the Travato. Really like the size, the mobility and floor plan with the bathroom in the back away from the main area.

    I would imagine Kiki has had something to say about what she wants. Does she like staying in hotels?

    I cheer you on to find what works best for the 3 of you.

    Sherry

  6. I like the shades that pull up from the bottom. I had these in my condo, pre-RVing, and they were very nice because you could leave them open a few inches from the top and still have privacy.

  7. You are definitely on the right track in looking for something used.
    We are on our second RV — first a Scamp fifth wheel and now a much larger fifth wheel — and have loved both of them. Both were pretty much exactly what we were looking for, quite well cared for when we bought them and both were purchased at a great price.
    Keep digging. My guess is that a used unit with almost exactly what you are looking for will eventually pop up. And at a really good price. Patience is the key.
    Good luck on your search.

  8. Good summary of all of the options you’re considering. Personally, I still really like the Travato 🙂 and I’ve always liked the Roadtrek 190’s and similar models from competitors, but I don’t like sleeping on those muti-fold seats-that-become-the-bed — they’re not comfortable enough!

  9. As usual, your description of your current project/search is interesting; you consider things I wouldn’t have thought of. I’m looking forward to seeing whatever you decide on. BYW That’s a nice picture of the two of you at the top of the page!.

  10. Great content guys, we really enjoy the YouTube videos. Re: vans, the coachmen cross fit might be a good fit. It is built on the Ford Transit, gas engine, or the larger version in diesel. Wood work is good. We are former boaters living in AZ with a Winnebago 24 ft Fuse 23a on the ford diesel transit. This site had some interesting class “B”s.

    https://www.nirvc.com/Sales?fq=class%3Aclass%20b

    chow from the SW…………Don & Linda

  11. In my van with a wet bath I discovered I could use the shower curtain instead of closing the door which gave me more room to use the toilet while maintaining privacy.

  12. I enjoyed the breakdown of all your choices, the pro’s and the con’s! We have a truck camper, however many years ago, before buying our truck camper, we had gone through the idea of a Class B.
    When we bought the truck camper, I had no plans of traveling with my cats….now I have one cat left and plan traveling with him….I think the class B make sense as many condos our neighbourhood will not accept a truck camper, but the van will be accepted. floor plan is important….always consider the place for the litter.

  13. Enjoyed reading your analysis. The Travato 59G was my first RV back in 2014, sorta as an experiment. I wanted to full-time in a class A, but thought I should try this whole RVing thing before I made the drastic move of selling my house. Traveled in it extensively for 3 years, but always felt the urge to full-time, so moved into a 43′ class A last year.

    Really enjoyed the Travato. Like you, I liked having separate living and sleeping areas and not having to put down and take up the bed day after day. Back then, Winnebago put only 1 house battery in the Travatos. That worked fine for my purposes because, although I boondocked almost exclusively, I drove the van every day, and the battery always lasted me through the night. It’s even better now, with 2 batteries and the lithium option. The corner bathroom is more spacious that the usual mid-ship bathrooms in most vans. Plenty of room for a decent shower. The only annoyances were the gray tank pump (What if it fails? How will you dump the tank?) and the electric-only hot water heater, which they’ve replaced with the Truma system, a big improvement.

    I recommend it, but my only concern for you folks is the 3/4 size bed. It was great for me as a single, but it’s tight for two. You’ll have to really enjoy sleeping close! Best wishes in your search.

  14. I do not really have any new suggestions or questions for you – but I do appreciate your shared details of the decision / shopping process you are going through. After all – for many of us, we have been following you for years, so we view you as the experts. It has been your advice and insights, along with other VLOGGers (including the WYNNS, LJMJ, TME, etc) which helped spur us into full time RV living now. What we have learned is that – after 9+ months of full time RV living in our Class A – we now know much more precisely what we like in an RV, what is not so important, and what some really bad features are that must be avoided.

    While at the Tampa RV show recently we saw many, many Class A’s. Not because we are shopping for a new one, but because we wanted to see how new products are evolving with new features and design. But we found ourselves constantly comparing new 2019 models to what we already have (or miss) in our 2005 Winnebago – And we were surprised by how much often “small” features really play a role in what we liked / disliked. Things we would have over-looked years ago but now realize how so many of these details can stand out.

    Floor plans are important, but so are details such as location of light switches and outlets, counter space, sink sizes, towel rack locations – even if the shower has a light in it or not. Some RVs still do not have a readily accessible light switch right by the entry steps. Many do not offer simple retaining straps on the shower shelves – or do not even offer shower shelves (as examples) . And the list goes on – Etc, etc, etc.

    After 2 days of RV surfing at the show we came away feeling so much better about what we already own, while at the same time realizing that there appear to be a good number of RV designers who have never actually RV’d. For many manufacturers they should listen to customers much more, and have their designers travel around the country for a while to see what full time RV life is really like. Only then can they really begin to offer more practical, functional designs.

    So knowing what you really like must be the same for you – probably even more so. With your years of compact, mobile living you certainly recognize what you like, don’t like, find important, etc.. That recognition probably both makes your shopping process both easier – and more difficult because a few positive features can be quickly over-ridden by 1 or 2 bad design features. But you know all that. RV shopping is learning to “peel back the onion” to narrow down your choices towards what you really want. It often cannot be rushed, but I am sure that you will know your new RV when you find it. It’s out there so enjoy your shopping journey and keep on sharing your process – we love to follow you. Thanks!

    • Our experience definitely does give us certain perspectives on the shopping experience… but it’s also new for us to be shopping for something that won’t be used for extended / full time travels. It is causing us to think differently about what is a ‘must’ versus a ‘desire’.

  15. Our first RV was a truck camper and it was great! But you couldn’t communicate with the driver except through a sliding window. I like the idea of a B, as long as it has a usable bathroom. I’ll have to look up the Winnebago. Sorry we missed you in Tampa, we were there!

    • Hmm.. I wouldn’t have thought of riding in the truck camper itself while underway? Is that fairly normal? When towing, we would have never considering riding in the trailer.

    • For sure, if we wanted to upgrade the electrical system on a used one – we’d be able to handle that. It will be interesting to see how important that is for this particular RV.

  16. FYI. Maybe you’ve seen this already, but I was just surfing YT and came across a video by Big Truck Big RV about his father’s 2008 Pleasure-Way Excel. It was published 1/1/19. It looks like a good example of what you are looking for.

  17. I would stay away from anything diesel, which eliminates anything build on the sprinter platform. It is not the maintenance–it is the issue of them denying warranty.

  18. I’m all too curious about how y’all are gonna get your van from port to port?

    I have a vision of you attaching inflatable pontoons to the van and towing it behind the boat — but you’d probably have to use a lot of calk every time you launched and that would build up around the doors after a while and look pretty ugly. I guess towing the van behind the boat wouldn’t be a player. . . .

    • Hahaha.. fun vision 😉

      We’d move the van exactly as we move the Mini now. Marinas are generally cool with cruisers leaving their car behind while they relocate to their next stop (or letting you pre-position). And in the rare times that’s not possible, we usually have friends with driveway space.

      A couple weeks of cruising usually only amounts to a couple hours of driving time. So we either rent a car, borrow a car or bum a ride to go fetch our car and bring it to us.

  19. I love how you lay out your logic…reminds me of how my wife and I made our decision on our last travel trailer acquisition. I’m sure you’ll find what you want and need. Thanks for posting this.

  20. How common are custom RV builders? I live in Manitoba Canada ( “next door” to Leisure Travel Vans HQ )

  21. Thanks for the extensive (and patient : )) reviews. Fantastic. We’re thinking in exactly the same lines so this is suuuuper helpful. Thanks again!

  22. I have been enjoying your process and thoughts regarding getting a Class B motorhome that will fill your unique needs.

  23. Wow. You guys have opened my eyes to Camper vans. I didn’t know you could fit so much into a camper van. My first though was wouldn’t a truck with a camper in the bed be better. But wait, there is a all in one camper vans!!!

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