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High roof van as a camping/ toy hauler

mitchntx

Follower of Rev. Doug
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Messages
3,176
Location
Granbury
My overall situation has taken a dramatic turn and looking for ways to travel and not spend $100/night on hotel rooms.

I'm looking at an older fleet F350 extended wheelbase, high roof van that was used as a people transporter that were wheelchair bound.
Still has the wheel chair lift in the back.

Has a reman Triton 5.4 gas motor with about 100K on it.
Has had some recent service like front end, brakes and tires.

Comes with dual batteries and an inverter.
It has side windows and wish it were a slab side instead.

I'm looking at the lift and wondering if I can modify it to accommodate a MC wheelbase and about 900lbs.
Even if I had to fab a removable panel, it's be no different than using a ramp.

Build a fold-up platform for a mattress, a closet for storage and room in the middle for a bike.

Having said all that ... for the cost of purchase, outfitting and operating ... that'd pay for a LOT of overnight stays.
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2012
Messages
16,862
Location
Lampasas
Mitch check out cheaprvliving on YouTube for conversion ideas on the van your thinking about. Be well worth watching and seeing how others do it and tons of helpful hints.
 

mitchntx

Follower of Rev. Doug
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Messages
3,176
Location
Granbury
Appears to be ~8-10" taller than the standard rear van door.
I don't think I could stand without crouching to walk through.
I certainly doubt I could ride in and get off elegantly.
 
Joined
Jun 13, 2014
Messages
685
Location
Denton
My overall situation has taken a dramatic turn and looking for ways to travel and not spend $100/night on hotel rooms.

I'm looking at an older fleet F350 extended wheelbase, high roof van that was used as a people transporter that were wheelchair bound.
Still has the wheel chair lift in the back.

Has a reman Triton 5.4 gas motor with about 100K on it.
Has had some recent service like front end, brakes and tires.

Comes with dual batteries and an inverter.
It has side windows and wish it were a slab side instead.

I'm looking at the lift and wondering if I can modify it to accommodate a MC wheelbase and about 900lbs.
Even if I had to fab a removable panel, it's be no different than using a ramp.

Build a fold-up platform for a mattress, a closet for storage and room in the middle for a bike.

Having said all that ... for the cost of purchase, outfitting and operating ... that'd pay for a LOT of overnight stays.
I'm liking where this is heading.
Depending on the lift I bet it would work fine. Just how the Tommy lifts work where they come down and fold out. Those Vans are used to transport some rather large folks and those lifts don't have to much trouble.
 
Joined
Jun 13, 2014
Messages
685
Location
Denton
If you want to go the school bus route I know a guy with a large blue bird bus for sale. In your area. Not sure if your wanting something that big though.
 

mitchntx

Follower of Rev. Doug
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Messages
3,176
Location
Granbury
If you want to go the school bus route I know a guy with a large blue bird bus for sale. In your area. Not sure if your wanting something that big though.
I bit over the top, I would think. It would be nice though.

In doing the rough math, I would have to stay overnight (@$100/night) more than 50 times in order to break even on the initial purchase.
Factor in the cost of insurance, fuel and service plus overnight RV parking fees ... then offset that by the residual value ...
I would venture it would be close to 100 nights ($10K out of pocket).

From a logical and fiscal standpoint, it just doesn't make a lot of sense.

I think I've talked myself out of it.
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2012
Messages
16,862
Location
Lampasas
If you want to go the school bus route I know a guy with a large blue bird bus for sale. In your area. Not sure if your wanting something that big though.
Mitch needs a skoolie! Your on the right track. Strip out the seats add what you need and your good to go.
 
Joined
Jan 7, 2018
Messages
41
Location
Round Rock
Here is my trailer project to transport toys and camp since it is about 1500 lbs. I can trail it with my car. It also has water tank and 12v power system.
 

Attachments

Joined
Aug 9, 2013
Messages
386
Location
North Texas
A conversion van makes a lot of sense for many. What year van is it? The 3 valve vct 5.4 are known to be problematic. These engines began in 2004 for the F series, not sure about E series.
 

Yeeha! Stephen

Forum Supporter
Joined
Nov 22, 2003
Messages
1,932
Location
Bedford Texas
I had an E250 (without wheel chair lift) window van (Club Wagon) version of what you are talking about. One of the 15 passenger jobs that look like a church van.
I loved it. Set up camping stuff to be fold-up and removable but hardly ever removed it. Put over 240k miles on it before it started giving me emission troubles. Ran great but would not pass the DFW smog test. Instead of spending $$ to get it fixed, I gave it to my son-in-law and one of his construction crews still use it in one of those areas that don't require the annual smog test. It's got WAY over 300k on it and still runs and looks great .
I miss my van.
Got a pick-up now and have been looking at one of the new "Sprinter/Transit/Ram" vans and to get the same thing is $$$$$$$$ now. Waaaaa!
SS
 
Joined
Jan 7, 2018
Messages
41
Location
Round Rock
Wow I like it. Great idea.
The great thing is that once I get to the location, I can set up camp and if I need to go out for groceries I can leave the trailer behind and drive anywhere and come back. If I had a Roof Top Tent, I would have to pack all the camp in order to move the car. I can also put a motorcycle in the trailer and park inside my garage without having to pay to store it. The rack system is custom and can be lowered or raised in case in the future I want to add a RTT. It also has a second tent that attaches to this one and adds a whole room for 3-4 more campers. Good for kids!! I have a full air mattress for the trailer bed and other for the second tent. It took me a year to design it and build it.
 

mitchntx

Follower of Rev. Doug
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Messages
3,176
Location
Granbury
The 3 valve vct 5.4 are known to be problematic. These engines began in 2004 for the F series, not sure about E series.
It's a 99 model.


I am going to pass on it.
I just don't think I will have that many overnight stays in the coming years.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,185
Location
Arlington
If you're handy & can do home conversion stuff, a high roof van could be a pretty good alternative.

A word, though. If it's all about the money, here's something to think about. I've been an RVer - tent trailers - for over 35 years. I realized long ago that, when you get into ANY form of RVing, you're basically shifting your costs from one commodity to another. Yes, the cost of purchase, outfitting, and operating would pay for a lot of overnight stays. Then again, it's just as accurate to say you can pay for a lot of overnight stays for the cost of getting into, and staying in, any sort of camping rig - even a van conversion like you describe, unless it's going to replace another vehicle.

We've stayed in the RV game not because of cost, but because we enjoy the experience of being in a campground as opposed to a hotel room. But depending on how minimalist a camper you are, vs how frugal a hoteler you are, you can tilt the break-even point pretty far in either direction. I'd suggest some time with a spreadsheet to get a realistic assessment of where that point is.
 
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Messages
592
Location
Austin
I am going to pass on it.
I just don't think I will have that many overnight stays in the coming years.
Signing up for any of the major hotel chain rewards programs helps out in the long run. I can regularly get rooms for around $60/night.
 

mitchntx

Follower of Rev. Doug
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Messages
3,176
Location
Granbury
I have a 28' camper in the driveway.
I'm praying for a hail storm this spring.

It's a big boat anchor to yank around.
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2008
Messages
1,875
Location
Bryan, TX
I have a Ford Transit 250 with the Ecoboost engine. It has a Tommy Gate lift on the back that I use to get my wheel chair bound mother in law into the van. The capacity is 650# and I will eventually modify it to lift my DRZ400 up to van floor level. forget about the $30-$40 fees for parking overnight. Drive down just about any forest access road and you will find a free place to camp. Even a pay place can be had for less than $15. Stay in an organized campground every 3 or 4 days for a full shower and laundry facilities. Even in the full service campgrounds, you can ask for a tent site without electricity and save money. Just don't set up the tent.
 

mitchntx

Follower of Rev. Doug
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Messages
3,176
Location
Granbury
Those are all fine reasonings.

In retrospect, I'm not the base camp kind of tourer.
It would have been great when riding at Big Bend.
But those trips are really rare.

The over-nighters I ride with mostly ride from point A to B to C to D then return to A days later ... point A being home.
 

Texasrider58

Forum Supporter
Joined
Feb 1, 2016
Messages
190
Location
Mineral Wells
Maybe camping off the bike is a better option. I bought a 2-3 man tent, air mattress, air pump, one burner stove, use two sleeping bags when it's cooler. Misterk has his system down well. Camping is fun and relaxing too. I like the base camp idea also. I can carry all that I need in the trailer. My idea there is I do not want to ride the DRZ across long distances. As you stated, BB was a good example. Camping off the Strom is fun and a cheap way to travel. 2-3 day trip would be cheaper than 1 hotel room in many cases.
 

Crew Chief

Forum Supporter
Joined
Nov 11, 2007
Messages
3,323
Location
Rendon TX
I bit over the top, I would think. It would be nice though.

In doing the rough math, I would have to stay overnight (@$100/night) more than 50 times in order to break even on the initial purchase.
Factor in the cost of insurance, fuel and service plus overnight RV parking fees ... then offset that by the residual value ...
I would venture it would be close to 100 nights ($10K out of pocket).

From a logical and fiscal standpoint, it just doesn't make a lot of sense.

I think I've talked myself out of it.

...

We've stayed in the RV game not because of cost, but because we enjoy the experience of being in a campground as opposed to a hotel room. But depending on how minimalist a camper you are, vs how frugal a hoteler you are, you can tilt the break-even point pretty far in either direction. I'd suggest some time with a spreadsheet to get a realistic assessment of where that point is.
I've done the math a hundred times and It comes out in favor of the hotels almost always. We have to travel more than I think we possibly can to reach a breakeven with most types of RV's. There are times though where you simply want to be where the action is like tshelfer points out. In those cases the RV certainly has it's advantages. I think I decided that for those times I could rent a Toy Hauler and still come out ahead. How often you would be in that situation would affect the math.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,185
Location
Arlington
There are other ways to travel, too. I'm learning these things as I age out of camping.

Hotel rooms are restrictive. They're small & cramped, they look like hotel rooms, they don't have kitchens, and you sometimes have to deal with noisy neighbors.

We're beginning to explore the world of home rentals. A few years ago, I located a cabin in Cloudcroft for under $500 for a week's rental. Not fancy, but comfy. It made a nice base to explore the area, it was warm on subfreezing nights, we had a kitchen to help keep food costs down, and it actually cost less than a hotel room in Cloudcroft.

Coming up in May, we'll be staying in a little house I found in Taos. Ten nights for about $750 total. That's only slightly more than staying in a Motel 6 or Super 8.

On sites like VRBO, you can find some really good deals if you're willing to spend the hours doing the research. Some places have heavy service charges tacked on, some don't. The info is all there if you're willing to dig through it.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,185
Location
Arlington
One thing that helps is coming up with a standardized cost estimation process. I devised a spreadsheet many years ago, that I use to calculate the cost of every trip. I plug in daily driving estimates (at a prescribed mpg and gas cost), nightly hotel or campground costs, restaurant or grocery costs, and a few other things. That gives me a nice tally of how much I need to budget for an upcoming trip. Since I can also do the estimate two ways - one each for trailer and motel - I can also get comparative costs, and that may tilt my decision one way or another. It also helps me make decisions on bike camping vs moteling, and towing the bike across Texas vs riding it.

What it DOESN'T factor in is the ongoing ownership cost of a tent trailer. $250 a year for insurance, plus the $10K cost prorated over ??? years, plus annual registration, plus ongoing maintenance. My costs are strictly based on the premise that, for better or worse, I already own the beast.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2011
Messages
5,346
Location
At the back of the pack and out of the dust
We've started using VRBO and have found the deal far better than a Homewood suite if staying more than a couple of nights. Despite having a Hi-Lo, if we want to trailer camp we'll use the enclosed motorcycle trailer and camp out of that. That method provides low initial cost and lots of flexibility. We spent a year trying to decide if we wanted to retire to a pusher and tow, a truck and toy hauler or a Class B, trailer and VRBO. Cost always comes out on the side of rental rather than ownership although making a van conversion appeals more to the mechanic in me.

One thing the RV cost review taught us is that RV are limited in where they can go. I'd like to visit Alaska, but I'm not interested in pulling a toy hauler all the way there. Some folks may like the adventure.
 
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