Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

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TopHatFox
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Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by TopHatFox »

Radical Personal Finance did an hour podcast recently on how minivans are apparently the best vehicle for anyone to own, except for extensive commuters. Meanwhile, I was thinking if it was the best type of van to live in, considering it's physical inconspicuousness, association with middle class living, really low insurance cost, and apparently much larger capacity than even full-size SUVs.

Thoughts? C40?

--------------------------

I think I'm finally going to ask my local library to get me books on van living; I'm sure that'll go over well. :D I might end up being one of those hip urban warriors holding a job while low-key living in a van. That'll probably mean I can have a less stressful job with higher savings~~

See that: https://goo.gl/1iWQo7, that'll be me (incidentally, the guy looks like a 30 year old version of me).

#millienial dream #essay procrastination

...I think I'll get to work on a schematic...

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C40
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by C40 »

There's not one best vehicle for van living. There is a best for a given person at a given time. It depends on what's most important to you. The main criteria are:
- Purchase price
- Reliability and serviceability
- Stealth-ness
- Coolness factor (Vanagon appeal. To get this you have to make huge tradoffs on the first three criteria)
- Space to stand up inside
- Interior volume
- Fuel mileage
- Off-road capability

I think those are the main ones. The different vehicle types would be:
- Bicycle
- Car or Truck
- Minivan
- Older stype cargo van
- New "Euro" Vans (tall ones you can stand up in)
- Class C RVs
- Class B or A RVs

Each of these has their own ratings for each item on the first list.


The best for one person, according to my opinion, are the previous generation full size cargo vans. The Ford Econoline, Chevy Express, and Dodge Ram Wagon (that's really the name). These have way more space inside than a minivan. They are also have truck chassis/suspension/drivetrains so they work much better than a minivan on non-paved roads. If you're a good and patient shopper, you can find one inexpensively ($2-4k and up can get one with 100k miles or less that is in good shape). If you're going to have a second person living with you in there, the taller vans start to look more reasonable.

sky
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by sky »

The advantages of a minivan are good gas mileage and low cost. The disadvantages are not enough space inside, no standing height, poor ventilation. To be a long term dwelling while working, it would need a roof vent.

I have camped and traveled in a Dodge Grand Caravan. I think I could make it work while camping and boondocking, but not living in it while working. It is too small. Think about getting dressed every day while not being able to stand up.

It can be very cheap to set up a van for camping: http://www.vanlifecrisis.com/2015/09/th ... rsion.html

BRUTE
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by BRUTE »

C40 wrote:The best for one person, according to my opinion, are the previous generation full size cargo vans.
what about cargo van vs. Sprinter type tall vans? is it just because the Sprinters are so much more expensive, or are there other advantages to the low cargo van?

sky
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by sky »

Sprinters are not as reliable

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C40
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by C40 »

BRUTE wrote:
C40 wrote:The best for one person, according to my opinion, are the previous generation full size cargo vans.
what about cargo van vs. Sprinter type tall vans? is it just because the Sprinters are so much more expensive, or are there other advantages to the low cargo van?
Sprinters are tall and can get much better fuel milage (with the diesel)

Normal cargo vans are:
- Much much more off-road capable
- Typically more reliable, and are more serviceable
- Much less expensive to purchase
- Easier to park and blend in

bryan
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by bryan »

For van living, I demand standing clearance, so mini-vans are right out. This comes at the cost of being a taller vehicle (and not being able to fit into parking garages), smaller selection of vehicles, and a small loss of stealth. This requirement would probably not be so necessary if you are able to extend your living area to just outside of the van regularly (like BLM camping or private property).

For non-#vanlife, I would consider a mini-van or cargo van over other typical vehicle form factors (unless you only care about cheap transportation costs). Plus you could still use the van as a weekend warrior vehicle for sleeping in. The huge amount of space in the hold is just great and comes in handy with lots of hobbies that might involve hauling (I'm planning a long bicycle tour assisted by van, such that some folks who don't want to ride a certain day can just go off on a vanventure and meet up with the riders later). If you have a mini-van/cargo van instead of a truck, you are probably less likely to get requests from friends to help them move. Cargo vans I assume have better hauling/towing capabilities than a mini-van.

Kriegsspiel
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by Kriegsspiel »

I have a Transit, and I think that's the smallest you would want to go.

BRUTE
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by BRUTE »

the transit van or the wagon?

brute thinks it's interesting how many US manufacturers are now starting to produce Sprinter-style tall vans. once they have been around for 5-10 years, these should be very interesting options because they won't be as expensive any more but have all the same benefits (standing height, likely gas mileage) as Sprinters.

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jennypenny
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by jennypenny »

@Kriegsspiel -- Do you like the Transit?

@OP--I have an econoline high top and love it. I've had mine 14 years. If I ever traded up, I think it would be a Class C, but I'm not eager to trade up. I don't live in it, but we've used it for camping. You can also get tents that mount on the back of different SUVs and I like the way those look. Then it would function as a regular vehicle and you could get a hybrid.
Image

Kriegsspiel
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by Kriegsspiel »

It's the Transit Connect, not the big one. There's enough room for me to lay down front to back, but I can't stand up in it (I'm 6'0). So I just threw a cot in the back, supplies go under the cot, and I also have a water jug by the back doors. Minimum Viable Vandwelling. There's a good bit of floor space for other things you'd need to do (I have a camp chair that I can set up between the bed and the sliding door for a reading area). I put reflectix up on the back windows. I think the one thing that I need to do to make it really good is to make some kind of privacy screen for the front side windows, or hang a curtain right behind the front seats or something like that. I like that it gets about 30 MPG.

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Ego
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by Ego »

Recon campers will install a pop top on that Transit connect. 30mgp for a campervan is pretty damn good.

Image

daylen
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by daylen »

I have had the idea to buy a minivan off craigslist after I graduate for a while now. Possibly upgrade to a full-size after a year... or not... depends. I have thought a lot about how I would make it work and it seems entirely doable to me.

chenda
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by chenda »

Something a bit different; https://hedgespoken.wordpress.com/the-film/

They've built a travelling house and theatre on the back of a 1960s Bedford van.

tango
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by tango »

I have a 2010 transit connect (taller than the current model). It's built out: bed, water, sink, solar power, gas heater, stove, dometic fridge, etc. I use it for camp camping, and urban camping (staying in the city on weekends when I don't feeling like trekking home for the night).

IMHO, I would want the larger transit or older econoline size for full-time living. The smaller transit connect is fine for part-timing, but lack of space, ability to shower, etc. would be a drag long term. OTOH, I don't think I'd be comfortable full-timing in the city in a larger vehicle. I can park anywhere in the transit connect and not raise an eyebrow.

There's a lot of discussion/info over at http://www.cheaprvliving.com/forums/.

ChrisAtTTL
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by ChrisAtTTL »

Kicking this post up to 2020 levels:

We've got a Prius and have at least considered the idea of using it for a little car camping like a few of the recent posts mentioned. It's amazing what folks have come up with like this:

Image

Anybody tried something like this with a Prius?

I've also seen a lot of similar sort of half tents for Tesla's Model S/3 along with, of course, a full-on digital camp mode. Of course, a Tesla isn't exactly ERE! Fun to dream, though.
Last edited by ChrisAtTTL on Tue Aug 04, 2020 8:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sky
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by sky »

I have one of the tents that fits over the back of a Grand Caravan. I don't like it at all. One of the advantages of camping in a vehicle over camping in a tent is that you can lock the doors and be secure from man and beast. Also, you can use bug screen and vents and be bug free and comfortable. Vehicles are pretty much water tight with the doors closed. The tent that I have was not bug proof, there are gaps near the bumper and lower sides of the van, between the tent and the car body. With the door open, it was waterproof, but rain was channeled down the rear door opening, so it felt like water was getting inside. You lose your personal security with a rear tent, both from bad humans as well as mice, raccoons and bear.

Jean
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by Jean »

I really enjoyed the prius during the road trip for two reason:
-400 miles/20$gas
-no one guesses that you're spleeping
the tent defeats the second advantage. In addition to what sky mentioned.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by classical_Liberal »

Adding to skys point. If you have a tent + vehicle you can always just drive off in the vehicle and leave your tent. It's a huge convenience thing, not having to take down your tent if you wanna drive off to a trail head or something. This is also important if you plan on taking advantage of boondocking spots, it's easy to lose the spot without leaving behind evidence it's already taken.

That being said, I think a minivan would be a great camping vehicle. It's big enough to be able to keep gear inside and still sleep a couple people in it during bad weather, or use it in urban settings stealily. Plus much better gas mileage than a cargo van. I just think it wise to have a separate tent to put up if you're staying somewhere more than overnight. You can sleep in either one then, and spread out the gear to make either more comfortable. I'd much rather be in a tent in good weather when it's hot or muggy, without a rain fly it still gets nice and cool at night. Much rather be in a vehicle at sub freezing temps because you can crack a window and effectively use a common propane heating option for a night or two.

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C40
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Re: Is a minivan the best vehicle choice for van living?

Post by C40 »

I think the recent discussion here is more about a vehicle for camping trips than for full-time living. For that, I'd currently like to have:
- For carrying a lot - A small, light pickup truck like an early 90's Toyota Tacoma, or the poor man's version: a Ford Ranger. I'd usually carry a large tent, and in some places it'd be awesome to have a motorcycle, like a Yamaha TT-R230 (a 4-stroke, low-maintenance dirt bike) in places with a lot of trails and roads for an OHV, or a Honda Monkey (a small, light motorcycle that could do some off-roading, but not much on any highway), or a Dual-Sport (for both trails and going into town and some highway riding), or a full-on road motorcycle for further explorations on mostly paved roads. I also might set up a simple living arrangement in the back, under a topper, which would work ok for living in for about a week or a month at a time. I just mean putting in a cot, a cooler, and some storage. I like a truck because they can get around to more places much better than a minivan or car, and I'd also use the truck around town where I live for hauling things, projects, etc.
- For carrying a little, and a more adventurous trip: a motorcycle. model depends on the roads I'd want to ride. I think a bike like a Yamaha WR-250R would be an awesome poor-man's all-around adventure bike (for both trails, dirt roads, and highways). I'd just have to put on a more comfortable seat if I was going to ride far in one day while seated.

I traveled full time in my van for two years with a bicycle. Near the very end, I had a motorcycle along which I transported on a hitch carrier. And - boy, that made it much more fun to go out exploring. A bicycle is good for exercise and some amount of exploring, but a motorcycle can also give pretty good exercise (on difficult trails), way more exploring, and easy trips into town for supplies. But carrying a motorcycle on a vehicle can be complicated. The ideal for me would be a truck that I can carry it in the bed rather than using a trailer or a hitch carrier.

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