Registered: 1511115746 Posts: 2
First off, love your book. Read it while I was traveling in Australia and it's very inspiring. Sorry in advance for the length of this email haha.
I'm a 27 year old dude and have been considering purchasing a vanabode (have only ever owned a sedan) for about 6 months now. I've never lived in a van but I think I'm ready. I've been researching for some time now and think I've come to a conclusion on what type of van I want, but would really appreciate your opinion.
Do I buy a new/low mileage Ram ProMaster Cargo Van 159" WB High Roof or a new/low mileage Chevy Express 2500 Extended WB? Or something else?
For 8 months out of the year, I'd be using it for my house painting business in San Diego, while simultaneously living in it. This is why I need the extra space (for the paint equipment). And the other 4 months I'd be exploring the US (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, etc) and living in the van.
I'm a minimalist and wouldn't necessarily need A/C, a shower, or flush toilet, although I wouldn't be opposed to the latter two. Just need a bed, storage containers, one of those "toilets" that's essentially a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet lid on it, a big cooler, clothes, and my paint equipment (a small sprayer [fits in the front passenger seat of a Hyundai Accent], a storage container [fits in the trunk of a Hyundai Accent], some 5 gallon buckets, a shop vacuum, and a pressure washer [takes up half of the backseat of the Accent]..if there's room for the washer).
What I'm Looking For In A Van:
Stealth, since I'll be living in it in a residential areaRoom, since I'll need the extra space for my paint equipmentReliability. I want something that runs like a Honda or Toyota that won't give me problems often. I'm not mechanical at all.Fuel Economy, since I'll be driving it a lot for work and across countryMiscellaneous: A roof rack for my ladders (could be after-market) and a roof vent
I know you suggest the Chevy Express short WB, but I'm leaning toward the Ram Promaster for my specific needs (mainly for the headspace and cargo space), or the Chevy Express long WB as the runner-up choice. I'm told that the Promaster doesn't have great ground clearance and only has FWD, so I might not be able to go on many back roads in national parks and the BLM.
Is there a middle ground? Do I get the Chevy Express Extended, which has RWD, and just install some differential lockers for when I'm on backroads?
Last question, how reliable do you think the Ram Promaster is? Any mechanical issues you know of?
I should warn you that I know virtually nothing about vans, so if you could lay it out as simply as possible for me (I'm imagining pros/cons with summary, bullet for bullet comparison, or "the Promaster is garbage, get a ____), that'd be super helpful.
Thank you so much for your time! Seriously.
Registered: 1379508108 Posts: 96
We just purchased the Dodge Promaster over all other choices because it is 5" WIDER inside than the sprinter or Ford Transit, $5,000 to $12,000 less upfront, has a lower floor than either one due to being front wheel drive, has as good a clearance as any within an inch, has BUILT in studs in on the roof so you can attach a roof rack or other object WITHOUT drilling though the roof, fits within a normal parking spot as long as you don't purchase the extended one, better fuel mileage because of the 6 speed transmission/computers/6 cylinder engine, and provides stand up height for our aging bodies and room for a shower. As for stealth there will NEVER be a better stealth vehicle in our lifetime than the ORIGINAL van disclosed in the ORIGINAL book on Vanaboding (stealth camping forever on $20 a day) - the Chevy Express 2500...however if you keep it plain on the outside and follow the tenants of VANABODE you will be as stealthy as any other NEW van. MEANTIME I will release and update and put out the FOURTH edition of Vanabode in the next few months covering this purchase and choice in detail AND pictures and conversion information. As for your painting business you can set it up like we did in our original VANABODE leaving a big FLEX space just inside the sliding door to slide in anything you want, then remove it for floor space when camping. We have a HUGE open floor in the new VANABODE. As for reliability I cannot imagine a more reliable vehicle than the original Vanabode built on the Chevy express 2500 platform. We did NOTHING to the van for 11 years and 170,000 miles but tires/belts/oil change/fluids/front end parts. NO brakes NO shocks NO ac charge NO problems NO starter or alternator or any other mechanical problem ever. The best vehicle I will probably ever own but they just are not tall enough for us now that we are older.
Registered: 1498993050 Posts: 2
Glad to hear a revision on the book is coming up! I'll be going off the grid in May, and plan to purchase a Chevy 2500, mostly based on Jason's recommendations. In my case I'll mostly be taking a sabbatical where the plan is to mountain bike and hike in the western states for awhile. Maybe I'll do some guiding or camp host seasonal work. San Diego is my hometown, and I plan to visit. Seems to me that as long as it looks like a work van, everything should be fine.
One question I have is regarding rooftop storage. Namely, are there any disadvantages of having a rooftop "toolbox" for storage of things that aren't used every day? Seems that would free up space inside. Mountain biking will be a high priority for me, and I plan to store the bike under the bed, but that will sacrifice a lot of storage. Any suggestions/ideas would be much appreciated!
Registered: 1511115746 Posts: 2
Thanks for taking the time to write that lengthy response. Very helpful.
I'm not 100% yet, but I think for my first van ever, I'm going to stick with the tried and tested used Chevy Express (most likely the extended for my paint gear) with 50-70k (3 to 6 years old) for $10k or under and save myself the 20k I'd spend getting a new Ram ProMaster, especially since the PM is a gamble in terms of reliability. I like everything else about the PM except for the lack of evidence that it is super reliable and the shortage of used ones for sale.
I figure it's probably best to only spend $10-15k to get into the Van Life and dip my feet in. And if for some crazy reason, I don't like it, I will still use the Van for my business. And if I ever want to upgrade to the ProMaster, the Chevy is easier to resell.
Registered: 1517505423 Posts: 4
I am new to Vanaboding, and this forum, and I'm preparing to buy a van. Your post kinda described my situation.
I was thinking Chevy Express 2500, until I read Jason's recommendation of the Dodge ProMaster for its height. Now I'm going to start looking for a Dodge ProMaster.
I bought a 3-year-old Dodge Ram 1500 and drove it for nearly 15 years without any problems until one day it wouldn't start. A repair shop couldn't figure out what caused the initial problem and it recurred within a week, so I gave the truck away because I'm a single female and have to have a dependable vehicle.
So, which van did you end up getting?