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Old 04-07-2018, 09:04 PM   #1
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Default Suggestions for Class B newbies - conversion vans

Hi all,

I've been avidly reading the forums. My hubby & I are seriously considering getting a van to use as an every day vehicle and for weekend (possibly week long) trips. We have rented Class C RVs several times and while we love RVing, we are 12+ years away from retirement, live in a cold climate, and wouldn't have enough time to travel to warrant purchasing a Class C RV.

We started looking at Class Bs because of the ability to use them as a daily vehicle, so we'd get more use out of it. Then we could take impromptu trips when we wish, instead of having to plan/rent Class Cs.

We love the Hymer Aktiv that we've seen on the "We're the Russos" YouTube channel, but that would be a bit more van than we actually need at this time. We're not looking to go full time in it. Most of the vans we love are just ridiculously priced. We don't want to buy something that costs more than our home!

When I was a kid, my Dad converted our Dodge van into a camper and we took so many road trips in it. I was thinking of possibly doing something similar with a conversion van. We can always trade-up to something larger in the future as we get more time to travel.

So: what would you reccomend for Class B newbies looking for a conversion van? After our Class C rentals, we know we are fine with the smaller space of a van. The Class Cs were actually too big. We spend most of our time outside.

Our must-haves:

1. A large (preferably king or queen) bed in the back. We're fine with it being a booth that converts to a bed, although the thought of no seams in a mattress is appealing.

2. A small fridge (electric/battery)

3. A porti-potti that has a cover on it when not in use. Gotta have one for middle-of-the-night emergencies in a rainstorm.

4. Fans to keep air moving when camping (e.g. Fantastic Fan or similar)

Things we like, but aren't deal breakers:

1. AGM battery to run the fridge/fans if the chassis isn't running

2. Shore power capability to easily charge batteries

3. Swivel captains chairs

We don't need an extra row of seating behind the driver/passenger seats. It's just the two of us and a dog.

We are sorely disappointed at the lack of vans on dealer lots in our area (Lansing, MI). The only vans we can find seem to be designed to load up as many passengers as possible. Do any of you know of any affordable van models that fit what we're looking for? It's OK if the van is standard height or a high top. We don't have parking restrictions.

I had looked at a Hymer Sunlight, which seemed to give us what we wanted, and the price was decent (found a used one for $49K). We don't necessarily need the kitchen (we grill outside or go out to eat). But I'd like to know if there are some other vans we just haven't come across. Searching for Class Bs mostly brings up the high-end $130K vans that we don't want.

Any suggestions for us newbies would be most appreciated
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Old 04-07-2018, 10:03 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by SopranoKris View Post
Hi all,

I've been avidly reading the forums. My hubby & I are seriously considering getting a van to use as an every day vehicle and for weekend (possibly week long) trips. We have rented Class C RVs several times and while we love RVing, we are 12+ years away from retirement, live in a cold climate, and wouldn't have enough time to travel to warrant purchasing a Class C RV.

We started looking at Class Bs because of the ability to use them as a daily vehicle, so we'd get more use out of it. Then we could take impromptu trips when we wish, instead of having to plan/rent Class Cs.

We love the Hymer Aktiv that we've seen on the "We're the Russos" YouTube channel, but that would be a bit more van than we actually need at this time. We're not looking to go full time in it. Most of the vans we love are just ridiculously priced. We don't want to buy something that costs more than our home!

When I was a kid, my Dad converted our Dodge van into a camper and we took so many road trips in it. I was thinking of possibly doing something similar with a conversion van. We can always trade-up to something larger in the future as we get more time to travel.

So: what would you reccomend for Class B newbies looking for a conversion van? After our Class C rentals, we know we are fine with the smaller space of a van. The Class Cs were actually too big. We spend most of our time outside.

Our must-haves:

1. A large (preferably king or queen) bed in the back. We're fine with it being a booth that converts to a bed, although the thought of no seams in a mattress is appealing.

2. A small fridge (electric/battery)

3. A porti-potti that has a cover on it when not in use. Gotta have one for middle-of-the-night emergencies in a rainstorm.

4. Fans to keep air moving when camping (e.g. Fantastic Fan or similar)

Things we like, but aren't deal breakers:

1. AGM battery to run the fridge/fans if the chassis isn't running

2. Shore power capability to easily charge batteries

3. Swivel captains chairs

We don't need an extra row of seating behind the driver/passenger seats. It's just the two of us and a dog.

We are sorely disappointed at the lack of vans on dealer lots in our area (Lansing, MI). The only vans we can find seem to be designed to load up as many passengers as possible. Do any of you know of any affordable van models that fit what we're looking for? It's OK if the van is standard height or a high top. We don't have parking restrictions.

I had looked at a Hymer Sunlight, which seemed to give us what we wanted, and the price was decent (found a used one for $49K). We don't necessarily need the kitchen (we grill outside or go out to eat). But I'd like to know if there are some other vans we just haven't come across. Searching for Class Bs mostly brings up the high-end $130K vans that we don't want.

Any suggestions for us newbies would be most appreciated
Check out VanDoIt (vandoit.com). Customizable and very affordable.
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Old 04-08-2018, 12:46 PM   #3
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Search on rvtrader.com. There are 4,300 Class B's nationwide (although some are actually B+'s). They range in price from $4,200 to $219K. There are lots of photos and descriptions to explore.
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Old 04-08-2018, 04:23 PM   #4
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Check out VanDoIt (vandoit.com). Customizable and very affordable.
Looks like 8020 type aluminum framing is gaining popularity in Van conversions. 5 years ago, there were just a few DIYs. Now, even Sportsmobile Mercedes Metris is using German designed conversion based on 8020 Quick Frame - 1” extrusions or equivalent. Going with 8020 in 2013 was my best decision in the Voilà conversion.
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Old 04-08-2018, 11:21 PM   #5
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Check out VanDoIt (vandoit.com). Customizable and very affordable.
Wow! This was an incredible site. Definitely love the modular capabilities so you can start small and add on later, if necessary. It's also close enough we could fly there and drive the van home. Thank you so much for sharing this site. Just what we were looking for
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Old 04-09-2018, 07:34 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by GeorgeRa View Post
Looks like 8020 type aluminum framing is gaining popularity in Van conversions. 5 years ago, there were just a few DIYs. Now, even Sportsmobile Mercedes Metris is using German designed conversion based on 8020 Quick Frame - 1” extrusions or equivalent. Going with 8020 in 2013 was my best decision in the Voilà conversion.
Wow! I like your conversion. Clicked on your link. How do you like the cassette toilet? My only experience has been black tanks. I like the idea of the cassette toilet because we don't have to winterize plumbing. Is it easy to keep the bowl clean? I've read some downside to keeping the bowl clean in a composting toilet.
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Old 04-09-2018, 09:01 PM   #7
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Wow! I like your conversion. Clicked on your link. How do you like the cassette toilet? My only experience has been black tanks. I like the idea of the cassette toilet because we don't have to winterize plumbing. Is it easy to keep the bowl clean? I've read some downside to keeping the bowl clean in a composting toilet.
From my perspective these are a cassette system key differentiating points versus a black tank or acomposting toilet:

- Cassette is a fully integrated system allowing easier installation and more flexibility in layout (vs a regular gravity based black tank toilet, macerator toilet allows flexibility but it is way more complex),

- Dumping is not restricted to dump stations only,

- Water flush, so it is like a regular toilet, same cleaning as at home,

- Cassette’s plastic bowl is more prone to scratching than an optional ceramic toilet with a black tank, but a ceramic one is heavier,

- Volume of 5 gal. will decrease dumping intervals 3 times versus commonly used 16 gal. black tanks,

- Easy thorough cleaning which is not really possible with a black tank, important for my garage storage,

- For smaller vans cassette’s smaller overall volumes allow easier optimization of all tanks. For example: my sub-20' long van is completely filled below the floor with the 12 gal. fresh water tank, the 4 gal. hot water heater, the 14 gal. grey water tank and above the floor the 5 gal. cassette and 4 gal. flush water. Sacrificing road clearance allows bigger tanks but road clearance for us was an overdriving objective, no skirts.

- Easier for 4 season van including possible use of freeze preventing chemicals in the flush water tank,

- From my personal experience the cassette has on odor, but my Bigfoot truck camper with a black tank had lingering odor, never figured out why but I met others with the same truck campers experience, it could be black tanks locations.

- The biggest controversy about cassette is actual dumping. Certainly not fun, one of the necessary evil. I manage it OK, tend to dump between ½ to ¾ full, pressing on the vent to prevent vacuum generated splashing is critical. It is likely less repulsive than dry cleaning of a composting toilet.

In summary:

- If you have a large family and volumes of toilet paper are generated by kids go with a black tank,

- If it just for a couple the choice would depend on your dumping frequency desires and actual dumping preference,

- If you often use camping restrooms and van’s toilet is primarily for nights a cassette could be a better choice,

- For small van a cassette system makes more sense.
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Old 04-09-2018, 10:33 PM   #8
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Thank you for that well-considered evaluation!
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Old 04-10-2018, 01:44 PM   #9
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Looks like 8020 type aluminum framing is gaining popularity in Van conversions. 5 years ago, there were just a few DIYs. Now, even Sportsmobile Mercedes Metris is using German designed conversion based on 8020 Quick Frame - 1” extrusions or equivalent. Going with 8020 in 2013 was my best decision in the Voilà conversion.
8020 works superbly on the exterior as well as the interior. My husband insisted on using it for our solar panels frame. It is considerably more expensive than the zinc-dipped perforated angle or square tube that most people get from their local hardware store and use in this type of application, but the appearance of 8020 is much more in line with automotive quality.

Plus there's no maintenance. You can see from this photo that I will continue having a devil of a time keeping rust off those clamps even though we had them specially dipped at a local metalworking place (there was no 8020 product to fit that need).

The tarp'd item under the leading edge of the panels and strapped to the 8020 cross-member is my inflatable kayak, btw.

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Old 04-10-2018, 03:12 PM   #10
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8020 works superbly on the exterior as well as the interior. My husband insisted on using it for our solar panels frame. It is considerably more expensive than the zinc-dipped perforated angle or square tube that most people get from their local hardware store and use in this type of application, but the appearance of 8020 is much more in line with automotive quality.

Plus there's no maintenance. You can see from this photo that I will continue having a devil of a time keeping rust off those clamps even though we had them specially dipped at a local metalworking place (there was no 8020 product to fit that need).

The tarp'd item under the leading edge of the panels and strapped to the 8020 cross-member is my inflatable kayak, btw.
I installed our 300W solar panels almost 5 years ago using 8020 extrusions and anodized custom brackets. From my perspective the name of the company, derived from the Pareto principle, fulfilled their intent for me; it solved 80% of my problems with 20% of my efforts.
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