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Old 03-02-2013, 06:27 PM   #1
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Default To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Hello everyone,

I am new to the forum here and I hope to fit in as well as possible. I am really undecided about whether to buy or build my own class B right now. There are a lot of nice units out there on the market but they seem to be cookie cutter in their own way and there are some things I would do different or have to modify to my satisfaction.

I think cost wise I could save a TON of money since I would do most of the work myself, I have construction, plumbing, electrical (both 110 and 12 volt) skills from house remodeling, mechanical, and also my 12 volt knowledge as an amateur radio (ham) operator. The only parts of the work I would get help on or have it done would be installing the hi-top and the windows as I don't have the tools for that and thats a huge thing to make sure they don't leak.

Another reason I believe it would be more cost effective is because I grew up around Elkhart County Indiana (I live just north of there now in lower Michigan), SUPPLIERS GALORE around here. There are places to find everything you need to put into a campervan.

So again I'm up in the air about buying a class B and tearing into it or just build my own and be happy with my own creation.

Thanks for any input and advise. Jim
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Old 03-03-2013, 06:48 PM   #2
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Welcome to the forum Jim.
When you buy a new or used Class B you get all or most of the following:

Isolator – separates house battery from engine battery to prevent a dead engine starting battery
House Battery(ies) – provides 12v power to the coach
House Battery Disconnect Switch – disconnects the house battery to prevent discharge
Converter – provides 12 volt DC and charges house battery when plugged into grid
Inverter – gives you 110 volt AC from a 12 volt DC source
Generator – used to provide 110 volts AC
110 volt electrical panel with breakers
12v distribution panel with fuses
Transfer Relay - automatically switches from generator power to grid power
Fridge
Stove top
Furnace
Thermostat
Water Heater – propane or combo propane and electric, can be DSI (lit automatically) or pilot light (manual)
Water Heater by-pass valve – used when winterizing
Water Pump
City water connection – lets you use campground water instead of onboard water
Fresh water tank
Fresh water tank fill
Fresh water tank drain
Waste Tanks
Waste Tank discharge valves – black tank and grey tank dumping valves
Waste hose storage
Front seats may swivel to face rear of van – extends the van living space
Propane detector – 12v propane leak detector
C0 detector – carbon monoxide detector
Smoke detector
Monitor panel showing propane, battery charge state, water and waste levels
Propane fill valve
Propane shutoff valve
Propane Tank
110 volt 30amp power inlet
Cable TV inlet
TV antenna
TV outlet
TV, stereo
Shower
Ventilation Fan
Air Conditioning (both for the coach and the cab)
Rear Hitch
Toilet
Sink(s)
Fitted cushions
Lighting
Exterior storage compartments
Curtains or blinds / shades

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

I think the most difficult things to do would be:
1. cabinetry - the design, layout and construction.
2. shower
3. waste tanks

A good used Class B would be easier to start with and then you can customize it a bit.
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Old 03-03-2013, 08:39 PM   #3
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Jim,
I was thinking along the same lines as you until I stumbled on to a great deal on my used B and it became OBE. Prior to the B, we had a used high top Sherrod conversion van that I bought off Craig's list. We had it fixed up with a small electric cooler for a fridge, a Coleman propane camp stove, and a porta-potti. It was pretty basic but we had a blast with it and were talking about buying a used Sprinter or similar delivery van when I retire and doing our own conversion. I still think it would be a lot of fun to do and would give a real sense of accomplishment when complete. We are still trying to decide what to do when I retire as we tend to travel a lot. I'm now leaning toward picking up a B+ or small C but who knows, its still 3 years away and between now and then, I might change my mind and resurrect the "build my own" plan.
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Old 03-04-2013, 10:35 PM   #4
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

I think I could build my own but my wifes patience would be an issue. I think a used B on a Chevy,Ford or Dodge could be bought used much cheaper than I could build myself,but a Sprinter would be a different matter. The cheapest class B on this chassis is still in the high $30k range. I have seen reasonably price used cargo van Sprinters that don't look too used up in the $15k range. One had a genny and a roof air with 115,000 miles. That would have been a great starter but alas, I must have a low van for my music. If you decide to DIY, please keep us informed. Sportsmobile website could give you lots of ideas and plans.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:06 PM   #5
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Another thought might be if you could find a used ambulance or even some sort of limousine or commuter van (like airport limos use), a patient transfer vehicle, or something along those lines. You might consider a small used diesel school bus, as a subject to convert. Some of these vehicles will have some of the RV systems roughed in and might save you some of the tough stuff, like the raised roof, etc.
Unless your heart is set on starting from scratch, then the suggestion to see what Sportsmobile has to offer might be a good thought. They might even do the stuff you're leery of (for a price), and then turn the shell over to you to finish.

Oh yeah, welcome. There's a great group of people on here from all walks, and just about every level of expertise, and technical knowledge, you'll probably ever need as a class B RV reference tool. I'm just a couple hundred miles up the pike from you across from Port Huron. There, you've been warned.
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Old 03-05-2013, 04:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

I only suggested Sportsmobile for ideas and plans . It seems like the OP has the ability and knowhow to do it himself.
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Old 03-05-2013, 03:18 PM   #7
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Yes - Sportsmobile would be great to use either for just planning or for a basic finish-it-yourself at home campervan.
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Old 03-05-2013, 05:43 PM   #8
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Quote:
Originally Posted by stanw909
I only suggested Sportsmobile for ideas and plans . It seems like the OP has the ability and knowhow to do it himself.
Sorry Stan, if this reply was intended for me. I was adding to your idea.
In the original post, he said, "The only parts of the work I would get help on or have it done would be installing the hi-top and the windows as I don't have the tools for that and thats a huge thing to make sure they don't leak. ". Like you, I was suggesting Sportsmobile as an option, because they could do those things, and then turn the shell over to him to finish.
Actually, if he lives near Elkhart, IN, there are probably shops near there that can do the same stuff, maybe cheaper.
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:07 PM   #9
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Sorry. I misunderstood but you are correct. It is very common for people to have SMB do basic important systems and the have SMB add to it in piece meal fashion or even DIY. The tops installed by SMB seem a little on the expensive side but no doubt very good work.
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Old 03-06-2013, 11:54 AM   #10
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

No problem.
A few years back, I looked into what would be involved in replacing a damaged raised roof for my Roadtrek, and asked the guys at Roadtrek Service. Their opinion (paraphrased) was that it would be a difficult task to replace one, and very expensive, based mostly on how much stuff is placed in, or run through, their raised roof, by design. I guess I'd have to decide whether it was worth it, if I ever needed to replace mine. I don't know if insurance would cover the cost, unless it was a result of truly accidental damage like a fallen tree, and not more of a self inflicted problem like driving through a posted height restricted obstacle, like a fast food drive thru.
So, beware the "low bridge" alerts when driving.
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Old 03-09-2013, 11:13 AM   #11
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Hey everyone,
sorry it took so long for me to respond, work has been hell this week.

Thanks for all of the responses to my thread here. I've been thinking about the idea of finding a used class B now that it was mentioned here if I can find a layout (floor plan) that I like and low mileage. Some of you mentioned the Sportsmobile website and making use of their (build your own) feature and I have already done that before I joined this forum and it gave me the basic floor plan that I'm wanting in my own class B.

@ Marko: you are absolutely correct in your response about a used class B having all of the major appliances, tanks and electrical system in place already and I hadn't given much thought about that, thanks.

I will take all of this into consideration when making my decision on buying or building mine. I will keep everyone posted on my decision and if I build my own or modify a used one, I will post a thread in the "Tweaks, Mods & Projects forum.

Thanks again folks and take care; Jim
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Old 03-09-2013, 12:34 PM   #12
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Two examples of well-done DIY camper vans for info:

1. http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...2&t=57&start=0

2. http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...php?f=12&t=885

My van is DIY home-built as well. I bought it mainly because of the price, no rust, and only 63,000kms on the diesel motor. It was garage kept by the previous owner and I also keep it in my garage. It’s not that great looking but it does the job and I’m not worried about drilling holes in it etc. I'd love to redo the interior but will probably just paint most of the interior wood white. It doesn't make sense to keep spending money on it.

Info about it starts here: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...php?f=9&t=1820
I redid the electrical: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=2123
Installed a new radio: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=2167
Put a swivel under the driver seat: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=1925
Installed a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. Moved the propane detector from up near the ceiling in front to down by the floor near the middle. Mounted a fire extinguisher. Added lighting. New tires.
Added curtains: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=1926
Added a rear window type air conditioner: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=2156
Added TV antenna, wifi antenna and a TV inside: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=2388
Started renovating the interior: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=2327
It has 120 watts of solar panels on the roof. Photo: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=2156
I can idle the "pre strict emission controls" diesel engine as a generator if needed: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=12&t=2295
All of the tanks were custom built and made of stainless steel.
I had to replace the water heater: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...php?f=9&t=1880
I installed a hitch for towing or for carrying bikes: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...&t=1871&p=8900

I ended up spending about $6,000 after buying the van The electrical upgrade (AGM batteries included) probably cost the most. New tires were next. The new water heater was expensive. The air conditioner was very costly too. It all adds up quickly. In hindsight - I could have found a factory built van of similar age in good condition for about the same money spent that would now have a greater resale value. I underestimated the upgrades that I wanted. The new tires and new water heater were unexpected expenses.

It provides me with seemingly endless projects though so that is worth something and lots of the parts are brand new
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:37 PM   #13
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

I read what you posted here and a lot of things that you had listed would be nice but it all depends on what you need and can get by on especially if not much money , which will be my case .
so i am listing probably what i would use ( a poor mans version )

Isolator – separates house battery from engine battery to prevent a dead engine starting battery
House Battery(ies) – provides 12v power to the coach
House Battery Disconnect Switch – disconnects the house battery to prevent discharge
Converter – provides 12 volt DC and charges house battery when plugged into grid
Inverter – gives you 110 volt AC from a 12 volt DC source
Fridge (12 volt cooler type refrigerator )
no stove (only small microwave oven )
Water Pump or hand pump
Fresh water tank (5 gallon or more )
Fresh water tank drain
Waste Tanks (5 gallon or more water tanks for dirty water )
C0 detector – carbon monoxide detector
Smoke detector
TV antenna ( wi fi to ) .
TV, stereo ( i would also use a laptop pc that could run off of 12 volts .
Shower ( i plan on taking full body sponge baths , have done this in the past )
Ventilation Fan
Air Conditioning
Rear Hitch
Toilet (have a portable camper sealed chemical and water toilet )
Sink(s)
Fitted cushions (either make a custom slat slide out bed like some iv'e seen or buy a fold down couch bed combo from wal mart )
Lighting change all to led light bulbs etc.
Exterior storage compartments
Curtains or blinds / shades
(other things i will have will be solar cells on the roof to help charge the auxillary deep cell batteries . )

as i said this is the poor mans version , i plan on doing as much work as i can myself .
I am debating about vinyl floors it would be easier to keep clean i think but may put insulation under the plywood floor piece that the vinyl will go on to keep floors warmer . walls will have insulation to and ceiling if possible .
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Old 04-04-2013, 12:45 AM   #14
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

lightspeed - I have some camper van plans and a booklet from Glen-L plans that I'd be happy to send to you. I don't want anything for them. They might be 40 year old designs (I bought them maybe 10 years ago) but there is good basic info included. You might use them and if not pass them on to someone else. You can send me a PM (private message) with your mailing address if you want them and I'll mail them when I next get to the post office.





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Old 04-04-2013, 06:59 AM   #15
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Default Re: To Buy or Build your Class B Campervan

Not to toot my own horn ( although I do play trumpet for a living). Did you see my sink project in projects thread? I also recomend the Thetford curve for porta potti. A little pricey but worth it.
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