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Old 08-17-2016, 11:41 PM   #1
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Default To convert or not to convert....

I'm trying to decide if I should purchase and convert a 2016 Sprinter van, but I'm worried about the initial costs as well as possible sale value later.If you have any answers, it would be really helpful in my decision making process.

Did you convert yours or have someone else do it for you?
Was it worth it (price and time) to do it yourself?
How many vans do you think are converted each year? With that, how many people do you think do them by themselves?
What was the most difficult part of converting it on your own?
If I do decide to buy one to convert and decide to sell it down the road, does it have a good resell value?

If you have any other information, it would help me to decide what I'm going to do!
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Old 08-18-2016, 12:30 AM   #2
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.

My 2 cents.
Just an opinion. Not gospel.


Home built conversions are sunk cost.
You don't usually get much money back on the components when you sell.
Not because they don't worth money,
but because it is difficult to find the right buyer who appreciates your handiwork.


YMMV
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Old 08-18-2016, 01:57 AM   #3
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I know that there are lots of cool things that I could add to my personal conversion, but by the time I figured in the tools, the materials and my time; it wouldn't be worth it. I know that I'm fairly handy, but I'm not a cabinetry carpenter, I'm not a water systems engineer, and what I know about electrical systems would fit in a small paper cup. Given Murphy's Law, for each thing I put in, there'd probably be a few failures and re-dos. Additionally, you'd probably have to pay more than a RV manufacturer would for all of your materials because of the very small quantities you'd be dealing with. I also doubt that a potential buyer would want the same things and might see your conversion as a hindrance. They'd have no way of knowing whether the stuff behind the walls was done properly and safely. Most importantly, doing your own conversion means that they're be a very long time between your purchase and your first outing.

On the other hand, if you buy a Sprinter with a conversion by a reputable RV company, like PleasureWay, Roadtrek, etc., you can pretty much go on vacation almost as soon as you get it. You wouldn't spend endless nights trying to figure out how to design and install things. If you bought it new, you'd also get a warranty, so you'd avoid having to redo your systems yourself again and again. A potential buyer would also be dealing with a clear and known set of features that has a specific book value.

That's just my two cents.
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Old 08-18-2016, 02:55 AM   #4
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When i was looking for my B, I didn't even consider any home built units. I looked for name brands, and I suspect that many buyers will be the same.

I would consider building myself if:
- I wanted a special type of vehicle, like a converted school bus
- I had special needs that I knew ready built units would not meet.

Also consider that some of the parts used by Roadtrek, Winnebago, etc, are custom made, like the underfloor tanks. You'll have to used standard parts, which might add an extra level of compromises.

William
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Old 08-18-2016, 01:27 PM   #5
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There is also resale value. At best, a homemade conversion will fetch the cost of the chassis when sold, while a name brand is a known quantity and will sell for more. Even custom upfits done by a good shop may not sell well. One custom maker upfit that didn't have a bathroom or much in the way of a kitchen has languished on a local RV dealer's lot for years.

I have thought of doing the DIY thing, but I don't have the time at this stage in my life to go over every exacting detail, then have to redo things because I did some boneheaded mistake.
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Old 08-18-2016, 05:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OutdoorOregonian View Post
I'm trying to decide if I should purchase and convert a 2016 Sprinter van, but I'm worried about the initial costs as well as possible sale value later...
Are you looking for a traditional Class B RV with generator, air conditioning, bathroom and shower, kitchen, and similar amenities? Or perhaps a simpler transformer style conversion with fold-out bed, porta-potti and maybe a basic galley cabinet with sink and fridge?

If you need a fully equipped RV you would be hard pressed to match the value proposition of a unit like Winnebago's Travato, even if you have unlimited free time for a DIY conversion.

If a more basic van conversion fits your needs take a look at units pictured on Van Specialties website. They offer a variety of basic and flexible conversions that may spur ideas for a DIY design. Van Specialties will also do partial upfits, so if you're good at cabinetry but don't want to tackle electrical issues or cutting holes in your van for windows/fans they can assist.

For resale I agree with others that you won't get high value out of the DIY portion of a conversion when selling. And in some cases a poor design choice or fabrication mistake can render the van less salable than its unmolested counterpart. A DIY van is for your own enjoyment and hobby - think of it as a personal lifestyle investment, not a monetary investment.
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Old 08-18-2016, 08:10 PM   #7
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Default We are doing a conversion

But it's a Transit, not a Sprinter.

Don't do it IF resale value is a high priority, if you are uncomfortable learning new skills, or are afraid to redo something when you goof or have a better idea.

We are doing it because the (for us affordable) commercial builds didn't have stuff we wanted, like a large fresh H2O, good solar based back road boondocking capability, etc.
They also had stuff we didn't want, like black water storage, wet baths, low clearance running boards, built on a Promaster, etc.

In our opinion, all the OEM builds that we checked (in our price range <90K) had sub-par, sloppy construction, both in visible stuff like cabinetry, and in systems. We believe we can do much better.

All told, we will be into it for between $70K-80K...for the van and materials.

Cost of our own labor is not an issue for us. Far better than depending on the quality of someone else's work. And we get the exact camper we want (outside of no 4x4).
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Old 08-18-2016, 09:23 PM   #8
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Somewhat related to the OP's question is my interest in eventually getting a B that is not loaded down with heavy fittings. I like the one I have now and will have it for several years, but I really don't need the granite counter and wood cabinets. But I do want quality. I have not seen anything like this on a Sprinter platform. Is this a case that I would need to go the custom route?
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Old 08-18-2016, 10:49 PM   #9
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What if the OP doesn't care about resale value? If you don't, then do what you will.

Also consider that all RV "stuff" could be removed and the van is just sold as a van. What does it matter if there's a roof vent? Lots of work vans have them. Perhaps it would be an issue if you cut holes in the floors or walls, but if you kept it clean, it could easily be sold.
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Old 08-19-2016, 12:48 AM   #10
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A few things:

1. If you want a custom Sprinter with whatever countertops, cabinets and tanks you specify, Advanced RV will probably build exactly what you want. They're not cheap, however. There are probably van fitters who would do the same on another platform, like the ProMaster or the Transit. I don't know who they are. There are also companies that specialize in remodeling RV interiors.

2. Manufacturers of RV must comply with fire, electrical and safety codes. Unless you know what these codes are and are prepared to built a safe vehicle, I wouldn't risk it. These codes go beyond the kinds of codes involved in building a stationary house. You're modifying a vehicle that may travel up to 60 mph or more and one that should be safe if you have to suddenly stop.

3. If you want a larger fresh water tank, be prepared to have it custom built. No matter where you mount it, it has to be mounted so that it won't go flying through your van during an accident. Getting hit in the head by even a 5 gallon tank mounted inside would probably knock you out. If it's mounted outside, other drivers on the road shouldn't be suddenly faced with a loose water tank dropped on the road.

Don't think that "I'm a safe driver, so I don't have to worry about that." There are other folks on the road who are drinking and driving, texting or talking on their phone, or otherwise not paying attention. I'm alive because of my car's safety systems when I was hit by one of those people. Yes, I know that there are lots of people who've converted their own vans on the road. I just hope that none of them are involved in an accident.
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Old 08-19-2016, 07:22 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SiennaGuy View Post
A few things:

1. If you want a custom Sprinter with whatever countertops, cabinets and tanks you specify, Advanced RV will probably build exactly what you want. They're not cheap, however. There are probably van fitters who would do the same on another platform, like the ProMaster or the Transit. I don't know who they are. There are also companies that specialize in remodeling RV interiors.

2. Manufacturers of RV must comply with fire, electrical and safety codes. Unless you know what these codes are and are prepared to built a safe vehicle, I wouldn't risk it. These codes go beyond the kinds of codes involved in building a stationary house. You're modifying a vehicle that may travel up to 60 mph or more and one that should be safe if you have to suddenly stop.

3. If you want a larger fresh water tank, be prepared to have it custom built. No matter where you mount it, it has to be mounted so that it won't go flying through your van during an accident. Getting hit in the head by even a 5 gallon tank mounted inside would probably knock you out. If it's mounted outside, other drivers on the road shouldn't be suddenly faced with a loose water tank dropped on the road.

Don't think that "I'm a safe driver, so I don't have to worry about that." There are other folks on the road who are drinking and driving, texting or talking on their phone, or otherwise not paying attention. I'm alive because of my car's safety systems when I was hit by one of those people. Yes, I know that there are lots of people who've converted their own vans on the road. I just hope that none of them are involved in an accident.
RV build codes are readily available from RVIA/ANSI. I certainly recommend studying the stuff pertinent to your build. It's not that hard to exceed their published standards.
I also recommend establishing a good relationship with a competent independent RV repair shop, and have them review stuff you've done. Including tank mounting. The few bucks and time are well worth it.
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Old 08-20-2016, 03:00 AM   #12
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Just take a gander over at the For Sale section at Sprinter Source: For Sale (Sprinter Vans Only) - Sprinter-Forum

You will see many complete and partial conversions going for big money.

I built my own because no commercial RV is set up for long term dry camping. I would never pay AdvancedRV or some other bespoke upfitter the prices they are asking if I can do it myself. I estimate over 1400 hours went into my van so take that into consideration.
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Old 08-20-2016, 04:26 AM   #13
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I spent a more than a year combing the web looking at self builds, drawing up plans, pricing appliances and parts I would need, considering whether I had the tools and skills to do it, talking with 3 different custom builders, there were many features in a "complete" motor home I didn't think I really "needed".. I liked the Travato floorplan but no custom builder was really wanting to replicate it. Even leaving things off like a permanent furnace, hot water, AC, and other "niceties", my price was still adding up to over 70K with a new promaster..

In the meantime, they added Solar, the Truma unit, and other improvements to the Travato. I bought one COMPLETE for 75K. I would probably just be getting rolling on my "self build" had I went that route; I would have had less "features", had a lower resale audience and value, and had a very similar unit (possibly not as well built, and definitely not as well engineered), I would have been on my own as far as repairs and problems...

But instead, I have traveled 12,000 blissful miles in the last 6 months and it has been a "life changer". I have WGO and a dealer behind me, I can get an "extended warranty" if I wish when this one runs out, etc etc.

I would look long and hard for a new or used unit out there that might fit, and build ONLY if you just absolutely can not find the rig that makes you happy. Of Course, I don't know your situation, but it takes allot of different skill sets, probably MORE of your TIME than you imagine, and probably as much, or likely MORE money, to build your own, than it does to buy a similar (or better) furnished unit.

I guess it really boils down to whether you want to spend your time and money building your own custom campervan? Or do you want to spend your time and money USING your campervan?
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