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Old 06-21-2015, 12:19 AM   #41
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A couple of years after we got married, my wife and I lived in our (slightly DIY converted*) VW bus for months at a time on abandoned back logging roads in B.C. They were some of the best memories we've had in over 40 years of camping in one form or another.

*Slightly converted means a rear bench->fold out bed, a Coleman icebox (with a 20lb block of ice) bolted to the floor, indoor-outdoor carpet on the floor, burlap on the ceiling, a backpacking white/kero-gas stove, a pot, (and enough tools and parts to field strip and rebuild the engine).

So, I have absolutely no doubt that it is very practical for a compatible couple to full-time in a modern class B.

Now to build one commercially for <$60K might be a stretch, but could maybe be done.

Annie is a 22' Transit, and she came from the factory pretty tricked out...leather, all around pop-out windows, nav, etc. We got her for about $43K pre-tax. I'll bet a manufacturer with a volume order could do much, much better.

Our add-on choices, while a bit out of main stream (lots of solar, composting toilet, on-demand hot H2O, etc.), will come to about $15k. And that's retail.
So all told, our retail customer hardware cost will be about $58K.

I'm not really in a position to guestimate how much a manufacturer could reduce the HW costs. Probably a bunch by going with PM and more standard RV fittings.

Most of Annie's build labor goes to designing and constructing one-off solutions. A builder with all that NRE out of the way, and with decent DFM practices, should be able to keep labor costs pretty low. Enough to leave an acceptable margin for the stockholders? Whose nose?
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Old 06-22-2015, 02:46 AM   #42
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If I had the money and the workshop, I would love the idea of a DIY conversion, but with all the tools, materials, and time, I'd easily be in the six digit range. However, it would be dirt cheap (relatively) to convert a second van.

There are so many cool things that I would love to have in a van. Plus, since I'm doing some real estate deals, (I am hoping to buy some land before someone else does), I have time to do research.

What gets me that in Europe, and Australia, vans are cheap. $70,000 in US dollars gets you a well equipped vehicle with factory 4x4 or other options. Not sure why in the US, where people make less money than either of the two countries, prices on vans and RVs are almost twice as much. For example, in Australia something like a Tiger Motorhomes unit would be about $60 grand for a larger one. Here, that's $200,000.
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Old 06-22-2015, 04:19 AM   #43
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As Davydd pointed out, anyone cost-conscious is going to choose a pickup camper. I'd take that further and say anyone seriously considering a B has already opted out of length or sqft as a predictor of satisfaction with the product/experience. The stereotypical RV show or showroom purchase process is going to end in a trailer (cost) or a class C (immediate perceived value).

Of potential buyers who get through that filter and do want the most value, many will buy used.

If DIYers have identified an underserved part of the market, I'd argue it's flexibility: a platform with documented instructions (parts list, instructions, schematics) for doing your own future modifications, and a lot of physical and logical room to do just that. You're buying the first 50% of what an upfitter would do (insulation, dampening, tanks, some cabling, probably sewer/bathroom), and can choose how and what the rest of the interior should be.

This would:
  1. be the most flexible non-custom option on the market. Almost every stock B is a complete package with few customizations (LTV), or completely customizable (Sportsmobile, Advanced). Representative customer: James and Stef of TheFitRV. They aren't trying to save money, they want design around carrying bikes. They convinced Winnebago to make a very custom Travato as an experiment.
  2. build on itself, in that once one person has done a customization and shared build photos, at least some of the knowledge would apply to other customers. After one person builds the ultimate mobile office and posts photos or a product list, other buyers (or their integrators) would have a less risky way of adding just that. Most posts from customizers today are completely specific to their chassis, not built on a shared platform.

"We've done everything but the interior. That's your canvas."

(Arguably it would also appeal to DIYers, but I don't think most folks who do 100% DIY are willing to spend $60k. From the blog posts I've read, most have time and not money. Those with money buy used and possibly refurbish, like James and Stef did with their prior RV.)

I still doubt the market is big enough, but it could attract enough of the "long tail" - even though they all want different things - to compose a meaningful market. The differentiation isn't price, it's that you're buying a customizable shell and not paying for what you don't need, and can add/change later relatively easily.
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Old 06-22-2015, 03:13 PM   #44
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When I bought my 2011 Great West Van I agreed to allow the dealer show it at the Minneapolis RV and Camping Show before I took possession. I hung around the show two days and answered questions (gratis and on my own nickel) but subconsciously was protecting my investment. So I got to see a lot of people walk through my B and noted the comments and facial expressions. For the most part they were put off by the price since it appeared they equated price with size almost universally. Secondly, they couldn't get past the smallness and I suspect that to be hard after looking at some of the similarly priced small Cs nearby let alone all the behemoth motorhomes. They universally marveled at the "neatness, coolness and cute" factor much like people are enamored with tiny home concepts but would never live in them. With no preconceived RVing goals or experience in RVing, people had no idea why they would want a B. There were a few specifically shopping for Bs but that was a very few overall. Bs are a tough sell but those who buy them seem to know why they want them and I have met few people who have regretted buying them compared to some who have bought the Cs.
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Old 06-22-2015, 03:44 PM   #45
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The last time I was at an Austin RV show, I saw the same reaction with others when they compared the PW and Airstream rigs to the triple axle fifth wheels with the flip-down door that made a porch, and the type "A" rigs.

I'd love to see more class "B"s out there. The more class "B"s, means the more people get familiar with how they are, which gives a bigger chance at getting a critical mass of buyers, which would make the market far more than just a niche item. It also would make RV parks and travel more popular since a "B"'s strong point is the ability to just pile in and go. Then come economies of scale. If the market got up to 20,000 units a year, the cost per van of making the CNC files and tweaking it would be amortized among a lot of models, possibly making it cheap overall for everyone involved.

What people don't realize is that class "B" rigs have an extremely low cost per mile, and hold their resale value extremely well. Yes, they are generally more than other rigs, but you can get out of them easier than any other RV. For example, my travel trailer I bought, if I had to sell it right now, I'd be lucky to get less than 1/4 to 1/3 what I paid for it. A class "C" is a great value... but you always have to worry about the roof, as a single pinhole leak can destroy the rig due to mold and rot.
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Old 06-22-2015, 03:52 PM   #46
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Resale value is a very interesting point, and would have to be factored into a "true" cost-of-ownership analysis. If my "sample-of-one" experiment generalizes, the numbers would look rather good.

Moreover, it appears to me that the "blue book" values, such as they are, tend to understate the true market value of quality used Bs.
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Old 06-22-2015, 04:13 PM   #47
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We spent quite a while at the Minneapolis RV show this year, and there were more B's than there had been in a while, and there was also a pretty good crowd.

What we observed was that the interest, and duration of that interest, was very heavily influenced by price. This was with the non gawker types that could turn into real B buyers.

At Airstream, it was usually a quick peak inside and a mumble about the price and on their way.

At the Roadtrek, Great West, display they spent more time looking inside, but there were many comments about the costs too high, even with the Zion.

The Midwest Auto Designs display was almost a morgue.

The Pleasure-way Promaster had some interest and lookers, but the reaction was similar to the Zion.

At Winnebago, there were lots more folks that stuck around a while, and seriously looked at the units. Interestingly, there were things they didn't like about them, but they seemed more willing to accept because of the lower pricing on the ERA and Travato. With the other brands they seemed to be likely to deal breakers. Of course, lots of the comments related to how big the bathroom was, or should be, which is very foreign to those of us who really like the aisle shower setups. What we didn't hear at Winnebago were many comments about, where is the granite and other spendy giltz, which we found pretty interesting.

I do hope someone does try to go under Winnebago in the low cost end, like the $60K mentioned for this discussion. It would be interesting see how well the could equip one in the range. It is going to be tough to beat Winnebago at the manufacturing efficiency end, though, but perhaps they could come up with a big improvement in materials and construction. It will be interesting to see what Majestic does to replace the Ford unit they made for the rental market, as those were made to be low cost and usable, and probably had among the lowest of manufacturing cost around the B world.
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Old 06-22-2015, 04:24 PM   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Davydd View Post
They universally marveled at the "neatness, coolness and cute" factor much like people are enamored with tiny home concepts but would never live in them.
From walking through Cs in showrooms, it's hard not to see decisions that seem to have been made specifically for showroom appeal - where with no decrease in functionality (and sometimes an increase, aside from the length savings), related functions could have been combined.

Arguably at that point it doesn't matter much, though. Compacting 36' of functionality into 28' isn't going to enable parallel parking it downtown.

Goal Zero's "Sprinter Life" YouTube series is the best unintentional class B inspiration I've seen, as in "With a taller roof and a bathroom, I could live in that van." I think the most interesting class B story isn't being told right now: live anywhere, in any city (not an RV park on the outskirts), carry the things you want (bike, hobby, office), do/go/eat/meet whoever you want, and never need to think ahead.

This market hasn't seriously considered RVs before, and is staying in short-term Airbnb and Craigslist rentals today. A $60k open interior to which a buyer could attach, say, a BYO electric height-adjustable standing table (like this one) as a convertible dinette, eating bar, sleeping berth, desk, and counter space would be appealing.

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Old 06-22-2015, 04:43 PM   #49
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There are an awful lot of trailers of similar size to a B with similar appointments for under $20,000. However, they seem cheaply made. And you need a $40,000 vehicle to pull them. You would think with a $40,000 van you could put less than $20,000 improvements in them if you can build a whole trailer for that. However, would the market accept one?
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Old 06-22-2015, 05:25 PM   #50
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Quote:
anyone cost-conscious is going to choose a pickup camper
If you are talking about a slide in camper for a truck, this is not a cheap option any more when buying new. Yes the slide in unit might be reasonable, but due to the weight they require 3/4 ton truck or more which jumps the price of the truck up quite a bit.

Class B motorhomes are now luxurious vehicles with every little bit of fanciness that makers can put in them. What about running the opposite way and going to the old school conversion van style in a Promaster?

Essentially a van with a bed in the back, and some amenities added on. Perhaps make it a package deal so people could buy a plain van with a bed and some storage. Then the next package would include stove and sink, then add toilet as another option etc etc.

This would allow people to custom order what they could afford. And if it was modular they could upgrade at a future time.

Difficulties? Dealers wouldn't want them because they would need to stock a bunch to have what people wanted. Also the modular ability would not be around for more than a few years as once a vehicles dimensions changed, it would be difficult to stock pieces for older models.

I think this would be a plan for a custom upfitter to go with rather than a big company.
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Old 06-22-2015, 05:56 PM   #51
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Isn't that rather what Sportsmobile is already doing?
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Old 06-22-2015, 06:50 PM   #52
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Quick question re: pricing at RV shows (going to first one at Hershey in Sept.) and manufacturer websites.

I see only MSRP listed on manufacturers and dealer sites. But I keep reading that no one pays MSRP and maybe 10-15+% off MSRP is what you end up with. So the $85,476 MSRP for 59G is really $8-12k less?

Is that accurate? If so, if people only see MSRP at RV show, then walk away, does anyone at booth/display tell them then and there about discounting? What prices are quoted at RV shows?
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Old 06-22-2015, 07:43 PM   #53
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The Minneapolis RV Show always has show "specials" as if you have to grab the deal before it goes away. The special is generally the price they would negotiate to under any circumstances from what I can tell. Obviously if you go to a dealer and said I want that show special a week or month later they are not going to turn down a potential sale. They already played their hand.
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Old 06-22-2015, 09:01 PM   #54
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Davydd,

Just found your reply from April in the Thread "Price Transparency" excellent - someone should sticky it.

Is there any thread where people are posting what they actually paid?
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Old 06-22-2015, 09:16 PM   #55
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i paid 84,000 for my zion

should be able to get a Travato for max 72,000
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Old 06-22-2015, 09:38 PM   #56
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I paid $67k for my 2015 Travato on Friday. It has $3k worth of roof rack, kayak rack and bike rack. Subtract that and we're very close to $60k.
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Old 06-22-2015, 09:58 PM   #57
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I posted this before but I was at La Mesa RV and saw a brand new 2015 Travato with a price tag in the window of $59,998. How can any manufacturer or upfitter compete with that? You want a $60k class B? There you go.
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Old 06-23-2015, 05:23 PM   #58
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Jostalli,
Excellent! God, I wish the RV industry would use some "one price" pricing methods, so sick of shopping for something and not being able to figure out what I could REALLY buy it for...
Troyd, (and others)
I think you got the logistics right, the market share just isnt big enough (though I AM one that fits in to this little niche).
GREAT thread, I am reading intently, as I am stuck between a self build and a Travato...
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Old 06-23-2015, 05:34 PM   #59
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Quote:
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Jostalli,
Excellent! God, I wish the RV industry would use some "one price" pricing methods, so sick of shopping for something and not being able to figure out what I could REALLY buy it for...
Troyd, (and others)
I think you got the logistics right, the market share just isnt big enough (though I AM one that fits in to this little niche).
GREAT thread, I am reading intently, as I am stuck between a self build and a Travato...
I'm thinking this is an example showing how Winnebago became the #1 seller of B vans. They probably employed spifs, dealer cash, guarantees, etc. The dealers are then motivated to move units rather than maximize profit. Not sustainable long term but that's what you do to crush the competition.
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Old 06-23-2015, 05:44 PM   #60
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Reposting this with Google instructions instead of URLs because my post with URLs has been sitting in the moderator's queue. Here's where I think a market might exist:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davydd View Post
They universally marveled at the "neatness, coolness and cute" factor much like people are enamored with tiny home concepts but would never live in them.
From walking through Cs in showrooms, it's hard not to see decisions that seem to have been made specifically for showroom appeal - where with no decrease in functionality (and sometimes an increase, aside from the length savings), related functions could have been combined.

Arguably at that point it doesn't matter much, though. Compacting 36' of functionality into 28' isn't going to enable parallel parking it downtown.

Goal Zero's "Sprinter Life" YouTube series (Google for "Goal Zero Sprinter Life") is the best unintentional class B inspiration I've seen, as in "With a taller roof and a bathroom, I could live in that van." I think the most interesting class B story isn't being told right now: live anywhere, in any city (not an RV park on the outskirts), carry the things you want (bike, hobby, office), do/go/eat/meet whoever you want, and never need to think ahead.

This market hasn't seriously considered RVs before, and is staying in short-term Airbnb and Craigslist rentals today. A $60k open interior to which a buyer could attach, say, a BYO electric height-adjustable standing table (Google for "The Human Solution Uplift 900" and imagine a much smaller top) as a convertible dinette, eating bar, sleeping berth, desk, and counter space would be appealing.

Troy
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