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Old 02-15-2022, 03:28 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
Maybe not the most important consideration, but I believe insurers will view them differently. A traditional full camper build will be registered as a Winnebago or a Thor and insured as a motorhome. A DIY or small shop conversion will be registered as a Promaster or a Sprinter and insured as a van.

RV insurance is typically cheaper relative to value, because it is assumed to be an occasional use vehicle. Not sure how regular vehicle insurance on a van might handle the value of the conversion in the event of a claim, or whether you can have the vehicle reclassified as a motorhome.

Iím actually not sure about any of this, just going off previous discussions and throwing it out for comment and correction.
As someone who just had a small basic camper converted by Colorado Camper, I can speak to the insurance dark holes. (I entered my first one when I made my RT 170 my only vehicle... and then only one insurance company in the US would cover me... at a very high price. The catch was that I wasn't a full timer and still owned a home. It wouldn't take into consideration that I was a retired old lady of low mileage driving. Don't look for logic.) A couple years later, I finally found GEICO would cover me for a fraction of the first company.

Then I tried to insure my new rig. I just wanted basic stuff... no tanks, no propane, no AC or heating system... just a comfortable bed, portipotty, fridge, and power. A little hotel room on wheels. For heat, I have a very efficient 12v mattress pad... and remote start with the heater on. This van is only 16ft... so the van heater efficiently makes it toasty in minutes. For power, I have 2 Group 31s, 200w solar, & a 2000w inverter. I normally stay in campgrounds anyway, so I have sufficient power for cooking and an added space heater.

I provide GEICO all the photos and spec sheets, and they come back and say... no, it isn't an RV because there isn't a cooktop or sink. I pointed out that I had an induction hot plate that I pulled out and plugged in... and a dishpan. Nope. So, OK... will you insure it as a van? Nope... it's been converted. A new black hole/Catch 22.

So, I called the FMCA insurance company. They said that I would have to insure it like a work van with lots of stuff added in the back... like a plumber or electrician. You give it a value that you insure it for, and the premium is now more than double the rate for my RV with GEICO. (which will also affect the cost of my MN plates... $71 for an RV versus a few hundred based on the value of the van)

Next I hit the google and then called Colorado Camper to check on adding this:

They already had it in stock, so I stopped on my way to AZ for the winter and had them add a cabinet with the little set-up. Exterior water intake... drain into an empty water jug... little can of propane. Taa Daa... Geico says OK.

The moral of this soap opera is... if you are going to do a van conversion be sure to know what your state requires to consider it an RV... and also what your insurance company requires. Get it wrong and your annual costs will spike well over a thousand bucks.

PS... I found a long thread over on a Transit forum where a significant number of people who were doing self-conversions were immediately cancelled by their insurance companies when they learned that the van was being converted.
2021 Promaster 1500 118wb conversion
2019 Roadtrek Simplicity SRT (almost a Zion)
2015 Roadtrek 170
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Old 02-15-2022, 04:09 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by parkgt View Post
Can't imagine a downside to having a LP generator available with or without a second alternator.
When you have a second alternator that puts out 220 amps at idle or over 280 amps driving with no auxiliary fuel you will not consider a generator or even solar and propane as a necessary item in your van. I have a Delco Remy 330A alternator in my van. The more ubiquitous Nation alternators perform a tad less. I donít know if any other Class B upfitter uses it other than Advanced RV. Itís huge compared to a Nations alternator and I take it it doesnít even fit in a Promaster.

With a high amp hour lithium ion battery bank the idle or auto gen feature is rarely used. Iíve only used to test or demonstrate it. 300 watts of solar can produce Maybe 90 amps on an optimum day. I can drive 20 minutes or idle for less than 1/2 hour to replenish batteries for that. A 100 watt panel would be a token unnecessary effort.

An Onan generator is heavy, takes up precious under carriage space, hangs low, is noisy, uses more fuel, and is a maintenance headache. Why have it?
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Old 02-15-2022, 04:34 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
While itís possible to get that with DIY, it requires a high level of skill in multiple trades, time, tools, and workspace, and it still may not have the level of sophistication of a manufactured unit- think custom molded fiberglass bath enclosures and holding tanks as already mentioned
Agree, use of plastic molding is one of key differentiators between DIY and mom & pop shops and large companies. Not only tanks, usually done by less expensive rotomolding but also finishing components done by more expensive injection molding. See fit and finish of Adria
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Old 02-15-2022, 05:38 PM   #24
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Just a thought on the DIY/custom route. If you're sure it will be "the keeper", then a custom van might be OK. However if you think you will most likely sell it, it may be more difficult to sell than a factory-built van. The thing is, one person's really cool customization idea is another person's tacky mistake. Like clothing, food, or artwork, it is very subjective. For what it's worth, when we looked for a van, the custom one-of-a-kind vans were not even considered. The so-called "unmolested" factory-built vehicles are the holy grail.
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Old 02-20-2022, 05:49 PM   #25
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I can't tell from your post if you're thinking of building yourself OR if you're talking about someone else's build out OR if you're *talking about small conversion*Company's . ALL Very different things
1.* Someone made a VERY* good point about insurance. it would be the first thing i'd check2. Most good productions*Co. build on heavy duty van chassis,mine is* a Chevy 3500 ,so not an everyday* (not that they can't be) work* van. We looked at some home builds on* F 150 and chevy 1500.3. The way things are attached is VERY important*. you don't want* your* Fridge*flying through the air* during an accident.4. Tons of other things to consider. But, someone pointed out getting things*fixed. With a production van you can ask someone on this forum*about your* problem.* repair people are hard to find to work on a production Van, I can't imagine finding someone to work on a custom van ,,,,forget "normal" service*stations . So unless you can fix it yourself ??????**5. Price ...Today's prices are nuts ,but when we were looking Home/Custom built were more expensive*than* produccion vans, if you add up everything in each van.Now you might want a simple TENT on wheels ,if this is what you want MAYBE a homebuilt makes sense.I wanted to build out my*own , to put things in perspective I have built my own 16 ft sailboat from scratch,including cutting the planking.And, it floated and sailed. But, my Admiral*talked me out of it. I'm glad she did. I* was sure a production*van* had LOTS of things in it we didn't need. I/We have used every single one of those things ,except the TV which we have taken out.I hope my rambling*helpsGood hunting*Michael
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Old 02-20-2022, 08:25 PM   #26
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The only thing I would add to all these very helpful replies (in case it hasn't been covered already) is that you're not necessarily ever going to get any useful support for fixing things that break, regardless of who made your camper.

Campervans need a lot of maintenance and repair, and it's just not practical to bring it into "the shop" every time something goes awry. There's a real shortage of qualified, effective repair shops, wait times are dismal, and the work is expensive. (Also, you might be in a remote location when something breaks.)

So I would add "DIY-friendly" to the list of considerations for any new-to-you campervan purchase, whether that's a modded Winnebago or a brand-new custom conversion in somebody's garage. You need to be able to assess and troubleshoot all kinds of issues, and fix them as you go. Good luck and happy shopping

One more thing: The best way to figure out which features are "must haves", which ones are just "nice to haves" and which ones, if present, are complete dealbreakers, is to get yourself some direct experience travelling in a camper van. Visiting RV shows and going for test drives is great, but nothing matches the "a ha" moments that you will have when you actually camp in the kind of vehicle that you're considering.
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Old 02-21-2022, 03:11 AM   #27
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I went through the same decision process as you. I started by watching a billion videos on all the pre-built brands and touring a few. It helped me know what I wanted. I ended up going with a high-end custom builder and 3 years later, no regrets.

You're right, no user manuals. It hasn't been the huge issue I expected it to be. I can go right to the manufacturers with questions on standard components like the Victron, refrigerators, induction cooktop, water pump, microwave, composting toilet, air conditioner, even the windows. Some of them came with manuals.

Another poster mentioned you can't automatically expect better service on a pre-built unit and I agree. My builder warranties all his work and walks me through questions if I'm unable to come back to his shop.

Insurance is a huge consideration. I got replacement value insurance from Foremost, like you'd get on a house if it burned down. It replaces the entire custom build and personal belongings, not just an empty cargo van and not a depreciated value. They had a few requirements like a sink and fixed stovetop, and it had to be built by a business, not a DIY.

Feel free to private message me if you'd like to talk.
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Old 06-27-2023, 03:59 PM   #28
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I went with what I'm calling a modified DIY approach. I can't even dream of buying a new motorhome of any class...the budget just flat isn't there.

I was a bit concerned about the insurance aspect, so I bought an older factory built RV. 1987 Fiesta on a Ford E350 chassis, and am now in the process of completely gutting it to the shell and rebuilding it. I figure since it was originally sold as a motorhome, I'll be able to continue registering and insuring it as a motorhome regardless of what I do to it.

The other side is that I got this thing dirt cheap compared to newer stuff, and between what I can reuse from it and parts that I salvage off my Lance (that has suffered significant rot from water damage, and I no longer consider it worth repairing), I should be in to this build for less than $10,000 total. Sure, gas mileage will be dismal with this old 460, but even at today's gas prices, what I'm saving over buying a newer/nicer van to start with will still go a long way in fuel costs.

The other benefit is that I will know where every screw and wire is in it when things go wrong, making repairs easier. I can also route things like LP lines and wiring in ways that will make repairs and maintenance easier.

It probably won't have the fancy appearance of a new factory built, but I won't know any different when sleeping and my food won't taste any different ��
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Old 06-27-2023, 09:01 PM   #29
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Great choices! I had to get mine custom built but if I had the skills, time, space and tools I'd have preferred DIY. I can't fix complex electric, solar, radiant heat system, etc myself.

My friend redid a 1989 Roadtrek all-in for about $10k and it's great. You're right that saving so much on the build offsets a lot of gas.

I got surprisingly good RV coverage with Progressive. (Cant vouch for claims tho).They now have a separate RV group and they cover many extras like roof leaks. A few years ago I had to get specialty coverage for my custom build through Foremost and it was more spendy with less coverage.
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