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Small CamperVan Question
Old 06-15-2012, 01:07 PM   #1
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Small CamperVan Question

I've been thinking about the retirement lifestyle I want and I will eventually move permanently to a downtown condo within walking distance to most things.
I orginally though about getting rid of my car altogether and walk/taxi/bike anywhere.
I am reconsidering, the thought of being able to take a weekend get-away or a few weeks on the road appeals to me, the small RV lifestyle.
Problem is I only have a regular sized parking spot in my condo garage, so I would need a very small rv to fit. I've seen older vans like the VW Westephalia, do they make new versions? Or something similar?
Then the vehicle would be fine for once a week grocery runs and I could keep it as my one and only vehicle.
The new conversion vans I've seen seem too big..to tall, to wide and too long. Lovely interiors, but I'm looking for small. Any forumster have a camper van as their only vehicle? Any advice?
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:34 PM   #2
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What about using regular minivan instead?
Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna have rear seats folding flat.
If the floor is not comfortable enough for sleeping, use a camping pad.
Another possibility is a small pickup truck with a camper top

sailor,
who slept (car camped?) in cars (Honda CRX and Audi 80) in BK (Before Kids) era.
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:41 PM   #3
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A mini-van conversion van would be ideal. I heard that when mini-vans were the most popular conversion kits where available, but I can't find any new model availability. I might be best to look for used.
The small pickup camper is an option too...If it is not too tall though as it needs to fit through the condo garage door
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:45 PM   #4
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Thanks for the tip sailor...I googled and voila! Do-It-Yourself RV - NYTimes.com
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:59 PM   #5
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Thanks for the tip sailor...I googled and voila! Do-It-Yourself RV - NYTimes.com
This looks like what I had in mind. And I lug the middle seat in and out of our Sienna on a regular basis, and it's not a huge chore - just don't buy captain seats - they are much heavier.
Also I would not pay $1800 for a composting toilet. If you really need something on board I would go the route of a small $50 port-a-potty - our family of 5 successfully uses smallest Thetford model on our sailboat.
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Old 06-15-2012, 02:06 PM   #6
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Another possibility would be to keep whatever vehicle you have (assuming it can tow and is road-worthy) and get yourself a towable camper. They can be huge (5th wheel, etc.) or pretty small and compact (pop ups of various kinds). If it were just me, I would probably either go with a truck camper or an A-liner (brand of towable popup). The pop-ups will fit in most garages. We have a 16 foot hard sided travel trailer that would probably do just great for a single person or a couple for an extended period. We do a week at a time with two kids and two dogs, no problem.
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Old 06-15-2012, 02:55 PM   #7
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My husband and I started with a 13 foot sprint trailer which we pulled with a four cylinder light truck. It was gret fun. Now we have a 22 foot trailer with a queen bed that we bought new and a big rig to tow it, bought also new. The trailer is set up now at the family recreational farm and we enjoy using it often. It will be there all the time.
What I need/want is a unit small enough to fit in a single parking space at our condominium that I can use for short weekend camping outings. A vehicle which doubles as the errand vehicle. (once a week shopping etc).
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Old 06-15-2012, 03:02 PM   #8
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What I need/want is a unit small enough to fit in a single parking space at our condominium that I can use for short weekend camping outings. A vehicle which doubles as the errand vehicle. (once a week shopping etc).
I don't think such a vehicle exists other than in a custom configuration. As others have suggested, your best bet would probably be a minivan that you alter/adapt to meet your needs.
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Old 06-15-2012, 03:24 PM   #9
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Sounds like you want a Westphalia. Check out their forum, there is no doubt one for sale that has been rebuilt - it is only money.

Main Index - Westfalia.org Classifieds
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Old 06-15-2012, 06:02 PM   #10
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I would suggest going the rental route until you decide what size would be a good fit for you. I'm not sure what size rentals are available but it's worth some phone calls. You might decide to stay with the rentals rather than keeping it in your smaller parking spot and taking up a lot of room. You would have to do some calculating on how the price works out. Just my take. At least rent for starters will give you an idea of what you would like.
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Old 06-15-2012, 06:49 PM   #11
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I would suggest going the rental route until you decide what size would be a good fit for you........
My experience with renting (camper trailers) generally sucked. I ended up buying a used one rather than deal with all the hoop jumping. Deal killer for me was a general exclusion of pets. Half the reason for camping is to take Rover with us.
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Old 06-15-2012, 07:00 PM   #12
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I think I found a contender... Le Concept - NEW-WEST VR - YouTube
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Old 06-15-2012, 08:36 PM   #13
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Try the Honda Element or Jeep Wrangler ECamper:

Ursa Minor Vehicles - ECAMPER and Accessories for the Honda Element
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Old 06-16-2012, 06:20 AM   #14
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I think I found a contender... Le Concept - NEW-WEST VR - YouTube
Wow! Where can you get one of these or something like it in the US? What kind of cost? This looks like the old VW Westfalia setup. Brings back some great memories and I wouldn't mind creating some new ones.

During the 70's I traveled all over the country and up into NE Canada for many years during the summers. I had a DIY converted VW van and drove a month each summer until money ran out. I could usually stretch less than $500 to cover all my expenses for 2. Motel (w/pool and ice) parking lots for sleeping, camping other times, grocery stores (with an occasional AYCE buffet) for food, gas, and National Park entry fees, were the only expenses. The rest of the year it was my only vehicle to drive to work.

Retiring soon but have so many activities planned there isn't enough time to do a DIY conversion again although I may be tempted if the cost for a factory conversion would be too high IMO. I just have to convince my wife that the adventure would be worth it.

Cheers!
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Old 06-16-2012, 06:26 AM   #15
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I was with you up to this point:

Quote:
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I just have to convince my wife that the adventure would be worth it.
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Old 06-16-2012, 09:13 AM   #16
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..........
During the 70's I traveled all over the country and up into NE Canada for many years during the summers. I had a DIY converted VW van and drove a month each summer until money ran out. I could usually stretch less than $500 to cover all my expenses for 2. Motel (w/pool and ice) parking lots for sleeping, camping other times, grocery stores (with an occasional AYCE buffet) for food, gas, and National Park entry fees, were the only expenses. The rest of the year it was my only vehicle to drive to work.

...........
Brings back great memories. I converted a 1966 Econoline to a camper and did a 6 month one lap of America on a budget of $10 a day all expenses included for 2, except heath care, which we prepaid.

I did it again in 1976 with a "modern" 1973 Econoline, this time Michigan to Alaska to Michigan via Florida.

Camper vans can be very practical.
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Old 06-16-2012, 10:18 AM   #17
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There are small "class B" RVs that are not much bigger than a van - RoadTrek and Sportsmobile are two you might check out to get an idea of what's out there. There are lots of used ones if new isn't in your budget. A step above the DIY route and more reliable than an old VW van. Happy trails!
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Old 06-16-2012, 01:27 PM   #18
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How about a nice diesel van conversion? Not cheap but there are used ones around that can cut the cost in half.

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Old 06-16-2012, 01:39 PM   #19
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If you're only planning to use it a couple of times per year, you might check into the economics of just renting one as needed. Owning and insuring stuff can be really expensive, especially if you have to pay to park it too - which it sounds like you might.

I lived in an urban area for a long time without a car. I did the math one year and concluded I could rent one every single weekend and it was still cheaper than for me to own one. I didn't buy my first car until I was 32.

Another potential advantage of RV rental is that you don't have to do a marathon drive if your destination is halfway across the country. Driving an RV 3,000 miles round-trip can be as expensive as flying - and a lot more tiring. Instead, fly to where you want to go and rent your RV there.

Good luck, and happy travels.
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