The first step in securing your freedom to travel as you please is the procurement of a vehicle suitable to be converted into your mobile residence. By a large majority the most popular automotive conveyance for said conversion is the standard white full-sized cargo van.
Their popularity comes because of many reasons. Used examples can be found everywhere. As the mainstay behind the delivery and maintenance/repair business world, cargo vans are scurrying around every city all day every day. The trick is to find a good used example that hasn’t been beat within an inch of its life.
Size is another very attractive attribute of the cargo van. Large enough to be considered down right roomy for one person and adequate for two, once properly set up you have a highly maneuverable package that will still offer reasonably good mileage while still fitting in any standard parking place. If Stealth is important to you, a White Cargo Van is practically invisible among the thousands on the city streets everyday.
Finding that perfect candidate is a process that will probably take some time and patience. If this is to become your residence you want it to be as trouble free as possible and provide the best base for your new home. After watching the market for about six months the chosen rig for this project turned up at a local new car dealership.
The best approach to trouble fee travel is to buy the absolute best possible rig you can afford right from the start. After putting in time and money into building your Van Dwelling you don’t want to be suffering expensive major repairs because you bought something that was about to take it’s last breath.
This particular van is a 2005 Chevy Express 1-ton Regular Body Van. With 118,000 miles on the odometer it was purchased at less then 1/3 of it’s original MSRP. By usual standards this van has traveled less then half its expected life span so all things considered it should be a cost effective investment.
Getting down to brass tacks, why was this particular van chosen over many others including three more that were on the same sales lot?
It had a couple amenities the others vans lacked. It was the only one with cruise control (it works too) while the others being a bit more utilitarian lacked that one device that makes long distance driving a pleasure. This van also was the only one equipped with a trailer towing package. Class III receiver and 7 pin trailer connector all in place. As towing a 24′ travel trailer at times will be part of its expected duties this amounted to a savings of over $500 to have it installed on an unequipped van.
The dealer stated that upon their own extensive mechanical inspection they replaced the rear brakes, flushed the brake system, and serviced the transmission. They also did an oil change and chassis lubrication and had the van detailed from top to bottom. With a fresh wash job it looked like a practically new vehicle at the time it was placed on their lot for sale.
This dealer is a long established local business that has been selling new Buicks since the days of the Model T. They have a reputation as a top notch quality dealer that sells good products and stands behind their vehicles. Admittedly they purchased this batch of Cargo Vans at auction, but to protect their good name these units were fully inspected and repairs made before they even made the front row.
Buying from such a place of business is like having a security blanket. If something goes wrong right after the sale, even though they fully document the AS IS aspect of the purchase, you will likely be able to work out an arrangement satisfactory to the point you feel they honored their responsibility to be up front and honest with you.
Though it was declined they did offer an extended warranty but at a cost of $2700 to provide 30,000 miles of protection and only covered major items the benefit didn’t seem reasonable. If a transmission fails a replacement can be installed for about the same money the policy cost. It’s a better idea to put away some money each month for mechanical repairs. Keep the money in your wallet, don’t give it to the dealer up front.
All indications are that even with mileage that is somewhat high for its age this van has spent most of its life at highway speed. There is but one very small door ding in an otherwise undamaged body. Door hinges and the sliding side door all operate nice and tightly with little apparent wear and tear to their components.
Looking at the drivers door area will tell you a lot about a vehicle. Is the paint rubbed off where your feet step up into the cab? Is the drivers seat outer edge crushed or even ripped from sliding in and out of the seat? These are indications that the vehicle was used as an inter-city delivery van. Lots of stop and go wear, probably many hours of idling at the curb, the odometer reading only indicates actual driving time. A delivery van might spend as much time sitting still with the engine running as it does actually moving.
The interior of the van is equipped with a full set of metal bins which will be removed. A minor inconvenience that will be found on a large percentage of similar vans.
A quick look under the van confirmed no fluid leakage issues, tire wear was even and equal at all four wheels. With all four tires matching and about 20,000 miles of tread still remaining the likely hood that all was in order in the undercarriage indicated it was time for a test drive.
After a short test drive confirming the steering was tight and the van drove out as expected a deal was made.
As a past equipment mechanic I trust my instincts when it comes to buying vehicles. Usually an expensive problem will show itself if you understand what to look for during a 10 minute test drive. Noises have meanings, odors, spills, and vibrations all tell stories. For those not skilled in mechanics an inspection by a trusted mechanic is well worth the investment.
Now the fun begins, the first step will be removing the bins and shelves and assessing how best to make use of the space available.