If your objective is to live more adventurously and to use a van to accomplish this end, there are a number of factors to consider in determining whether you should build out a van or buy a built-out van. Does your budget enable you to afford to buy a built out van now? If not, should you put off your plans until it does? What should you spend on the van itself verses the build-out? How long will it take you to build out the van? What tools do you have access to and what relevant skills do you have or are willing to develop? Are there built-out vans available for purchase that meet your needs, and exactly what are your needs? Considerations regarding the van itself can be overwhelming.
My first van build was for my co-worker’s brother who intended to, and now does, live out of it in Montana. His budget was modest and his timeline for the build was long. There was nothing on the market designed for full-time winter living. I agreed to help build the van because it was a challenging project that brought together a number of my interests/hobbies (welding, off-grid energy, the tiny house movement, etc.). The build took about 400 hours split between my co-worker and me. Being that we are both mechanical engineers/ lawyers (patent lawyers), we spent hours “planning,” which essentially amounted to debating in the aisles in Home Depot the scientific validity of advice from various van-related forum and blog posts. We did eventually “finish” the van and have stayed friends through the trying process, but every time I see the van I’m reminded about how much time and effort it took to build it. Although I’m proud of the van we built and its serves my co-worker’s brother’s needs, I recognize so many aspects of the build that could have been done better. My second van build resulted in a better product and took about half of the time. Now that I have done a handful of builds and now that I am working with an experienced professional carpenter, the builds are much nicer and the process is exponentially more efficient.
Fortunately, you do not need to choose between endless trips to Home Depot or buying a fancy fully built-out van that you can likely afford years from now. At most climbing crags across the country, you see young people living out of basic vans and Subarus because the people with the 100K+ Mercedes vans have too often traded their fitness and youth for their fancy vans. If your goal is to live adventurously now, I suggest that you buy a new or used cargo van and leverage the skills and experience of someone who has been through the process before to get you out there within weeks, wherever “there” may be.
Qualtiy Adventure LLC (www.qualityadventurellc.com) will partially or fully build out your van based on your needs and budget as well as support your desire to be part of your build-out. We can help you drastically decrease your build time and build the van in a manner that you otherwise likely would not have on your own (welded frame, custom drawers and cabinets, etc.). You can have the gratification that comes with building aspects of the van yourself while avoiding aspects of the build that might otherwise cause you to pull your hair out.
Our environment provides us plenty of excuses to not live our dreams; do not make the van itself one of them. #Vanlife should be about the life not the van. Don’t be the person with grand plans for a van in a future that may never come. Live deliberately and adventurously today.
Although quality and customer satisfaction are both important to us, we consider them distinctly different concepts. To us, customer satisfaction is subjective, whereas quality is objective. It is our hope that our customers’ satisfaction derives from our customers assigning valuing to quality and recognizing quality in our work. If we built crap vans but had satisfied customers we would not find our work gratifying. So, we strive to build quality vans and provide a quality rewarding build experience and truly hope that our customers are satisfied.
For us, a basic quality van build is one that has a vented space defined by sturdy walls, floor, and ceiling. Additions to this basic build out does not add quality to the build; it just add more amenities to which our customers might assign value (bed platform, custom storage units, solar power, inverter, refrigerator, sink, running water, and aesthetic durable finishing, etc.). In our view, the price tag of a van build is not correlated with the quality of the build. A 150K+ RV-like build out presented with the highest levels of customer service but which has flimsy, poorly insulated thin walls, may be fancy, but per our measures would not be considered quality.
Gratification from our work comes in large part from working with van owners in the design process. It is a process where we learn about the van owner’s objectives and generate and analyze new ideas for the build out. It is a creative and rewarding process for us. If you think your idea of quality as it pertains to van builds matches ours, we would love to work with you to figure out a build that meets your needs and your budget. But please don't take it personally, we won't build van that we don't think is quality (e.g., flimsy walls) even if it would make you happy and you are will to pay handsomely for it.
1. How secure is the load? What would likely happen if the van is impacted?
2. Is the build out going to hold up over time given potholes and washboard?
3. How will the van build out manage the natural flex of the van body?
4. How will the van build manage condensation as it travels though hot and cold climates?