Millenials and Van Life

Garandman

Member
Popped up in my news feed.

The business of van life
How the RV industry is falling short, and how van lifers are filling the gap

https://www.curbed.com/2019/4/3/18264579/van-life-millennials-campers-sprinter-air-stream-thor

“The Mercedes Sprinter, a vehicle now made in America, at a new plant in South Carolina, has become a symbol of the van life movement and the vehicle of choice among millennials living on the road, in addition to the Ford Transit and the RAM ProMaster. But they aren’t getting these vehicles from traditional RV manufacturers. Those companies still cater mostly to retirees and baby boomers who want travel trailers or “Class A” motorhomes, which are much larger than a Sprinter.

....Feld says he’s noticed more new conversion companies popping up than he’s able to count, and according to data from Nomadx, there are at least 164 in the United States.”
 

Mein Sprinter

2010 Roadtrek SS Agile
Popped up in my news feed.

The business of van life
How the RV industry is falling short, and how van lifers are filling the gap

https://www.curbed.com/2019/4/3/18264579/van-life-millennials-campers-sprinter-air-stream-thor

“The Mercedes Sprinter, a vehicle now made in America, at a new plant in South Carolina, has become a symbol of the van life movement and the vehicle of choice among millennials living on the road, in addition to the Ford Transit and the RAM ProMaster. But they aren’t getting these vehicles from traditional RV manufacturers. Those companies still cater mostly to retirees and baby boomers who want travel trailers or “Class A” motorhomes, which are much larger than a Sprinter.

....Feld says he’s noticed more new conversion companies popping up than he’s able to count, and according to data from Nomadx, there are at least 164 in the United States.”
Correct!.... If they had these a few years ago I would have had someone build a conversion instead of RV makers. The conversions are much more functional and you decide what you want and where. Am not keen on driving/exploring the unknown dry camping in a gizmo box(TV; MW; electronic glitzes, etc.).

I just hope that the 2019-2020> Sprinters will finally have solved the emission hindrances of previous models. If not then alternatives like the Ford Transit and RAM ProMaster might do.

cheers...
 

Shawn182

Member
Yup...not a Millennial but could not find anything close to what I wanted in the US market so I am joining the build bandwagon. US manufactures are still stuck on catering to the 65 year old RVer makes who hops from RV park to RV park...nothing off grid capable off the factory floor.

The Revel is close but still not quite there for the mass market and still quite pricey.

EU market is pumping out vans at cheap prices...eventually the US market will hopefully catch up.
 

asimba2

2016 4cyl High Roof 144
I find it interesting that on a $50k chassis the RV manufacturers still choose a $360 Atwood propane furnace over a $780 Espar. Yes, big difference in price, but at the price point of the RV it seems almost inconsequential. I do like the move toward toilets without black tanks. Now if they'll just get ballsy and offer layouts without wardrobe closets and enclosed bathrooms. Those are the biggest reason I built my own, I want the natural light and to not feel cramped.
 

Midwestdrifter

Engineer In Residence
The big reason that most MFGs don't use van bodies, is that they are not square! Round corners, wheel wells, non-flat floors, and dealing with metal body panels nearly doubles the labor involved. No more square fiberglass panels that can be rapidly cut and installed. No more cheap MDF cabinets with square edges, and ugly/heavy bodies. No more flat vertical walls for water, air, and fridge heater vents.

Building off grid capable rigs requires putting money into complex machines/systems. This eats into profit margins substantially. How many RV makers actually use correct sized wire for DC systems? Wiring is time consuming and expensive to do right. Much better to just install some cheap low capacity parts, and rely on shore power all the time.

The majority of the RV market it still Boomers staying in RV parks, or full-timers (like oil field workers) who need a medium term place to stay on a budget.
 

Ed463

Member
Yup...not a Millennial but could not find anything close to what I wanted in the US market so I am joining the build bandwagon. US manufactures are still stuck on catering to the 65 year old RVer makes who hops from RV park to RV park...nothing off grid capable off the factory floor.

The Revel is close but still not quite there for the mass market and still quite pricey.

EU market is pumping out vans at cheap prices...eventually the US market will hopefully catch up.
You can get a factory built van based camper for less than $60k here. Based on the Fiat Ducato usually (Promaster?) which makes an excellent base vehicle.
However. Before we converted the Sprinter we looked at just about every factory conversion available. Without exception they were all:
1. Built down to a price to maximise profit. Hymer seems to be regarded as a top end manufacturer but imho they were still not built to a standard I would want.
2. Crammed full of "stuff". Unnecessary stuff. I really don't need a wardrobe or a cocktail cabinet:idunno:
For a Hymer you're maybe talking $100k plus.

So we built our own. Better layout, way better quality and a fraction of the cost.
 

GeorgeRa

2013 Sprinter DIY 144WB
..................... Now if they'll just get ballsy and offer layouts without wardrobe closets and enclosed bathrooms. Those are the biggest reason I built my own, I want the natural light and to not feel cramped.
Exactly. In 2013 we decided to go back to the future from the Bigfoot trailer to our past experience with 1977/1985 Westfalia. So, we look, and look for an opened not cramped, 360° windows, not shiny, no white leather, MB factory road clearance, no skirts van. We found quite few of them, but not in NA.
We talked to a local conversion shop, unsuccessfully tried to connect with Outside Van not responding guys, listen to Airstream sales person recommending taking a freeway spin to Seattle to appreciate the ride. We were not clicking with market offers. Appalling quality of Roadtrek or Airstream. We were looking for a camper, not for a recreation highway restricted Walmart cruiser.
My baseline price was set by our second option, an SUV/truck with 15’ quality fiberglass trailer at about $50K plus $30K = $80K. This a price for high quality Camper vans in EU.
So we decided to take the DIY route.
 

Davydd

Active member
I imagine oil field workers and like laborers would prefer a pickup and a cheap trailer. :)

Don't dismiss baby boomers. Heck I'm older than the baby boomers. Many have ushered in the desire to live off grid and travel everywhere in Class B vans. The desire for Class Bs at any age stems from spurning formal campgrounds to a degree. They had the money to push the development of high capacity lithium battery systems to the forefront and the total freedom concepts afforded with those systems are now trickling down.
 

SSTraveler

2014 LTV Unity Murphy Bed
I just looked at a Winnebago Travato Pure Energy all Lithium van and was very impressed, https://m.winnebagoind.com/products/class-b/2019/travato/floorplans, with the advances Winnebago is making to move to Li power. I thought Fit RV did a good over view on the Li Travato (https://youtu.be/990F0kAxlTc and https://youtu.be/FfG_8X-qMEY). I still like the upgrade modifications that Fit RV did to their own Travato rather that think of purchasing a new one. That speaks volumes to me. They have a story like many have described above. They started with a 2003 Sprinter Van/Forest River Cruiser that they modified to fit their lifestyle and sold it in 2015 to move to their 2nd Van RV a 2015 Winnebago Travato on the Ram Promaster chassis, https://www.thefitrv.com/rv-reviews/our-newer-awesomer-rv-tour-the-tour-de-lance/. You would think Winnebago would have adopted more of their upgrades rather than only a couple. If you are not into the full blown DIY build then find something you think is close (used or new) and modify it your way! It is nearly impossible to find a rig that has everything you want but some are closer than others, quality is key?
 

Davydd

Active member
The FitRV, James and Stefanie, got a lot of ideas from Advanced RV. They were at the first two Advanced Fest events. Stefanie led seminars on fitness and led a group in morning walks. After they bought their Travato they went back to Advanced RV for upgrades like the VB Air Suspension and the levelers. I'm sure they were privy to many other things Advanced RV was developing because ARV was an open book. I imagine many of their DIY upgrades were inspired by ARV.

ARV is a customer driven company and if it can be built, they will build it with the best materials and systems available. My contribution was the electrically operated articulating beds which many other customers opted to have since. It was touch and go to whether it could be achieved or not when I proposed it in April 2014 because there was nothing in the USA that could be adapted to a Class B. Fortunately Legget & Platt came out with a new platform in July 2014 that could be customized and adapted.
 

HarryN

Active member
The big reason that most MFGs don't use van bodies, is that they are not square! Round corners, wheel wells, non-flat floors, and dealing with metal body panels nearly doubles the labor involved. No more square fiberglass panels that can be rapidly cut and installed. No more cheap MDF cabinets with square edges, and ugly/heavy bodies. No more flat vertical walls for water, air, and fridge heater vents.
This is also how I view it.

The sprinter is a nice vehicle, but fitting one out is much more challenging than it needs to be.

My own personal needs are more "crew van + simple conversion in back + ability to carry plywood".

I really wonder sometimes if it makes sense to use a van with a steel body or just start with a fiberglass / carbon fiber version on a cut away.

Trying to insulate a van body made of steel and steel ribs vs insulated panels or at least non conducting ones is very challenging.
 

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