Why a minivan?

I’ve owned a number a motorhomes, ranging from the very large class A diesel pushers, to mid size Class C’s, to the smaller cargo van Class B’s. I’ve camped and criss-crossed the country in these full size motorhomes many times. At the end of each trip, I invariably sold the motorhome and looked for something smaller, easier to drive with better fuel mileage and a higher stealth factor. My most recent motorhome was a small Roadtrek 170, and it was almost the perfect size. Small enough to park just about anywhere with fairly decent fuel economy.

It had a bath with

toilet, a shower, a kitchen with fridge and microwave, a TV and a full bed in the back. Underneath, it had a generator to provide electrical power when not hooked up to an external power source. Like I said, it was almost perfect. But it was expensive. A new Roadtrek like the one I had would cost close to a hundred thousand dollars. Even ten year old used ones cost thirty five thousand or more. For all that money, what you are really getting is a truck based cargo van packed with expensive appliances, a toilet and sewage holding tank. Being a cargo van, these small Class B’s often ride and handle like overloaded work trucks. They wallow in the wind, suck down fuel and are way too expensive to risk taking off road or parking in places where they could get damaged or broken into. Still, they are great to camp in and offer the opportunity to travel at a moments notice and camp just about anywhere with most of the comforts of home. But I wanted more. I wanted to be able to camp in something less expensive, something that handled better, used less fuel and was much more stealthy. That’s why I decided to sell my Roadtrek, get a minivan and convert it to a motorhome that would have almost everything the Roadtrek had in it. There are many advantages of a minivan, and they include:

1. They are easy to drive, easy to park, and very maneuverable. Whether on the highway cruising along at seventy or poking around town they are up to the task. They do well in all sorts of weather, are packed with all kinds of modern automotive amenities and have lots of space inside.

2. They are affordable –minivans have been around since the mid 1980’s and there are literally millions of them on the road. You can find them on almost every used car lot, with prices starting just over a thousand dollars. Even late model, highly reliable and well configured ones can be found for under six thousand dollars.

3. They have a lot of room inside – remove the back two rows of seats from a minivan and you have more cargo space than in most full size pickup trucks. Almost all minivans have room for a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood with a foot or two to spare.

4. They are multi use vehicles – a minivan can be your daily driver, can be used to haul your kids, your pets, furniture, and just about anything else that you can fit inside the rear and side doors. I’ve seen people haul goats in them.

5. Minivans are safe – modern minivans are designed so occupants can survive a crash. They are packed with safety features, everything from eight to ten airbags, backup monitors, adaptive cruise control, parental lockout, crush zones and more. Crash tests have shown that modern minivans are safer in a crash than full size trucks or SUVs.

6. They have a great stealth factor – You can park a minivan just about anywhere and it won’t draw attention or suspicion. This is important if you are boondocking in a Walmart parking lot or curb camping in places like Key West or San Francisco.

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7. You can use it every day – after you’ve converted your minivan to a camper, you can still use it as your daily driver. No need to take the camping gear out. No one will know the difference. Should you decide to take a nap, make a meal, watch a little TV, you can do in it your minivan-camper and no one will notice.

8. It won’t sit unused – If you had one of those big motorhomes, it would most likely sit in your driveway or storage lot, unused most of the year. It’s too big and expensive to use as a daily driver and difficult to park. With a minivan camper, you can use it every day. As you can see, there are many good reasons to choose a minivan as a basis for your mini-RV camper. But, there are also some disadvantages.

These include:

1. Limited interior space – there is a reason they are called ‘mini vans’. They have less interior space than full-size vans.

2. Limited headroom – most minivans will have a floor to ceiling height of four feet or less. This means you won’t be able to stand up inside and will be crouched over or on your knees as you move around inside the camper conversion. This is the biggest negative of a minivan camper, but one most people get used to fairly quickly.

3. Limited ‘Cool’ factor – motorhome and RV owners are going to look down on those who camp in minivans, especially if you’re camping in an RV park. People who have invested fifty to several hundred thousand dollars in a ‘real’ motorhome are not going to be impressed with your minivan camper. Minivan Camping is not for everyone.

If you need room to stand up inside the van, or if you need space for more than two people to sleep, or if the ‘cool’ factor is important to you, a minivan is probably not the right camper for you. But if you want a low profile stealthy camper that can go just about anywhere with most of the comforts of home at a fraction of the cost of a full-size motorhome, converting a minivan into a mini-RV camper might be just the ticket. In the following chapters, I’ll show you how to do it.

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