This was a question we asked ourselves a lot as it became clear that this year was going to be all about van life.

The main task here is to figure out what is available (not much) and what are our main requirements in a van.  Then match both against covid price increases.

Pretty quickly it was apparent that when you want a van with a toilet and shower, in their own little cubicle, you can add at least a metre or two in length and $20-40,000 more to the price.  We had to reach consensus on that pretty quickly as a budget of $80,000 was not what we wanted to spend.  In this case consensus meant me giving up the inside hot shower notion.  No, it wasn’t easy, but I did it because after all we are going north where its warm and I figured I could make it work, somehow. The loo thing has figured itself out which you will see when I give you the tour!

This meant we could have a shorter wheelbase van which meant easier to park with a bonus of being able to fit in a regular parking spot plus it’s then cheaper on the ferry to Tassie too. What we didn’t know back then is that there are a bunch of councils that actually say ‘vehicles under 6 metres’ in many parking places from beachside carparks to city precincts.

Low mileage was a consideration but every van under $50,000 has a stack of miles on board.  Fortunately, this is less of an issue if it’s a diesel engine.

So, what else?

Inside cooking?  Yup

Storage, Yep

Comfy bed? Of course!

Direct access from the cab through to the van internally?  Definitely. This is a safety issue.  If we were ever to be harassed we can drive away without needing to get out of the van. This has actually already happened and we were pretty happy when we had to put it to the test but that’s another story!

An awning? Yep, you need shade.  The van we hired last year didn’t have one and it was very confining both in light rain and sun.

At first, I had also wanted the bed to pack away so there could be a table for daytime use but after we discussed the amount of gear we would have in it I knew that this was going to be a problem.  Rick was bringing a kite board, pump and two sails and we were going to need the space under the bed for this to be stored as putting it on the roof made it too difficult for regular access.

Roof racks?  That would be good in case there were things we just couldn’t fit inside.

Solar?  Excellent as this allows us to be off grid for longer.

Head room?  Pretty essential for long term travel.  Not being able to stand up inside isn’t too much of an issue if you are only heading away for a weekend or short periods but we planned to be away from May until November.

2 comfy front seats rather than a comfortable driver’s seat and a bench that can fit 2 people next to it. That sucked for the passenger.  There were a surprising number of vans that had the 3 front seat configuration.

Added to this list was the type of camping we were planning to do.  Let’s get this out here right now…we are really not caravan park people and the advantage of having a van is that we have the option to free camp. It isn’t encouraged or even allowed in many coastal council areas, but it is possible. This meant that a van that wasn’t too obviously a camper was also good.  Think smaller windows, tinted glass and not too much advertising that people lived on board. So, an ex-delivery van of some sort ticked this particular box.

We knew we would have to compromise as no van has everything.  We looked at Mercedes Sprinters, VW Transporters, Ford Transits, iLoads and Renaults.

So now we had our list and it was time to start looking.  Rick had an excel spreadsheet set up in no time with vans all over the country we were interested in.  There were precisely 3 in Tasmania so looking further afield was essential.

I followed endless van life people on Instagram and we watched van conversions on YouTube and looked at set ups and ideas. Then we refined the list.  At the same time everyone else in Australia was doing the same thing as us and we heard stories of people putting in offers on vans sight unseen in order to get the van they wanted.  So, we knew that once we started seriously looking, we needed to be ready to buy it immediately or risk missing out.

At about the same time as we were ready to take the leap Rick had to make an unexpected trip to Queensland, so we consulted the spreadsheet and filtered all the vans on the Gold Coast and Brisbane. There was a shortlist of 3 vans that we were definitely interested in and a few others that may have been worthwhile (meaning either I liked them, or Rick did but not both of us).

While I checked one out in Tassie, he looked at the ones in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.  Firstly, he checked one out, taking loads of photos and videos which he sent to me. I quipped that this van would take a lot of beating. Then he drove to the north of Brisbane and to the far south of the Gold Coast. These vans were so tired and tatty that he didn’t even make a video of them.  He also wasn’t comfortable with the seller of one of them which ends up being a pretty important factor. Do you trust them or not?

The van I checked out was lovely but way too small for long term travel, a weekender really so it was back to the Iveco Daily Rick had liked on the Gold Coast. His video was pretty comprehensive and the owners were genuine and had looked after the van amazingly well.

The van had everything on our list plus many extras we didn’t even know we wanted!

The cooking was an issue that needs some adjustment but that can be done in the future once we figure out the best set up.  It came with a double kayak and 2 bikes on a rack on the rear. There was only one thing to do and that was to make an offer and negotiate a price. Done. Sorted. But we weren’t ready to take off in April when the transaction took place so Peter, the prior owner, offered to keep it at his place until we arrived in mid-May.

So now you know the journey to getting this particular van here is a picture of her on the Gold Coast. Next post will be a tour of all of her considerable assets!

Posted by:cathmaddox

2 replies on “So How Do You Choose a Van?

  1. Hi Cath, I am very interested in these vans. My Rick and I checked out a number of larger affairs in the US. I don’t think we’ll be getting one though. What have you arranged for the toilet?

    Any idea when you’ll be swinging by Melbourne?

    All the best lovely pilgrims.

    X Pam

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