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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there,

A few years ago my girlfriend and I picked up an old '98 Chevy express conversion van on a whim to avoid "throwing away" money on movers to move across the country. The cost of the van on Craigslist was literally the same cost as movers would have been. At the time I just thought it would be cool to have an extra vehicle around after the move that is capable of hauling things and feel like we still had an investment in something. Perhaps my girlfriend saw the value in it sooner than I did.

I had no idea what the true value of this man would become for us. That summer we started using the van for camping, going to outdoor festivals, traveling to really good mountain biking destinations such as Moab (we are both avid mountain bikers). Since then we have been increasingly pining for the #VanLife .

Our Chevy although has been loyal have not been in the best shape and it is an old conversion van. So he already has a bunch of stuff installed in it. Knowing that it wasn't going to last forever, we never felt particularly motivated to start tearing the insides out to redo it how we wanted.

Naturally we have been discussing upgrading to a high roof 'sprinter' van for a very long time. However, we knew it would be an expensive investment for us, and our Chevy was doing the trick well enough.

Well the Chevy is now dead! After first dropping $1,200 in repairs on it less than 100 miles later it blew a head gasket. Now the cost of repair combined will be higher than what I originally paid for it on Craigslist. We have spent a month weighing the pros and cons of repairing it versus getting a new van.

This involved looking at Ford Econolines, other Chevy Expresses, Ford Transits, Sprinters, cost of upgrading to 4x4 systems (we've gotten our Chevy stuck a few times), etc... We have been driving around to dealerships looking at and test driving all of them. Honestly of all the vans that we knew about the Promaster had not falling onto our radar, we didn't even know about it (same goes for the Nissan NV), until later in our search process.

We really first noticed the Promaster, when we drove past one and both looked at each other and said "wow what was that?" I had actually been reading about them, not very seriously, for the first time the night before so I recognized what it was. After further research and discovering that we have a local "camper van" outfitter and talking with them, the advantages of the pro master became quite clear. We really like the idea of the front wheel drive, the lower floor as a result of no driveshaft underneath and the extra space that affords, the good gas mileage because we're greenies like that, and realizing that for the cost of upgrading something to a 4 x 4 we could spend on finishing the interior all nice instead. All while still reaping the better traction benefits of a front wheel drive. So we have test drove one. I have to be honest, compared to the Ford Transit, I felt that Transit cockpit felt like it was of slightly higher quality, and the transit felt a little bit more stable/maneuverable (but at the cost of a stiffer ride). But only slightly so. Honestly this could be nothing more than the difference between a 1500, 2500, 3500 (and the Ford equivalent 150, 250, 350). I honestly don't remember which of those versions of each we test drove but I have gathered from reading online that it makes a big difference in the way the suspension feels on each. My girlfriend on the other hand, whose intuition is always 2 steps ahead of mine, like the Promaster much better from the moment she stepped foot in it. After spending a lot of time overthinking things I have come to the same conclusion as she has - even if these slight differences do exist the Promaster's advantages still far outweigh the competition.

Shortly thereafter, I found this forum, which I have been reading and learning a lot from. I am very grateful to have found such a great community who shares their experiences and expertise. You guys rock.

So the search began for a great deal on a very lightly used Promaster. At first we were being somewhat frugal with our price point because this is an unexpected expense, though we recognize we will be miserable without a van so it is a necessary one. But a few things happened. First, we couldn't find any in the price range we wanted that were only gently used. Second, as we slowly notched up our price range, we started to find ourselves in the "low roof" price point. So we went up a little more, and found ourselves in the "hi roof, short wheelbase" price point. Soon, we realized if we are going to go up that high, we might as well go for the gold and get exactly what we want.

We live in Colorado and the Promaster is hard to find used around here. So we have had to look out of state, which is fine, but it does slow down the purchasing process. Well, we are über excited to say that we have found a fantastic deal on a gently used 2017 2500 159" High Roof Promaster! We are putting a deposit on it in the morning so that they will hold it for us while we travel to go get it. This is exactly the vane we wanted, and what we have been dreaming about for years! We cannot wait to start converting it and making it into our adventure home.

We love that we have a blank slate to work from, which we did not have with our Chevy. We are also going to very much appreciate the (considerable) extra space that this new van has. Our Chevy felt a bit crowded once we had all of our gear, bed, large dogs, and mountain bikes stuffed into it. Now we think we will have room for it all plus a galley and possibly a shower :D

Our vision:

We want to go with a minimal & easy to keep clean industrial look (we get into muddy situations a lot), sort of similar in style to how Outside Vans outfits their vans. The platform bed with mountain bike garage w/ fork mounts underneath the bed is a must.

We both work jobs that allow us to be remote much of the time so we need plenty of electricity to fuel our computers and other gadgets (perhaps satellite internet since we find ourselves venturing beyond cellular service regularly?). So we plan on solar panels for sure. We like the idea of living off grid. On the outside we want to go with a rugged style - larger more aggressive tires, possibly a slight lift?, a ladder, a strong rack up top (only covering the area the solar panels are not), a fan for ventilation, spare tire mounted on the back so that we have more room underneath for batteries and tanks.

I'm sure we will do our best to document and share our conversion experience as we go. Most of which we want to do ourselves, and if something needs expertise beyond what we can handle, our local shop Alpine Mechanisms, seems to have plenty of expertise if we need a little extra help.

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