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Discussion Starter #21
So I don't know the answer, but here is an example of what we are seeing in this area.

It is common to commute long distances to work here.

Prior to covid, people would often commute 2 hours each direction to go to work.

It was common to stop along the way to grab some coffee, breakfast, and use a bathroom as needed.

Now the bathrooms are largely closed or at least you cannot go inside, as are most restaurants that are not drive through.

People have been buying vans to be their "mobile safety bubble" and a safe place to make coffee and use the bathroom.

Most vans that are interesting are too tall to use the drive through window, so that means bringing along your own food and ability to make coffee.

While working from home is common, it is difficult to do every single day.

My perception is that the world has changed. Commuting in a tiny tin box on wheels with high MPG is not the future (my speculation)

It is becoming more acceptable to own a vehicle that is a bit over size to deal with covid and disasters.

Will this continue - I think yes, but trends change.
Thanks for this @HarryN Your observations & predictions are enlightening for me. Canada is but 10% of the population of the USA & we have #vanlifers here in basically “the California of Canada” (Victoria BC). We have the best weather in Canada IMO. Commuting typically is 15mins to 40mins depending on rush hour & what streets they are digging up. Victoria is BC’s Capital.

I stumbled into DIY Van Camperizing as my wife wanted an RV & I caved. But we are not fancy showy people & the most “economical” way to do this “long term” & biggest bang for the buck & to be self reliant for repairs was by my analysis to just buy a cargo van & DIY. Then once building I discovered this DIYis a trend & I believe it has even become more popular since we have built. My point is now (at least in Canada) it is difficult to purchase a PM.

Then with Covid, another game changer & more issues on the supply & demand sides of the equation. I am grateful to be fortunate enough in having a usable camper van during this pandemic “mobile safety bubble vehicle”.

From my review; the PM is the best & most economical van to DIY camperize. I understand DIYers wanting to utilize the Sprinters & 4X4, but I use my Rubicon to 4x4 and a Sprinter was only a brief idea to deal with the occasional bit of snow. From what I have read, the PMs do quite well in light snow conditions if the driver knows how to drive in snow. I believe the PMs have increased their market numbers in the Camper van world (Factory Built & DIY). I think the shine of the expensive Sprinters has already started to dull over the economic & better DIY suited PM. The fuel economy of my PM is better than my Jeep or RAM 1500.

So;

On the vehicle side; I think we are definitely seeing a S&D change (possibly trend) in the vehicle platform.

On the build side; I think we are seeing a larger demand (at least during the pandemic). Will this continue? 🤷‍♂️


For economics, money is very cheap to borrow & in my area of Canada & in my industry Construction, although we felt the financial meltdown of 2008 it was no where near what it should have been. Canada is in a large real estate bubble IMO & this transfers down to vehicle purchasing & many other areas as borrowing money right now is historically low. Younger people have not really lived thru a down cycle, so they do not know. Consumer confidence is high & used PMs are hard to acquire at prices that I would consider with traditional economics other than S&D which I think is askew at least for now.

Once the pandemic is over, will the demand deminish & will there be a glut of RVs & Camper Vans for sale on the market? The price of RVs also seems to be crazy to me right now.

I am having a difficulty time reasoning thru these economic equations right now, as what I am use to is not occurring (since 2008), & my economic compass is seemingly broken.
 

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People here are moving out of cities for multiple reasons:
  • They no longer have to live in the expensive inner cities for work reasons
  • Part of the attraction of living in a city is the social life. With covid - this has changed - perhaps forever
  • Saving money on housing
  • Its just easier to maintain distance from other people and avoid touching commonly shared surfaces out side of cities

People moving out of cities need a vehicle, even if it isn't driven very often.

A van has the potential to cover multiple uses better than almost anything else, from portable office to camping.
 

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Part of what you might be seeing in pricing has to do with currency devaluation. No one wants to hear it, but the US creating 20% of total US$s in the past 12 months and handing it over to the banking system / higher end stock market has consequences.

Covid has other impacts on the cost of doing business. Prior to covid, the approach we used was to work as a team to build things - sort of like an operating room. It was fairly efficient and made integrating a new person easier as they learned the ropes.

Now - everything is spread out into separate rooms. More rental space required. Separate tools. Separate parts. Separate racks to hold stuff. Working individually.

The health logic is clear. The efficiency is lower. The costs are higher.

__-

When will covid end? Even if everyone on the planet was vaccinated, it isn't clear that viral spread will completely stop.

Even if it does, how quickly will we go back to prior methods?

The cost of investing in lots of tools and infrastructure doesn't disappear even if covid does.
 

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Quite different than some of the quick build junk that is out there.
I personally feel that mine is "just ok", but other people seem to really like it being simple. Not saying that it's junk, but it isn't elaborate by any means.

I'd price it using KBB and NADA (not sure if those are used in Canada or not), and then price up the main items in the build. Add some for your time and effort, and see where that puts you. If it seems too high bring it down, and vice versa on the other end. At the end of the day it's only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.
 

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@Juve - Location has a lot to do with it too obviously. Your black van, or any dark color, would a be a no-sell (or at best a hard-sell) in AZ for example. When living outside Phoenix back in the 70's I remember how we would all cringe (literally!) just at the sight of a black vehicle. ;-)
 

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@Juve - Location has a lot to do with it too obviously. Your black van, or any dark color, would a be a no-sell (or at best a hard-sell) in AZ for example. When living outside Phoenix back in the 70's I remember how we would all cringe (literally!) just at the sight of a black vehicle. ;-)
If you see an all black PM in AZ in a couple of months please don't cringe. It'll be me trying to outlast the heat.
 

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Ouch! I remember the challenges dark vehicles (or anything dark in that summer sun) create and although 'survivable' ;-) not for me.

First time replacing spark plugs in a (white) 1970 Nova one August, I left my socket wrench in the sun to go get a drink of water. When I picked it up 15 minutes later my hand sizzled and I had to throw the wrench down. Just a red mark but that's still a 1st degree burn. Sitting on it's dark blue, vinyl bench seat with shorts on was also an adventure.
 

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I agree, this spike in demand and prices is temporary and largely due to COVID inspiring wider interest to the vanlife movement and RVing in general. In this high-demand, low-supply environment, prices are inflated and wildly unpredictable. We are just thankful we already have what still feels like the perfect van for us, and we have no intention of selling it. But if we were starting over right now, it makes more sense than ever to factory order rather than buy a (ab)used compromise for nearly the same price.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
I agree, this spike in demand and prices is temporary and largely due to COVID inspiring wider interest to the vanlife movement and RVing in general. In this high-demand, low-supply environment, prices are inflated and wildly unpredictable. We are just thankful we already have what still feels like the perfect van for us, and we have no intention of selling it. But if we were starting over right now, it makes more sense than ever to factory order rather than buy a (ab)used compromise for nearly the same price.
Thanks @SteveSS !

We see it the same. I have a few friends that have been looking of PMs to camperize. These (ab)used PMs seem to sell fast & at crazy high prices. In some instances used are priced higher than my 2018 new price. So S&D.

Things might change as we get this Covid into the rear view mirror, but we are far from that at this point. I like the examples @HarryN posted of the economics of Covid. I believe his examples plus many many more exist.

I agree with your “Factory Order” comment, or new in the very least.
 

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I haven't checked the used market lately, but I bought mine in August. Everything was priced many thousands over KBB/Edmunds, and most seemed as much abused as used. I ended up with what seemed like a good deal, but still way above KBB. Perhaps KBB lags behind real life S&D and I just missed a better deal by a few months? Doesn't much matter, our timing was due to selling our rental house, which was based on a sellers market and low interest rates, unrelated to COVID (we planned the sale before the pandemic). Turned out to work perfectly due to ability to move out of the city and work remotely, making street building several times easier. A couple grand premium in the market turns out to be small beans compared to all the changes lately.

The van build is a lot of work, even more than I imagined since joining this forum and seeing all the amazing work I know I am capable of. But it's fun work, if a bit mentally draining. I'd consider going into building full time once we get our Next Life Phase and USA Grand Tour finished in a couple years, if we still have any capital left!
 

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Pricing is a serious case of assymetry of information between seller (who knows what they did, and might value it extra high because they're proud of their project) and buyer (who doesn't know what's been done under the panels and such). The more transparent (easily verifiable build details and such) the seller can be, the more easily they'll be able to convince buyers of the value of their build. But with vehicles in general, aftermarket mods tend to be a negative on resale for that reason.

Of course, the current bubble makes that less of a thing. But that won't last forever...
 

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Theres no doubt that the mark-up/potential profitability is higher for sprinter vans than for PMs. Practicality aside, the buyers with the most cash to spend want the sprinter/mercedes badge. A friend just sold his 2 year old 2WD sprinter with modest (maybe $10k in materials) conversion for $115,000 to a cash buyer that bought it without seeing it in person from a different state. That buyer was not interested in dodge promasters.
I have no doubt you are correct -- I'm just glad I'm not one of those people who thinks this represents a good value, even if I could afford it! But this is very good to keep in mind in the event I ever want to try to build one out for the purpose of resale.
 

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Assuming a full "tiny home" type of build -- fully functional, including shower, toilet, competent electric (maybe victron components and 6kwh lithium storage minimum) -- I would price more based upon where the vehicle fits into the RV marketplace vs the value of the underlying PM platform. I know that if I had to sell mine, I would list at $65K and would shoot for selling for no less than $55K. FYI, my PM currently has 18K miles and is a 2018 159". We will also be adding an Ex-Guard grill guard in the near future.
 

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Very interesting to read everyone's thoughts on this matter! Can we reverse the roles and see how much you'd be willing to pay for a used van conversion if you guys were a potential buyer? How would you price a complete stranger's craftsmanship and time? How much less would you offer on your own van if your build was assembled by some random joe with no professional build experience vs yourself?
 

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Very interesting to read everyone's thoughts on this matter! Can we reverse the roles and see how much you'd be willing to pay for a used van conversion if you guys were a potential buyer? How would you price a complete stranger's craftsmanship and time? How much less would you offer on your own van if your build was assembled by some random joe with no professional build experience vs yourself?
I wouldn't pay more than $10K over market value of the vehicle.
 

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Very interesting to read everyone's thoughts on this matter! Can we reverse the roles and see how much you'd be willing to pay for a used van conversion if you guys were a potential buyer? How would you price a complete stranger's craftsmanship and time? How much less would you offer on your own van if your build was assembled by some random joe with no professional build experience vs yourself?
Slightly complicated answer.

  • I build van electrical systems so probably no one else's work would be good enough. I would rip out and replace that part. Probably that is not most people but for me it is. For me, that portion probably has negative value.
  • I am mediocre at wood work so that has real value to me.
  • Insulation is a pain and time consuming, so I don't mind paying for someone else to do that part for me

The biggest layout challenge for me is that most people build vans with the bed cross wise and I am too tall for that to work.

Also need 4 seats to take the grand children along that is also fairly rare.

I really like exposed / clear finish wood work but my wife hates it so since she will always win this discussion it would have to be painted or something else.

I guess $10 - 20 K over a bare van if I was comfortable with how it was done.
 

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It's an interesting mental exercise to reverse roles. Some here have used great skill and gone to incredible lengths to finish off a spectacular RV build, but that's not for me. Not being interested in an 'RV' would mean anything considered 'in-the-way' would detract from my perceived value.

Insulation and paneling are important but not knowing how it was done in the 'dark corners' of the van where moisture might collect would nag at me. An AGM battery wired off the start battery with a small panel to charge phone/laptop would be a plus, and a vent fan might be a plus although I haven't felt the need for one yet.

It seems such a personal choice with so many variable decisions I'm surprised some folks seem willing to buy almost anything that even hints at 'travel', 'open road', 'camping', 'freedom', etc. - great time to sell, terrible time to buy.
 
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