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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm starting this thread here to document any info on rental spaces for van upfitting and conversion.
I am in the NYC metro area so my search reflects my location but this can apply to anywhere in the world.

The problem I'm having which you can read about here is finding a rental space for a few months to finish a conversion - "liability" is the most often used reason/excuse.
This thread will attempt to document all possible places, problems and potentials in searching for and setting up a space to do van work from a homeless "survival build" or "budget build" viewpoint.
I'm using Google Maps, Yellow Pages, Real Estate/properties for sale/rent/lease search engines, local shops and word of mouth, etc as sources.
I suggest calling and visiting as many places you can find in your area using Google Maps and word of mouth, you might get lucky and even find a special work shop depending where you live.


Places

Auto Repair Shops (Mechanic, Body, Detailing, etc)
- Most of these will not allow you to rent a bay but you may be able to pay cash to use a bay if you know someone who works at a small non-corporate place though this may be illegal in most places.

Auto Schools - Only for student's educational use.

Commercial Real Estate For Sale, Rent, Lease - Not much affordable space is available for rent both short and long term.
Most places are for long term leases or for sale and most proprieties for vehicle work are large multi-bays with high rents.
Owners and agents claim "liability" is an issue, that the tenant will mess up the property or get injured. Is there a way to work around this issue?
Since we are in the second recession in 10 years, more people should be diversifying their approaches for property use since a lot of people don't have money and there is a demand for short term rentals.

Industrial and Commercial Parks - These are unique places that have dozens or hundreds of bays/units that have a variety of uses but it seems most of them do long term rentals and leases of a year or longer and are not interested in short term rentals.
It's too bad because a smaller version of a place like these would make a great rent-a-vehicle-conversion-space business.

Indoor/Outdoor Storage Units - Most of these will not allow any vehicle work in, next to or outside the unit, but you may get lucky and find a few that allow you to do some work as long as it is not too noisy and messy, so smaller projects may be possible depending on your location but if it is not an indoor climate controlled unit then you may have problems in the outdoor heat and cold.

Shipping Containers - Some people rent out containers that you can work in and some have electric for heat/ac, lights and power tools but some don't.

Garages - These vary from residential to commercial to industrial with varying qualities and conditions but most appear to be leases, sales and rental for storage only and no vehicle work. Most garages for vehicle work are large multi-bays with high rents.
You may be able to find a place that allows the work inside, next to or with your vehicle docked to the building.

Work Spaces, Work Shops, Maker Spaces - Some of these are new and used for 3D printing and special projects but a few are also for vehicle work.

Mixed Use/Flex Spaces - These are places for mixed usage and the situation for Commercial Real Estate For Sale, Rent, Lease applies here.

Family and Friends - If you are lucky to have a place then you are set but not everyone has this option or doesn't have an adequate situation such as lack of garage or covered space, storage, mold and other problems, etc.

Street Work - Illegal in most places and you place yourself and others at risk, don't try it.

Construction Sites - Illegal and you place yourself and others at risk, don't try it.

Abandoned Buildings and Lots - Illegal in most places and you place yourself and others at risk, don't try it - however some places have squatter laws that you may be able to utilize but those are rare and problematic.

Public Parks and Parking Lots - Illegal in most places and you place yourself and others at risk, don't try it - though I have read online some people have done some minor van work at Home Depot parking lots.

Other Alternatives
  • Learn from online videos and public library books
  • Start small and "upgrade" your vehicle over the years (bicycle/motorcycle trailer, urban car living, basic van build, budget van build, etc)
  • Set up a tarp covering for a makeshift garage
  • Have supplies delivered to a PO Box
  • Get your wood cut at a hardware store such as Home Depot
  • Get a battery powered jigsaw and make a simple sawhorse table instead of using heavy, loud circular and table saws
  • Use your van's electrical system for power
  • Use portable solar and power stations such as Goal Zero Yeti and their more affordable competitors to power tools, lights, heat/ac
  • Use battery powered tools and recharge at a public library or mall
  • What else?


Problems
  • Lack of short term rentals for 1-11 months
  • DIY vehicle work not allowed at most places
  • Liability is stated as the main reason for not renting short term or at all or for allowing vehicle work
  • Lack of cooled, heated and covered spaces with or without electricity
  • Lack of vehicle insurance companies and options (or much confusion about these) to insure a project in progress, completed DIY project or completed mix of DIY and professional work on a project
  • Lack of parking/docking/recharging/camping places when travelling and living in a vehicle


Potentials

Read these articles and check these places (and post more below so I can add them here) about DIY work spaces for vehicles:


Hopefully a lot of people will add to this discussion and brainstorm more ideas as I don't know much about the auto repair, insurance and real estate industries in NY and the USA.
From posting on CG and doing some research there is definitely a high demand and an untapped market for "vehicle-dweller insurance" and short term rentals for DIY vehicle work shops whether it is for simple maintenance and repairs or more complex van upfitting and conversion projects. There is also the issue of parking, docking, recharging and camping places which deserves it's own thread.

If you have the money and connections, are business and law savvy and can do the project right you may be able to be a success and help a lot of people out with a new type of service industry model for vehicle-dweller conversion work spaces, insurance and parking/docking/recharging/camping places.
 

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2018 159 High Roof gas, BC, Canada
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In our litigious society, I would think liability is the greatest issue. Even a kind property owner with a giant back yard might want to think twice about having someone use power tools on their property.

By the way, I read your other thread with interest and thought I'd throw this out there (slightly in jest, but it could work):

Pull up to any construction site where they're building something large. There'd be all kinds of mechanical activity going on (i.e., noisy, messy) all around. Who would notice you sawing or drilling?

Further, a variety of contractor vans would be everywhere. --You're in a Promaster. Who would blink an eye? :p

Stay off the actual construction site of course. And if by chance someone asks "what are you doing?", toss your head vaguely towards the construction site; maybe utter "...subcontractor...", optionally followed by "now buzz off".

Construction sites are one of the options I use when stealth camping in a strange city. The downside is that contractors start early! Crack of dawn and generators and heavy machinery fire up! No sleeping in!
 
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I don't know New York well, but I'm willing to assume I can do minor work anywhere unless posted or until I'm told otherwise (never really been one to ask for permission, but I'm spectacular at sorry). I don't necessarily need a roof or ac or heat though.

You could offer to sign a liability waiver, but I doubt that's the true issue. More likely they just don't want a high turnover garage space, but feel the liability issue is enough of a reason for you to go away without pushing the issue. It's probably more to do with possible damage and gross.

I definitely recommend cordless tools. Corded tools have their place, but the good cordless ones are just as good and way more portable. Plus you never have to watch that you keep the cord out of the way of the blade.

Probably it's own topic, and I know it's been talked of before, but insurance for me has proven complicated but not in the sense as I've heard from others. I had to hang up on a variety of insurers, but I've insured my van in 3 different states on a personal policy. I refused to pay commercial prices when it's not business owned or commercial as primary usage. It's not a commercial vehicle if it's not business owned, although you may not be picked up by some of the major insurers.
 

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I like the concept travelvanvan, however, in my experience the guy asking what you're doing will be the safety officer and he'll likely be an *******. Nowadays, they're assholes with drones so he'll definitely see you and you probably aren't decked out in your OSHA approved ppe
 

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I like the concept travelvanvan, however, in my experience the guy asking what you're doing will be the safety officer and he'll likely be an ***. Nowadays, they're assholes with drones so he'll definitely see you and you probably aren't decked out in your OSHA approved ppe
That's why I said "Stay off the actual construction site..." ;)

e.g, one foot outside of the property line where the construction is happening. :p

Here I was overnighting in Squamish, a nice little town in my province, where people pushed for a ban on sleeping in a van.

This was 7:30am and that excavator had been roaring away for a while already.
68976
 
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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
travelvanvan - I forgot construction sites, lol - now added. I was very angry and depressed at the lack of short term rental options but making the list calmed me down and some humor is warranted.
I imagine an animated Looney Tunes skit - take your pick of any zany character, maybe "Bugs Bunny Tries Camper Vanlife" and parks at a construction site. There's a career for vanlife comedy if it's not being done already. Also was reminded of the intro in this film with Jim Varney at a construction site. :LOL:

The people will push for a ban on van dwellers but not address the root causes of why some people ended up living in vans.:rolleyes:

And you can park outside the construction site but there is still a possibility of getting hit by the workers or public, so that's not a good idea.

Somebodyelse - Thanks for the suggestions!
Also - the construction foreman may indeed be there with drones or he might go home soon after showing up and still get paid - it's our tax dollars at work. :)
I know because I've seen it happen with road construction.
 

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I'm in norcal where the weather is fine and I've been doing all my work on the street behind my van with plastic saw horses and battery powered tools (jigsaw, circular saw, sander, drill). I live in an apartment in a neighborhood full of single family houses and everyone stops by to see what I'm doing but they seem to all love it. Even my landlord is cool with me working on the street in front of the property.

But I don't need to sleep in the van while it's in workshop mode, and I can recharge my power tools in the apartment.
 

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2018 3500 EXT Camper Conversion in CT (TX for now due to Covid)
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Several campgrounds have been ok with me doing some work on my RV. Many have people that live there full time and maintenance one RVs has to happen, more so than on homes I would say. One asked me not to, so I moved on.

I did a lot of work in home depot/lowes parking lots. I bought the material there, and had them cut a lot of my wood. I only carried a jig saw in the van, so it was good to have them cut things on their panel saws for me.

Any other busy big box store works too. Just be ready to move on if its an issue.

I tried to use a DIY garage once, made a reservation and they did not show up. So I used their parking lot for several hours. I was prepared to pay 50 an hour to rent their heated space with a lift for a few hours, but they didn't show up so my Webasto was installed in their parking lot (with me laying on the very cold ground, hence the willingness to pay to stay warm)

BUT, I did about half my build at home, so these were finishing items mostly. The van was functional enough for me to live out of. But space was tight carrying around all the tools to do the work. Now that I am back at home with the van due to Covid, I am finishing everything up nicely. When I go back on the round for work it should be finished and I will only be carrying maintenance and repair tools. This should also cut down on the traveling weight. Hoping to be under 7500 pounds with all my gear, myself, and a full tank of fuel.
 

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I've seen people work on their vans and trailers at home building supply parking lots. Engine work's been done on Lordco parking lots (Lordco = our version of Autozone ).

Someone [I might know] did an oil change in the underground parking lot of the largest mall in BC because it was...mid-January... :p (A pump was used to suck the oil out through the dipstick; not a drop was spilled. The change was done before the wife came back from shopping.)
 
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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
After half a year of searching I have gathered some information and found a few places.
If you are in the Scranton, PA, Allentown, PA, Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT areas message me and I can connect you with some people.
A few people have garages they need to clear out and/or slightly modify so if you are willing to help them out they can reduce rent and offer a place to sleep.
Others run a professional business and are ok with short term projects if and when space is available.


The short summary is that there are many garages and spaces available, but:

  • Are abandoned/not for sale, for sale/lease/rent but sitting unused and/or are ruined/unsalvageable for many years or decades
  • Are only sold, leased or rented long term of 1 year or more
  • Are expensive, asking for $1,000 or more per month with or without utilities
  • Either have more than needed space or not enough space
  • Don't have safe garage door entrance dimensions such as proper width and height clearance for vans, or are too big
  • Don't have electric or want to charge you more than you might end up using

Thus finding an affordable short term rental garage is difficult but still possible, at least in the tri-state area of PA, NJ, CT and NY.


For those looking for short term rental garages I suggest:

  • Using various social media sites such as local subreddits - search and post a wanted ad
  • Craigslist as even though it's old it's still one of the few places you can advertise and search locally
  • Calling local businesses with garages to see if they may rent or know someone who will
  • Driving around your region noting any unused garages and then looking the address up on Google Maps, Loop Net and your local online county parcel viewer and then calling up the owner or local clerk to see if you can get in contact with any owners or realtors to make a rental offer.

You may have better luck elsewhere than the tri-state area and have to widen your search, travel further and stay in a hotel (or your unfinished van) while renting a space.
Time will tell if Garagetime becomes popular but since garages are more of a niche and not as in demand as housing, it may take many years to catch on.


What I've learned is there is an opportunity for people to create businesses for multi-use short term rentals inside warehouses or garage buildings:

  • I've had over a dozen people contact me searching for a short term rental space to work on a business cargo van, school bus, camper, camper van, auto detailing, woodworking shop and artist studios.
  • All of these people could be housed under one roof, given their own separate bay to work in and share tools, tips, and skills if possible.
  • A diverse clientele would prevent having excess empty space sitting around unused and failing to stay in business.
  • A space of this type can incorporate work spaces, work shops, small businesses, light manufacturing, artist studios, storage, etc
  • The current mentality and economic system of long term contracts for real estate at high prices for profit needs reforming as affordable multi-use/flex spaces, short term rentals and co-working spaces/shared workspaces can diversify options and enrich local economies and communities.


It's a complex subject with many factors, but if you have any suggestions on how and where this can be accomplished (or if it already has) please share your thoughts below.
 
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