In order to live the life we truly want, we need wheels to travel and explore our Unnamed Adventures. With so many options of vehicles to choose from, it’s easy for us to say “we are NOT experts” when choosing the best options. With that said, we started doing a lot of research, talked with pros in their respective fields (sales people, auto brokers, mechanics and insurance folks), and fellow adventure travelers in social media forums to get the insider scoop before purchasing. From our research, we have learned tons and want to share our process with you.
When trying to decide on what type of vehicle, camper, RV, van or bus to purchase you have a whole slew of factors that you should consider:
Initially we wanted to do a short bus conversion, a “skoolie” and completely customize the bus to fit our needs. Our budget goal for the used short bus was $5,000 and to do a tight remodel budget of $3,000. After that we would add additional features as money allowed.
After researching on different social media forums and the feedback we received about the noise of a short bus (since it is focused on transporting youth, not on a luxury consumer experience) we opted to look at a tour bus. The issues we came across with a tour bus is by the time you gut one and add the needed items for the customization, the road clearance isn’t what we would need for the variety of roads we were wanting to access (one of our goals is to do backcountry adventures and thru hikes).
The biggest negative in purchasing any sort of bus or RV was the issue of not really knowing how hard it has been driven. How much added weight did the vehicle have to pull on a regular basis? How long had the engine just been sitting for? How often was maintenance performed on the engine? When looking at a used vehicle, these are all extremely important factors to consider. A diesel engine is better to use than gas because it has more towing power.
Also, due to the age of the vehicles we were looking at, another issue we came across was the accessibility of purchasing parts to make repairs. On the Ford tour bus we were looking at purchasing, the gaskets were no longer being manufactured so we would have to try and get those parts from a salvage yard.
In regards to safety, after speaking with a local mechanic, in detail, about the different options we were leaning towards (a used tour bus, short bus, RV, cargo van, or high top van), we would have no way of really knowing how the engines were maintained. When going up or down really steep roads (Beartooth Highway in Montana, aka Gateway to Yellowstone, for example), we could have engine or transmission failure due to the added weight of the equipment we installed to convert the vehicle into our “home on wheels.”
The last kicker we found out, after speaking with about six different insurance brokers, is that when you convert a vehicle into something it wasn’t originally designed for it is extremely difficult to get good insurance. So, here we are wanting to have all our worldly possessions in our “new home on wheels” but we would have less than ideal insurance coverage in case something happened like weather or a bad driver!
After speaking with the insurance broker who said she can insure us for anything that we want, I asked her what she would recommend from an insurance stand point. Her feedback was:
With all of this information we learned, as of now, we have opted to purchase a used diesel truck and a travel trailer that is 22’ in length or less. We have adjusted our budget to accommodate the added expense of purchasing a more versatile and reliable option. We plan to have a travel trailer with a queen mattress and a separate space with a dinette area so we can easily work on our laptops when we need to and we don’t have to take apart and re-assemble the bed/table each day. We plan to improve the batteries and add solar panels so we can have electricity for our laptops even when we are not “plugged in” at a campground. We will not need a oven or a microwave, just a cooktop. In order to have more storage, we will customize the storage areas to meet our needs and convert space to storage, if we need to.
Once we decide on the exact make, model and year of travel trailer we want, we can start our plans for how we will customize if for our intended use. The nice thing by having the diesel truck, we can put our bikes, skis and other odd shaped equipment in the back, with a topper, and have more flexibility when we need to leave the trailer at a campsite or other location when we are going on an adventure that only a truck can access!
Stay tuned as we continue to share our transformation and process of our Unnamed Adventures!
Blog post written by Amy and Jacob Karras
For the love of travel and new adventures, we live our lives for the next dream fulfilled!