Here is a list of problems to solve if I flew by airplane to the USA, got off the plane and tried to buy a van or motorhome for USA road trip.
I am Andy Lee Graham, a citizen of the USA, and I am presently in the Dominican Republic, it is March, the weather in Indiana my home state is cold. I will enter the USA soon, buy a van, then travel around the USA for 2-5 months sleeping in the van or with friends who invite me to their homes.
My Father has cancer, and my Mother is wanting me to delay the trip to Indiana for a couple of weeks until things settle down. And truthfully, they may never settle down, so I am trying to think of other plans.
"I vote to fly to Orlando, Fl buy a used camper similar to email@example.com for about $3k and be able to go home on a moments notice. I would travel around the US staying in Walmart, Kmart, and most any mall area parking lots for free. Use free or almost free camp grounds for a dump. Using MacDonalds, Whataburgers etc for the Internet access for free. You won't have to worry about the cold. At the end of your travels here sell the camper for as much or more than you paid for it."
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If I fly to Indiana, live with my parents, I can borrow a car, live for free, and buy a mini-van slowly. I will also have to do some changes to the van, and there are tools, etc.
List of Problems Whey Flying to USA to Buy a Van, RV, Motor Home for USA Road Trip.
1. I need cheap accommodation during the buying of a vehicle, or the indirect cost of buying could double. I could do the couch surfing, or stay with one of the people who has invited me to visit.
2. How am I to drive around in the USA looking for a motor home or van, I would need to enter a city with very good public transportation, or enter a place where I could walk the city to look at vehicles.
3. How long would it take to buy a good vehicle in the USA?
4. Cold, I need to be in a Southern USA state, so I do not freeze walking around.
5. Availability of cheap vans or motor homes, where in the USA would be cheaper?
6. Internet access, I would not have Internet access when I land to get on Craig list or any of the vehicle selling site. The Internet cafes in small villages does not exist, and even in the big cities it is a problem. There are Hostel in few locations around. I would need to find a room for 15 USD or less, or the cost would quadruple fast.
7. The length of my trip will expand, because I would need to solve all the problems above, and park, or live in one location until I am read.
8. If I bought a motor home, and not a van, things would be simpler, but the cost of gas would double the price of the trip compared to a mini-van.
9. Selling a vehicle is not a guaranteed thing, I must assume I am going to abandon the vehicle at the end of my trip, or leave it for my friends to sell.
10. What is more sell-able, a mini-van or a motorhome? When I am done with the trip, what can I do with the vehicle?
11. I would think, I have 2-3 day mercy to live with anyone on the list, none of them are my best friends, two are family, but living with people for free is not a simple as people think.
My gut says this, I could do this, if I could find a room in the USA to rent cheap, less than 400 per month, then I would have the time. To travel anywhere on the planet, and have something necessary to happen is foolish. I must always have a backup plan.
Therefore, if I could find a room for less than 300-400 USA, in a smaller manageable city, with cheaper vehicles in the South of the USA. Then I could live there until I solve all the problems listed above.
Andy Graham in Montellano, Dominican Republic
This problem above is the same as what a European, Japanese or Korean would anticipate for a USA road trip.
Re "I need a southern state." I would say Miami or FLL are your most obvious choices. You can find rooms and vehicles on Craigslist.
Another advantage of Miami is that you can still use your Spanish. lol.
Re Van vs motor home. There is nothing simple about a motor home, especially if you want shit to work. The motor home can become the focus of the trip rather than a tool for the trip. The van is more stealth. Motor homes have seasonal values-high in the spring and lower in the fall.
My dictum for choosing a travel vehicle: The more it is like your house, the less you will want to drive it. The more sports car like the vehicle, the less you will want to live it it. The trick is to find something drivable and livable. For one person, that can be pretty small. Throw in a spouse and some pets, and the requirements can change dramatically.
Lots of coffee shops have free wifi. In the digital age, you could pretty well have your room and vehicle arranged before you even go through customs.
Hi Andy... good for you with all the world wide travel. I am 71 years old and lived on the road, much of it on the street in motorhomes for the last 25 years. I like it.
for a short trip 2 to 5 months I would buy a mini van as you first proposed...its 100 easier to park covertly on the street at night than a motor home, the cheaper gas is a big deal.. you already know how to cope on the road. You can buy a verizon broad band wireless card with 10 gigs per month use for $59 a month. good anywhere in the US no roaming (but check that).. thats 4g...very fast, superb coverage.
I'd land at your folks house, spend a few says shopping for the mini van... avoid dodge mini vans, toyota is the most reliable. You can buy a 24 hour fitness club, monthly membership thats good nationally (but check that).. great for showers and working out, there are 24 hour fitness clubs in most states (check google maps for locations)
You can charge your laptop batteries while driving.. i stop at starbucks a lot for that as well. i keep a lot of spare batteries for the purpose.
You can also take a sponge bath at public restrooms in a pinch and rest stops along the highways.
Keep a $1000 or more cash reserve for emergency vehicle repairs.
When you park at night, pull in late, leave early. You will seldom get bothered that way. 1 or 2 days max in each spot.
never stay all day where you park at night.
If the police roust you, tell them the truth..that you are traveling, got too tired to drive so have pulled over for a nap... its virtually never been a real problem for me in 25 years. they will check you out however... don't worry about it.
the better the vehicle looks from the outside the less trouble will have parking it. you can use spray paint to black out the side windows. dont use a propane stove for heat, or at least not one with plastic burner valve parts, those melt and catch fire..almost cost me my life once.
an electric ice chest or one with just ice works for storing food for a day.
Im in an RV now, paying $100 a month for a plug in, and parking outside of a rural mini storage, I store the motor home here for $50 a month when i travel. that works very well. you can do that in very small towns or run down parts in larger towns. the plug in gives me AC in the summer, electric heat in the winter, and a small refrigerator.
for a road trip though you need a mini van.. toyota or VW ideally.
Good luck, thanks your video blogs
search google for 'tiny houses' and underground houses... thats how I might retire shortly. cant be living on the road at much over 75 or 80. rural off the grid land can be dirt cheap. house materials $3,000 or less for 150 sq feet, sleep in the loft. solar system $3000 for lights and charging the lap top, propane for cooking and some occasional heat... drill a well later... its worth a google search.
You could expand yer blogs to 'hobo living'.. its becoming all the rage these days, lots of Youtube vids about building, designs, costs etc..some can be quite spectacular. 60 years ago, when i was a kid in Oroville california, I knew hobo's who lived in such cabins, with an open latrine back in the woods a bit, near a spring, very cute little houses, small... they would ride the freight trains nation wide and return once in a while to hang out in the cabin...more than a few were squatting on various private lands.. in those days no one vandalized the places when they were gone... some never returned.. they died on the road somewhere with news leaking back through the hobo jungles in bits and pieces... these people died free.
Andy, I'm traveling in my 5th wheeler RV now parked at a KOA north of Orlando. It's normally pretty nice here and I just wear cutoff's and flip flops. Planning on having shoulder surgery next week and pretty much staying here for the next couple of months. If you decide to come to florida and into orlando and If I can be of any assistance, airport pick up/couch surfing / ride, ect. let me know. It's the least I can do for all the great advice and support you have provided on your website for all these years. Let me know Terry
Andy, this place to comment is really getting to me as this is the second time I've tried to post a comment. Twice before, I've had several paragraphs written and go to back space and the whole thing disappears! Is it on my end or can you do something on your end to desensitize this post place?
Andy, here goes again. Listen to Phil as he knows what he's talking about! I too, can give you a few pointers as we bought a VW camper van and toured around Europe for 6 months and 15,000 miles then sold it for what we paid for it then flew back to the states.
We were on a trip around the world for two years when we met an Aussie couple in a Cairo hotel who owned the van that had been stored at a BandB in England. After much debate, we gave them a down payment sight unseen. Three months later, we arrived to pick up our van and it was everything they had said it was and more. We then sent them the rest of the money ($3,000 total) and took off. After 6 super months of travel we drove back to England and sold it for what we originally paid for it.
I plan on getting a pick-up and a camper and doing the same around the USA in a couple of years when I retire.
Our camper had a stove, refrigerator, sink, bed, bike rack with 2 bikes, everything! We sold it within a couple weeks to a Kiwi couple who planned on doing the same, 6 months of travel around Europe. We even drove to Moscow where we parked our van on Red Square on my 40th Birthday!
You can do the same here in the US very easy. Do everything online to buy a camper of some type and go pick it up right from the airport. You could even have the sellers pick you up. Then as you travel, advertise it on your Blog and I bet you could have it sold to a European traveler as you finish your travels here in the states.
Gonna post this before it disappears again
And furthermore We found that finding places to park for the night was never any hassle. We parked right on the street in residential neighborhoods many times or right in the middle of down town too. We liked to stay in the countryside most of the time and many times we found a place on a side road of a side road in the middle of nowhere. If there are houses or farms around, we'd often ask the owners if it would be alright if we parked for the night. We were never turned down. In fact, they would always want to know who we were, where we came from and what we were doing. Meeting and talking with people always works.
Selling your camper for what you paid for it means the only cost for travel is gas and upkeep on the vehicle with no hotel costs. Dropping in for shower stops was always easy too. We would talk to Hostels and campgrounds and could always get a shower and clean up for very little or many times free. You may be able to advertise their facilities on your Blog site in exchange for their shower or hook-up.
If you have any more questions, please contact me. I also took a year to drive to Costa Rica and back while living in a camper on my old pick-up.
I'm not sure of your reasons or destinations in the US. In an attempt to answer some of your questions.
1. a. Weekly stay motels advertise rooms with most of the accommodations that you'll be looking for, seem to be in the price range of $139 to $189.00 per wk. with privately held motels in some of the smaller towns are to be had for less.
b. Cheaper maybe.
c.Looking on craigslist, some are quoting down to $70.00 per week with wearing clothes optional(He He).
d. Some people just get a tent and backpack because that is going to be most economical way to go. If you stay in the southern states in he winter and going northerly in the summer. I've lived in tents that were as comfortable as hotels with internet available in most major camp grounds in the US. Tent camping is free to $5.00 a night.
2. a. I've had good luck renting from Rent-A-Wreck advertising rental for less than $15.00 a day. They will pick you up at the airport.
b. Purchase of a small motor bike with the idea of loading it on the back of a camper is not a bad idea.for economical transportation in looking/finding a bargain. Also, its great to leave the camper setup to do local shopping or site-seeing..
c. Trying to hitch hike or walk in the USA is not a great idea(too slow now a days) but, it can be done. I've met a lot of nice people hitch hiking and also weirdos.
3. How long would it take to find a reliable vehicle is the question to ask. I would try to look at least five different vehicles being careful as to condition. Rust is big problem. Dirty and wear just lowers the price. Leaks big problem. Low mileage in not always a great buying point in a camper in that setting up can cause more problems. People want more ($) for one that has low mileage(like a car) but would make a good selling point. Remember that negotiation, age, wear, mileage and time of essence, is what determines price.
4. Flying into Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Jacksonville or Fort Myers are areas that are pleasant this time of year with pre-shopping for transportation on craigslist.
5. Ability to negotiate is probably your best resource. Florida, Arizona or Texas is where people go to to retire and get off the road and sell their vehicles.
6. Florida , south Texas, New Orleans are some places that come to mind.
7. Backpacking will shorten the off loading as compared to buying the camper that will give more comfort and ability to experience more areas.
8. The small Toyota camper averages around 16 to 17 MPG about the same as a van. Class A motor home get from 6 to 12 MPG.
9 You can go to just about any car lot or pawn shop and get something for a vehicle. It comes back to negotiation, age, wear, mileage and time of essence, is what determines price.
10. At the present time with gas prices going up, the smaller the vehicle the higher the price with less of an operating cost but, would have a larger seller's market. On the other hand buying a bigger vehicle is cheaper initially.
11. Mark Twain said that "Guest, like fish, they begin to smell after three days"
Rooms are available on craigslist for well under $400.00 a month in just about most smaller towns. The better the transportation the higher the price it seems. I was in Monterey Ca. and rooms could be had for $800 and above, but transportation was great.
Always have plan "A" Plus "B" and planning on "C". You seem to be able to feather your nest where ever you go.
I find that people are people no matter where they are from. My problem is being able to communicate.
Something like this might fit the bill:
This is a nice factory converted mini Rv. It's a 1991 Ford Econoline-150 which has been converted by Sierra conversions. The van has a sink, 1 burner stove, microwave, fridge, toilet, fresh water holding tank, gray/black water holding tanks, rollover sofa which will sleep two people, 3 captains chairs, tv/vcr, electric heater, 110v shore power, roof a/c, spare tire and carrier, ladder, luggage rack, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, power steering, mood, aircraft, reading, and done lights. The van has 50,510 1 owner miles (runs great). All manuals and some maintenance records available. With some minor TLC and cleaning, this would make a great family camping van or??? This is a steal at just $2,995. I'm open to trades but cash is always king. Call before it's gone: 847-596-1327. Thank you.
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
I am not affiliated with the above postings from Craigslist, just wanted to give an example of what might be available for your US trip.
Re converted vans like the one described above, (1991 Ford Econoline), My two pesos. That kind of vehicle is a very cool vehicle: A. for people who think it would be a cool vehicle to own. B. people who like to be fixing shit all the time. C. people who don't really live on the road.
For living on the road, I would consider the following items useless. Maybe worse than useless because of the required maintenance.
sink, 1 burner stove, microwave, fridge, toilet, fresh water holding tank, gray/black water holding tanks, rollover sofa which will sleep two people, 3 captains chairs, tv/vcr, electric heater, 110v shore power, roof a/c, ladder, luggage rack.
I do not cook, wash dishes, bathe, watch TV, or do toilet activities in my van. I do all of this outside of may van. I don't store anything on the roof of my van. I don't go to camp grounds.
The items listed below are nice to have:
cruise control, power windows, power door locks, power steering, mood, aircraft, reading, and done lights.
I always change the standard interior lights to fluorescents. Better yet would be LEDs, but that is more money.
There are some very clever travel vehicles that people have built for easy travel. People built them as they figured out their needs. I haven't seen any commercially converted vans used for serious road trade.
I am lucky man, this USA Road Trip is going to be fun. I have not even left the USA and already many great opinions. I am going to have fun on this trip. I have only written about travel outside the USA, writing about something my reader understand is going to be enjoyable.
I hope we fixed the comment problem, thanks for feedback. Andy
Just an idea because I used to live there and what I would do if I were you
1. Fly into PHX
2. Rent a one month apartent at Warren Properties cheapest property in PHX or a weekly Hotel at Extended Stay Mcdowell Rd/43 Ave.
3. Time your flight for the ASU monthly auction (they usually are selling cargo minivans for under 1K with low miles as they were previously used as janitorial vans at ASU campus.
4. Register the car for 90 days or one year using the hotel address and then start driving around the country after modifying the van.
5. Van can be modified and worked on the UFixit bays on Scottsdale Rd/South of Mcdowell, which provide free tools and vehicle lifts for about $15/hour. Or you can work on it at night at the apartment parking lot.
Mike99, that is an interesting idea, the only problem I can find is the flight from STI to PHX is 400 USD. I can fly to Fort Lauderale for 160, and have another 260 to live. Maybe there is a Florida, Auction.
Andy, I think you'd be jumping over the dollars to pick-up the pennies if you bought a van and spend the time and money to make it into something you could live and travel in. Even if you are a good carpenter, electrician, plumber and mechanic, by the time you buy all the materials, pay rent while your doing the conversion and then try to sell it and recoup your investment, I think you'll lose. I think you'd be time and money ahead to buy something ready to go, use it then sell it for what you paid for it when you're ready to move on. Do your homework on craigslist for a couple weeks and I bet you'll be surprised!
I agree with Stevego that converting a van to a travel van can suck up a lot of time and money, IF that is what one is want to do. It seems to be human nature to want to make their travel vehicle a miniature house on wheels, Thus the need to be a carpenter , plumber, electrician and mechanic.
I have never spent much of my time on the road IN may van. For only a few months of travel, I would get two 8' 2x4's and screw them to the supports on each side of the van about 20" from the floor. On top of these, lay 5 2x4's flat wise on the two side supports. (These 2x4's go from one side of the van to the other). On top of the flat 2x4's, lay 3/8 inch plywood. (about one and a half sheets.) On top of the plywood, lay a queen size real mattress, hopefully free from Craigslist. Now you have a comfortable bed and plenty of room under the bed to store you shit. Another $20-40 for containers under the bed and you are ready for the road. You could choose your containers first and then build the bed to a height where the containers just fit under the bed. This way the containers help to support the bed. If you use 1/2" or 5/8" plywood, you won't even need the 2x4 cross pieces.
Am I missing something here? I think I would add a crank open roof vent.
So much free advice. I am very curious to see what Andy comes up with for his vehicle.
You have family in Indiana. It seems to me that it would make sense to take some time off with them, find , fix up, prepare, and stock up before you leave on your next adventure. A vehicle towing a travel trailer is not something I have heard you comment on. I do not know if you plan on driving alot and seeing many places, or staying in several places for an extended time. Using a travel trailer might make sense, as they give you more living space, are cheaper than a motorhome, and koa and other campgrounds have good monthly rates. Also you can unhook from them, and get good gas mileage for nearby exploration. Gas prices are really skyrocketing here.