information needed

klee

New member
My wife and I are considering an overland 15' box on a Fuso chassis, the truck is $65,000 CAN dollars, companies want $200,000 for the box, fully loaded, doing simple math, the owner of one company says the labour is about 1400 man hours, components are about $50,000, I get $100,000 to build, adding a reasonable profit of 30% I get $130,000, why are they trying to charge $200,000 for a box? Blissmobil is the same including shipping to Canada, about $200,000-$230,000 pus

Why so much??

Does anybody know any companies in North America that are more reasonable?

We are ready to give up on the expedition 4X4 idea, it seems to expensive, we could make it work, but at over $300,000 (this is on the low side) we do not feel the value is there
 

Howard70

Adventurer
Hello Klee:

$300,000 is a great amount of money. Six years ago my wife and I spent a lot of time and angst trying to decide among various venues for enjoying ourselves away from home during our (then) upcoming retirement. We considered a nice secluded off the grid cabin/house somewhere in the western US - we figured about $300,000 maximum. We started looking & quickly realized there were too many places where we wanted to spend time and one cabin just wouldn't provide the seasonal & geographic variety we sought. We then considered various types of vehicle based venues - motorhomes, 4x4 truck & trailer combinations, continuing our 4x4 tent-based camping activities, and 4x4 expedition trucks. A crucial point for us was realizing that we wanted a platform for extended living in remote areas rather than short camping trips. For us the only venue that met our expectations was an expedition truck.

We briefly considered building our own or extensively refitting a used truck. We had experience with an extensive refit of a sailing vessel preparing it for 13 years in South America. We realized that while we derived tremendous satisfaction from outfitting and operating that vessel, we were a lot younger then. We decided that this time around we wanted to spend available time out and about rather than wrenching. So we looked at everything available balancing the type of country we liked to visit , the type of tracks we liked to travel, exterior size, our penchant for staying out for months, driving and living comfort, initial and operating costs, etc. Nearly five years ago we decided to purchase a new 2014 EarthCruiser. We loved that platform - while there were frustrating moments with those first generation completely emissions compliant diesel systems - the places we were able to camp, trails we could follow, and sunrises to which we awoke vastly outweighed them.

This year we decided to evaluate the last five years and take a hard look at our future plans. So we spent a bit more time and lot less angst to decide and sell our 2014 EarthCruiser (Prima Terra). We are replacing her with a 2018 EarthCruiser (Prima Terra II). In our lives we've owned 5 things that all had similar impacts on our finances at the time of purchase - two homes, a 40' sailboat, and two EarthCruisers. We've enjoyed them all, but the only "replacement in kind" was our sale of Prima Terra to purchase Prima Terra II. For us the value was, and is, there.

In our decision to purchase the 2nd EarthCruiser we asked ourselves what else could we do with this money that would provide more satisfaction & enjoyment than another EarthCruiser? We failed to find anything. At that point the decision was made. These are personal decisions based on individual values so what provides us with great enjoyment might be a path to frustration for someone else. Try asking yourselves that question - what else could we do with that money? If you find an answer will provide more enjoyment than a 4x4 expedition truck I'd use the money for whatever that is.

Best Wishes,
Howard & Heidi Snell
 

grizzlyj

Adventurer
Hiya,

I'll again suggest buying Ulrich Dolde's book on how he did his own self build, as well as the follow up research he then did to help others follow a similar path. Available on Amazon for instance
  • ISBN-10: 3981855310
  • ISBN-13: 978-3981855319
or from his own website even just as a (cheaper!) download. https://www.selfbuildmotorhome.com/Main_navigation/Bookstore/179/E-book_ENGLISH_incl_digital_planning_tools.html

I have no connection other than a happy customer. I think whether you might build your own, or to give a good idea of the depth of thought that's needed and what approach may suit you as a paying customer, the money spent on that is very worthwhile.

My wife and I were going to self build in about 2008 but a used camper came up for sale at less than half what our very modest build budget was so we bought it. Living in someone else's design was not hard, for us for three years continuously.

Now we have a new old truck on which we had built in Europe an empty box for us to fit out in part following suggestions by Mr Dolde, and at slightly lower cost than he suggested which was surprising. But still a lot overall. Insulated windows and doors are not cheap, for instance add up your possible costs on https://www.outbound.eu/en/ then consider many German builders think all windows must be the KCT brand instead because of perhaps a slightly better quality but these are at least twice the Outbound costs. Mad.

I don't think you can sensibly multiply projected build hours by a rough hourly rate plus parts for something like this. How many hours has it taken any company to discover how to make something that hopefully works, and then you have to pay everyone in the company to back up the few people actually getting their hands dirty. Personally I have probably spent thousands of hours looking into what we might want to have and how to do it before Mr Dolde came along and helpfully summarised most of it.

As a for instance with some of what I've looked at, if you want a decent sized lithium battery bank you can buy lots of brands of batteries and lots of brands of chargers, all of which will probably say they are fine to charge lithiums. But since a lithium battery has it's own computing power built in, and you consider the mega cost of just one, maybe you would think that a charger made by the same company as the battery so both sets of software are on the same page would be sensible. And not many do that. Victron does but $$$$. Some chargers use the same charging profile as AGMs, but why would that be OK? Lithiums have yet to be available for long enough to back up their life cycle claims, so how would a third party charger know for sure it will be fine with any other companies lithiums? When you pay someone $300K they should have looked into all that to an extent that hopefully means they can back that choice up, not just one days labour to fit tacked on the build bill.

I would suggest buying used to get better value, and also bypass lead times. If you change your mind and want to sell maybe the hit would be smaller too? Look on Mobile.de, searching motorhomes with 4x4 should bring up something interesting even if it proves what you don't want. Unicat's website is also worth looking at for their layouts, and maybe an idea of where their fees go? I had a good look inside a Blissmobil 6x6 Zetros when they went to a London travel show and would say it did cost the money but was not value for me. But it had one tiny sink only (stupid, and they were not keen on adding another as they do try to keep to a standard plan) and the systems were controlled by an Ipad (also stupid. What's wrong with switches?!). I am currently sorting out the best way of storing and containing food and clothes in one particular area, and trying to be as efficient and robust but cheap as possible. My wife recently said that since our old camper was fine, anything I make will be fine too so I'm over thinking the whole thing way too much! Is that because the couple who built our old camper thought about it long enough to work well though?!?

Buy. Use. Enjoy. :)
 

klee

New member
Hello Klee:

$300,000 is a great amount of money. Six years ago my wife and I spent a lot of time and angst trying to decide among various venues for enjoying ourselves away from home during our (then) upcoming retirement. We considered a nice secluded off the grid cabin/house somewhere in the western US - we figured about $300,000 maximum. We started looking & quickly realized there were too many places where we wanted to spend time and one cabin just wouldn't provide the seasonal & geographic variety we sought. We then considered various types of vehicle based venues - motorhomes, 4x4 truck & trailer combinations, continuing our 4x4 tent-based camping activities, and 4x4 expedition trucks. A crucial point for us was realizing that we wanted a platform for extended living in remote areas rather than short camping trips. For us the only venue that met our expectations was an expedition truck.

We briefly considered building our own or extensively refitting a used truck. We had experience with an extensive refit of a sailing vessel preparing it for 13 years in South America. We realized that while we derived tremendous satisfaction from outfitting and operating that vessel, we were a lot younger then. We decided that this time around we wanted to spend available time out and about rather than wrenching. So we looked at everything available balancing the type of country we liked to visit , the type of tracks we liked to travel, exterior size, our penchant for staying out for months, driving and living comfort, initial and operating costs, etc. Nearly five years ago we decided to purchase a new 2014 EarthCruiser. We loved that platform - while there were frustrating moments with those first generation completely emissions compliant diesel systems - the places we were able to camp, trails we could follow, and sunrises to which we awoke vastly outweighed them.

This year we decided to evaluate the last five years and take a hard look at our future plans. So we spent a bit more time and lot less angst to decide and sell our 2014 EarthCruiser (Prima Terra). We are replacing her with a 2018 EarthCruiser (Prima Terra II). In our lives we've owned 5 things that all had similar impacts on our finances at the time of purchase - two homes, a 40' sailboat, and two EarthCruisers. We've enjoyed them all, but the only "replacement in kind" was our sale of Prima Terra to purchase Prima Terra II. For us the value was, and is, there.

In our decision to purchase the 2nd EarthCruiser we asked ourselves what else could we do with this money that would provide more satisfaction & enjoyment than another EarthCruiser? We failed to find anything. At that point the decision was made. These are personal decisions based on individual values so what provides us with great enjoyment might be a path to frustration for someone else. Try asking yourselves that question - what else could we do with that money? If you find an answer will provide more enjoyment than a 4x4 expedition truck I'd use the money for whatever that is.

Best Wishes,
Howard & Heidi Snell
I sent you a private message, thanks so much for your wonderful post here above, it is greatly appreciated!!
 

Joe917

Explorer
I would suggest not buying new or self building unless you have experience traveling and living in an expedition truck or similar. You need that experience to understand your needs. It is very easy to get caught up in sales brochures and shiny new toys. Look at used, look at importing from here for example: https://suchen.mobile.de/fahrzeuge/search.html?damageUnrepaired=NO_DAMAGE_UNREPAIRED&features=FOUR_WHEEL_DRIVE&fuels=DIESEL&isSearchRequest=true&maxFirstRegistrationDate=1993&maxPowerAsArray=KW&minLicensedWeight=5000&minPowerAsArray=KW&scopeId=MH
Good used trucks do come up for sale, ours will be available when we get back from South America!
 

sg1

Adventurer
This is a good discussion. After retiring we have been traveling through Africa, Europe and the Americas for the last 8 years in our camper. We spend about 6 months per year in one of our 2 overland vehicles. It is a lot of fun.
In North America we use a pick-up truck with a small pop up camper. In the rest of the world a compact 4wd camper with a real shower and bathroom and enough space to be comfortable in bad weather. In the 3rd world this comfort is important because often there are no campgrounds or you wouldn't want to get anywhere near their facilities without protective gear. The camper is only 20 ft. long and 7 ft wide. This is useful because cities, villages and country roads in the 3rd world and Europe are narrow. This camper cost me about 100,000 CAD 8 years ago. I could stay within this budget by
- using a standard relatively inexpensive truck. In my case I used a 4wd Ford Transit chassis available in Europe. Because modern diesels are not suitable for travel I would use a US gas pick-up truck today as a base. Relativly inexpensive, reliable and parts are readily available. Of the 3 manufacturers Ford has the best service network abroad. Even in Zimbabwe or Botswana I found modern well equipped Ford dealers who could service my truck.
- having only the camper box and some critical components (propane, high voltage electrical) built by a professional. They build the box with windows, cargo doors and entrance door, the propane powered appliances (heating, cooking, hot water) and the more complicated electrical instalations. The time consuming but simple stuff (furniture, 12v wiring for lamps etc, water, sourcing and instaling all those little things that make life easier (fans, light, upholstery) I did myself. At about 120 CAD an hour charged by the builder I saved a ton of money. In addition I could fix problems much easier on the road because I knew where everything was and how it was supposed to work. It also forced me to use simple components I understood and stay away from gadgets (e.g. a central electronic panel controlled by I Phone app) nobody could fix if something doesn't work. A good layout for a compact yet comfortable truck camper is here https://www.burow-reisemobile.de/pick-up/oman-ford-ranger/ . Unfortunately it is in German but the pictures are fairly self explanatory and Google translate helps. Look here
 

klee

New member
We currently have a 2014 Tundra truck, and we had a four wheel camper (Hawk model), we managed OK for 4 months last winter, but we really want more room, shower and toilet, so we sold the FWC easily, even made a profit on it. I looked at the German ford ranger camper setup, very impressive, but we do not plan to go to Europe with a camper van, at the most we plan 3 months in Europe at some point. Out interest in in North America, so much to see and do we would never run out of ideas. One goal is to ship our camper/truck to Chile and spend a winter there. We are not as adventurous as you perhaps (at this point)
 

jamesk

Observer
Howard,

Thanks for the insightful post. Not to derail the thread too much, but are you making any changes with prima terra II? Fixed roof vs lifting, etc?
 

sg1

Adventurer
We currently have a 2014 Tundra truck, and we had a four wheel camper (Hawk model), we managed OK for 4 months last winter, but we really want more room, shower and toilet, so we sold the FWC easily, even made a profit on it. I looked at the German ford ranger camper setup, very impressive, but we do not plan to go to Europe with a camper van, at the most we plan 3 months in Europe at some point. Out interest in in North America, so much to see and do we would never run out of ideas. One goal is to ship our camper/truck to Chile and spend a winter there. We are not as adventurous as you perhaps (at this point)
I wasn't suggesting you should get one of those. It wouldn't work here and besides it's underpowered, the cab is too small and it doesn't have automatic. I thought the concept and floor plan with the big shower in a compact camper was quite interesting and could easily be built on a US chassis. Like the Tiger http://www.tigervehicles.com/tiger-models/ or the Earthcruiser EXB 350 https://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/exd-350-earthcruiser-on-flat-bed.191665/page-11 or a custom made one built by Overland Explorer https://overlandex.com or Andreas at Total Composites https://totalcomposites.com . He has builders who build campers with his panels. One supposedly is in Winnipeg. All these are somewhere South of 200,000 US$.
 

Howard70

Adventurer
Howard,

Thanks for the insightful post. Not to derail the thread too much, but are you making any changes with prima terra II? Fixed roof vs lifting, etc?
Hello James:

For us, the lifting top (EXP) is a major feature - both trucks are EXP models. We added a rear winch (90% of our trips are solo), composting toilet (friends & research convinced us), a total of 5 solar panels (experience convinced us to size the array for the worst possible winter conditions) and a microwave (extended living versus camping & higher position out of the viewscape in newer EXP models) to Prima Terra II's build list. Had the stock market been even better we probably would have included the full lithium battery set up.

To avoid thread drift we ought not discuss the reasons behind these decisions here - I'd be happy to respond to private messages or start a new thread about our reasoning!

Howard
 

Caravanner

New member
Klee,

It's a very good idea to find used chassis + box with real shower and bathroom in Europe. Good comfortable trucks with enough space to be comfortable in bad weather is here for example. Prices starts at $130,000 ...
 

waveslider

Outdoorsman
Our path and decision matrix is virtually exactly the same as Howard's. We could have bought a traditional second home/cabin but didn't want to be limited. Now we have a cabin in the woods - wherever we want.
 
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