Update on the Ford Transit Connect Conversion

 Randys beautiful Ford Transit Conversion


Randy’s beautiful Ford Transit Conversion

Back in October 2013 I published a post from my friend Randy on his conversion of his Ford Transit Connect and it looked very good. This is an update on the finished conversion and I have to tell you it is gorgeous! Its tiny, but a true minimalist could live very well in it! Best of all it has perfect stealth and gets an honest 28 mpg! He stayed a few days at the RTR and I fell in love with his rig! I think you will all enjoy it! Thanks Randy for writing this for us all! But first, go back and read the original post here: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/converting-a-ford-transit-connect/

This has been an enjoyable project!  I started with a bare van (after removing the rear seats) and started from there.  It’s been very important for me to do this without incurring any debt.  I’m scheduled to retire in less than two years.  I’m trying to pay off all my credit prior to retiring.  So I’ve watched Craigslist very closely for good deals and bought when I had the cash available.  I plan to use this van for summer trips and then return to Phoenix in the winter.  Once I finish cabling the solar panel to the controller I’m going to call it finished.  I have other projects I’d like to start.  I’ll be at the winter RTR if anyone wants a closer look.

Looking in from the back door.

Looking in from the back door.

I’ve made the following upgrades since the first post.

  • Solar!
  • Built the cabinet to hold the Dometic fridge/propane stove/microwave.
  • Put vinyl on the floor with aluminum edging.
  • Bought an awning.
  • LED lighting.
  • Picked up a used 95AH AGM battery.
  • Bought a used 135 watt solar panel made by Mia Sole.
  • Built a roof rack to support the panel.
  • Added a 600 watt microwave (Half Pint) with a 1500 watt inverter.
  • Put a door on the upper cabinet to keep things contained.
The used solar panel he bought mounted on 2x2 tubing.

The used solar panel he bought mounted on 2×2 tubing.

Solar: I have less than $200 in my solar set up, including the battery.  Hard to believe isn’t it?  I bought used equipment whenever possible.  The solar panel came from a huge array that had been taken down.  The seller had over 80 of them.  He also sold me the controller as well.  The controller is made in Germany and is rated for 10 amps.  It is working fine.  But eventually I’d like to upgrade it.  The panel is made in California by Mia Sole.  While showing me the panel, we measured its output.  I saw 19.3 volts and over 7 amps.  I did scratch the vinyl floor while putting in into the van (arg!).  I built the roof rack from 2X2 aluminum that’s 1/8” thick.  I overbuilt the rack.  But I knew that I was also going to add lights and antennas on this rack also.  I will run the 8 gauge wire through the third brake light housing (once I buy the cable).  That way I don’t have to drill a couple of holes in the sheet metal.

This is the cabinet Randy built. You can see it meets all the basic needs for a home: cooking, cleaning, refrigeration, storage and a bathroom.

This is the cabinet Randy built. You can see it meets all the basic needs for a home: cooking, cleaning, refrigeration, storage and a bathroom.

New cabinet: As I mention in the previous post, I wanted to add another cabinet.  I included a link to a site in the Netherlands showing the cabinet I wanted to duplicate.  I’ve succeeded on most points.  The cooktop rotates outside so I can cook outdoors or indoors.  It’s nice when you want to cook bacon and don’t want the grease or smell in the van.  Of course it’s only a good idea when the weather cooperates.  The fridge is mounted in a drawer that opens into the walkway.  That’s been a nice touch.  Pull it out when I want to get into it and then close the lid of the fridge and just push it back into the cabinet.  The only drawback to this cabinet is that I only have one way to get into and out of the van now.  I was able to find some ‘sink cutouts’ on Craigslist.  Seems this guy builds countertops and was saving the area he would cut out for the sink.  He had over a hundred and they were free!  I went over and got three of them, all matching.  I’ve now removed the old counters and replaced them with the Formica covered sink cutouts.  It is much nicer to clean.  I’ve also strapped a 1 gallon propane bottle to the front of the cabinet.  The hose runs through the cabinet and doesn’t interfere with the fridge movement.

The stove can swing out so you can cook inside or outside the Transit.

The stove can swing out so you can cook inside or outside the Transit.

The stove tucked in so the door can close.

The stove tucked in so the door can close.

The floor: I removed all the cabinets and the floor.  I was able to find a remnant of vinyl.  I then spread the glue on the plywood floor using a trowel and smoothed out the vinyl.  It takes some patience to work with this stuff.  It can be trying to get all the bubbles out.  Once it had dried, I cut around the edges with a razor knife.  I found some ½ by ¾ aluminum angle to protect the edges and hide the plywood.  It’s nice to be able to just sweep out the dirt.  And it looked perfect for a while (see above).

In this shot you can see the linoleum he put down. Notice also his Dometic 12 volt fridge ticked into the cabinet.

In this shot you can see the linoleum he put down. Notice also his Dometic 12 volt fridge tucked into the cabinet.

In this shot you can see the fridge pulled out on it's drawer slides.

In this shot you can see the fridge pulled out on it’s drawer slides.

 

It's very easy to get into the fridge!

It’s very easy to get into the fridge!

Painting:  I happened to have some nice tan paint.  I was going to finish all the woodwork out clear.  I actually bought some polyurethane and after trying it, wasn’t satisfied.  So I painted the cabinets and bunk.

The top cabinet opened. Great storage!

The top cabinet opened. Great storage!

Battery:  I knew I wanted a big AGM battery.  I kept looking and found a guy in Tucson that had a bunch of used AGM batteries for sale.  I paid $75 for the one I selected.  He told me that a large computer company switches out the batteries when they get to half-life.  He showed me on a voltmeter the battery was at 12.9 volts so I bought it.  I really considered buying two of them, but realized I didn’t need it.  I think my needs are modest.  This battery weighs 80 pounds.  I bought a tray with a Velcro strap to secure it.  I didn’t want it moving around.

The microwave.

The microwave.

Microwave and inverter:  I know a lot of people don’t think a microwave is necessary.  Plus some are hard on a battery.  I found the truckers use the Sanyo Half Pint microwaves and a 1500 watt inverter to run them.  I already had the inverter in the garage and the Half Pint was on my desk at work.  So I brought the microwave home and tried it out.  Works great.  I don’t plan to cook in the microwave, only heat up leftovers or reheat my coffee.  I have been using it sparingly and it seems to work okay.  If it doesn’t work out in the long run, I’ll use that space on the cabinet for a small sink.

The cabinet can also be his office!

The cabinet can also be his office!

In summary, I’ve really enjoyed this project.  It has taught me a lot about solar and the best use of a small space.  I’m happy with it now.  Will I be in the future?  I’ll have to wait and see.  I do enjoy the questions and there have been a lot of them.  People are naturally inquisitive and I enjoy answering their questions and showing off my handy work.  I’ve used the van for camping with friends and short trips.  I plan to make a trip to San Diego at Christmas time.  I’ll park wherever since this van can hide ‘amongst the trees.’

Best, Randy

A close up of the mounting bracket for the solar panel.

A close up of the mounting bracket for the solar panel.

The propane tank mounted in front of the cabinet.

The propane tank mounted in front of the cabinet.

Bob
About

I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

Posted in Conversion Details, Cooking-Refrigeration, Solar Power
122 comments on “Update on the Ford Transit Connect Conversion
  1. jim says:

    Just as you said mr bob very nice rig and best of all it’s payed for very smart man saving his money and paying cash for everything now that way he can really enjoy the rig and life, i wish him the best of luck with it and on his up coming retirement i hope he lives a long life so he can enjoy his life as you say so many of us work our life away for a very few years of freedom, Thank you so much Mr bob for your website and for you taking the time to keep it going you and homer have a great week.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks jim!
      Bob

    • Will Nale says:

      Randy, I’m sure it was you and your rig I saw in Dec 2013. Were you on Shelter Island Dr in San Diego in the public parking? I was walking from the Kona Kai Marina to my big rig over by the Bali Hai and I noticed a red TC exactly like yours. The doors were open and I saw an identical interior as the one in this article.
      Small world! Will

      • Randy Sanderson says:

        Will,

        Yes that was me.

        Best,
        Randy

        • Michael says:

          I am happy to see the red color versus another white van. Randy, can you comment on how hot this van gets on hot and sunny days? (In other words, are you glad you got the red color and not white?)

        • Susan says:

          Randy, do you work on camper van conversions for others? I’ve been thinking about buying a Transit Connect because I love to camp, but I truly have no ability to do the work.

  2. Off-road says:

    Question about ford transit – 1) manual transmission available? 2) ventilation and air conditioning and heating are sufficient ?

    • Off-road says:

      Never mind. Found all this information in the old article. One thing I did not see was towing capacity. What is the max? Class 1 hitch like I have on my car?

      Say you spend $5000 a year on gasoline for 20,000 miles with low mpg; you will now pay half that for $2500 a year with this Ford. To many $2500 is a lot to save per year. But would a full size van with overhead extended space, insulation, and a small AC stealth unit for campground power not be more adaptable? Definitely see the value for single user boondock camping in nice moderate temperatures. Just that heat- humidity-cold tend to smack you hard when it rolls in.

      • Bob Bob says:

        That’s a very good point Off-road. It gets twice the mpg I get but it cost a huge amount more. It will take a long time to pay back the initial price difference. If you drive a lot it will pay off but take a long time and it will never be as comfortable.

        As far as staying warm, if he had insulated it would be easier to keep the Transit warm because it is smaller. Running an air conditioner in any van is difficult. But it might be easier in a larger van.

        But as far as staying comfortable the best thing is to drive to a better temperature and the Transit has a big advantage in that because of its great mileage!!
        Bob

  3. Yes very nice job. Very neat and well done. I’m further understanding twelve volt systems but believe two six volts paired together would give you more Amp Hours and have less weight. Maybe someone can comment further on that.
    Martin Hamilton recently posted…Tips to sparkle your homeMy Profile

    • Randy says:

      Martin,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      In my case, space is very important so I went with one AGM battery. It would have been cheaper and had more amps with ‘golf cart batteries.’ Plus you have the ability to check each cell. I’m not sure about weight. My battery is 80 pounds. I’m not sure of the weight of the others. I’m not sure there is a ‘best method’ it probably boils down (pun intended) to personal preference.

      Best,
      Randy

    • Bob Bob says:

      Martin, generally that isn’t true. When you double the volts from 6 to 12, you half the amps, so it ends up being the same as a 12 volt. What makes a better deep cycle battery is more lead so actually you want the heaviest battery.
      Bob

    • rick says:

      Very common.

  4. Edie says:

    Hi Bob,
    I love the little van and set up! Do you think it’s OK to have the propane tank inside? RV’s always have them outside.

    • Randy says:

      Edie,

      I turn the valve on, do my cooking and then promptly turn the valve off. I don’t leave it open. I know Bob and others have their propane tanks indoors. I think it’s safe enough as long as the valve is turned off and it’s secured.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Best,
      Randy

    • Bob Bob says:

      Edie, it’s against all the safety rules and everyone will tell you that you shouldn’t. Having said that, I have always had one inside all the vehicles I have lived in. I think the risk is very small so I don’t mind have one in with me.
      Bob

  5. For a sense of scale, Randy is taller than the van.

    When I saw the rig at RTR, my first thought was, “Oh man, that’s gotta be cramped.” But it’s one of those cases of it being bigger on the inside than it is on the outside because of the clever ways Randy built it.
    Al Christensen recently posted…Large man, small van, tiny dogMy Profile

    • Randy says:

      It’s all done with smoke and mirrors. 🙂

      Thanks for comments.

      Best,
      Randy

    • Gary Gower says:

      Hi Al,

      My first encounter with a person living and traveling in a small vehicle, was in the early 70’s. I was working in a Rambler Jeep repair shop. This guy was traveling and living in a WW II Jeep with the metal cabin. Full time! The bed was in place of the right seat, his head below the “instrument” panel (had a reading light 🙂 and the feet to the back, below the cabinet… all the back area was a complete cabinet with the kitchen and his stuff, reached though the inside and the back door. Had a removable tent for a porta potty and shower in the right side, also a big canvas shade in the back; table, 2 seats, etc. where in a roof rack… Very cramped (even the driving area had maps, lantern, drinking water and lots of things). Was an inspiration for me at that time, I remembered that Jeep for the rest of my life, made me Think about the time I will retire…

      Gary

  6. Openspaceman says:

    Randy_

    Great job! Well planned out and well executed…but I’m pretty sure I ruined myself for anything smaller than a hi-top for fulltime living now that I’m 4 months in…but I’m a bit taller than you. I will be forever envious of your gas mileage and stealth. What a nice rig!

    Bob_

    Pro job on the post…I continue to appreciate your efforts.

    • Randy says:

      Bob does a GREAT job with this blog. Many, many people appreciate his work.

      Thanks for the nice comment.

      Best,
      Randy

    • Bob Bob says:

      I’m with you Openspaceman. I’m glad to sacrifice half the MPG for all the extra space. But we’ll see if I feel the same way when gas jumps to $7 per gallon!!
      Bob

      • Offroad says:

        $7 a gallon will stop travel by many folks, double the price of many supplies and cause many places to go out of business. It happened when price crept up to $5 for a while. Then people stopped buying gasoline.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Right offroad. The economic impact of rising gas pries will be felt in everywhere and probably be devastating.
          Bob

          • John says:

            Things sure have changed on the gas price front very quickly since this comment 🙂 While some see a long period of cheap gas ahead I am not as confident in that. Still things look much better for cheaper gas than was anticipated just 2 1/2/ years ago.

          • Bob Bob says:

            John, it’s still very cheap. It hasn’t even kept up with inflation since 1970. It’s cheaper now in adjusted dollars than it was then.
            Bob

  7. Mario says:

    Fantastic work Bob \ Randy ! Bare minimums but….. nothing is missing and very livable , specially for a small person ( i’m 5’7″ suits me fine). I considered it as a possibility for some time for it’s excellent mpg. but i know for my needs (ability to pull cargo trailer as well as 4 x 4 capability) it’s just not designed for that.
    I would imagine this would make for a sweet “long term traveling” vehicle with great stealth for those with extended stays in cities.

    Thumbs up for great design and craftsmanship!!
    (If gas hits 5$ gal. this could be my “plan B” )!

    • Randy says:

      I appreciate the ‘thumbs up.’

      I spent two weeks in San Diego during the holidays. It was very easy to ‘hide’ amongst the other cars and trucks. Never had a problem. I’d move to the waterfront during the days and then move a few blocks to a quiet place to spend the night. Living in Phoenix, I miss the water (lived in VA for many years) so I go over to California whenever possible. It’s been a very workable solution for someone to hates to pay motel bills. It’s a great escape vehicle for me.

      Best,
      Randy

  8. Calvin R says:

    That is indeed a fine minimalist conversion. At this level, it matters that he went to the trouble of making custom-fit cabinets, and that level of care will result in better living.

    • Randy says:

      Yeah, it keeps things organized. With a rig this small you HAVE to be organized. Otherwise, it gets real cluttered quick.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Best,
      Randy

  9. Bill from NC says:

    That is truly efficent! Imagine how much a person with that type planning and design could do with a 24 ft. travel trailer. The companies that manufacture them waste so many opportunities to increase storage and improve utilization!
    Bill from NC recently posted…Finally warming up!My Profile

  10. Bill from NC says:

    Did I mess up my comment and not post it?

    • Randy says:

      Bill, I don’t see your comment. Please try again.

      Thanks,
      Randy

    • Bob Bob says:

      Bill, from NC for some reason my Spam filter decided you were Spam. I approved it so I hope it doesn’t happen again. If it does, be sure to point it out to me so I can rescue your post.
      Bob

      • Bill from NC says:

        You know Bob I have alwsys been a little upset that they named that spam. I personally like both spam and treat meat! They along with boloney should be listed as their own gourmet meat group!

        • Spam and Treat meats are healthier than steaks according to what the media is saying about beef. Looks like they’re shooting up these cattle with some strange stuff not to add what they’re putting in their feed. The thing to do is have your own grass fed beef cattle or just eat venison from the wild. If you ate your own beef or venison then there would not be a need for spam hence no getting caught in a spam filter and therefore we would be looking at a damn near perfect world. I know they said it couldn’t be done but with Bob and the Van Dwellers anything can be done.
          Martin Hamilton recently posted…Weekly Cleaning Tip-easy garbage disposal cleaningMy Profile

        • Bob Bob says:

          Bill, I never thought about it before, why did they name it spam? I guess maybe because to a lot of people it is icky!! But, not to everybody!!
          Bob

    • Bill from NC says:

      Hey Randy and Bob I think the travel trailer companies need to take a lesson from the storage and orginization of this van. In the 70s our camper was a 17 ft Volunteer and it was crammed with cabinets, cubbys etc. Now the new trailers are all walls and curves and angles and hardly have cabinets outside the kitchen area and the drop down tables and stuff dont exist anymore!

      • Bob Bob says:

        Agreed Bill. That’s why I prefer to do my own build so I can get just what I want instead of having some designer decide for me.
        Bob

      • Pama says:

        Ya know, I hate to say it but I think the TT companies have reduced the number of cabinets becasue the walls are just so thin now — making holding up more cabinets a high risk factor for them, IMHO. Some years ago the TTs were on the same par with the 5th Wheels, not anymore unless you go really high-end. Sad but true enough I think. I do own an older 19 ft Airstream and a Chevy Express Conversion Van with the Explorer Company package. While I love my Airstream, when it is time to replace it I will replace it with a B Van or B+ Van — I love my Van that much more than the TT.
        “Adventure, Eat, Sleep, Travel, REPEAT!”
        That’s my motto. Love keepin’ it simple 🙂

  11. Old Guy says:

    Hello Bob..Randy Nice conversion,,I would like to know what kind of Awning that is pictured and where you bought it..I am working on a van and would like to have an awning like the one you have,,Thanks ..Old Guy

    • Randy says:

      Old Guy,

      It’s called an Ezy-Awning and it’s available over at the Bus Depot web site. The basic awning like you saw runs $119. The web site is BusDepot dot com. It was originally developed for the VW bus people. It doesnt’ take too long to put up and it’ll never sag from the rain. It fits into a bag about the size of the chairs we all seem to use. It stows under the bunk.

      Best,
      Randy

      • val sutherland says:

        I just purchased a 2012 Transit…and am trying to figure out how the awning fits. Has it been adapted? thanks, I am looking forward to turning my blue machine into a “home” on the road.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Which awning do you have Val?
          Bob

          • valerie says:

            I dont have any yet, but want to get one and think i might want to get one that can have walls I don’t want the tent off the back i want a true awning that can adapt to a walled unit. I’ve seen ezy awning on line but i don’t have the rain gutter thing. was wondering if there is a brand that fits the transit. any ideas?

            Val

          • Bob Bob says:

            Sorry Val, I don’t, it’s small and not commonly camped in. Never heard of anything for it.
            Bob

  12. Offroad says:

    1) smallest is the Toyota Prius will AC that will run 24/7 while standing still and has a fold down seat to make a sleeping spot.

    2) the FORD Transit is next. And it looks great as the natural progression.

    3) then go to the VAN size with roof extension, insulation, towing capacity, small AC unit.

  13. white trash says:

    My little comment likely won’t matter much here on this blog topic, but if any readers out there have some money for a new vehicle, the 2013 (older-style-made-in Turkey) models are being sold at insanely-low LOW prices.
    I checked out some leftover Transit Connect Cargo’s on the lots here in Ohio, & some were advertised at $17,000 new w/o miles.

    Also, the new 2014 models are good priced as well: $21,000!
    Might be better on fuel compared to the Nissan NV Compact Cargo (starting at $19,999, basic-stripped-down model, but has a CV-style transmission/drive system).

    Thanks for posting, Bob & Randy!
    When are you gonna post about the bicyclist living from their bicycle? Enquiring minds want to know! 😉

    • Bob Bob says:

      white trash, that is good to know. I think that might be something many people would consider.

      I have a friend with a Nissan and it doesn’t get very good mpg. I was surprised how poor it was. Many standard vans beat it.
      Bob

  14. Don says:

    I have that same red van mine is a 2011 and it works very well for me and it to is red with a 160 watt solor panel on top of it

  15. Douglas V says:

    I really like the organization. But, I do like the space of my trailer, but the price of gas is huge right now. It’s $3.12 near me currently. What part of phoenix do you currently reside. When you are in town, maybe I can take a look at it somewhere.
    Douglas V recently posted…PathfindersMy Profile

    • Randy says:

      Douglas V,

      I am located off of I-10 and Warner Road. The sub-division is called Ahwatukee. When you see the Ikea store on I-10, you’re close. I’m back in town now, so you’re welcome to stop by and check it out.

      Best,
      Randy

  16. Douglas V says:

    I have thought about doing what bob has done, get a smaller cruiser type motorcycle and carry it in the trailer, or if i’m not using the trailer, hitch it up to the back of the truck. I’m an explorer type of guy, I really like to hike back into the caves and such.
    Douglas V recently posted…PathfindersMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Douglas, many people get dual-sport bikes so they can ride on the road and take the back-roads. I have very short legs so I am just too uncomfortable on their very high seats, so it wasn’t an option for me. But that may be a better choice. They are geared lower so the 250 may be too small to take on the freeway. A 350-450 would solve that.
      Bob

      • Douglas V says:

        getting the wife convinced to move full time into the trailer is going to be the next move. We don’t have any mortgage or auto loans or rent to pay. Our bills come out to about 800 a month total, but that doesn’t get us traveling much. Although, I have been known to stay the weekend up near lake pleasant for the weekend. Even though the city is near, it is still much quieter. A golf course community is nearby, but it is quiet, no riotous parties over there.
        Douglas V recently posted…PathfindersMy Profile

  17. wagm says:

    Hey guys, I have this b+ motorhome, used it for ten years just puttering around Oklahoma in state parks and lakes for up to a week. This setup works great as I have one leg, one eye and half sense. The trailer was just too much work. The only thing about it that concerns me in the stealth of staying in towns at night and I have a dog that thinks he is a doorbell so no playing like there is nobody in there.
    I am a loaner now so this is way plenty of room (23 feet and 6 foot 3 inch tall inside).
    Thanks, Warren

    • Bob Bob says:

      wagm, yeah, Class Bs are not very stelathy. But since you are not locked into one place, you have choices:

      1) Many towns are fairly friendly to vandwelling and they will tolerate you. You could just keep looking till you find a firendly town and stay there.

      2) There is lots of public land out west where you can stay for free without any problems. That’s what works best for me. As a bonus it is easy ere to move with the season and be in a comfortable temperatures year around. I like that!!
      Bob

  18. Linda Barton says:

    I am very impressed. How did I miss this one at the open house at RTR? Maybe I can see it next year. It does amaze me how small spaces become great living quarters.This is very inspiring thanks for sharing.

  19. Douglas V says:

    One thing that would be similar and I would like to find is one of those astro vans and rebuild it. Get one of the newer ones, usually less problems, especially if maintained properly. It can tow some small trailers if one would need, but nothing like my monster.

    The conversions for vandwelling have looked really good.
    Douglas V recently posted…Operation Cold NightsMy Profile

  20. Jamo says:

    As a retired shipwright and wooden boat builder, I have to say that Randy’s work is very nice and well thought out. I’ve seen hundred-thousand dollar yachts that weren’t this well built or thought out. Nice work, Randy!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks for your kind words Jamo, I’m sure Randy appreciates them!
      Bob

      • Randy Sanderson says:

        Jamo,

        Those ARE nice word coming from a shipwright/boat builder. I’ve built a few 8′ punts and a 15′ run-a-bout. They were of the ‘tortured plywood’ variety. Fun boats to build. That’s where I gained my experience with hand tools. I find it harder to build a box than bend wood and build a boat. Thanks again for the kind words.

        Best,
        Randy

  21. Mokey says:

    Nice work, I’ve been following your progress. Bought a “used” 2013 Transit Connect in Nov. I appreciate the extra ceiling height in this model (changed in 2014) Had someone do the prep work (battery,lights, small solar panel, electric, windows, insulation & floor) and am starting the cabinet & finish work myself. I won’t live in it, but it will be my vacation/camping/travel home. It does get good mileage, has a very good turning radius & handles well, so it’s a good commuting car for work too. Bonus–fits in the garage! I’m getting a lot of my ideas for storage from cruise ship cabins and forums like these. Can’t wait to go for a road trip.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Mokey, it sounds like you are going to have a great vacationing rig!! Have you joined the forum? I’d love to see your conversion in progress and there is a forum just for that. I don’t think anyone else has done a Transit there yet.
      Bob

  22. Ryan says:

    Hey everyone. Im about to purchase a new 2013 Transit with 0 miles for 17k, though the size sort of gives me nervousness. My main reason for going with a new Transit is because for a conversion van equal in cost it would have anywhere from 60k-100k miles on it. With my luck, I’ve had used cars with 28k that became total money pits for me, and buying used hasn’t always served me well. I like practical, I like economical, I like stealth, I like being able to not stand out while I’m traveling and doing my own thing. Is it worth taking the risk of buying a used van with half the fuel economy for the double the space, but risk walking into a vehicle with an unknown past that could be a ticking time bomb?

    Also, i hear the people who say it would take a while to make up the cost in added fuel mileage of a new transit, and it’s hard to argue. Sort of like the story of my grandfather buying a new Golf TDI for $35,000 just so he could brag about getting 55mpg..when in actuality that amount of money would have served the rest of his life plus some in gas for his GMC Savannah van that gets 12mpg. Haha

    I’m just a little unsure of what direction to go and this place seems to be the spot to come

    Thanks

    • Bob Bob says:

      Ryan, from a strictly money point of view I think you would be better off buying a good used van. My girlfriend bought her 2007 Chevy Express van for $7000 with 60,000 miles. The 5.3 V8 in it gets an honest 18 MPG and had plenty of power and plenty of room. It’s been trouble free for her!

      Unless you are paying cash you are going to pay interest and a lot for full-coverage insurance. You’ll have to drive a lot to get back the extra $10,000 plus interest and insurance.

      But this decision isn’t all about money, it’s also about your comfort level. If having a brand new vehicle that gets 28 MPG makes you happy, then you don’t owe anyone an explanation for doing what feels right for you. Plus, I think that is an outstanding price, it might be what people were paying for them used a few years ago. The full-size Transit is about to come out and is probably driving down their price. It may be too good to pass up.

      Again, do what’s good for you and makes you happy, not what make’s other people happy.
      bob

  23. Ryan says:

    Bob – thanks for the quick and kind reply! I think my main problems are the Transit I’m looking at being an incredible deal (and that i won’t lose much money should i decide to sell it later), and also that I simply have not found anything close to as good of a deal as your girlfriend. Most vans around the 2007 60k mileage area that I’ve seen are 15-25k…I think she must’ve found one heck of a deal there. Then again, I’m looking for vans with windows and extended roof more in the conversion style rather than cargo style so that may be why.

    My other conundrum is that, because of my lack of experience of living on the road, I’m not quite sure what will make me happy in terms of best vehicle to use – and that’s what brought me here. I don’t want to make a big financial mistake, and I’m thinking the safest bet here is buying the transit because of it’s resale value (in case it IS a mistake), stealth capabilities, and fuel economy.

    It seems to me larger vans provide the either necessary or unnecessary luxury of having alot more room to put the same stuff…bed, fridge, etc. My inexperience is what makes this a mystery to me – is that extra room necessary or unnecessary with cost in mind?

    • Calvin R says:

      What kind of vehicle one wants is the $64 question, and only you can answer it. I think you are wise to consider resale value in order to keep your options open. People are living happily or unhappily in everything from 45-foot motorhomes to bicycle-and-tent setups. The only way to decide is to consider your own history and preferences. Even with that effort, many people go larger or smaller or just different once they gain experience. That explains why I think it’s such a good idea to start with a good value in a vehicle that will allow you to change later if you need a change. If you don’t need a change, that’s even better.

      • Ryan says:

        Great point Calvin! Thanks – I feel better about putting a deposit down on the Transit now

        I hope to officially join the van dwelling community in the near future!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Ryan, it really is a mystery until you actually do it. I know people in fullsize vans and they are practically empty and other people in fullsize vans and they are packed to the gills. It depends on you and your level of minimalism. But, you won’t know that till you give it a try. It is a conundrum!

      Another way to go is to try starting out in a car or old beater van that costs nothing. They’d both be easy to sell and start over with little or no loss. But they may be so uncomfortable that they aren’t a fair test.

      My first van was $1200 because that’s all I had, but I was lucky and it was basically trouble free for 3 yeas. That would be a great way to go but you could also buy a $1200 van and have it blow the engine or transmission the day after you buy it.

      It’s all a risk! You pay your money and take your chances.
      Bob

      • Ryan says:

        Hey again Bob!

        I do love the size of the transit, as it fits my level of minimalism pretty much perfectly. It has exactly just enough room for all essentials, and I feel like a van is simply just a bigger space for basically the same stuff that gets less mpg.

        I did actually take off for a a few weeks in my chevy impala car, a car that has really grown on me over the years. I added some mods to make it possible for me to work while traveling such as laptop mounts etc. It’s a great riding car and even better at the gas pump – around 32mpg. Because I’ve gotten so used to that level of fuel economy, it’s making it a tough decision to cut that down to 14-17 with a van.

        Here’s my latest concern though – I test drove a transit connect today. Before my V6 impala I drove a 5.9L V8 dodge dakota. The on-demand power of that truck was addicting, but the 12-14mpg was a killer. I hated even stepping down to my V6 impala, though I’ve finally gotten used to it. The transit though….a puny 2.0L 4 cylinder that feels more like a fast go cart than a camper vehicle. I was very disappointed with the power and I’m pretty perplexed about how this thing would even make it up a steep hill while loaded in the back.

        My disappointment in the transit engine has me re-exploring options such as van and truck camper, but maybe I should just suck it up and realize that 80% of the time I’m on the highway anyway..i could just put the transit on cruise and forget about the puny engine and focus on the 28-30mpg that it gets. Ahh! What to do!

        • Bob Bob says:

          Given your low need for room you have a lot more options than the average person. Think outside the box! Here are some crazy ideas.

          Toyota Prius 45 MPG
          Toyota Taco pickup 20-24 mpg
          Jeep 4 door wranglew 20 mpg
          Older Jeep Cherokee 20-25 mpg
          Dodge Cummins diesel pickup with tall shell crew cab 20 mpg and power coming out your ears!!

          Be imaginative!
          Bob

  24. Frank Miller says:

    Have you considered putting the bed on a hinge? You could make it wider that way maybe. Also it would free that space when you weren’t in bed.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Frank, I doubt that he will read this so I will take a stab at answering. I use my bed as my office chair and lounge chair so I wouldn’t gain anything by putting it on a hinge. I also don’t like setting up and taking down the van every night.

      But, I do know people who do exactly what you suggest and it works very well for them, so you might give it a try.
      Bob

  25. Julie Hatch says:

    Hello
    I was wondering what type(year and model) of ford transit could be converted for full timing for one person yet seat up to three people for traveling.
    For example, I need to fit myself and small grandchildren in van for driving (they need to sit in back seats as are both under 7 yrs old)but only need to sleep one as I could set up a tent when they travel with me.
    Anyone have any suggestions ?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Julie, I’m assuming you are in the U.S. not Europe. The new full size transit would work. The older one is much too small in my opinion. A Sprinter or a Nissas NV would also work. But I would suggest an extended length Chevy Express or Ford E 150 with a high top as your best choice of all.
      Bob

      • Michael says:

        Why do you believe the new Transit is not as good as the E150 it is replacing? I thought it had more space and better gas mileage…

      • Julie Hatch says:

        Bob,
        Yes in New England.
        The full size transit ro sprinter do not come with any rear seats.Do you know if a foldable bench or two seats could be installed in any of these ? I can’t be the only one struggling with this issue of needing back seats on occasion
        Thanks for your input

      • Julie Hatch says:

        Bob

        Have you heard of anyone converting a ford transit connect wagon ?
        Small, but the long wheel base has two back rows of seats, one row can be removed. The remaining row can be folded flat when needed for sleeping

        Again, I am hoping to use it to take gkids on occasional weekend trips as well as using on my own

        Any advice would be appreciated
        Julie

  26. Gayle says:

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. This is finally something that I can sink my teeth into. My husband and I are converting a GMC panel van and have lots of questions about ideas and solar. Solar and a/c are my primary concerns. Your post answered several questions – such as a good way to mount a panel on the roof. So much to learn, so many miles to be explored… 🙂

  27. Gayle says:

    Hi,

    I tried to register for your site, but an error message came up saying my IP was blocked. Not sure what’s up with that. Do you have a newsletter that I can sign up for?

    Thanks,
    Gayle

    • Bob Bob says:

      Gayle, did you try to sign up for the forum or to get the blog posts by email?

      I don’t have anything to do with the blog by email, that’s handled by feedburner. But I can help you with the Forum. Email me at akrvbob@gmail.com and we’ll figure it out.
      Bob

  28. Michael says:

    I’m glad to see an RV in a color other than WHITE. I have read there are colors that are COOLER than white. Is red one of them?

    And, do you know whether this van’s interior runs hotter than an equivalent van that is white?

  29. Bill says:

    How does it ride?
    long trips
    dirt roads[not real rocky -ones that cars can use]

    Would you be happier with the new ones with a long bed?

  30. Terri says:

    I should be picking up my 2012 Transit this week. I’ve been stalking these little guys for a year. I got a fair deal (nothing like the 2013 with 0 miles, but I’m happy. I had to finance it, but plan on having it paid off in 2 years.) My conversion will be minimal at first, just a bunk with storage underneath. I am starting out using it as a vehicle to set up at swap meets and need to be able to pack 10 or so boxes with shelves inside. However, after I ramp down the antique-collectibles business I took over when my husband passed away, I plan on adding more. This sweetie makes me *sigh.*

    I have a 1986 Toyota Class C that I am going to sell. This little van has everything I need for the road-running I like to do. Who knows, in a few years, the house may go as well.

    The gas mileage is key to me. I might drive 1500 miles roundtrip every month during show season. I also wanted a smaller lower profile vehicle that I could easily stealth in. I inherited the E250 van that was my husband’s and, frankly, I hate that pig. Too big, too much gas, too hard to keep on the road in the wind. The Transit is my dream van.

    Love your site and I hope to make to an RTR. Terri

    • Bob Bob says:

      Terri, it sounds like the Small Transit should be perfect for you.

      If you send me a bunch of pictures of the Toyota, I’ll run a For Sale ad as a post. You’ll also have to send me a write up of all the details, especially why you’re selling it, all the work you did on it and what you liked and didn’t like about it.

      I’ve done that twice before and both sold their rigs, but no promises. As long a my readers learn something I’m glad to do it.
      Bob

  31. No No says:

    For anybody considering this DIY, that’s a *Sharp* “Half Pint” microwave, not a Sanyo as the text says. Alas, they were discontinued years ago. A used one isn’t so bad, depending on how-used; mine has lasted from 1987 until 2015 (so far!), but with infrequent use. The only new half-cubic-foot microwave, a Whirlpool, uses 750 watts instead of 600.

  32. BobBski says:

    Great looking setup. I drove truck for 23 years throughout the US and Canada. Now retired, I’ve bought a 2012 Transit Connect Cargo van and plan on converting it to go back and visit many of the places I added to a “bucket list. Your article and pictures will be most helpful. Thanks for the effort.

  33. Bob says:

    Oh, oh:
    “The city of Santa Barbara is not a social welfare agency, though we have contributed toward that,” Francisco said. “That is not our business. One of our businesses is to make our neighborhoods safe.” — Santa Barbara News Press.

  34. steven says:

    Hi,
    Just like to say thanks for making this Bob,, answered alot of my questions just
    reading looking around here, just got 2015 transit connect xl cargo van,
    like to do a weekend camper for fishing, theres alot of space to work with, can’t wait to start the project.

    Seven

  35. Molly Davis says:

    HI there, I’m new to the forum and will be starting my lifelong venture as soon as everything sells. I’ve looked at a variety of options, from small RV’s to trailers to trucks with campers. My son wants me to get a truck and put a camper on it. I don’t have a problem with that but seems overwhelming. It’s just me and the two little doggies. I plan on working while I travel and will need to pull up to businesses, etc (the kind of work I do). I’ve looked at the transits in passing and a larger one would work for me but have no one to do the conversion if I go that route. Any suggestions? and cost?

    Thanks-still unsure of what I’m going to do but have a little time.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Molly, one thing you might consider is a good used Class B like a Roadtrek or Pleasureway. They take a regular van and then add a high-top and everything to make it into an RV. It will be already to move into and be very comfortable. You should be able to find a good one for $10,000 if you are patient and look around.

      If you want to convert one, most of it is basic carpentry and a good handyman should be able to do most of it if you give him some examples from the internet of what you want.

      I’d recommend joining my forum where you will get a lot of helpful support: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/forums/index.php
      Bob

  36. BigT says:

    I’m a little confused.. Is Randy replacing the Transit Connect with a full-sized Ford Transit?
    If this is the case, is it because he found the TC is just too darn small for full-time dwelling?

    I’m starting to wonder if my TC is too small for me to live in full time, and I don’t have nearly as much stuff in the back as Randy does! Not yet anyway. I’m still trying to figure out where to put everything.

    I really like the way he has it set up and have used his design to help with my plans. I’m hoping to build that table/overhead cabinet he has mounted at the rear, across from the bed. I suck at woodwork, but hopefully I can piece something together.

    That’s a great looking rig, Randy!

    • Bob Bob says:

      BigT, no, the last time I talked to him he was keeping the Connect. Sometimes the more stuff you have the better organized it is and the more you can practically get into it. The cabinet is a prime example of that. It gives him vertical storage which is critical in such a small space.

      I think you’d find yours much more livable if you copied it.
      Bob

      • BigT says:

        Thanks, Bob. I want to copy some of it, but not all. I don’t want that extra cabinet by the side door, as I like being able to get through there, but I do like the vertical storage that other addition creates. Being able to store things up high is really important given the limited floor space available.
        I also like the flooring Randy used. I installed indoor/outdoor carpet in my TC, but quickly found that fluid spills were a real PITA to clean up and created the potential for mold, stains and smells to form.

        If I ever see Randy in California, I’m going to ask him if I can make a pattern of that cabinet so I can create a template. =)

  37. Ron Reimer says:

    I just bought an overpriced 2013 with 7500 miles on it. We’re going to use it as occasional camper when travelling. Should I consider insulating the vehicle?

    The floor will be two overlapped 1/4 in sheets of marine plywood painted with polyurethane.
    Twin bed (expanded) on drivers side. Cabinets with water, stove, sink, and refrigerator on passenger side.

    Any suggestions or recommendations welcomed.

    Ron R

    • Bob Bob says:

      Ron, if you aren’t going to be traveling in the winter then there is no need for insulation. If you’ll be traveling in heat then you might want to put a layer of Reflectix up next to the sheet metal, that’ll keep it much cooler. HOWEVER, for Reflectix to work it has to have at least a 1/2 inch air space so leave a 1/2 inch gap between the skin and the Reflectix.
      Bob

  38. Pama says:

    Randy,
    You did such a beautiful job converting your Transit! Love the interior layout and also the light colored wood sets so nice against the Red exterior too. Bravo! I can see why it was the talk of the RTR group. And like you, I’m a beach lover. Gotta have my dose of Ocean waves while being landlocked in Atlanta. Your sweet little rig screams Funtimes-At-The-Beach! Enjoy!

  39. Hugh says:

    Hi, Bob & all –
    I’m new to the forum and the new owner of a 2013 Transit Connect Cargo hi-roof. Thanks to all for your contributions. I could use help on two matters: 1) Choosing “the perfect” screened, sliding window to install on my sliding door(s); 2) The advisability of using some 1/2-inch versus 3/4-inch plywood in the cabinetry, to cut weight. Any takers? Hugh.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hugh, I bought my windows for my cargo trailer off of Ebay so I’d suggest watching there for the widow that works best for you. I’d think about putting 1/2 inch aluminum angle at all the corners. It’ll give it all the strength and rigidity it needs and be very light. It’s easy to drill holes in it for screws.
      Bob

  40. Susan Harrington says:

    Does anyone know anybody who could install an air conditioning unit in a Ford Transit? How about someone who could turn a Transit into an RV in Georgia or Florida?

    Thanks

    • val sutherland says:

      I had a 2012 and there is a guy in s Carolina that does it. Go to eBay and put in transit van conversions. I got rid of mine because it just wasn’t comfortable. Great gas milage, cute but a hard ride

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