For Sale: The Cheap Starter Van that Changed his Life (SOLD!!)




Today’s post is a little unusual, it was originally posted to the CRVL Forum as a classified ad. I was so impressed with the owners story and the work he had done I offered to post it here on the blog in the hopes that he can sell it. I tend I get emotionally involved with some of my vehicles and I hate the idea of them ending up in a junk yard being parted out, and I got the impression that the seller felt exactly that way about this van.

As I read his story I understand why he felt that way, at a low point in his life this van came along and turned everything around. That’s very similar to my story so I felt obligated to this van to see it go to a new home. If you are somewhere in the Pennsylvania area, and you need a way out of a bad situation, here is the answer to your prayers dropped into your lap!! Give the seller an email and let him, and this van, be a blessing to you. His email is


About this van. This van is a fourth generation Econoline 250 built in March of 1992 and the VIN is 1FTHE24Y0NHA92459. It has the 4.9L inline 6 with an OverDrive automatic transmission. The odometer reads 150K. This is the best engine ever built by Ford, it’s super reliable and gets good MPG. I fired it up and took it out on the road today. It runs very strong and the oil and coolant temps during and after an hour of running are all good. The transmission feels strong with no indication of slipping. The power steering works well and has new lines I installed recently. Most of the brake lines I replaced recently. The brakes work great and holds a hard petal.


For the $1000 purchase price I will put in a new heater core, tune up and fix anything that might be a safety or reliability issue including any body rust. (there is non-structural body rust along the bottom edges but there is no frame or suspension rust). I’ll even paint it if you prep it. If you want to take it, as is, you can have it for $700

looking back at the bed and the sink cabinet on the left.

Looking back at the bed and the sink cabinet on the left. Notice the carpet covering the walls. 

I purchased it from a plumber in 2008 to live in because I had been living in my car for about 6 months and car-living had been hell on earth!! I had just graduated from college with $72,000 in debt, a crashed economy, and 2 practically useless degrees. I found myself competing with guys that had 5 to 10 years in the industry for entry level positions. I ended up working for 10 hours a day trying but not succeeding at making my debt payments. Living in this van made it possible to live though five eastern PA winters with little to no heat and pay off my debts in 5 years and finally get a leg up in life.


It was January and I had been freezing to death in my car, so staying warm was the number one thing on my mind. I emptied it out and encased the back in sheeting then added 2.5 inches of polyiso insulation and filled all the gaps with spray foam. The average R value should be about R-20. During the deep of winter I would run a propane heater for 5 minutes tops, then go to bed. My body heat would keep it comfortable the rest of the night.

Hi built a wall in the back to create external storage accessible from the back doors. The wall is insulated so it  keeps the cold from coming in from the back window and where the doors meet.

He built a wall in the back to create external storage accessible from the back doors. The wall is insulated so it keeps the cold from coming in from the back window and where the doors meet.

I covered the insulation in carpeting which improved sound reduction and it’s really convenient as a base layer of Velcro. I put Velcro (hook side) on the backs of everything like pop-lights, lighters, carbon monoxide alarm, clock, etc and just stuck-em right to the walls and ceiling, including a string of led Christmas lights. It was very convenient to be able to re-position everything at will.

Then I built the bed, shelves, and counter inside. Having everything build inside the insulation shell eliminates conductive heat loss and condensation. As you can see from the pictures I never finished painting or put on the counter top. The red webbing nicely keeps everything on the shelves while driving. There is a hanging open closet next to the bed if you’re into such things.

Floor to ceiling storage makes excellent use of a small space.

Floor to ceiling storage makes excellent use of a small space.

I kept an emergency toilet under the counter top. The sink would drain into a 5 gallon jug. The other large space under the counter is where I kept the heater tank and a camping stove

The floor and bed top is covered in that interlocking rubberized padding that people use in garages. Under the bed panels are storage compartments.

There is a solar panel, controller and wiring. I only used it to run led lights and a fan during the summer. You’ll have to get batteries if you want to run it. I never got crazy with the electric as I found that less is more. I don’t watch TV etc so I have no need to run all that stuff. The food I ate didn’t need to be refrigerated so no worries there. I also had a cubical job at the time so I was able to keep a lot of stuff, battery charger, and a fridge etc at work.

Looking in from the passenger door.

Looking in from the passenger door.

Some people are worried that I used OSB and carpeting because of concerns about them off-gassing. After 7 years the off-gassing is minimal (I can’t smell it anymore). Plus, a counter-top and latex paint on anything else exposed would all but eliminate any minimal off-gassing, if there is any at all. In my opinion, it’s not a concern.

There is no front passenger seat, but he will put one in if that is a deal-breaker.

There is no front passenger seat, but he will put one in if that is a deal-breaker. Personally I’d leave it out for storage and to reduce the chance of theft.

The cab interior is exactly as I bought it. I figured that if I left it looking crappy people would leave it alone. Used parts are easy to come by, so I can get a passenger seat and other things no problem if you want them.

I am in North East Pa and its located in the 18826 zip code. There is some body rust. For an interested buyer I will fix it up. I’m a mechanic and have a garage now, so getting it in good shape is not a problem. I’d rather see it used then parting it out.

For more information on the van, email the owner at



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

27 comments on “For Sale: The Cheap Starter Van that Changed his Life (SOLD!!)
  1. Avatar Openspaceman says:


    With every van build you post I learn something new. I wish I would have budgeted a 6″ space in the back of my van to build that wall like he did so I could store camping gear and tools and a cold barrier in the winter.

  2. Avatar tommy helms says:

    I have a ’95 E250 with the same motor. They are very reliable

  3. Avatar jeff johnston says:

    After taking a wonderful trip out west doing tenting and hoteling for two months I have experienced the most wonderful time of my life. I had a slight experience of what you are all about. I have just purchased a used 2010 ford transit connect van and am commiting to your lifestyle. I hated to come back home to my temporary residence in Chicago. I long to go back to the areas in which you dwell. Trying to get some ideas about transforming my van to accomodate my needs. Jeff the nomad.

  4. Avatar Joy says:

    I wrote him…..not sure if a deal will come of it, or if my kids will help me , if I buy it, but I def. see great things for the van. My kids are only 35 min from there.

  5. Avatar Seth says:

    I’m in the coal region by Shamokin Knobles Amusement park is ten minutes away. Nice van and right up my alley. I have and Astro with factory tow package but I don’t like all the windows. My old van was a ford and similar to yours insulated for seafood transportation. How easy would it be to remove back wall to transport motorcycles? Hinges to back wall? Do you still have it? Where is it near?

  6. Avatar James Jones says:

    would trade my 1997 toyota camry for the 1992 ford e 250. my camry has 288,406 miles its a 2.2 4cyl its in very good condition. its been repainted in 2013 new timing belt water pump, radiator,stater,air conditioner charge, new brakes all round,front rotors and brake struts and springs.many other new parts

  7. Avatar Nicole says:

    Bob, that was really nice of you to help this guy.


  8. Avatar Linda Sand says:

    I’m glad it sold. Both because it helps the buyer and seller and because it removes my temptation. 🙂

    • Bob Bob says:

      Linda, you own the nicest van I’ve ever seen, how could that tempt you! It’s funny how the further we go along in this life sometimes total simplicity is what we want the most!

  9. Avatar AZClaimjumper says:

    I’m the guy that bought the van; will be traveling from Nevada to PA to pick it up on or about 10 July 2015. I’m a hiker/geocacher; I bought this van with the intent of using it to get me to & from trailheads.

    What really attracted me to the van is that it’s an insulated shelter.

    I was looking at 2015 Ford Transit, low roof, medium length; decided I didn’t want to buy new & was about to start looking at Penske used vans, when a friend of mine emailed me a link to this article.

    I’m a hiker/geocacher & photographer, so I’ll be photo journalizing my real-life outdoor adventures with this van.

    • Bob Bob says:

      AZclaimjumper, I’m really glad you got such a good deal, I think you will be very happy with it. That really is the best engine Ford ever made and should give you very good MPG

      On your way home, if you are nearby I’ll be in Montana or Idaho then and I’d love to have you drop by and we can talk vandwelling and photography.

  10. Avatar Thomas says:

    I appreciate you leaving this article up . It is inspirational and is like a shot of adrenalin every time I read it……..and some great build tips in those pictures to boot. Thank you Bob …your site means a lot to me and so many others !

  11. Avatar Thomas says:

    Almost forgot ……Happy 4th of July everyone !

  12. Avatar AZClaimjumper says:

    I made it, a 2,645 mile cross country trip from eastern PA to my bunker in Reno, NV. Joe, the guy I bought it from, definitely did RIGHT by me. 151,+++ miles on the odometer when I began my trip. The engine purred like a kitten & the tranny was smooth when shifting up or down (3 speed + overdrive). I plan to use the van to get me to & from trail heads & trails that I plan to hike. Am hoping to get 5-7 years usage from a mechanically reliable vehicle that has been insulated to keep me comfy when I return to the trail head, am tired, & want to sleep overnight either before or after my hike.

    The cross country trip, in the heat of the summer, was definitely a rigorous test of the vehicle’s mechanical reliability & it passed Nevada emissions test with flying colors.

    I was lucky on this internet purchase because I dealt with an honest straight shooter that I now consider a friend.

    When I arrived in Scranton, PA, after traveling via 3 Amtrak trains & a bus, I was met by Joe at the bus station Friday night. He drove me to his home & offered to let me spend the night in a bedroom in his home. Joe & I hit it off during the trip from Scranton to his home; we were both comfortable in each others presence & conversed easily. Joe asked me to keep him in the loop on my adventures, which I definitely plan to do.

    • Bob Bob says:

      AZclaimjumper, so you bought the van in the post? If so you got an unbelievable deal!! The previous owner posted to the forum all he did on the van for you and if you paid someone to do it it would have been 1000s of dollars!

      I’m so glad you got that van and the van got you. Hopefully it will be a happy partnership for many years to come!

  13. That’s my target motor home project in the near future.

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