Author Topic: Vehicle Optimization  (Read 3941 times)

bikegurl

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Vehicle Optimization
« on: May 19, 2015, 02:04:10 PM »
I am currently shopping on craigslist for a work vehicle.  I live in a major US metropolis and do not own a car.  In fact, I have gone for most of my adult life without a car, except for a brief stint with a compact fuel-efficient sedan that I loved for getting 38 mpg on my road trips.

Iíve perused the site and while there is a lot of information on little commuter vehicles, I havenít been able to find anything that addresses my needs (dirtbag-mobile).  I will be driving several thousand miles this summer and fall between field sites (I will be reimbursed for mileage).  Most of the driving is on highways, but I need clearance to access the actual work sites and 4wd (I am ruefully aware that many of the vehicles I am looking at do not have a 4wd option, only awd) on some of the worst roads.  Iím not yet sure if I will keep the vehicle after my field season is over, but my rest of the year lifestyle includes many trips to the mountains for kayaking/climbing/skiing/mountain biking/backpacking and to the coast for surfing (of course car-pooling as much as possible).  Basically I lead a very active lifestyle that entails hauling around large amounts of gear and people.  Often I am camping in inclement weather (5m+ annual precip).  I would like to have a vehicle that can sleep two comfortably (one person being 6í3Ē).  I will not be driving this vehicle at all when I am home in the city as I find parking and traffic heinous, and love to ride my bike. 

I will probably be living out of my vehicle for at least 2.5 months (away from home this entire time) this summer, working and visiting friends/family.  I want to be able to carry a couple surfboards (one over 8í long), a ton of climbing gear, cooking equipment, a bicycle or two.  I want to be as organized as possible and I do not want to have to unload stuff every night in order to be able to sleep.  I have done these trips before in tent and small car and also slept in an outback, but that is inconvenient, as I had to unload everything each night.  I want to be able to keep a low profile, and potentially sleep in parking lots, the side of the road, and in front of friendsí houses.   My limited height makes roof items difficult to access and one cannot drive in parking garages/forests without scrape-age, also Iíd like to be able to hide all my toys inside when I leave my vehicle unattended.  I have been looking a lot at minivans and would like to build some kind of sleeping platform with drawers.  I am also looking at older 4runners.  Since I figure that I canít ďhave it allĒ Iím not being a huge stickler for fuel economy (as much as I would be if I were looking for just a passenger car, say), but obviously want to the rig to be as economical and environmentally friendly as possible, oh yeah, and reliable!  It just doesnít make sense to spend more on the purchase price to save at the pump if it will take you longer than the life of the vehicle to recoup that cost, naí mean? 

Oh, a little about me: I save about 60% of my earnings and am generally very resourceful.  Iíve never purchased a vehicle so am rightfully cautious.  I am used to relying on public transit and ridesharing, but there is just no way to do that for the places I need to go right now.  I am stoked to have this job, it is pretty much the most awesome thing I could be doing, and the pay doesnít suck either.

So, what would you buy?  BTW, the vehicles I am looking at are in the 4-5k range and I can write-off the purchase price.

Thank you very much!

JLee

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Re: Vehicle Optimization
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2015, 02:38:33 PM »
For what you're looking for, you may want to poke around the ExpeditionPortal.com forums a bit and do some reading.

This is a really good article, though most vehicles are out of your desired price range: http://expeditionportal.com/top-10-used-overland-vehicles/

GetItRight

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Re: Vehicle Optimization
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2015, 03:06:48 PM »
I would do an 80-'97 Ford crew cab pickup. Cheap simple reliable vehicles. Remove the back bench and build a platform with mattress pad/etc. and storage underneath and tint the back glass. Or just sleep on the bench seats, or in the bed under a cap depending on what you carry with you. I've also seen some rear seats that fold flat and can be used as a sleeping area. Get a cap to keep your tools and equipment out of sight and locked. Surfboard can go in the bed or mount a rack on the cap.

Ranger or Bronco of similar vintage would be too small, and Bronco MPG is not much better than a truck. You're getting reimbursed so don't worry too much about MPG. If you find a diesel with a 5 speed you should be able to push high teens to low 20s highway. Another option is similar vintage 4x4 vans. They are out there but difficult to find. Lots of options for customizing and privacy of the interior to keep a low profile and still be comfortable.

Jeremy E.

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Re: Vehicle Optimization
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2015, 05:25:36 PM »
I would suggest a subaru impreza wagon. Good Luck!

Philo Beddoe

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Re: Vehicle Optimization
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2015, 07:15:33 PM »
wow....on so many levels. Good luck.

Guardian

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Re: Vehicle Optimization
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2015, 05:02:44 AM »
So I haven't seen any actual good answers yet to your question. My sincerest answer and opinion is that you get a 3rd Generation Toyota 4runner.

Here is a buyer's guide:http://www.toyota-4runner.org/3rd-gen-t4rs/82033-3rd-gen-4runner-buyers-guide.html

And here is what you should do once you buy it: http://www.toyota-4runner.org/3rd-gen-t4rs/197591-absaloms-cookie-cutter-4runner-builds.html

Probably the biggest reason I love 4runners is that there is a huge following of them - you can always find parts, guides, rebuilds, upgrades, etc online in any state.

music lover

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Re: Vehicle Optimization
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2015, 06:59:54 AM »
Most of the driving is on highways, but I need clearance to access the actual work sites and 4wd (I am ruefully aware that many of the vehicles I am looking at do not have a 4wd option, only awd) on some of the worst roads.

AWD works just as well as 4WD. The advantage to AWD is that it kicks in when required, the driver doesn't have to do anything.

"The best AWD systems leverage software and wheel sensors to detect wheel slip as fast as possible. They then react by activating traction control to reduce or eliminate wheel slip while re-routing engine torque to the wheel with the best grip on the road. AWD with dynamic torque control found on cars like the Toyota RAV4 are a riff on this theme and utilize an electro-magnetic coupler or (ECU). During normal driving, the RAV4 defaults to front-wheel-drive for improved fuel economy while still sending power to rear wheels during turns for improved cornering and driving performance (up to a maximum of 45% rear and 55% front torque distribution.)"

http://gearpatrol.com/2013/03/29/four-wheel-drive-vs-all-wheel-drive-everything-you-need-to-know/

Jack

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Re: Vehicle Optimization
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2015, 07:27:02 AM »
I would do an 80-'97 Ford crew cab pickup. Cheap simple reliable vehicles. Remove the back bench and build a platform with mattress pad/etc. and storage underneath and tint the back glass. Or just sleep on the bench seats, or in the bed under a cap depending on what you carry with you. I've also seen some rear seats that fold flat and can be used as a sleeping area. Get a cap to keep your tools and equipment out of sight and locked. Surfboard can go in the bed or mount a rack on the cap.

Ranger or Bronco of similar vintage would be too small, and Bronco MPG is not much better than a truck. You're getting reimbursed so don't worry too much about MPG. If you find a diesel with a 5 speed you should be able to push high teens to low 20s highway. Another option is similar vintage 4x4 vans. They are out there but difficult to find. Lots of options for customizing and privacy of the interior to keep a low profile and still be comfortable.

I mostly second this advice (although I lean more towards SUV rather than pickup).

Since you're really only going to be using it when you actually need it, and when you need it you need a lot, I think a Chevy/GMC Suburban or Ford Expedition, or 4x4 van (if you don't need so much ground clearance), is the right answer. Whatever you pick -- and I cannot stress this enough -- try as hard as you can to find a Diesel! Even if you have to pay $1000 or so extra (vs. the equivalent gasser) up front, it's irrelevant because it'll still be worth that extra $1000 when you sell it again. More importantly, you'll save lots of money on operating costs.

Otherwise, you could go the other direction: a small SUV, like a Jeep Wrangler or Cherokee (or even a Rav4 pseudo-4x4, if you can stand it), plus a small camping trailer. I'm not convinced a small SUV towing a trailer would actually be any more efficient than a large diesel SUV by itself, though.

By the way: at least in my area, diesel is as cheap (per gallon) as regular unleaded again!!! Even when diesel has been more expensive than gas the marginal increase in fuel economy has always exceeded the marginal difference in price (i.e., diesel cost maybe 20% more per gallon, but gave 25% better mpg) making it still worth it, but with per-gallon price parity diesel is really a no-brainer.

duck-duck

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Re: Vehicle Optimization
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2015, 07:38:06 AM »
Sorry to be a Debbie downer, but I think that your expectations are completely unrealistic. What you want is something like a Sportsmobile, which well used are still in the 30-40k range. Anything that will comfortably sleep 2, carry an 8 foot surfboard inside ect, and only costs 4-5k is gonna need an engine, trans or more. I do suggest you go over to expeditionportal.com and see what people are spending on older vehicles to bring them up back to being reliable.

Don't get me wrong, I think that what you are doing sounds great, but you're gonna have to make some sacrifices. I would suggest getting the newest, best condition mid-size pick up truck you can afford and throwing a shell on the back. There are thousands of great camper builds on the internet to get ideas. At least this way, you're starting with a reliable vehicle and won't be spending your days off fixing your vehicle instead of surfing, hiking, biking that you dream of.