Once we had decided we wanted to travel, the question we needed to answer was what vehicle to choose.
WHAT TO CHOOSE
So if you are young and can easily get up off the ground, throw your tent in your Chevy Sonic and hit the road. If you want to bring everything including the kitchen sink, jump in a massive class A motorhome and bring that Sonic as a "towed."
For us the DYI cargo van was the choice. Small and maneuverable, getting about 20 mpg, we can configure it the way we want for a reasonable cost. Setting up camp can consist of as little as driving in and turning off the ingition.
With that decision made, which van should we start with....Van, Van , Everywhere a Van.
For a more detailed look at our choice keep scrolling down.
A car is maneuverable and usually gets good gas mileage. Parking spaces and garages are easy to find. But you are limited on what you can bring. And its hotel rooms, condo rentals and AirBnB. Tent and sleeping bags? As we have said elsewhere getting up off the ground is more of a struggle than when we were younger. Sleeping in the front seats? No.
We owned one of these when we started our search. Ours was a Dodge Grand Caravan - a blue box that we called the Tardis. And like the Tardis it was bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. You could fit a lot of thing in it - or you could sleep in it. You could expand it out some with a tarp or special tents As nice as these vans are to drive, it really is a challenge to bring lots of things and be able to sleep comfortably.
It was not as maneuverable as car but there was never doubt about height clearance or parking. Gas mileage was good, getting 25 to 28 mpg on the highway.
Full Size Van
More space than a minivan, not as big as a motor home. Inexpensive to buy but off of the lot they are just a big empty box. Once purchased you need to have some one else build what you want inside or do it yourself. So it can be expensive or months of work. However you do end up with what you want.
Pickup Truck Camper
We owned a GMC Sierra so why not just buy one of those campers that sits in the back of it. A quick look at them and we realized they are tight, you need to climb up into bed and they are expensive for what you get. They do allow you to stop at a campground and leave your "house" there while you are sight seeing or running errands.
As for gas mileage? Hey its a truck. With camper maybe 16 or so on the highway.
Picture of a truck camper is coming soon.
Travel Trailer Pop-up
Pop-up trailers are suited to people who want to save some money or want more of a tent feeling. These lower cost units "pop-up" with fabric sides and roof sections - what I might call a tent on wheels. They can have a kitchen inside and will get your bed off the ground. Down sides are that all that separates you from the great outdoors is essentially tent material that an animal can rip through and that needs to be dried after it rains. It also requires set up before you can crash for the night and must be broken down when you leave
You need a place to cook, shower, sleep, and relieve yourself? Well here it is all one little box ... or in one massive box. Small ones can be maneuvered with a minivan or, small truck or SUV and can be had for as little $13k new. Larger ones may need a heavy duty truck with extra wheels and are refereed to as "fifth wheels"
These units have essentially everything you need. But you are pulling a trailer which does limit where you can go. Once you have placed your trailer, you now just have your tow vehicle. If its minivan, that can be great. If its a heavy duty truck with dual wheels (a "Dually") you will still be limited on where you can go.
My house gets 8 mpg. I do remember when my landlord said that many years ago. It was a behemoth and little did I know at the time that he was doing good to get that kind of MPG.
Like travel trailers there a number of variations, the most important of these is the underlying chassis. Is it a large vehicle chassis, Truck or Van. They call these different classes.
Class A - These are those behemoths that roam the interstates, many with more space than my uncles house. Built on sturdy frames and powered by massive diesel engines they lumber down the highway often with a car or shed in tow. Or maybe a car and a shed in tow.
Class B - These are the smallest ones based on vans like the Sprinter, the Transit and Promaster.
Class C - Based on a van/truck platform they with and RV "box" attached.